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Friday, October 24, 2014

Global Studies Program Celebrates 20th Anniversary

 Tamalpais Union High School District is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Global Studies Program and its founder and director, Tamalpais High School French Teacher, Brian Zailian.  The Global Studies Program provides opportunities for TUHSD students to not only study abroad and experience immersion in another culture, but to host visiting students as well.
"The Global Studies Programs in our district offer life changing learning experiences for our students", said Zailian.  "The traveling students encounter situations which are sometimes difficult to recreate in a traditional classroom: cultural sensitivity, language immersion, geographic comprehension, political and social discussions and most importantly a glimmer of personal self awareness."
The longest running program within the Global Studies Program is the exchange between Lycee Gaston Febus in Orthez, France and Tamalpais High School.  Over 500 Tamalpais High School students have traveled to France over the past 20 years.  This year also marks the fifth anniversary of the Global Studies exchange between students at Sir Francis Drake High School and the Lycee Samuel Raapoto in Papeete, Tahiti.  Over 100 Drake students have traveled to Tahiti.
TUHSD students in both the France and Tahiti programs host exchange students in their homes in October and then spend 17 days away from the U.S. during the month of April.  TUHSD students live with their host families, attend classes at local schools, and visit significant cultural sites and regions.  Additionally, students in the French exchange visit Paris.  Students who participate in the Tahitian exchange also visit Moorea and Bora Bora, prepare Polynesian cuisine, practice Tahitian dance, and study the coral reef and the tropical forest.
TUHSD Board of Trustees and Superintendent, Laurie Kimbrel, will host a celebration of the TUHSD Global Studies Program and its Director, Brian Zailian on October 29, 2014.  TUHSD Board of Trustees member, Cindy McCauley, said "We are so fortunate in the TUHSD to have teachers like Brian Zailian who truly believes teaching is more than what goes on inside the classroom.  For 20 years his vision, determination, and enthusiasm have changed students' lives forever."  The celebration will provide an opportunity to bring administrators, teachers, and chaperones from all four schools together to share stories and experiences from 20 years of travel and successful exchanges.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall Sports are in Full Swing

The new school year has started and with that begins the fall sports season.  This year we have a record number of participants.  Student interest in sports is at an all-time high.
There are seven sports played during the fall sports season - cross country, football, golf, boys soccer, girls tennis, girls volleyball and water polo.
The participation numbers in sports at the sites reflect a continuing interest among our students:
                Drake             15 teams              243 athletes
                Redwood       18 teams              426 athletes
                Tam               17 teams              338 athletes
                District          50 teams           1,004 athletes

If you would like to watch some action packed games, check the athletic websites for each school to get the game schedules.

Drake Athletics Webpage





Tam Athletics Webpage

You can also get more information on athletics on the District
   Athletics webpage - District Athletics.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Intervention: An Important Component of Our Work

We have had numerous articles, blogs and newsletters over the past years about the importance of learning at high levels for all students.  By now, most understand that success in an economy driven by technology, innovation and service will require both content knowledge as well as a set of underlying skills such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration.  Both our own common sense and research tell us that our students must be prepared for learning beyond high school in college, job training and apprenticeship programs.  But how do we ensure that all students are ready when they are only with us for four short years?  The answer lies in both effective classroom instruction as well as effective intervention.
We know that all students can learn, however, some students need more time and more support.  In the past, many school systems waited for students to fail or fall far behind to intervene.  Summer school was offered when students failed a course and the student needed to repeat the entire course regardless of content that had been previously mastered.   Special education was sometimes offered as a last resort when exasperated staff didn't know what else to do.  In contrast, imagine a school system where student outcomes are clearly identified, where there is high quality instruction in every classroom and where TIMELY intervention is available for EVERY student at the first sign of a struggle.  What if students didn't have to wait for help until they had already failed?
The best intervention is prevention and so our most important work actually begins with a strong core instructional program in every classroom for every student.  Approximately 80% of students who receive a well instructed, research-based curriculum should experience success as a result of initial instruction in the classroom.  Quite simply, this is the reason that as a district we have spent the last three years creating a common core aligned curriculum and methods to measure student growth and achievement.
The next step to ensure that all students learn at high levels was to create intervention plans to assist students who need support.  Over the course of the 13-14 school year, all schools created plans that began to be implemented in August of 2014.  Each of the plans has the following characteristics:
  • Tiered support - some students need a little help and some need a lot of help.  Our interventions offer various levels of assistance based on the needs of the student.
  • Directive - interventions must be mandatory.  We can't claim that our mission is to ensure that all students learn at high levels and then allow our students to "choose" to fail.
  • Administered by trained professionals - systems must be in place so that the professionals with the most expertise in a given area are able to deliver intervention.  This notion is based on a medical model.  If you have the flu, you can see the physician's assistant, but if you have cancer, you need the oncologist.
  • Targeted - intervention is very specific to the student and the standard in which he or she needs assistance.  Using a reliable system of assessment in the classroom ensures that we identify specific areas of intervention.
  • Timely - effective intervention occurs promptly, not after an F grade has been given for the course.  Also, interventions should only be as long as needed; a student should not have to languish in intervention past the point where it is helpful.

Each of our site teams has built a customized intervention plan based on the specific needs of their students and the culture of the school.  For more information and to view the plans themselves, click HERE 
If you would like additional information on effective intervention:
An easy to read article - "The Why Behind RtI" by Ausitn Buffum, Mike Mattos and Chris Weber-click HERE
A great book - "Simplifying Response to Intervention"
by Austin Guffu, Mike Mattos and Chris Weber

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Superintendent's Parent Advisory Council

The Superintendent's Parent Advisory Council is a group of parents from across the district that meets four times during the school year.  The advisory council is intended to provide two-way communication between parent representatives and the Superintendent and central office staff.
The Parent Advisory Council will:
  • Advise the Superintendent on district initiatives
  • Provide input on district and school related issues
  • Hear about and share opinions on current opportunities and challenges facing our schools
  • Bring to the Superintendent's attention existing and emerging issues expressed by parents
  • Further the District's efforts in expanding family and community engagement/involvement
The council will be comprised of three parents from each comprehensive high school and three parents from the alternative schools.  Members will serve on the council for one school year.  To ensue broad representation, the appointment of members will be made on a variety of factors including geographic location of residence and areas of interest and experience.
2014-2015 Meeting Location and Dates:
  • October 21, 2014
  • December 2, 2014
  • January 27, 2015
  • March 31, 2015
All meetings will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the District Office's Kreps Conference Center, which is on the Redwood High School campus in Larkspur.
Process for Interested Parents:
If you are interested in serving on the council, please submit a self-nomination form (click here for form).  The deadline for submission is 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 26, 2014.  Nomination forms are available on the district website at www.tamdistrict.org or by requesting a copy via e-mail to jshaw@tamdistrict.org or by calling (415) 945-3720.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Advanced Placement Program Continues to Grow

The Tamalpais Union High School District is committed to providing meaningful, relevant and rigorous learning experiences for our students so they are prepared for college and career options.  Student achievement data gives us insight into what is working and helps us to identify areas for continued growth.  At TUHSD, we monitor many types of student data including state and national test scores as well as our own local measures of growth and proficiency.  One data set of importance to staff and to our community is participation and success in our Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams.  AP courses give students access to rigorous college-level work while in high school with the support of their high school teachers and peers.  A passing score on an AP exam can give students college credit and/or placement into advanced courses in college.
Participation in the TUHSD Advanced Placement program has grown tremendously over the past five years.  In 2010, we administered 1,482 AP exams and this number has grown to 2,100 exams in 2014.  This is a 42% increase!  It is notable we have also maintained extremely high pass rates with scores significantly above state and national averages.  In 2010, 83% of those who took an AP exam earned a passing score of a 3, 4 or 5.  Similarly, in 2014, 84% of students who took an AP exam earned a passing score.  The national average for students with a passing score is about 60%.
An abundance of research shows that a student's experience with Advanced Placement is connected to success in college.  A few interesting research highlights include:
  • Hargrove & Dodd (2007) found that students who successfully participated in at least one AP course and exam had higher college GPAs, earned more credit hours, and were more likely to graduate in four years than students from similar family economic status and with similar academic ability.
  • A study by Dougherty, Mellor & Jian (2005) found that students who scored a 3 or better on an AP exam were significantly more likely to graduate from college than their peers.
TUHSD currently offers course work to support 18 Advanced Placement exams.  The programs with the largest number of participants are English Language and Composition, Calculus, Environmental Science, European History, and Biology.
Each Advanced Placement course is developed at the national level by a committee composed of college faculty and high school AP teachers, and covers the breadth of information, skills, and assignments found in the corresponding college course.  AP courses at TUHSD are taught by our own highly qualified and talented teachers who participate in specific professional development so they are best equipped to teach students advanced, college level content.
The Advanced Placement program is just one more example of the rigorous programs offered for the students at TUHSD.  For more information regarding course offerings at your school please contact your counselor or principal.  For more information regarding the TUHSD Advanced Placement data, please contact Senior Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Kim Stiffler, at kstiffler@tamdistrict.org

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tam District Back-to-School News

As long as I can remember, the "back-to-school" season has been one of my favorite times of year.  As a student, I recall the excitement of seeing my friends again after our summer adventures as well as the comfort of returning to the familiar routine of the school year.  I have been an educator for many years, but I still enjoy reconnecting with my colleagues who have spent the summer reading, traveling, and learning, as well as seeing our new and returning students who bring their energy and enthusiasm back to our campuses.  This is also a special time of year for those of us who are parents.  We live the anxiety and joy of the new school year through our own children and their experiences.
At the Tamalpais Union High School District, we are committed to ensuring that all students and staff have a smooth transition from the relaxation of summer to the demands of the school year.  Many efforts are in place at the school sites to assist our new 9th graders, transfer students, and our returning students.  No doubt, if you are a parent, you have already received multiple communications from your child's high school.
At the district office, the entire month of August is a very busy time.  All administrators returned to work on August 1, and many teachers are participating in a variety of professional development activities throughout the month.  This year's highlights include:
  • At the district office, we welcomed Kim Stiffler, former Tam assistant principal and Redwood teacher, to the new position of Senior Director of Curriculum and Instruction.  Kim will be responsible for all the day-to-day work with our site administrators and Teacher Leaders to develop curriculum and continuously improve instruction.  Click here to see a full list of administrators in the Educational Services department and their responsibilities.
  • Our increase in student enrollment and a few retirements have allowed us to hire 26 new teachers for 14-15.  All new teachers participate in a rigorous two-year orientation and training program.
  • We hired five new assistant principals!  Click here to see contact information for all administrators.
  • About 50 TUHSD teachers participated in optional professional development workshops, which were also open to all feeder school teachers.  For a full list of the workshops, click here.
  • About 70 TUHSD teachers continued their work as a part of the Instructional Technology Teacher Collaborative (ITTC), a professional development program for experienced teachers.  For a description of the ITTC program, click here.
  • New Teacher Leaders participated in "boot camp" so that they understand the strategic priorities of the district and are ready to facilitate curriculum and instruction initiatives with their colleagues.  For a full list of Teacher Leaders, click here.
  • Teacher Leaders and administrators continue to work together to discuss priorities for the 14-15 school year, which include enhancements to academic and behavioral interventions for students and the use of data to guide instruction for teachers.
Part of what makes TUHSD a great place to learn is the willingness of so many of our teachers to take leadership positions and to pursue their own professional growth.  The sheer number of teachers who elect to be here in early August is truly a testament to the dedication of our staff.
On behalf of the entire administrative team and the Board of Trustees, thank you for your interest and commitment to our district.  We are looking forward to yet another great year where we continue to ensure that each and every student learns and grows every day.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tam District Board Appoints Michael Futterman as Trustee

Tamalpais Union High School District Board President Bob Walter announced the appointment of Michael Futterman to the five person Board of Trustees.  Mr. Futterman has been appointed to serve on the Board until the next regularly scheduled school board election, which will be in November 2015.  He fills the recent vacancy created by Sheri Mowbray’s resignation. 
“We were very fortunate to have nine outstanding candidates apply to fill the vacant seat on the Tam Board.  Any of them would have done an admirable job, but Michael’s prior governance experience and his particular skills set him apart,” Mr. Walter said.  “We look forward to working with him to ensure that every student in the Tam District is given access to the highest quality education.”
Overview of the Provisional Appointment Process
On Tuesday, July 8, the Tamalpais Union High School District Board of Trustees held a special meeting in open session to make a provisional appointment to fill the vacancy created by Sheri Mowbray’s resignation on June 23, 2014. 
To minimize the time the District would be without a full slate of trustees and the cost to the District of a special election, the TUHSD Board determined that the vacancy would be filled by provisional appointment.  Following a call for trustee candidates, the board received nine applications from interested and qualified community members. The Board interviewed each candidate and then, after deliberation, unanimously voted to welcome Mr. Futterman to the governance team.  With this provisional appointment, Mr. Futterman is slated to serve until the next regularly scheduled board election in November 2015.  Ms. Mowbray’s full term would have extended until November 2017. 
In his written application, Mr. Futterman shared his reasons and interests in serving on the school board: 
“Providing kids and families with a high-quality public education is a community’s most important public service job.  In so many ways our schools are the glue that binds the community.  Recognizing the great work that teachers and school administrators do for our kids, service as a board member is an important way for someone who is not a professional educator to contribute to the community.  I very much enjoyed my prior service as a board member, and was fortunate to work with a group of high quality and committed fellow trustees.  I look forward to building on that experience and making additional contributions to the Tam District.”
During the deliberation process, current Board members shared what they felt were essential characteristics in a trustee at this time, including a primary focus on student learning and achievement, the ability to work as a member of a team, and an understanding of the role and responsibilities of the Board. 
The current Board also expressed their gratitude to all applicants who stepped up in a short time frame to volunteer to serve their community.  Board President Bob Walter said, “High quality schools are made possible by a high level of community support.  We are truly impressed with the number and quality of our applicants for the trustee vacancy.” 
Mr. Futterman is an attorney who lives in Larkspur with his family.  His three children are graduates of Redwood High School, and he served on the Board of Trustees of the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District from 2002 through 2007.
After his appointment, Mr. Futterman said, “I am honored to have been selected as a trustee of the Tamalpais Union High School District. I look forward to serving on behalf of all our students and families.”