Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Parent Perspective: Why My Family Chose BCS

I met with Wanny a few weeks ago because the school reached out to those of us who are new to BCS and wanted to know how we are adjusting to BCS.  That by itself is refreshing and unusual for a public school, as I don’t believe other public schools will make such efforts to get feedback and to get to know families who attend their schools.  That gesture and effort, among other things, reinforced that we made the right decision to come to BCS.

Prior to BCS, our older child was attending a district school in Los Altos.   Although he had great teachers there, he was bored with the cookie cutter one-size-fits-all curriculum there.   He repeatedly told us that the only motivating factor for him to go to school there was his friends at school and recess.   Needless to say, we had a sigh of relief when he finally moved up the waitlist for BCS  and got in after being on the waitlist for years.  We needed a change, because our old school didn’t work for us. 

What a change for the right direction!  Now both of our kids are at BCS.  Our younger one is a kindergartener.  After experiencing kindergarten here, we so wished our older one had done his kindergarten here at BCS, and for that matter, first and second grades.  The kindergarten academic curriculum here offers so much more breadth, depth, and challenge than our old school.  In addition, it offers so much more in foreign language, music, art, drama, PE, public speaking and performances.  

BCS not only sets higher academic standards for their students, but also teaches their students to be good citizens and innovative thinkers.   Unlike a lot of the empty slogans adopted by other schools, BCS truly teaches the whole child and individualizes its classroom instruction and homework assignments.  Our kindergartener gets extra attention for areas where he needs to improve and more challenges for areas where he has already mastered.  His teacher is wonderful, conscientious, and more than capable, and is in constant contact with us to address any areas with which we have concerns.   We are looking forward to first and second grades as they hold so much hope and excitement for us.

Our third grader told us coming to BCS was the right move for him.  He felt the academic curriculum here was more challenging than his old school.   Unlike his old school, where the “individualized learning” is ad hoc and purely up to the classroom teachers, here at BCS, the individualized learning is institutionalized.  For instance, the third graders go to different classrooms for math, depending on their levels for each math unit.   Therefore, they are being assessed constantly,  regrouped constantly, and challenged constantly.  

In addition, we enjoyed all of the other programs that I mentioned above.  The higher academic standards coupled with the enrichment programs and opportunities make BCS an exciting place to learn and grow.  Here, the sky is limit.  If offers so many diverse programs and opportunities that it allows anybody to shine in his or her own way. 

Finally, we find the BCS community to be warm, caring, and welcoming.   The BCS community reflects the larger community in Los Altos.  It has the same demographics as our old school.  Everybody at BCS gets accepted through a public lottery witnessed by the community.  It is here to serve the community, and it has served us well.  I am glad we live in Los Altos where we can have a choice so that we can choose to go to a school that meets our needs.

- The Becker and Liu Family

Friday, March 21, 2014

Wanny's Words: Preparing Our Students for the 21st Century

By Wanny Hersey
Superintendent/Principal at Bullis Charter School

In the recent New York Times article “How To Get a Job at Google” Thomas Friedman explains that GPAs and test scores are no longer high on the list of criteria that innovative companies like Google look for when hiring employees.  Friedman interviewed Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google - and proud BCS parent! - Laszlo Bock for the article.

Laszlo explained the five attributes Google looks for in their employees company-wide, including the ability to process information on the fly and the ability to successfully collaborate with a team.  At BCS, our focus is to prepare all of our students to be successful, contributing citizens in the 21st century by providing them with the tools they will need in life - many of which were referenced in this piece.  In spite of being the highest performing school in Los Altos, I have always said that what we do at our school is not about test scores.  Friedman put it best when he wrote:

“And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.”

After reading the article, I asked Laszlo for his thoughts on how our programs help foster the skills needed to compete in the 21st century, based on his own family’s experience at our school.  Here is what he said:

"I've been impressed by the educational model at BCS.  The children at BCS benefit not just from a specific curriculum or technology lab but rather from a culture steeped in the idea that learning is a lifelong process of discovery as well as mastery.  I've seen them encouraged to take risks, learn from failure, and become leaders both in formal and informal ways. Collaboration and teamwork happen everyday here. These students are well positioned to become the leaders of tomorrow."

Students learn 21st century skills like collaboration and adaptability during their Engineering Design Intersession that is part of the core middle school curriculum at BCS

Thursday, March 13, 2014

National Blue Ribbon Nomination for Bullis Charter School

We are very proud to share with our community that BCS has been nominated as one of only 35 schools (out of over 11,000 schools) in California to receive the prestigious National Blue Ribbon distinction.  

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon program recognizes schools – public and private elementary, middle and high schools – annually in an ongoing effort to illuminate best practices in education across the country.  If we receive the award, we will join the nearly 7,000 other school organizations given National Blue Ribbon honor since the program’s inception over 30 years ago.

It is especially meaningful that this nomination came during our 10th year - a year in which our school community has faced unprecedented challenges.  But our relentless commitment to our school’s mission has allowed us to continue to thrive and show what is possible in public education.  

Please share this great news with your friends and family - you can read more about our nomination here.
Bullis Charter School is nominated for the prestigious National Blue Ribbon award this year

Friday, March 7, 2014

BCS at the California Charter School Association's Annual Conference

By Wanny Hersey
Superintendent/Principal at Bullis Charter School

At this week’s California Charter School Association’s conference in San Jose, I was delighted that our entire teaching faculty was able to attend on Tuesday.  This was a unique professional development opportunity that our teachers took full advantage of - from attending sessions about differentiation and blended learning, to meeting and being inspired by leaders in the charter school movement.  

The conference began with a keynote address from Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix and longtime charter advocate.  Reed spoke about the importance of continuing to affect change in public education, even though it feels slow and arduous at times. In his speech, he emphasized the critical importance for charters to have non-elected school boards as a way of supporting an organization’s mission and providing sustained leadership, instead of an elected school board  that creates frequent turnover and conflicting political agendas.  I agree with Reed 100%, and was glad to also have several of our board members attend the conference with me this week.

While we were at the conference - united with thousands of charter school advocates and becoming even more inspired about the work that we do - across the country New York Mayor Bill Di Blasio made the appalling decision to shut down four charter schools, affecting over 700 students enrolled in some of the most successful charters in the area.  It was a strong reminder for all of us how important it is to stay focused on showing what is possible in public education, despite any opposition we may face. 

One way we can all help show our support through social media, is by sharing the highlights and benefits of charter schools using the hash tag #charterswork when you are sharing positive posts about Bullis Charter School.  You can also go to our Facebook and Twitter pages to share and re-tweet directly from there.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Rainy Day Recess

We recently caught up with Ms. Tomasetti's second grade class to find out what they do during a rainy day recess - take a look to see indoor the fun!