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Principals Messages 2014-2015

April 2015 - Quarter 4

Dear Buchser Families,

As we begin the fourth and final quarter of 2014-2015 school year, I want to share some recent events and future updates with you.

Celebrations

On February 25, 2015, the students from the We Act Club participated in the annual We Day event. 16 of our most active community service students were given tickets to the event, and the remaining members were allowed to participate via web streaming. What is the We Act Club?

The We Act Club is a group of students at Buchser who are interested in using community service to improve their local communities and the world. The motto for We Act is, “When young people unite to take action, they can create moral change.” At Buchser, the We Act Club has participated in a number to community service projects, both globally and locally. Last month, the We Act Club participated in We Day, which is an event designed to celebrate generations of “world changers” and to motivate them to continue to work their work of creating positive world change. We are proud of the work these students are doing!

I would like to congratulate Amy Kennedy on making it to the state finals for the National Geography Bee. In the past seven years, Buchser sent six finalists to the state Geography Bee competition. We congratulate Amy, and thank her coach, Louisa Capp, for the huge success that comes from dedicated study.

Smarter Balanced Assessment and Common Core State Standards

As I am sure most of you are aware, the students have been very busy with the Smarter Balanced Assessment or SBAC. This is the new standards-based assessment that is designed to assess student achievement of the Common Core State Standards or CCSS. This current assessment asks students to apply their learning, analyze, evaluate and synthesize information from various texts. Students are also asked to express their learning in clear evidence-based writing, both in English Language Arts and in math.

The SBAC is very different from the Star Test, which was an assessment of basic, discrete facts and skills. An assessment that asks only for discrete facts and skills gives us a snapshot of students’ learning, but it does very little to promote students’ retention of those facts and skills. Nor does the old assessment promote transfer of learning from one year to the next; “transfer” is a critical part of helping students “grow” their learning and to see the connections between what they learn from year to year, both within and between content areas.

What does that mean for learners and their scores on statewide assessments? Most students are going to struggle with the new expectations that comes from CCSS and increased rigor on the SBAC, and they may not score as “high” as they did on the STAR. That does not mean they are not learning! It means they are learning what rigorous learning requires. Students will eventually understand how to retain knowledge and skills. They will begin to see that this kind of learning requires a higher level of engagement, a willingness to persevere through challenging tasks, and they will begin to understand that challenging questions may not have one, obvious right answer. This kind of thinking is critical in preparing students for the rigor of college and career readiness.

If you are interested in learning more about the Common Core State Standards, please check out the link http://neatoday.org/2013/05/10/six-ways-the-common-core-is-good-for-students-2. For more information about the SBAC, please attend the upcoming parent night, Understanding the SBAC. This event will take place on May 19, 2015 from 6-7:30 pm in the library. Please RSVP by May 18th at 5 pm to avizcarra@scusd.net.

We will be SBAC testing through the end of May. Although the testing window is fairly long, students are not testing every single day. Each grade level is rotating through the various labs and long breaks are built-in so that students can return to regular classroom instruction. We built a schedule that is the least disruptive as it can possibly be, and still maintain enough time for students to test without pressure. Of course, if you have questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

Upcoming Events

April 24th—Model United Nations Field Trip, sponsored by YMCA

May 11th-12th—Music Fieldtrip to Disneyland

May 14th, Spring Concerts, 7 PM

May 19th, Parent Night, Understanding the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), 6:00-7:30 PM in the library

May 20th, Career Day, 8th grade, all day

May 21st, Buchser Awards Night, 7 PM

June 1st, 8th Grade Promotion Gown Sale/Distribution

June 1st, 8th Grade Promotion Dance, 7 PM

June 3rd, 8th Grade Trip to Saratoga Springs

June 4th, 8th Grade Promotion, 11 AM

In closing, I want to extend my sincere thanks to the entire Buchser community. From the parents, to the students, and the teachers and staff, I am honored to serve such a dedicated group of folks who are committed to community service and to Buchser Middle School.

Finally, I want you to know that I sincerely believe in the work we do in public schools; I believe public education is one of the key links in helping children from every arena attain a full life, one in which experience and learning creates richness in the broadest sense of that word. As John Dewey postulated many years ago, "Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself." Thanks to everyone who makes this preparation for life itself possible for so many students.

Sincerely,

Monica Stoffal

February 2015 - Quarter 3

February 2015

Hello Buchser Families,

The second half of the school year is well underway, and students are settled in to their second semester routine. I want to update you on events that are going on at Buchser. Here are a few highlights in my 3rd quarter letter:

  • Upcoming assessments and school events
     
  • An invitation for parents/guardians to provide feedback to us via the Healthy Kids Survey, which is available on our website.
     
  • Updates on the construction, including its impact on the traffic patterns at school.

Assessments:

We are preparing for the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC), which will be given during parts of March, April, and May. This is a long testing window but it allows us to integrate the testing schedule so that it is a more natural part of the school day. All of the teachers will be learning how to log on to the website for SBAC, and teachers in English and math will be helping students prepare by giving practice assessments. I don’t want you to worry that we are “teaching to the test.” To quote the wise words of Dr. Laurie Stapleton, Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction: “A really good assessment should be a learning opportunity.” The questions, problems, and prompts students are asked to respond to in both the practice and actual SBAC assessments are challenging, yet engaging and instructive to students about what they should be learning. Ultimately, I want to assure you that your child’s teacher is doing his or her best to make sure students feel confident going in to this assessment.

Students currently enrolled in Math 6 and Math 7 will take the MDTP Algebra Readiness exam during the week of March 9, with make-up exams the following week. This exam is one of three measures that will be used to place students into math classes next year.  Students in Math 8, who will be placed in Algebra next year, will also take the MDTP because the exam provides useful information for Algebra teachers (e.g., students’ strengths and areas for growth).  In addition, between March 16 - April 2 all students will take the NWEA, which is also a standardized test. Teachers use the results of the NWEA to assess student performance and make adjustments in their instruction, a process known as The Cycle of Inquiry.

In English, students just finished the winter Performance Based Assessment (PBA), and later in the spring, they will take the final English PBA for the year. Like the NWEA in Math, English teachers use the results of the PBA’s to adjust instruction. These test results let teachers know what students have mastered as well as areas that need re-teaching or more scaffolds in instruction. Another benefit to the English PBA’s is these assessments help teachers target their instruction specifically to the standards.

At Buchser, we are especially fortunate that several of our teachers are part of the district assessment committee, which is the group charged with creating, reviewing, and improving the English PBA’s. I am very proud of the fact that Buchser’s English teachers Jonathan Dune, Jill Eliason, and Susan Ludlum are not only part of this committee—they are driving forces in maintaining the commitment to this important, informative work. Your students will become much better readers and writers because of the dedication to best practices from these hard-working folks.

Finally, all students will be assessed for their reading level using the SRI assessment. Students’ SRI score helps us monitor students’ growth in reading level and identify which students need placement in reading support classes for next year.

School Events

8th graders are nearing their final stretch at Buchser Middle School. Some upcoming events to keep in mind include site visitation from the high school counselors, registration for high school, and 8th grade parent information night. We are finalizing dates with the high schools. Be sure to look for information in school loop, on our website, and in the letter that will be mailed home.

On Monday, February 9th, the AVID coordinator, Liz Molnar, was on campus to present the benefits of the AVID elective in high school. If your child missed the opportunity to join AVID at Buchser, this is a good time to get on-board with this highly successful class, which helps students be college-ready when they graduate from high school.

Healthy Kids Survey

On February 2nd, all 7th grade students had the opportunity to take the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS). This survey is given every year and it allows us monitor how safe students feel at school. The CHKS also shows us the degree to which students feel supported and encouraged as learners by their teachers, and their perceptions of the rigor and relevance of the curriculum and instruction at Buchser. The results from last year’s CHKS showed some of our most positive school safety results on record. A whopping 95% have never felt intimidated at school, which means that the majority of our students feel safe at Buchser Middle School!

The comment from our vice principal, Jone Amador, sums up the results best: “I’ve never seen numbers like this—this is amazing!” And she would know because she came from a school district in Monterey with similar demographics. I believe our results can be attributed to at least three factors. First, our consistent, fair-minded discipline practices have been in place for almost ten years, so we send a clear message that reported bullying will be handled swiftly and comprehensively. Second, everyone, teachers, parent/guardians, and support staff maintains the same message, which is: Get the right help right away! And finally, students are a huge part of the school safety plan—they are beginning to understand that school really is their workplace and they deserve a safe, respectful work environment. Kudos to everyone who has been a part of making Buchser a safer place to learn.

Seventh grade parents/guardians, you can also give us feedback about your perceptions of safety at Buchser. Please see the California Healthy Kids Survey—Parent Feedback link in this letter and on our website. As always, we really appreciate hearing from you so we can continue to make improvements to ensure that Buchser is the safest school with the most rigorous and relevant curriculum.

Construction Update

As most of you have probably noticed, construction on the new multipurpose room/cafeteria is making tremendous progress. At this point in time, this construction project is on schedule and will be ready to open for the 2015 – 2016 school year. Earlier in January, students had an opportunity to sign one of the main I-beams on the new building. It will be a permanent part of the structure and we are very grateful to the bond office for making this opportunity available to Buchser Middle School. Please be sure to check out the video of the beam signing event on our website. Finally, thank you to all community members who have made this bond project and the future bond projects a reality – it is made a tremendous difference at Buchser middle school. Students do better in a school they are proud to attend, and new buildings go a long way to creating that pride. Thank you again.

All of the construction comes with some challenges as well. One of those challenges is our drop-off and pick-up zones. In the interest of safety, we really encourage parents to choose the safest place for drop-off and pick-up. One of the least safe areas is the curve where Bellomy turns into Market Street. The curved area is actually a tow away/no parking zone; the red zone leading up to the curve is designated for handicap bus drop-off and pickup. When folks ignored the no parking signs and red zones, it creates a backup on to Bellomy Street as well as a safety hazard for all cars and pedestrians in that area. Again, the Bellomy curve is the least safe place for drop-off and pick-up.

Alternatives for drop-off and pick-up include this straight away area on Bellomy and on Market Street. Also, parents can have their students use the crosswalks and meet them on one of the side streets that are nearby. With just a little bit of planning and patience, we can keep all of our students and families safe in their travels to and from school. We do appreciate your cooperation with this request.

In closing, as we go into the second half of the school year, please make sure you let us know if there’s anything that we can do to help your child receive the best possible education at Buchser. If you hear or see anything that is of concern, do not hesitate to let us know. Together we can create a safe and secure learning environment for everyone. Thank you for all your support throughout the school year.

 

Regards,

Monica Stoffal

Monica Stoffal, Principal
Buchser Middle School
mstoffal@scusd.net
(408) 423-3001

 

 

 

 

November 2014 - Quarter 2

November 21, 2014

Dear Parents and Guardians,

With quarter one behind us and quarter two underway, I want to update you on some of the things that have been going on at Buchser, as well as some of the upcoming events.

First of all, our Walk-a-Thon fundraiser was a great success. We raised over $9,000, which will be used for a variety of necessities, such as classroom materials, supplies for students in need, the school play, after school activities like Geography Bee and Tech Challenge, agendas, and much, much more. Thank you all for your contributions – we really appreciate the support. I also want to extend a big thanks to our PTA. The kids really appreciate the water, and your assistance with helping kids keep track of their laps encouraged them to stay motivated and focused. Thank you so much.

The last week of October was our Red Ribbon Week, which is dedicated to drug prevention. The Student Council chose the theme, The Future’s So Bright, No Drugs in Sight. Each day was dedicated to supporting this theme. Student Council is to be commended for their thorough and thoughtful approach to Red Ribbon Week, special thanks goes out to the student council advisor, Tracey Lindsey who does an amazing job supporting these students and motivating them to do community service that really makes a difference.

As most folks are aware, on October 28th, we had an anti-bullying rally presented by World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE. I confess, I was not aware of the significance of these presenters, but the students knew exactly who showed up at Buchser Middle School. They were very excited to have such special folks come to their school to talk about the importance of not being a bully and about standing up for the right thing if you see someone else being bullied. While it might seem counterintuitive for WWE to represent an anti-bullying message, they used their star status to talk about some of their own struggles with being bullied in school. They also wanted students to understand that, as entertainers, WWE wants to use their fame to spread a positive message, which was the motto, Don't Be a Bully, Be a Star. We are always grateful for support in getting the anti-bullying message out to students, and I believe the Be-a-Star Rally was another way to promote school safety at Buchser.

While I am on the subject of promoting a safe school, I want to share some of our positive results from the 2013- 14 California Healthy Kids Survey. 90% the seventh graders surveyed did not feel threatened at school. In the categories of ethnicity, religion, gender, and physical or mental disability, scores ranged from 80 to 98% of seventh graders reporting that they did not feel harassed for any of these reasons. Close to 80% of the students surveyed felt connected and cared about by at least one person on campus. Over 80% believe their teachers want them to do their best and will go out of their way to help them.

Of course, there are areas for improvement, as there always will be on any school campus. But these are very strong numbers and perhaps the best testament to this fact was the response to these numbers by our Vice Principal, Mrs. Amador. She reviewed the data and proclaimed excitedly, "I've never seen numbers like this! This is great!" For those of you do not know Mrs. Amador, she comes to us from Pacific Grove and has wide array experience as an educator, and we value her fresh perspective about our school safety results. Of course, Buchser will continue our efforts to improve prevent bullying and help kids feel safe at school.

It is important to me that you know how much we have worked on creating a positive, friendly, and supportive climate at Buchser Middle School. While this is an ongoing process, and there is always room for improvement, I have received very positive feedback from the community. Last year, the SCUSD team of administrators was visiting our campus to do some classroom observations. They made a point of telling me that they found Buchser students to be exceptionally friendly, and that the climate of the campus felt very positive and upbeat. They also commented that the friendliness wasn't just exceptional because we are a middle school; it was exceptional because the friendliness was so genuine.

I have had similar comments from visitors and volunteers. One volunteer took the time email me about an observation she made while on our campus. She saw a student who was rushing to band when he inadvertently dropped his things. The students who were around him not only did not laugh, they took the time to help him gather his things and walked him to band with his heavy load.

These are just small examples of feedback I'm beginning to receive more and more frequently. In this climate of increasing standards in education, I believe it is essential to have a safe, and even friendly, atmosphere in order for students to be able to take the risks they need to take as learners for higher achievement. If you see or hear something at Buchser Middle School that is exceptional, or even something that falls far short of exceptional, please be sure to let us know. We are work in progress, and we value your feedback. I am certain that the climate of the school is developed and strengthened by the partnership between home and school.

Now, I will turn to upcoming events. Coming up next week on Tuesday, November 25th, we have our annual Turkey Trot. If you've never had the chance see this event, I really encourage you to come out and watch the kids having fun. Better yet, you can be a volunteer to help run the event. The kids have terrific time competing against their peers in fun, slightly silly events on Townsend field. They have an even better time watching their teachers compete in the same events! If you want to come out to watch or help out, the Turkey Trot starts at 1:40 PM on Tuesday.

Also coming up in December we have our two winter concerts. On December 4th, our choir and orchestra will be performing in the main gym, and on December 11th, band will have their concert, also in the main gym. Both concerts start at 7 PM. On December 9, the PTA will be hosting a fundraiser at Barnes and Noble on Stevens Creek Boulevard. This is a really fun event where you can see Buchser students sharing original work, such as songs and poetry. Our choir will also be performing. This event begins at 7 PM.

As always, thank you for your support of Buchser Middle School and for trusting us with your students to help them become the contributing citizens we know they will be in the future.

 

Monica Stoffal, Principal
Buchser Middle School
(408) 423-3001
mstoffal@scusd.net

  

August 2014 - Quarter 1

August 25, 2014

 

Hello Parents/Guardians,

Greetings! Welcome to the 2014-2015 school year. I want to update you about a few changes at Buchser Middle School and prepare you for the main events for first quarter.

First, as most of you know, the old A-Quad is gone and progress towards a new building is well underway. One result of the construction is the new staff parking lot on the corner of Washington and Bellomy. Another change is that we are no longer allowing cars to drive through Bellomy Street. This thoroughfare has been a safety concern at Buchser for a very long time, and I am relieved to see this added level of security to the campus. Street parking is available for families on Market, Washington, and Jackson. The small stretch of Bellomy Street beside the tennis courts is reserved for handicapped bus pick-up and drop-off only. Your understanding and cooperation with these changes is greatly appreciated.

On September 12th, we will host our annual Walk-a-Thon fund-raiser. Proceeds will go toward helping each grade level fund activities and purchase classroom essentials. Last year, students raised over $ 10,000.00, and I am confident they will be just as successful this year. If you would like to volunteer time to help with this event, please let us know and you will be contacted by someone in our PTA.

Speaking of PTA, if you missed the opportunity to join this important organization, it is not too late. Our PTA welcomes new members, as well as donations to their organization. While you do not need to donate in order to participate in PTA activities, contributions do help to fund events such as Red Ribbon Week and the 8th grade promotion dance. PTA meets on the 3rdThursday of the month at 7 pm in the school library. Please feel welcome to join us! It’s a great way to stay connected with your middle school child during this critical developmental period toward independence. (Please note: the meeting time may change to 6:30, pending approval by the current board. Look for updates on our website.)

Another way to get involved is to join Buchser’s School Site Council (SSC). This is a decision-making organization and they are active in reviewing the school plan, giving input on some budget decisions, and helping to shape the direction of the school. We currently have a position on the board open, so if you want to become a part of this influential group, the meetings are also on the third Thursday of the month starting at5 pm in the library.

On the curricular front, teachers are continuing to work on developing curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core Standards emphasize skills needed for college and career readiness, rigorous content, the application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills, and the strategic use of language in all content areas as a tool for thinking, reasoning, and communicating. This kind of work requires a great deal of inter-disciplinary collaboration. Buchser’s teachers have been perfecting their collaboration process for at least the past ten years. As a result, not only are they leaders in Santa Clara Unified, they are models of the teaching profession.

To that end of model teaching, I am very excited to have several student teachers at Buchser Middle School this year. One essential component of a successful school is having a steady infusion of new ideas that are balanced by veteran experience. It is a testament to the skill of our staff to have so many new faces, learning alongside us and eager to be a part of this challenging profession.

In the spirit of new learning, I also want to say a brief word about children and the learning process. Moving forward into a new school year can be an exciting and challenging time, especially in middle school when adolescent development creates its own set of hurdles and milestones. During my twenty-plus years in education, I have observed that, as students get older and school gets harder, some students develop increasing doubts about their academic ability or even their academic potential. This can be especially true for students for whom elementary school was “easy” or relatively effortless when compared to the effort required in middle and high school. There is a growing body of research about the importance of effort in school as it relates to student success. While that may sound obvious to adults, it is not always obvious to students, who often equate “effort” with “not being as smart” as others.

A leading researcher named Carol Dweck has done extensive work on the importance of praising students for their effort. From this research, Dweck has developed the “Mind-Set Theory,” and that work is beginning to significantly permeate education. Last year, Buchser staff participated in professional development on Mind-Set Theory. Recently, I shared this article with a number of parents, and because of the positive parent reaction, I realized all of our families might benefit from this research. So…we are attaching a scanned copy of Carol Dweck’s research to this quarter one letter. I hope you find the research as intriguing and informative as we have and that you can make use of the information to help your child understand that effort in school is essential for success.

As a final note here, students need a safe school in order to make their very best effort and do their very best thinking. Therefore, school safety and climate remains a top priority for Buchser Middle School. One important component of school safety is being able to identify who is on our campus at all times. Please be sure to check-in with the front office and get a “volunteer” or “visitor” name badge each time you visit. This is a critical step, and it needs to happen before, during, and after school, even for folks who are on campus frequently. The name badges help all school employees quickly identify anyone who should not be on the campus.

Of course, if you see or hear of anything that does not support school safety and a positive learning environment, please do not hesitate to contact one of us. As always, we appreciate how much our parent-community does to help Buchser Middle School become a great school!

 

Best Regards,

Monica Stoffal, Principal

mstoffal@scusd.net

(408) 423-3001

 

The Perils and Promises of Praise.pdf