By Grant Bennett, Superintendent
The Four C's of 21ST Century Learning
The four C’s of 21st Century Learning are some of the most popular learning strategies in today’s environment.
- Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is the practice of solving problems, among other qualities. In addition to working through problems, solving puzzles, and similar activities, critical thinking also includes an element of skepticism. This is important in the 21st Century because it’s harder than ever to verify accurate information. Critical Thinking empowers students to discover the truth in assertions, especially when it comes to separating fact from opinion. With critical thinking, students don’t just learn a set of facts or figures. Instead, they learn how to discover the facts and figures for themselves. They ask questions. They become engaged in the world around them. They help others to think critically. That might be the most important part of critical thinking. Once one student has it mastered, it quickly spreads to their peers. Whether they learn how to think critically from spending time online or simply asking “Why?” in everyday life, this skill prepares students for a life of independence and purposeful thought. Still, critical thinking is just one of the four C’s in 21st Century skills. It works just fine when students use it alone. But when students combine it with the next skill, the sky is the limit to what they can achieve.
Creativity is the practice of thinking outside the box. While creativity is often treated like a you-have-it-or-you-don’t quality, students can learn how to be creative by solving problems, creating systems, or just trying something they haven’t tried before. That doesn’t mean every student will become an artist or a writer. Instead, it means they’ll be able to look at a problem from multiple perspectives — including those that others may not see. Creativity is allowing students to embrace their inner strengths from big-picture planning to meticulous organization. As a student learns about their creativity, they also learn how to express it in healthy and productive ways. More importantly, they also become motivated to share that creativity with others. Just like with critical thinking, that makes creativity contagious. One student creates an interesting or innovative solution to a problem. Then, when they share it, the next student can become inspired to try something similar. That’s not to say every single creative endeavor will be a ringing success. Students will fail at some point, and some of their ideas simply won’t work. But that’s okay. The point of creativity is to encourage students to think differently than convention demands. They don’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done. Instead, they can figure out a better way. Students don’t have to embrace their creativity alone, either. In fact, creativity works best when combined with the next 21st Century skill.
Collaboration is the practice of working together to achieve a common goal. Collaboration is important because whether students realize it or not, they’ll probably work with other people for the rest of their lives. Virtually every job requires someone to work with another person at some point, even if it’s for something as simple as what to get for lunch. Practicing collaboration helps students understand how to address a problem, pitch solutions, and decide the best course of action. It’s also helpful for them to learn that other people don’t always have the same ideas that they do. In fact, as students practice collaboration more and more, they’ll learn that they have almost none of the same ideas that others do. This can affect students in one of two ways. First, it could discourage them since nobody seems to agree with them that often. Second, it could embolden them because they realize they’re bringing something unique to every conversation. As a teacher, it’s crucial that you encourage students to look at themselves through that second lens. That way, students learn that they should speak up when they have an idea. They may not be on the money 100% of the time — and some of their peers may have strong, opinionated reactions — but it’ll teach them to speak up when they’re working with others.
Communication is the practice of conveying ideas quickly and clearly. Communication is often taken for granted in today’s society. After all, if you say something, that means you conveyed an idea, right? Not exactly. In the age of text-based communications — SMS, emails, social media, etc. — It’s never been more important for students to learn how to convey their thoughts in a way that others can understand them. That’s because text-based communications lack tone, which is critical to understanding the context of someone’s words. Still, even in situations where vocal tone is available, students need to learn how to communicate effectively. That includes minimizing tangents, speaking directly to an idea, and checking other participants to make sure they’re engaged. Reading an audience — even if it’s just two other people in a group discussion — lets students determine whether they should keep expanding on an idea or wrap up their point. Their audience could even be their family at Thanksgiving dinner. The point is that as students practice communication, they become better at efficiently conveying an idea without losing their point “in the weeds,” so to speak. With communication locked down, students can streamline their ideas and make a positive impression on those around them. Still, it’s important to note that communication isn’t enough on its own to help students with 21st Century skills. To really succeed, students need to use all four of these skills together.
By Candace Reines, Deputy Superintendent
Facilities Construction Update
Liberty High School Project
Liberty High School is beginning to take shape and has now gone vertical! With the support of our community, Perris Union High School District (PUHSD) was able to pass Measure W in November of 2018 which paved the way for our 4th high school located on Leon Road, just North of Scott Road. Construction crews have been busy working on the project since beginning construction in March of this year. As part of the earthwork, crews crushed millions of tons of rock that existed on the site. Large equipment moved material to on-site rock crushers to be processed into smaller material that was used as fill for low spots on the campus. Rocks that were too large to move with equipment were broken through the use of explosives. Construction crews have moved into underground utilities throughout the site. Storm drain lines have been installed on the campus as have electrical and water lines. Crews have placed concrete foundations for the Gym building, the campus operations building and the first portion of classroom buildings. These foundations have allowed the placement of the steel building columns which are visible as you drive by the site. Liberty High School will be completed and open for students and staff for the 2021-22 school year!
CMI Gymnasium and Student Drop Off/Circulation Project
The CMI Gymnasium and Student Drop Off/Circulation project also began this year. This will add a new gymnasium building that includes a full CIF basketball court, fitness and exercise room, new boys and girls locker rooms with coaches offices, and an ASB classroom. The project also includes removal of the original 1962 locker rooms, moving the existing R portable classroom buildings to that location. Parking and student drop off facilities are also being reconfigured and expanded as part of this project. Additionally, the City of Perris plans to widen A Street in front of the CMI Campus and will add a traffic signal with a crosswalk at Highland Vista, next to the school. Construction began with the demolition of the Q building and crews are currently finishing the site work and building foundations. Underground utilities will begin shortly after the building foundations are finished. This project is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2021.
Paloma Valley High School Classroom Addition and Stadium Improvement Project
At Paloma Valley High School, the Classroom Addition and Stadium Improvement Project was completed and opened for students in August of this school year. This project added a 2 story, 10 classroom building addition next to the existing J buildings at Paloma. This classroom building includes 4 labs and 6 regular classrooms. The project expanded the area in front of the gymnasium to create a student plaza that has seating areas and allowed for expanded student circulation. The new building at the Paloma stadium provides a new stadium entrance with expanded parking and includes restroom facilities, concessions, and a ticket booth. A dedication ceremony for these additions to the Paloma campus was held on August 30.
Perris High School Completion Phase
Plans for the final phase of construction at Perris High School have been completed and submitted to the Division of the State Architect for approval. The final phase will include a new administration building, a new on-campus performing arts complex with a variety of classroom/performance spaces, a new learning commons (library), an agricultural mechanics facility, new tennis courts, new PE facilities, and improvements to the existing weight room and wrestling room. It is expected the project will begin in Summer 2020 and be completed in 2022.
By Dr. Charles Newman, Assistant Superintendent
I cannot express my excitement and gratitude at the opportunity to serve in the Perris Union High School District. After completing my first year as Assistant Superintendent, I continue to be inspired and encouraged about the high level of professionalism and passion that so many of our staff members and teachers have for our district and the students that we so proudly serve.
This school year we selected “teacher clarity” as an instructional focus area to help move us forward and improve learning outcomes for our students. The rationale behind this decision is based on teacher clarity being a foundational practice for all student learning. For our students to achieve at high levels in all content areas, learning targets must be clear and concise in daily classroom lessons. There are two key indicators for teachers to establish teacher clarity. The first is for a teacher to communicate in student-friendly language the learning intention for students. Secondly, teachers define the “success criteria” that provides clarity to students with regard to what success looks like when meeting the outcomes of the daily learning target. These two key indicators of teacher clarity are evident when students can independently answer the following questions:
- What am I learning today? (Learning Intention)
- Why am I learning this today?
- How will I know that I have learned it? (Success Criteria)
As professional learning teams work to answer PLC essential question # 1, “What is it that we want all students to be learning?,” teacher clarity serves as a catalyst to ensure daily classroom learning targets continuing to align with the essential standards that their content level teams have selected for students to master.
This year we have embarked on a journey focusing on building “teacher clarity” so that as a district, we can identify the most critical parts of instruction: learning intentions, success criteria, and learning progressions. In an effort to support this work, we have coordinated our professional development with Dr. Nancy Frey of the Instructional Leadership Networks (ILNs) to train and develop site-specific professional learning experiences to build capacity at our district school sites. We have also ensured that a large percentage of our content level teachers received training on teacher clarity, encompassing the development of learning intentions and progressions for students.
Over the next few months, I look forward to visiting classrooms throughout the district to get a first-hand look at how teachers are practicing “teacher clarity.” Additionally, we are asking for teachers and administrators to share artifacts and samples of how departments and individual teachers are ensuring “teacher clarity” for our students. Once again, I am enthusiastic to serve the Perris Union High School District and I look forward to visiting your school site.
School, Family, and Community Partnerships are an integral factor in the quality of a student’s education. Perris Union High School District’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Goal #4 is to secure and strengthen home-school-community connections and communications. Each of our school sites are taking a more meaningful approach to connect with our families and community partners. The partnerships between schools, families, and communities allows schools to build on their strengths. Research shows that all parents want their children to succeed in school; however, not all parents know how to best support their children in education. Our goal is to build a trust between our families, create a sense of community and build partnerships that will positively influence our student’s educational success.
Parent Engagement Leadership Initiative (PELI)
The PELI curriculum has been developed based upon the Six Types of Parent Involvement and moves family engagement from a program to a practice. The PELI curriculum is a ten module training, including the topics of Parent Engagement: Keys to Student Success, Positive Parenting in Public Education, Communicating, Volunteering, Learning at Home, Decision Making, Collaborating with the Community, and Action Teams for Partnerships. The Action Team for Partnerships is made up of administrators, classroom teachers, counselors, support staff, community aides club leaders, coaches, business partners, students and parents. Each ATP develops goals called an Action Plan that provided the structure for successful family engagement in alignment with the priorities and goals found in the LCAP and in the Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA).
Parent Advisory Committee (PAC)
On September 19, 2019, PUHSD held its first of three PAC meetings, establishing a strong collaborative school, family and community partnerships. The Parent Advisory Committee's mission is to provide an authentic parent voice, that reviews student achievement and provides advice and input to the PUHSD School Board and Superintendent, to ensure that the District’s LCAP reflects the input of parents and key stakeholders.
Curriculum & Instruction
October is the start of college season in the Perris Union High School District. This month, the District hosted a variety of college and career readiness activities across school campuses. There are two major events that take place each year. First, the annual Kickoff to College Event is hosted at each school in the District to focus on getting students prepared for post-secondary plans after high school. The activities include, college applications, interest inventory assessments, college searches, college prep assessments such as the PSAT and ASVAB, and completing the FAFSA application. This event began in the Perris Union High School District five years ago, and has now spread throughout the county to more than 300 schools participating in similar events county-wide. More than 1000 seniors district-wide began their college and FAFSA applications. The second event is the annual District College Fair. This is the 13th year that the District has hosted the event with more than 50 colleges, trade schools, and careers represented. In addition to these district-wide events, each of the school sites offer additional activities to help support students with the college process. These events include college application workshops, Cash for College FAFSA nights, and AVID family nights. It is the goal of the Perris Union High School District to provide as many opportunities as possible for our students to prepare them for a successful future.
English Learner Program
Starting this Spring, the English Learner Proficiency Assessment for California (ELPAC) will be administered completely online. Sites have participated in the ELPAC field tests to give us a better understanding of how students will be assessed with the new test format. Teachers can help students prepare by using the Online Practice test at https://www.elpac.org/resources/practicetests/ (try clearing browser history if you can’t get in).
We are in the process of providing English Learners and parents with College Readiness workshops in the 6th Annual Latino Family Literacy College Readiness program. Our District EL TOSA, PUHSD Teachers and Counselors, MSJC Counselors, and current college students have provided training on High School graduation requirements, A-G course requirements, and financial aid. The college students share advice and real world experiences which is always the highlight of the workshop. The next series of workshops will start in March. Contact your site Literacy coach for more info or if you would like to attend.