Head’s Corner

Not So “Standardized’ Testing

Over the next two weeks, if your student is in grades 3-8, they will spend a few hours taking the NWEA MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test. The MAP test is a “standardized” test in Language Arts and Math (and soon Science) like the ERB – but it is nothing like the ERB.  

The first difference is how students take it. Instead of the test being a pencil and bubble form test that has students answer the same questions no matter what 4th grade class they are in the world, the MAP test is computerized and adaptive. As students take the tests, the program feeds them either more challenging or easier questions, depending on their performance on previous questions. The algorithm searches to find a student’s strengths and weaknesses in a subject area. All students are fed the same number of questions, but it is safe to say that out of the thousands of questions in the data bank, no student takes the same test. 

The second major difference is that while the test will benchmark students to other students across the country, that is not the emphasis. The test provides data for teachers, parents, and students alike that will help leverage strengths and fill in gaps. Each teacher receives a report on their class as well as individual students to assess their competency in a subject area. Parents receive a report on their child that offers suggestions for improvement as well as links to resources that will spur academic growth.

Lastly, the test can be used at different times of the year to assess growth and pinpoint areas of need. Compared to the ERB, which would take three or four mornings of instructional time to complete, the MAP takes approximately 45 minutes per subject area to complete – making it not only more useful but less intrusive to our teaching day. 

We look forward to sharing the information gathered from the MAP test as we move forward into next year. 

For more information on the MAP test, please click here

Warm regards,



Learning Expedition of the Bay

This past Tuesday, the 5th and 6th grade students joined the Marine Science Institute for a four-hour expedition of the San Francisco Bay aboard a 90-foot research vessel, the R.V. Robert G. Brownlee. The students discovered what lives in the estuary and how we are connected to it. They rotated through three stations using scientific methods and equipment to examine different types of life.

First, they went to hydrology to understand the water quality, and then performed a plankton tow to see the basis of the food chain. After, they used a mud grab to collect a benthic mud sample to look for invertebrates. And lastly, they worked together to deploy a 16-foot trawl net to bring fishes on board. In small groups, they studied the fishes using dichotomous keys. Students were inspired to observe and touch the live animals that they collected. Between sharks, crabs, halibut and sting rays, they saw a bunch of cool marine life!


Marble Runs

Ms. Traci introduced some long pieces of foam to the Hoot Owls without any directions. The Hoot Owls quickly decided to turn them into marble runs. This required lots of ingenuity, patience and the sharing of ideas, space and materials. It was a little tricky at first to work together with such fun and new materials, but they quickly got the hang of it.

After almost an hour of working on the activity inside, the Hoot Owls wanted to work on it longer so we moved the activity outside. Many Hoot Owls wanted the marble to be able to go up and down so they used their bodies as bumps and hills.

One day didn’t seem to be enough for this fun and creative activity because the Hoot Owls wanted to continue to make different marble runs for more than a week!


Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week

From May 10-May 14, Saklan will be celebrating Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week. This year has been like none other–both in the challenges faced and the successes achieved–so it feels especially important to celebrate our Saklan teachers, and let them know how much we appreciate the work that they do.

In addition to surprises and celebrations put on by the Saklan Parents Association, we will also mark the occasion with a half-day on Friday, May 14. Please note that this will be a noon dismissal day for students.

Huge thank you to the Parents Association and in particular Sandy Lo for organizing the week’s events. We are all looking forward to a week of appreciation, and showing Saklan teachers just how thankful we are for the work they do!


Pioneer Day

On Tuesday, April 27, the third grade class traveled back in time to 1888 to experience life as a pioneer student. Each student took on a new identity by choosing an old fashioned name and came to school dressed in their finest pioneer attire.

Mrs. Rokas, with the help of Ms. Meredith and Ms. Joy, brought traditional pioneer activities into her own classroom. The day started in the classroom with the three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. Students read from McGuffey Readers (published in 1879), practiced their cursive writing using quill feather pens and ink, and practiced their math on slate boards with chalk. They also had a spelling bee!

During morning recess, students played like pioneers. They walked on can stilts, used jump ropes, and played hopscotch and jacks. Afterwards, they listened to pioneer stories from Ms. Meredith under a shady tree and made some pioneer crafts with Ms. Meredith and Ms. Joy: tin punch art and yarn dolls. 

For lunch, each pioneer student brought authentic pioneer food in baskets, pails or tied to a stick. After lunch, students sang pioneer songs and learned square dancing with Mrs. Chaffey. Next, they made butter in mason jars and tasted the delicious homemade butter on biscuits brought by Kaylah.

The day ended the day with group games: tug-o-war, sack races and three-legged races.  

The third graders really embraced the pioneer spirit and enjoyed their time travel back to 1888! Huge thank you to Mrs. Rokas, Ms. Meredith, and Ms. Joy for bringing this day to life for the third graders!


Be Resourceful

During April, Saklan students have been learning how to be resourceful as part of our ongoing social-emotional education. This lesson was especially relevant for the month that includes Earth Day, as there are always opportunities to be more resourceful when it comes to helping our planet.

Some key ways that students can be resourceful are:

  • Think outside the box
  • Take initiative – if you see something you can do, go do it
  • Be creative with materials, problems, and tasks

After learning more about what it means to be resourceful, students had the opportunity to come up with ways they could be resourceful in their own lives, and display it on a “helping hand.”


Saklan Community Rallies for the Monarch Butterfly

A few weeks ago, Saklan’s sixth graders set up an election with the goal of helping an endangered species in need. Plastic buckets were set up outside the main office–one bucket for each of the five animals chosen–and the Saklan community had a week to vote with their wallets for which animal they wanted the class to symbolically “adopt.”

When the votes came in, the monarch butterfly was the winner.

Saklan’s choice of the monarch butterfly is serendipitous, as the school has partnered with the Moraga Garden Center to plant milkweed and nectar flowering plants, which support monarch larvae and adult monarchs.

The school’s efforts were recently highlighted in Larmorinda Weekly, with the two sixth graders who chose the monarch butterfly for the “Vote with your Change” election featured in the post. Recognition well deserved!


Saklan’s Young Scientists

The young scientists in Saklan’s Owl Class have continued to learn more about science topics with Ms. Jessica and Ms. O! They learned about magnets and how different poles attract while the same ones repel, then conducted an experiment with milk, dish soap, and food coloring. By pouring colored milk into pans of dish soap, the Owls could clearly see that the dish soap repelled the milk right away.

Ms. Jessica’s Owls also got to experience a bit of the “icky” side of being a scientist by observing a squid dissection with Ms. O. The students were able to see all the different parts of the squid, including its beak, tentacles, throat, gills, eyes, and ink sac!

Many of the Owls were not fans of how stinky the squids were, but overall, they did seem to be very interested in biology. We are so proud of the curiosity these budding scientists continue to show!


Third Grade Spanish

In third grade Spanish class, the students are learning about the 21 countries in the world where Spanish is spoken. They also learned that there are more than 500 million people in the world who speak Spanish, a number that continues to grow.

To fully appreciate the diversity of Spanish-speaking countries, each third grader picked a specific country to learn more about. They explored their chosen country’s typical food, music, dance, and sports. They also researched two famous people from their chosen country.

Third graders put together poster boards display all they had learned, so they could share it with their fellow students.