S E C T I O N
Education ■ April 4, 2012
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Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac
Discussing the role of digital technology in bridging the academic achievement gap in the Sequoia Union High School District are, from left, moderator and journalist Betsy Corcoran, venture capitalist Alan Louie, Karen Cator, director of the U.S. Office of Educational Technology, and David Reilly, principal of Woodside High School.
CAN TECH CLOSE THE GAP? Panel asks whether technology can reduce the yawning gap in student performance
By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer
igital technology is a disruptive force that is and has been upending many established institutions, including publishing, entertainment and what constitutes working for a living. While it has made inroads into education, it’s still debatable whether it has a useful role in the complex learning that leads to lifelong creativity and the ability to think critically. COMPLETED COURSE WORK FOR COLLEGE ADMISSION ENROLLED IN AT LEAST ONE ADVANCED COURSE
Is digital technology a force for good in the classroom, or do these flat screens simply add bells and whistles to the material? If the promise is genuine, when might it come to pass? Most important, can it help bridge the longstanding achievement gap between students with socioeconomic advantages — such as family wealth, great teachers and educated and involved parents — and those students, often students of color, who lack such advantages in their homes and communities?
The gap is real in the Sequoia Union High School District, which includes Menlo-Atherton and Woodside high schools. For the Class of 2011, the demographics are stark, according to a recent presentation by Brandon Lee of the district’s research and evaluation office. For example, an assessment of who did and who did not complete the coursework needed for college admission showed 75 percent and 69 percent, respectively, of Continued on page 23
Sequoia Union High School 2011 graduating seniors
4.5% Socioeconomically disadvantaged
English Language Learner
Source: Sequoia Union High School District
Academic achievement differed sharply along ethnic, socioeconomic and linguistic lines among graduating seniors in the 2011 class. April 4, 2012 N The Almanac N 21
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E D U C A T I O N
Town of Atherton City Council Meeting
CAN TECH CLOSE THE GAP? Continued from page 21
students of Asian and Caucasian ethnicity had completed the work versus 25 percent of students of Hispanic and African American ethnicity and 19 percent of students of Pacific Islander heritage. A similar pattern appeared among students taking at least one higher level course, commonly called advanced-placement (AP) classes. Organized by ethnicity, students of Asian descent led with 77 percent, followed by 62 percent for Caucasian students, 37 percent for Hispanic students, 13 percent for African American students, and 12 percent for Pacific Islander students. Among kids whose socioeconomic situation includes low family income and parents who have no post-secondary education, 18 percent took at least one AP class. Among students whose first language is not English, 5 percent took a class. Is technology of significant value in addressing this problem? About 100 people, including many teachers and entrepreneurs, gathered on a rainy night on March 27 at the Woodside High School Performing Arts Center to hear four professionals discuss the issue and take questions. On stage for the discussion were: ■ Karen Cator, who directs the U.S. Office of Educational Technology. Ms. Cator’s career includes corporate and publicsector advocacy for technology in education, according to a bio that also notes that she has “devoted her career to creating the best possible learning environments for this generation of students.” ■ Alan Louie, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist with a focus on K-12 education and deep roots in high technology. His current activity is funding small-scale innovation teams of an educator and one or two programmers. Some examples: classdojo.com reinforces positive behaviors in the classroom; goalbookapp.com allows a student’s personal learning plan to be shared with the student and involved adults; and remind101.com allows teachers to send text messages to students via their parents. ■ Woodside High Principal David Reilly, a champion of innovation in educa-
tion techniques at traditional high schools. He established Woodside High’s later start to the school day in response to research showing its benefits; he is an advocate of “flipping school,” in which students listen to lectures at home on a computer and do problem-solving and homework at school; and he is currently exploring year-round school, in part to give teachers extended time to collaborate and develop professionally.
‘I’d take a teacher in a cave over 1,000 Smart Boards in 1,000 classrooms.’ —David Reilly, principal, Woodside High School ■ Asking the questions was Elizabeth “Betsy” Corcoran, a former journalist who has written for Forbes magazine and the Washington Post. She is a co-founder of EdSurge, a newsletter on entrepreneurship in education technology. The event’s host was the nonprofit Peninsula College Fund, which helps low-income students get to, and graduate from, college despite having come from families with no history of post-secondary education. Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park and Woodside High sponsored the discussion.
Technology already perks up classrooms in the form of electronic whiteboards and networked computers, not to mention students with smart phones. Ms. Corcoran asked whether a divide exists between kids who are entertained by smart phones and kids who can program them. “This is a worry for me,” Mr. Louie of Imagine K12 said. “We’re very concerned about education for everybody. I’d like to see solid citizens with an awareness of math, science, literature.” It is “really key” to help teachers on how to use appli-
cations so they can help their students figure out how to use them, Ms. Cator added. People used to learn from other people, she noted. With the invention of the printing press, the opportunities to learn came from people and books. Now the opportunities come from people and books and technology. “There are lots of ways to learn today, often through technology ... the kinds of things that power up an opportunity to learn,” Ms. Cator said. “This is a very, very cool time.” “I’d take a teacher in a cave over 1,000 Smart Boards in 1,000 classrooms,” Mr. Reilly said. Teaching students to think critically is “hard to do on a flat screen,” he said. “This is sort of like the Wild West. We are still in the early stages of settling cyberspace. We need to get out in front of the kids and be there waiting. We have to be there waiting to engage students.” One of his proposals to get teachers out in front would not require much technology: switching to a year-round schedule of four nine-week instruction periods punctuated by four three-week breaks. During the breaks, teachers could collaborate on ideas and advance their understanding of their profession. But this discussion was about technology. “Are we experimenting on our kids?” Ms. Corcoran asked the panel. “We’re experimenting with our kids,” Mr. Louie replied. “We don’t really have a whole lot of time to experiment,” Mr. Reilly said. Invitations to experiment with new software are constant, he added. “We’re just inundated and surrounded. It takes a mountain (of effort) to move (students) away from Facebook.” Referring to Mr. Louie’s funding of small-scale teams of innovators, Mr. Reilly wondered aloud if such funding could be directed to small teams of students to let them develop their own learning tools. Teaching, he said, used to be about “filling the vessel with knowledge,” with the application of that knowledge coming later in life. Today, with education built around real-time projects in which students interact with the real world, they create their own realities, Mr. Reilly said. A
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 7:00 p.m.
The regular meeting has been relocated to Brawner Room 407 also known as the PIT at Menlo College 1000 El Camino Real Atherton, CA 94027 Residents can park anywhere on campus. There will be signage directing the public to the room. If you have any question please contact Theresa DellaSanta at 650-752-0504.
TOWN OF PORTOLA VALLEY NOTICE OF A PUBLIC HEARING ON PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO SITE DEVELOPMENT AND ZONING ORDINANCES TO ADJUST PERMIT APPEALS PERIODS AND TIME LIMITS NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Planning Commission of the Town of Portola Valley will hold a public hearing on April 18, 2012 to consider amendments to the site development and zoning ordinances relative to permit appeal periods and time limits. The proposed amendments would change the appeal periods for variances and conditional use permits to 15 days from the action on the application. In addition, the proposed amendments would adjust the time limit for a variance to one year from issuance, establish a time limit of one year for a fence permit, and would allow site development permits, variances and fence permits that are issued in conjunction with an architectural review to have a two year time limit. NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Town Planner has determined that above described project is exempt from CEQA pursuant to Section 15061(b)(3) of the CEQA Guidelines. The amendments only impact appeal and permit life time limits and do not affect land uses or environmental review requirements. Because it can be seen with certainty that the amendments could not have a significant effect on the environment, the project is exempt from CEQA. NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Planning Commission of the Town of Portola Valley will initiate the public hearing on the proposed amendments at its meeting of April 18, 2012 at 7:30 p.m., Town Hall (Historic Schoolhouse), 765 Portola Road, Portola Valley, California. Before the Planning Commission acts on the proposed project, Commissioners will consider all evidence, written and oral, pertaining to the proposed project. All interested persons are invited to appear before the Planning Commission at the times and place herein above-mentioned. Copies of the proposed site development and zoning ordinance amendments and related materials will be available at Portola Valley Town Hall, 765 Portola Road, Portola Valley, California starting on April 4, 2012. Dated: Signed:
March 29, 2012 Leslie Lambert, Town Planning Manager April 4, 2012 N The Almanac N 23
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This porcelain â€œVase of Tibetan Cloudâ€? is on display through April 30 at the Portola Art Gallery in Menlo Park as part of the exhibit, â€œPassage from Silk Road to Japan.â€? This series of works was created by Misako Kambe as a tribute to the victims of the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. A reception for the artist will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 7, at the gallery, which is in the Allied Arts Guild at 75 Arbor Road.
Spring fashion show benefits Childrenâ€™s Health Council The Childrenâ€™s Health Council Auxiliary will present its spring fashion show Tuesday, April 24, at the Menlo Circus Club, 190 Park Lane in Atherton. Guests may shop in six boutiques outside the club, starting at 10:30 a.m. Among the vendors: La Biscotteria and Jewelry by Marjorie Van Antel. A silent auction with champagne will begin at 11:30 a.m., followed by lunch. Auction items include six magnums of Joseph Phelps wine, a weekend stay at an Aptos seaside condominium, and a Carmel getaway. The fashion show will feature spring clothing by Eileen Fisher and Cache of Stanford Shopping Center. Admission is $100 per person for the fundraiser, which benefits the Childrenâ€™s Health Council. For more information, call Marcia Coy at 494-7216.
Garden club holds annual plant sale
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California native, Mediterranean and kitchen garden plants will be among the many plants available at the Woodside-Atherton Garden Clubâ€™s annual sale on Saturday, April 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the native plant garden at Woodside Library, 3140 Woodside Road in Woodside. The sale features hundreds of specimens, many propagated by members from their gardens or grown from seed, including unusual perennials, ornamental shrubs and trees, and foundation
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