May 2016 Message
Dear Homestead Parents and Guardians,
I wanted to thank all of the parents who recently participated in the first FUHSD parent survey in February. Over 2,100 parents in the district responded; 466 of those respondents were from Homestead. Both the district and Homestead had an approximately 20% response rate, which is a good rate for a survey, but we can always hope for more next year. This is the first administration of the survey, and we have nothing to compare these results to but we have started looking more closely at the results. You can go directly to the results and analysis of the parent survey if you would like more detail.
I wanted to publish the results and give some explanations so that we can begin having a conversation about ways that we can partner together to make Homestead an even better place for students to learn and teachers to teach. One of the first things that stood out to me is that a majority of parents stated that they get a majority of information and preferred getting their information from email blasts and our website. So starting with this Principal’s message, I will be sending out a monthly message that can be accessed either by going to our website or by clicking on the link in our weekly email blast from School Loop.
Summarizing the data, there were three areas that parents listed as our “Greatest Strengths”:
1. Staff and Faculty
2. Academic Excellence
3. Community/School Environment
They also listed three “Areas for Improvement”:
1. Consistency and Quality of Teachers
3. Fairness and Timeliness of Grading
My initial reaction to this is that it appears that the ideas and concerns of our parents are similar to those of our staff. I would agree that, along with our students, our staff and faculty are top-notch, hard working and focused on helping students succeed. The faculty and staff have created not only a strong academic environment but also a strong school environment where students can thrive.
Looking at our three “Areas for Improvement”, I wanted to address each one of these areas so that parents could be aware of our efforts to address your concerns.
Consistency and Quality of Teachers:
This may appear to be a contrast of Parent opinions stated above since staff and faculty were rated as our greatest strength, but I believe that this concern is a natural progression because we want all the adults on our campus to be equally effective, supportive and qualified to teach our kids. Parents are always concerned about which teacher will my student receive or how can I ensure that my child is getting the same education that other students are getting? We have been and will continue to address this issue through our collaborative process. Our Monday late starts are dedicated to working in course-alike teams to answer the following questions: What do we want students to know and be able to do? What do skillful teachers do to make sure that students learn the material the first time? How will we assess students to see if they understand? What will we do when they do not get it? And what will we do when they do get it? These questions have helped us to focus on selecting the essential learning outcomes for each course alike team, the best instructional strategies to use to teach those essential learning outcomes then to design common assessments to measure student learning. Having common assessments is important because it allows the staff to analyze student data to know which students need interventions and which students are ready to move on. This means that, while we do not expect or require teachers to be on the exact same page on the exact same day, we do expect that all teachers are teaching what is important for students to be successful in their current class and to be ready to move on to the next level. This means that teachers are having conversations and making agreements to teach standards-based curriculum with the same fidelity and attention. This process is a continual cycle of improvement, so teacher teams use their meeting time throughout the year to have these discussions and move towards a guaranteed and viable curriculum for ALL students.
Parents told us in this survey that they prefer to get their information from two sources: our website and emails. What you also said, was that you would like more frequent emails from staff about what is going on in classes and on campus to support your students. We do send out a Parent Email Blast via School Loop every Friday in which we list upcoming events and important information that we think would help keep parents informed. We will be looking to improve our weekly email blast, and one idea that we had was to provide a link from the email to the Principal’s Message that I will update monthly with more specific information and explanations like this one. I will also be archiving these messages so that you can go back to reference or, if you are new to our site, then you can go back and learn more about our school. The best way to get emails from the teachers is to be sure to sign up for School Loop. This is a direct link to each of your student’s teachers where they post grades, upcoming assignments and other announcements. We have also started a parent orientation program (P.O.P.) for our incoming 9th grade parents where we explain methods for communication as well as other facets of our school. Back to School Night was also listed a favorite way for parents to connect with staff, so we highly encourage you to come to BTSN.
Fairness and Timeliness of Grading:
Much of what I wrote about the collaborative process can also be used to explain our efforts towards improving grading practices on campus. Some of our course-alike teams have taken on this conversation by looking at the grade distribution data among teachers. Every six weeks after progress reports are completed, departments receive a report that shows the number of A’s, B’s, C’s etc., assigned by teacher by course. They use this information to calibrate their grading practices. Other course-alike teams are holding their own investigations about grading practices and then look for ways to implement these policies and practices within their team or department. This year as a staff we have looked at standards-based grades, percentages and weighting of assignments, the positive and negative affects of averaging as a means for assessing growth and learning, the impact of zeroes on a student’s grade to persuade students not to “opt out” of assignments so that students complete assignments for learning not just for points. We still have a long way to go but it is important work that our teachers are eager to pursue. We also are planning a grading practices workshop for all teachers when they return in August along with other workshops that will help us ensure high levels of learning for all students.
My hope is that we can partner together in the next year to make the improvements that you have asked for and by communicating more about what we are doing and why we are doing it. Parent participation in school has been expanding over the last few years so with your help we can make Homestead a truly great place to learn and work. I hope that you return each month to this page so you can learn a little more about our school, and I am interested in getting your feedback on how our efforts listed above are working.
You can always contact me via my email, which is email@example.com or by calling my office at (408) 522-2501. I hope your 2015-2016 year ends on a high note and that we start 2016-2017 with just as much enthusiasm and passion.
Greg Giglio, Principal