Winston and Gunn Principal Katya Villalobos Wednesday shared their plans for "continuous improvement" with the Board of Education in the annual state-required "Single Plan for Student Achievement" (SPSA) review.
Both are in their second years as heads of school.
Along with the new Paly block schedule, initiated by his predecessor Jacquie McEvoy, Winston said he has tried to "shift the conversation" at Paly regarding students in danger of failing.
"We talk about what we, the adults, can do differently, not what students need to do differently," Winston said. "It's a very important paradigm shift. It's our responsibility to control and mold their environments, and students simply respond to that."
The new schedule and philosophy have led to 65 minutes a week of school-wide "tutorial," where students are freed up to visit any teacher's classroom to get help, make up tests or attend to other needs. For students with Ds and Fs, tutorial is required. Others are free to take a break and play on the athletic fields, Winston said.
The weekly tutorial time has led to "increased connectedness and deepening relationships between students and staff," he said.
The shift to the block schedule, involving fewer — but longer — classes each week, allowed the staff time to examine their instructional practices and led to discussions about the purpose of homework, particularly around math, he said.
It also has made room for weekly collaboration time for teachers, in which students receiving Ds and Fs are discussed individually, he said.
Winston said Paly is testing the software program Rjenda, which lets teachers know about their students' tests and projects in other classes, possibly leading to a centralized calendar.
At Gunn, a special focus on the teaching of Algebra 1 has led to the use of an array of online tools, including the Khan Academy videos, Villalobos said.
"We're using all the standard things — textbooks, teacher instructional practices — but also seeing what other things are out there to make sure our students find success in Algebra 1," she said.
Gunn's technology-filled library has become "symbolically the center of campus," she said.
"Our library teacher/media guru Meg Omainsky has elevated looking at technology to help students access and augment the curriculum and become producers, not just consumers, of information.
"She's reconfigured, literally and symbolically, the concept of the library itself," Villalobos said, with ceiling-to-floor whiteboards and the availability of iPads for entire classes.
With the help of Stanford University Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Shashank Joshi, Gunn has adopted the emotional-wellness program Sources of Strength (SOS), using peer leaders to break student "codes of silence" about students who may be troubled.
The SOS program is paired with other programs, including the student-founded ROCK (Reach Out, Care and Know) to boost the "connectedness" and social-emotional health of those on campus, Villalobos said.
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