Ofek and her counterparts at Jordan and Terman presented their plans for the year to the Board of Education on Nov. 13.
"Last year we piloted Schoology with 30 teachers and it was wildly popular. I think it promotes 'connecteness' with school through communication," she said. The software allows students, teachers and parents to check on assignments and exchange information.
A tight focus on "connecteness" and academic performance emerged as the middle schools shared their plans with the school board.
Though the principals of Jordan and Terman did not discuss use of Schoology on their campuses, the district has been lobbied by the parent-led group We Can Do Better Palo Alto to order all teachers to adopt the tool.
All three principals said they monitor and discuss specific students earning Ds and Fs or those scoring "basic" or "below basic" on the California Standards (STAR) Test.
They described special "intervention programs" for such students, with "measureable goals" to boost performance.
At Jordan, for example, Principal Gregory Barnes said the school "will reduce the number of students scoring 'basic or below' in the areas of English language arts and math by 50 percent during the 2012-13 academic year." The 39 sixth-graders currently in that category will be reduced to 19 or fewer, and the 27 seventh-graders will be reduced to 13 or fewer, Barnes said in a written report.
Barnes said the 181 Jordan students currently performing below "C"-level work would be reduced to less than 100.
Ofek and Terman Principal Katherine Baker outlined similar goals.
The annual reports, called "single plans for student achievement," have been required under the California Education Code and the federal No Child Left Behind Act as a condition of certain funding. School officials also use the documents as the basis for gathering principals and the school board for a public discussion.
The principals also described measurable goals in the areas of student social-emotional and physical health.
For example at Terman, Baker said that by next June, the number of students responding positively to the statement "adults at my school and in my community listen to me" would increase from 70 percent to 75 percent; and the percentage affirming that "youth are included in the important decisions made in my school and community" would go from 62 percent to 67 percent.
"Social kindness" and anti-bullying instruction at Terman includes discussions about empathy and inclusion, Baker said.
"We try to empower our students to make a difference and have them take responsibility for creating the climate at the school."
Baker said the school also would boost the percentages of students passing tests in aerobic capacity and upper-body strength.
The principals said they meet regularly to exchange ideas.
Jordan's Barnes said a visit to JLS' three-day sixth-grade orientation Panther Camp laid the groundwork for Jordan's "Jaguar Journey" orientation this year, and he borrowed ideas about including special-education students in mainstream classrooms after visiting Terman.
"We pulled some common threads and outright stole some other ideas," he said of Panther Camp.
School board Vice President Dana Tom said, "I fully support the outright theft of great ideas between school sites."
Tom said the principals' meeting demonstrated "the power of properly used site autonomy" — an issue of contention in the Nov. 6 school board election as candidates had disagreed over the appropriate balance between centralized decision-making and decisions made at individual school sites.
The candidate who made the strongest case that site-based decision-making has gone too far, We Can Do Better co-founder Ken Dauber, came in last among the four candidates competing for three spots.
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