Head’s Corner

Last Wednesday, November 3rd, marked our First Annual Orange Envelope Day! Kicking off our Annual Giving Fund (AGF) with lots of enthusiasm, students and parents were able to drop their orange donation envelopes in the orange box and ring our cowbell to mark the occasion – it brought lots of joy and attention to drop off and pick up! Thank you for helping to make it historic. Orange Envelope Day yielded 37 gifts and participation from 24% of our families- Go Saklan!

It speaks volumes about our community that families are willing to contribute a meaningful gift to the AGF. Each gift supports our commitment to fostering a sense of belonging and being connected to every student. Moreover, it strengthens the bond of shared common values between all of us. Those values of belonging and connectedness are instrumental to who we are and what we do.

Community Participation as of November 12, 2021

Asking for a financial gift from a community that already gives so much in the way of time, money and trust, takes a nuanced approach. While we focus on participation because it is an indicator of belonging, the truth of the matter is that we would fall short of our financial goal without the larger donations that are made. Our community is socioeconomically diverse, with some families who have more capacity to give monetarily than others. This is where the nuance comes in. Larger gifts bring us closer to moving the dial on experiences that strengthen your child’s love for learning. High participation is a vote of being connected to the community that values those experiences. We strive for both. We want Saklan to be your primary philanthropic cause and ask you to give to your fullest capacity. Whether your gift is $5 or $15,000, if it is meaningful to you, it is meaningful to us.

Thank you for believing in us to partner with you in your child’s educational journey. Thank you to those who have already shown their support for the AGF. We are more than halfway to our goals of raising $150,000 and reaching 100% participation, and I am confident that both will continue to rise.

In gratitude,

David

#SaklanGiving

Head’s Corner

Halloween Brought a Boon of Creativity!

I hope you were able to attend today’s special Halloween CLAS. From the visit of a Transformer (Preston) to the combination group outfit of Ketchup and Fries (featuring brothers Chase and Liam), there was tons of creativity on display. Thank you to all members of our community for supporting the students this morning. 

Thank you and Happy Halloween!

David

#SaklanCreative

Head’s Corner

“Be Curious, Not Judgemental”

Walt Whitman

This quote (recently made famous by Ted Lasso) replaces an old favorite of mine: “If you only believe 50% of what your children say about us, we will only believe 50% of what they say about you.” While the quote is tongue-in-cheek, it emphasizes that misunderstandings can occur between home and school when we only understand one perspective. But it is passive. It does not ask us to be curious and learn. When it comes to raising good people (the children we share), we need to be curious and suspend judgment.

Yesterday, as a faculty, we spent time talking about parent-teacher conferences. One of our conversation points was delving into the anxiety all participants (yes, even teachers) can feel during these meetings. As we prepare for conferences, it is essential to remember that we (parents and teachers) have the same goal in mind- to help young people grow to become fulfilled, self-actualized adults. This work is complicated and bumps in the road are inevitable, but our children benefit when we remain curious and work together. 

Please keep this in mind next week as you discuss your child’s progress at conferences. We are a team, and we look forward to sharing glows and grows with you.

In gratitude,

David

Head’s Corner

MAP Testing – Measures of Academic Progress

Over the next two weeks, if your student is in grades 2*- 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, Reading, and Math, but is different from most other standardized tests.

The MAP test is computerized and adaptive; as students take the tests, the program feeds them either more challenging or more accessible questions, depending on their performance on earlier questions. In addition, the algorithm is designed to find a student’s strengths and challenges in the subject area. 

When we administered the test last spring, I recall 8th graders lamenting that it was the most challenging test they had ever taken, and they thought they must have failed. But, it turns out, those same students scored above the 90th percentile. The test was hard because it worked to stretch them, feeding them questions meant for 10th and 11th grade students.  

While the MAP test will benchmark students to other students across the country, that is not the emphasis. Instead, the test provides data for teachers, parents, and students alike that will help leverage strengths and fill gaps. Each teacher receives a report on their class and individual students to assess their competency in a subject area. In addition, parents receive a report on their child that offers suggestions for improvement and links to resources that will spur academic growth.

Compared to other standardized tests which would take a week or more of instructional time to complete, the MAP test is not timed and takes approximately 50-70 minutes (some students are done in 45 minutes, others take 80) per subject area to complete. Therefore it is less intrusive to our instructional day.

We look forward to sharing the information gathered from the MAP test as we move into the year and share your child’s results during conferences.

For more information on the MAP test, please click here

Warm regards,

David 

*This is the first year we are testing 2nd graders. They will only be taking the reading portion of the test – it will last between 45 and 75 minutes.  

Head’s Corner

Parents Make our School Go ‘Round

Dear Saklan Community,

I am feeling incredibly grateful for our parent community this week. Not only would we not have a school without you (as you choose to send your children to Saklan each day), but there are so many aspects of our school that are supported by your hard work.

Building community in a pandemic has been challenging, but I have seen many strong bonds form despite that. Some were made just by families simply walking to their cars after school. Even without our usual multitude of in-person events, our Parent Association (PA) and room parents found a way to bring the parents together, and I see and appreciate it.

We’ve had a fantastic start to this school year! And while there will always be challenges to work through, we know we can rely on the support and partnership of our parent community. 

Thank you for your trust in our teachers. Thank you for being curious about what your child comes home to share. Thank you for giving us feedback so we can communicate well and work together. Thank you for being an integral part of every single day at school. 

We are a team, and we appreciate your continued understanding of that commitment. 

In keeping with this teamwork, I would encourage you to attend the upcoming PA events. Much thought and planning go into creating opportunities for parents to connect. We know it does not work for all families, and work schedules may be inflexible, but if you do have the time, please join us for the following:

  • October 15th: Parent Coffee after CLAS
  • October 24th: Halloween Family Fun Fest 1 pm -3 pm (Moraga Commons)
  • November 9th: Parent Ed Series: Does Your Family have the Sugar Blues? (virtual evening)
  • November 12th: Parent Coffee after CLAS

In closing, thank you. Now that I am a parent at this school, I have a new lens on this experience. I am impressed with the things my daughter comes home and shares, and my family is benefitting directly from what this community can do together. 

In gratitude,

David

Head’s Corner

Dear Saklan Community,

What a fantastic first week! From our social gatherings to all the negative COVID tests to the countless emails to the safety protocols and new routines – THANK YOU for your compliance and understanding. Our community feels stronger than ever!

Thank you to those of you who joined us for CLAS this morning. This was the first time we gathered our entire community outside together in almost a year and a half, and it felt incredible! Your children are gracious, kind and so brave. 

Thank you also to those of you who stayed for the PA social afterward. It is always inspiring to see the number of enthusiastic parents here to support the school. We welcomed 53 new students and 36 new families to Saklan this week! I appreciate the PA for being so proactive to connect our new families to the school community.

Some personal highlights from my week were seeing the faculty and staff jump into this school year with renewed energy and a collaborative spirit; hearing about the middle school students’ courageous experiences on the ropes course in Sonoma; being able to start the school year IN PERSON; helping the Kindergarten class look for Pete the Cat; enjoying the sight of students playing together during recess; and having my daughter on campus as a student for the first time!

I could go on and on. Having students on campus – laughing, playing, learning, sharing – is the life-blood of Saklan. The school is vibrant. I see the students connecting and the teachers fulfilled. And that, to me, is a sign of success and great things to come. I look forward to a year of tremendous growth and connection. Thank you all for trusting us with your most precious commodities and for supporting us along the way.

In gratitude,

David

#SaklanCommunity

Head’s Corner

Congratulations, Class of 2021!

Dear Saklan Families, 

Saying farewell to our graduates is always bittersweet. Perhaps it was even more pronounced this year because the majority of them had been at Saklan since the lower school and because it was an extraordinarily difficult year. It was not just COVID-19 and everything that came with it (the masking, distancing, testing, etc). But for an age group that thrives on optimism, it was a challenging year politically, socially, and culturally.

But they persevered. They kept their heads up and did not complain. Forces out of their control threw them curveballs and they responded with compassion, courage, and creativity. Our graduates ended the year with grace and dignity, delivering some of the best graduation speeches we have seen in a long time. Thank you, class of 2021.

In case you missed it, you can view the graduation here. Two highlights of the ceremony were powerful, original pieces of prose by graduates Reese Kammerer and Levi Kim that sought to open our minds and challenge our beliefs.

Each year we create a slideshow that highlights the memories of our graduates from their first years at Saklan all the way through the last week of 8th grade. Take a moment to watch this video and relive their journey. 

I would like to extend a special thank you to Lori Anders, Jenny Choi, Jen Cogen, and Christy Mack for helping to organize the graduation dinner and the ceremony. It takes a lot of planning and coordination, but both events were beautifully orchestrated and the perfect way to send off our graduates. Additionally, a special shout-out goes to Kim Parks, Shay Sager, Emoke Veres, and Javier Yacarini for all their behind-the-scenes work handling the logistics of the graduation. 

Thank you, again, for helping us all make it through one of the most challenging years in our memory. Our community moves forward to planning for the 2021-22 school year with so much strength, unity, humility, and hope.

I wish you all an incredible and rejuvenating summer.

Fondly,

David

#SaklanGraduation

Head’s Corner

Why We Do “Standardized’ Testing

In the middle of May, students in grades 3-8  took standardized math, reading, and language usage tests.  Traditionally, Saklan has used the ERB Test to measure the success of our students and program.  The ERB was a paper and pencil test that was the same for every student in their respective grade level.  The data gained from that test gave us information about how we were doing as a school against other schools, but little else. 

In September of 2019, we switched to the NWEA MAP test ( Measures of Academic Progress).  The MAP test is a very different tool from that of the traditional ERB test.  To begin with, the MAP test is dynamic, meaning that as a student answers questions correctly, the test adjusts. The student begins to see more challenging and complex questions, which often take them well beyond their grade level.  If a student begins to struggle, the test will start to ease up on the questions.  Through this process, the MAP test can determine exactly where a student’s strengths and challenges lie.   

The second significant differentiator of the MAP test is that it is untimed.  The actual testing is predicted to take 45-60 minutes, but students can take as much time as they need.  This approach emphasizes knowledge and ability over speed, giving a more accurate indication of what a student knows and taking away pressure that leads to mistakes and inaccurate data. 

Thirdly the MAP test does exceptionally well in giving parents and teachers useable data to help support students and take them to the next level.  Student progress is recorded year on year, giving a picture of a child’s overall growth.  That information is then used to predict future growth as well as college readiness. Moreover, the test breaks down each curriculum standard by what content and skills the student has mastered or needs reinforced.  This information helps teachers differentiate their approach and  individualize instruction.  It also can be used to connect students to educational software such Khan Academy or IXL, helping students narrow in on gaps.  

We will be sending out end of semester grade reports in the middle of June.  At that same time, if you are a parent of a 3rd -8th grade student, you will receive a MAP Growth Report. This report will give information regarding how your child did on the testing as well as next steps we all can take to academically grow.  

Have a great weekend
David

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,

David

#SaklanAcademics

Head’s Corner

If These Dollar Store Buckets Could Talk

Right now, outside of the main office, there are five plastic buckets. They seem unassuming at first, but upon closer inspection, they have a lot to say about the motivation and determination of the sixth grade class.

If these dollar store buckets could talk, they would tell you how thoughtfully students researched their chosen endangered species, learning about its environment, the threats to its existence, what it needs to survive.

They would brag about the creativity of each group, the excitement that went into decorating the buckets and garnering support for each animal.

They would regale you with examples of Ms. O’s passion and commitment, as she guides students through this work for another year.

Through the muffled sound of loose change mixing with dollar bills, the buckets would marvel at the generosity of the Saklan community, and the thrill students of all ages have gotten from selecting their favorite animal and donating money toward its cause.

If they had a spare moments, these buckets would deliver an eloquent lecture on what it takes to build–and keep– a school culture of creativity, compassion, and courage.

I have passed by these buckets every day for the past week, and so far, I haven’t heard them say a word. But I know if they could talk, they would remind me–and all of us–how lucky we are.

#SaklanCompassion