The following is from Tuesday's Laguna Beach Unified School District school board meeting.
iPods popular in second-grade classroom
Top of the World Elementary School teacher Linda Barker and District Director of Educational Technology Victor Guthrie led a presentation on her second-grade classroom, which is utilizing iPod Touches in its curriculum.
Principal Ron LaMotte said the program was funded through SchoolPower, which encourages innovative and creative thinking.
The kids can use the iPods as another means to learn their Common Core Standards — playing math games, learning to add money or completing spelling challenges.
"Does it foster engagement? Absolutely," Barker said. "There's endless possibilities of educational uses for iPods."
She said it's a good assessment tool because she's able to find apps on iTunes that fit different students' learning.
In the case of learning to count money, Barker said they hadn't learned it yet but students found the app and started playing it, putting them ahead of the game — no pun intended.
Other students who excel in math found the games fun, she said, because they can go up to different levels and are continually challenged. Another child played a spelling game and reached the fifth-grade level.
Barker asked the students to do a project to demonstrate their understanding of Newton's Laws of Motion using photography with the iPod. The students photographed themselves participating in push-pull, acceleration and velocity. She was surprised by the sophistication of their results.
"Technology isn't limited by our children's abilities. It's limited by our perception of what our children's ability is," Guthrie said.
District applauds API scores
Deni Christensen, assistant superintendent of instructional services, led a presentation on the district's test results. The most recent results were API, accountability progress reporting, which increased to 922 in 2012 versus 904 in 2011, according to state records.
A score higher than 900 is considered "exemplary," Christensen said.
Thurston Middle School's score rose to 944 in 2012 from 935 in 2011. Traditionally, middle schools have higher scores and high schools have the lowest ones due to the academic rigor, Christensen said. El Morro Elementary has an API score of 923, compared to 894 in 2011. Top of the World Elementary reported 924 this year and 919 in 2011.
Laguna Beach High School received an API score of 906 in 2012, up from 882 last year, according to records.
Principals highlight anti-bullying efforts
Principals from the four schools explained to the board what they're doing to promote kindness and combat bullying on their campuses.
El Morro Principal Chris Duddy talked about Character Counts, a character education program, at the elementary school. He said they try to help kids distinguish between normal conflict and bullying behavior. They had students participate in a video where they acted out the behaviors. They use the phrase "Stop, talk, walk" when it comes to confrontation. They ask students to talk to the child they're having an issue with and if it's not sorted out, to walk away respectfully and contact an adult. They teach children to be an "upstander, not bystander" and take action if they witness bad behavior — not laugh or sit by.
"Kindness and caring has become a way of life at Top of the World," Principal Ron LaMotte said.
He credited Rachel's Challenge for eliminating a lot of negative behavior. He said he estimates they give out 98% less white slips.
Thurston Middle School Asst. Principal Mikael Modeer has been passing around the phrase "be an upstander" as well, Principal Jenny Salberg said. They also let students tie orange ribbons to remind themselves to take action when they witness bullying. She said it is her personal goal that every student finds a niche. She gave an example of asking a group of kids, who were interested in zombies, to lead another group of kids at lunchtime in zombie-themed games and how exciting it was for them.
Joanne Culverhouse, Laguna Beach High School principal, mentioned a myriad programs they're doing at the high school, such as "Cover campus with kindness," where students post kind phrases like "I love you" at different spots. They also have had luncheons where kids need to sit with new groups — while in costume. Peer Assistance Leadership created a program called "Bionic," which stands for "believe it or not I care" and created T-shirts with the screen printing club.
Director of Special Education and Student Services Irene White was applauded by Supt. Sherine Smith for her efforts to address bullying on the sites on top of her other responsibilities.
"Irene is a treasure to us and we really appreciate it," she said.