VIEWPOINT: Superintendent reflects on a busy year at CUSD

by Jim Elssaser, Claremont Unified School District superintendent

The 2014-2015 school year has been very exciting for staff and students throughout Claremont Unified School District. Teachers have spent tireless hours creating and teaching new units of study aligned to the California Standards, formerly known as the Common Core State Standards. 

Throughout the spring, students in grades 3 through 8, as well as high school juniors, were required to take the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), which are summative assessments in English language arts and mathematics.

This was the first statewide administration of new online tests, replacing the paper-based, multiple-choice Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program. The state’s new assessment system represents the next step in California’s plan for providing high-quality teaching and learning in every school, including higher academic standards, more decision-making in the hands of schools and communities and more resources dedicated to schools and to students with the greatest needs. 

In preparation for the new online assessments, technology was purchased that could be used not only for state assessments but could also provide engaging educational opportunities.

After extensive exploration of various devices, iPads were selected because of the myriad ways they support teaching and learning. Teachers have gone through extensive training on how to effectively use and implement iPad technology as an instructional tool in their classrooms.  As a result, students are using technology in meaningful and exciting ways to demonstrate mastery of the California Standards.

A fifth grade class at Chaparral worked in teams to create and share infomercials to summarize their trip to camp. Using iMovie and iMovie Trailers, students created short films that illustrated the geography of Idyllwild, the science standards taught in their curriculum and the overall excitement of their learning experience at camp.

Condit third graders worked collaboratively to complete and present research projects on biomes using Green Screen Video Technology from within the biome. They then pieced the video clips, photos and narrative descriptions of animal and plant adaptations into an iMovie production, creating sophisticated audio/visual presentations that truly redefined the curriculum in a previously unimaginable way.

Danbury students, who may experience difficulties with fine motor skills and thus shied away from writing, are now using iPads as assistive technology throughout the writing process. 

Sixth grade students at Mountain View have created diverse, standards-based projects that have allowed them to research, analyze, share, explain, compare, create and import images and videos, producing high-quality keynote presentations and videos in iMovie. 

Social studies has become very engaging for a fifth and sixth grade combination class at Oakmont. Rather than reading a chapter from their textbook and writing a summary on the Fertile Crescent region, students created infographics (a visual representation of data) and presented their findings to their peers, showing how the development of agriculture supported the growth of cities in Mesopotamia.  

A class of fifth grade students at Sumner researched debate topics, completed their pre-writing in Flip, created dialogue in Notes or Pages, read drafts into Audio Memo and presented their debates using iMovie. The culminating activity involved parents using a QR reader on their smartphones to access their child’s debate during open house. 

Second and third grade students at Sycamore researched and created an iMovie for their chosen biography. Each movie required students to import pictures, narrate footage and use editing techniques to add music. Students then exported the content into a class movie documenting the lives of 24 significant people in history.

After learning about the different forms of figurative language, students in a fifth and sixth grade classroom at Vista del Valle created a figurative language book in Book Creator. Students demonstrated the literal and figurative meaning of a sentence or phrase through illustrations, either through drawing their own pictures, downloading pictures they took themselves or a combination of both. 

A group of eighth grade students at El Roble participated in an Early Republic Newscast project. They worked in teams to research a topic and write a script in Google Docs, and created a professional newscast in iMovie that was shared with the entire class. 

Students in an eleventh grade social studies class at Claremont High School studied the Cuban Missile Crisis through the use of an app called The Brink. This app took students to the National Archives and John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. Students experienced this moment in time in a way that truly made history tangible by having access to primary source documents, which included declassified photos, memos, documents, recordings and films. Students used the items from this collection to write an analysis on an aspect of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

San Antonio High School is the only school in CUSD where every student has their own iPad. Seniors were engaged in a cross-curricular project for their senior English and government classes. Students used Keynote to give presentations on what they had learned throughout the semester and, through the use of iMovie, wrote, filmed, edited and produced public service announcements that contributed to media education.

If you are interested in observing some of the exciting projects that are taking place throughout the district, please contact my office to arrange a tour when school resumes in the fall.

On behalf of the board of education, I would like to thank you for your continued support of Claremont Unified School District.

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