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The Fall 2016 – Let’s Dream a Little

Thank you all very much for your overwhelming attendance and energy at Back to School Night…and I mean everyone, parents and teachers alike. What a great night! After my opening in the small gym, my wife Michelle and I went to all of our 10th grader's classes just like all parents. As we moved through his schedule I started to hear and notice how our teachers have quickly embraced so many of the concepts we have been discussing as it relates to creating a climate of care, as well as the strategies needed to reach Digital Natives. It’s great to see and hear so many exciting things going on around the campus. The evening started a thought with me that remains: what’s possible for Costa? Again, it’s an exciting time to be in education; whether as a teacher or as a student. I think we will look back in a hundred years or more and view this time much like we did with the advent of the printing press. What we are doing now is game changer-level stuff. But what is it, and more importantly, what can it be? We see cool things happening all over campus: voice and choice assignments, revise and resubmit policies, alternate grading scales, project-based learning,  an emphasis on student talk, and an understanding that student stress and engagement require our full attention.

We have already discussed the shift in the two main areas: content and technology. The old question – “what is the content?” has been replaced with – “what can students do with the content?” Additionally, the old question – “how can technology be integrated into the lesson?” has been replaced with – “how do students learn best?” The beauty of each new question lies in that it does not negate the old question, but simply approaches the idea from a different angle or perspective. In asking “what can students do with the content?” there is still the need for content but the focus changes on the assessment. Instead of testing students on their ability to regurgitate facts, we now focus on their ability to demonstrate a practical application of the content facts. The same is true with technology: before we struggled to integrate the technology, even if it did not necessarily fit. Now we use the technology that best fits the learning moment. It challenges us to be courageous in the use, or the non-use of technology.

Our other focus hopes to create a climate of care. Some of our changes, such as Office Hours and Collaboration time, have created mid-week recalibration, catch up, and make up time for students and teachers. This user-centered approach contributes to the middle college feel of the school; and that’s the vision and goal – we want school to feel different. Some new changes have taken off with unbelievable first year success. Ninety-eight (98) of one-hundred six (106) teachers are active users on Canvas. This includes teachers who have not been active users on any on-line sources we have used in the past. For the teachers who are not active, we continue to work with them and provide them the support and training they need. Everyone will be using it by the end of this year in their classes in some way. It is a powerful and helpful tool. We have also un-stacked the workload. Meaning departments only have papers, exams, projects and presentations due two days of the week. As a reminder:

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

English

Foreign Lang

VAPA

English

History

Math

Science

P.E.

Science

Math

VAPA

History

 

Foreign Lang

P.E.

 

We also leveled homework so that there is no more than a 10% variance in how much homework counts toward a student’s final grade in similar courses. This removes inconsistencies between teachers that have created anxiety in students wanting to get certain teachers. We see far less teacher-shopping as a result.

Speaking of schedule changes, this year students filled out a schedule change request that went directly to their counselor. It was super easy and there were no lines. Seniors will tell Freshmen that they don’t know the struggle. We are just glad the process is easier on kids. If you feel like you missed seeing your counselor during the week prior to school…trust me, you didn’t. What we forget is the two-hour line students had to stand in prior to seeing their counselor. And remember: you can always go see your counselor. They love students and want to meet with and help them. Go see them now.

Counselors have also implemented a time management worksheet. Students who fill out the worksheet prior to registering on-line often discover they have scheduled themselves into more weekly activities than there are actual hours in the week! Whereas, we want our students to be able to pursue their passions academically, we also know they have to make choices in order to not overextend themselves. Sleep and fun time to decompress hold just as much importance as how many AP classes students take.

The College and Career Center is now open until 7:30 pm every night of the week! Please stop by and meet Ms. Rieken, ask her about Naviance or to look at your personal statement. The role of the Parent Center in the CCC is to allow families to get the admissions and applications resources and assistance they need for free during evening hours that are more convenient for working families.

We also put a cap on the number of AP courses a student can take in a year at 4. To be truthful, the jury is out on this decision. On the one hand it is declared a “max load” to universities on the college application. This is helpful in that students taking a max load can now get application credit for doing so. On the other hand we see preliminary data suggesting that students who would have normally only taken the 3 APs of interest, may have taken a 4th one of less interest in order to achieve max load. We are watching it closely to ascertain negative affects. A bigger move for students applying to colleges will happen when our semester ends in December this year! By doing so we are now able to send mid-year reports for our seniors to colleges, assisting them in the application and acceptance process. This change is long overdue and very beneficial to seniors…not to mention easing that anxiety!

In the past two years we have added 25 new courses or programs to the Costa master schedule including: Human Centered Design, World History Honors, U.S. History Honors, BioTechnology, Choreography, English-History Block 10, English-History Block 11, Human Geography CP, Philosophy of Literature, Yoga, AP International Diploma, AP Seminar, AP Research, AP Capstone, AP Human Geography, PLTW Engineering, PLTW Computer Science, AstroPhysics, American Sign Language, AP Mandarin, Financial Algebra, and String Orchestra.

Lastly, we have placed a limit on after school activities to 15 hours per week. If a program needs more than that, the advisor has to seek permission to do so. We know that almost all of our programs do their work after school well within these limits, but some programs such as drama, La Vista, band and track exceed this amount from time to time. We will continue to allow them the time they need to maintain their great programs, but we at least want them to have the conversation: how much time do we really need if pressed? That’s healthy dialogue for the advisors to have with the students.

This year we have implemented a series of activities around the Challenge Success program. The committee of staff, students and parents has been meeting since last Spring to identify problems and root causes that contribute to student stress. As a result, this committee has recommended professional development, shadow days, fishbowls, and parent educational opportunities. The Social Emotional Wellness Committee will continue to work on fostering a climate of care at Mira Costa. Serving on the committee has been wonderful and insightful.

            As much as this is: what’s next? What is out there, that other schools are doing with success, and we could do? We see in other schools some easy things we can do and some more challenging, outside the box changes. For example, an easy change could be homework free weekends and holidays, with an additional guideline of nothing major due the week following an extended break. Many schools do this with great success and reduced stress for kids. Another easy change could be expanding our successful office hours/collaboration schedule to occur on more days. Larger, more challenging changes could be considering alternate bell schedules or re-tooling our award system to be more inclusive of all learners. The goal of any alternate schedule would be to reduce or remove the need for summer school and zero period, and the goal for a revised award system would be a re-vision of what is important to our school and possibly re-define the meaning of success to emphasize the journey more than the destination.

            No matter what direction we go on all of these issues, we hope that Costa feels different. The cold, results-based factory of excellence has hopefully given way to a warm, inviting environment that respects each student’s journey and values effort, grit, communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem solving, critical observation, and conflict resolution.

 

Go Mustangs!

 

 

Ben Dale, Ed.D.

Principal

Mira Costa High School

 

 

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An Interesting Time For Sure - Fall 2016

Welcome back to the 2016-2017 school year! We are excited for the next 180 school days until commencement for our seniors, and we offer a warm welcome to the freshman class of 2020 into the Mustang Family. We promise to take good care of them, and they will also be preparing for their commencement year very soon. This year we are committed to challenging students academically while providing the best possible educational environment. Maintaining a rigorous academic program while fostering a culture of care is a daunting challenge, but together we can accomplish this important work.

Over the past few years we have initiated several important programs and initiatives with the goal of making school easier on students. The streamlining of processes, policies, and protocols has created an environment more conducive to a rigorous academic program. Some changes and improvements include:

 

  •       Creating a student-centered master schedule that focuses on need
  •       Opening up summer school to more Mira Costa students to free up the school-year schedule
  •       Reducing a 4-6 hour (student time) registration schedule to 45 minutes or less
  •       Eliminating schedule change lines
  •       Standardizing AP pre-requisites
  •       Creating two-hours of student directed time on Wednesdays (office hours)
  •       Blocking the workload so that there will not be anything due in a class more than two days a week (not including homework)
  •       Leveling the amount homework can count toward a student’s grade among teachers in the same subject area
  •       Adopting 21 new courses in the last two year to provide more variety for students
  •       Capping the number of AP courses a student can take in one year at four
  •       Organizing the graduation seating process to reduce stress and anxiety

 

This year we turn our attention to two main ideas: the first is to continue exploring and working on the development of a culture of care, and the second is to understand the particular needs of the emerging class of digital natives.

            As we look at developing a school-wide culture of care, we embark on a journey through the Challenge Success program. This program will help to inform our thinking on how to make school the best learning experience for students. As the name implies, the program challenges long-standing philosophies that schools have relative to curriculum, instruction, assessment, homework and providing academic support. We started this process late in the spring by creating a committee of students, parents, teachers, counselors, administration, and District support to look at root causes and symptoms of student stress. This year, with the help of Challenge Success consultants, we will begin to look at what we can do to improve the learning environment for kids.

The prevailing definition of a digital native is any student that started kindergarten in the fall of 2007, so the first generation just enrolled in the 9th grade. This has real implications for us as educators. As a school staff is it imperative we begin to learn more about these digitally immersed learners. It may not be enough anymore to say that they have to do it our way. We learned much differently and at a different time. There are still skills and values that are important, but approaches to learning and what we assess to determine proficiency may be quickly and radically changing. The good news is the teachers of Mira Costa are the best group of professionals and educators I have ever known. If anyone can figure this out, we can. The local region, county, state, and even the nation will be watching us. The work is exciting, and this is a wonderful time to be a teacher.

Lastly, We also would like to welcome our new staff. From MBMS we welcome James Locke (Science) and Lindsey Valbuena (English). We are so grateful to add these veteran rock stars to our staff. We are also proud to introduce our newly hired staff. Dave Halushka, our long-time water polo coach has now been hired as a full-time SpEd teacher. Jarrod Parra, who recently completed his student teaching will be working in the science department. Elizabeth Rieken comes to us from a charter school in Crenshaw where she served as the school’s only counselor. She is joining a much bigger team and will be the new CCC counselor working from 12:30-8:00pm to provide evening CCC resources and access to parents and students. Emily Sommer just relocated from Germany with her husband and is the newest member of the Guidance Counseling team. Bridget Sullivan joins us from Santa Monica and will be serving as our new librarian. She and Jason Marshall will be teaming up to create a new and exciting NextGen library/technology center for student learning. Additionally, I have a new assistant Carol Meeks who along with new VP secretary Nancy DiRado are both MBUSD parents and South Bay residents. Lastly, we are pleased to welcome SpEd aides Amber Aleman and Caroline Robinson. Please join us in welcoming them all to our Mustang Family!

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Ben Dale, Ed.D.


Principal 


Mira Costa High School                    

 

 

End Of The Year 2016 – Wow!

It was a fantastic year at Mira Costa. This is a big place, and there is an unbelievable amount of work being done by dedicated students, staff, coaches, advisers and parents. From the front to behind the scenes, so much goes into our success that it is overwhelming just to think about it. We are so grateful for everyone who contributes to making our school truly great. Here are the highlights from the 2015-2016 school year:

 

  • Both the US News and Newsweek rank Mira Costa in the top 1% of schools nationally! Recently our US News ranking went up again for the 6th straight year.
  • ACT scores rise for the 5th year in a row! The scores went up in every overall and in every sub category!
  • This year we opened up access to MBX summer school to as many students that wanted to take the classes offered. This alleviated prior tensions to classes filling and students being rejected. We also implemented a seamless and efficient scheduling and registration process. We created broader AP/Honors pre-reqs allowing for more access to the more advanced classes. We shifted to a weighted grade system, allowing an extra GPA point for AP classes.
  • For the first time in the history of the school, we adopted a collaboration time/office hours bell schedule. Teachers collaborate with each other regularly on topics that benefit students, and the students have two hours during the day to do homework, get help from teachers or counselors, make up tests, work on projects or do research. It has been a tremendous benefit to everyone on campus.
  • Through the work of an army of coordinators, facilitators, support, and parents we achieved a 95% participation rate on the CASSPP exam. Thank you to the 11th graders for stepping up their game on this important exam.
  • New Courses – next fall will see the full implementation of the following new courses in order to provide more variety for students to choose from: Human Centered Design, Biotechnology, Choreography, English-History Block 10 and 11, Human Geography CP, Philosophy of Literature, AP International Diploma, AP Principles of Computing, AP Seminar, AP Research, AP Capstone, AP Human Geography, PTLW Engineering, PTLW Computer Science, AstroPhysics, American Sign Language, AP Mandarin, Financial Algebra, String Orchestra, World History Honors, U.S. History Honors.
  • A single LMS (Learning Management System) – A committee of teachers looked at all types of LMS systems (eBackpack, EdModo, GoogleClassroom, BlackBoard, Moodle), piloted a few, but in the end are chose Canvas. Pending Board approval, this will be our only on-line communication tool next year between teachers, students and parents. Students will only need one login to access homework, content, assignments, grades and discussion boards.
  • For the 2016-2017 school year, Mira Costa teachers want to make adjustments to students’ workloads in the hopes that some organization of how programs are delivered and how assignments are offered will lower stress and anxiety levels for students. Staff will evaluate the classroom impact of these adjustments, and Ed Council will come forward with any recommended changes for the 2017-2018 school year.
  • Although establishing general, agreed-upon definitions of homework, attempting to free up weekend time, and planning assessments with sensitivity to student workloads are important parts of the unit-planning process, final decisions on homework assignments, tests, projects, and due dates must be left to the professional discretion of the instructor and based on the academic needs of students.
  • Homework – will be a maximum of 25% of the student’s final grade and there will be no more than a 10% variance between teachers of like subjects.
  • AP courseload – students will not be allowed to take more than 4 AP courses per year. This cap will be published to colleges and universities so they know what a max AP load looks like at Mira Costa.
  • Student academic workload – the following chart shows the day of the week in each department when papers, exams, projects and presentations can be due. This will ensure that no student will have more than three periods a day with this type of work due.

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

English

Foreign Lang

VAPA

English

History

Math

Science

P.E.

Science

Math

VAPA

History

 

Foreign Lang

P.E.

 

  • Limit on after school extra- and co-curricular programs – all after school programs will be limited to 15 hours per week. Any time above that must receive administrative approval.
  • TEAM COSTA – VP Jon Shaw, Activities Director Lisa Claypoole, and Athletic Director Glenn Marx created a school spirit program for students to support each other in attending each other’s events all over campus with the assistance of ASB and the PTSA. Students say school spirit was higher than ever this year.
  • Social-Emotional Wellness Committee – this is a committee comprised of students, staff, parents and District leadership with the mission of taking an honest look at Mira Costa to foster an environment of care using the Challenge Success program and coaching model. Click here for more information.
  • H.E.A.R.T. – advisor Janet Allen started this program this year to address the bullying among students from both the offender and victim’s perspective. Their positive approach to being kind has transformed the school.
  • CHOICE Program: MCHS teacher Lareina Rodriquez initiates this transition program for students with special needs. From Dig MB:
“The MBUSDCHOICE Transition Program was established in 2015 and is administered by a team of special education training staff, supervisors, and job coaches.  The program’s primary goal extends beyond job training. It seeks to connect CHOICE adult students with internships and paid employment right here within their home community.
CHOICE now partners with local South Bay businesses to create rotating 6-12 week internships for neurodiverse youths. Job placements are ideally 1-2 hours per day, 3 days per week. Many jobs from retail, food service & hospitality to office work, maintenance and landscaping are well-suited to the abilities and interests of this population: simple repeatable tasks such as cleaning, copying, stocking, data entry, local delivery, flyer distribution and more.”
  • Cheer: UCA—West Coast Championship. They won the Varsity Game Day Division. 1st Place Division Champions.
  • Dance: After a year of hard work and dedication the team came up big winners! The team placed first in senior large jazz, senior large lyrical and senior large hip hop. The team won the Team Overall Highest Point Champions for the first time at Nationals and the big trophy!! Go Costa!
Caprina Benson won 1st in her senior jazz solo.
Emily Duong, won 2nd in her senior jazz solo.
Cami Benson and Ami Okamoto tied for 1st in best leaps.
Morgan Rysso placed 3rd in best turns.
Emily Duong placed 4th in best kicks.
 
  • Mira Costa Men’s Choir were awarded Best Overall choir at the Music in the Park Festival.
  • The Mira Costa HS Orchestras performed at an SCSBOA sanctioned music festival on March 16th at Millikan HS in Long Beach. The Philharmonic, Symphony, and Chamber Orchestras all earned a unanimous superior rating from the festival adjudicators. This is the highest possible rating reserved for groups that achieve "the finest conceivable performance…worthy of the distinction of being recognized as among the very best.”
  • For the fourth year in a row, Mira Costa High School’s Drama Department has won Best Musical Theater performance at the Fullerton College High School Theatre Festival. Over 50 Southern California high schools participated in this two day competition. Costa Drama performed a five minute scene from “The Addams Family,” their spring musical.
  • For the first time in Costa’s history, our Technical Theater teams placed 1st and 2nd overall in the Tech Olympics category. The Tech teams won a total of 9 medals in categories such as Wiring, Costume Quick Change and Tool Identification. In addition, Mira Costa took top honors in Theater Games — a competition of improvisational games.
  • Beach Cities Robotics Team competed in the FIRST LA Regional Competition. The team finished 2nd overall in a competition with 66 teams competing! The team’s 2nd place ranking enabled the team to advance to compete in the FIRST National Championship in St. Louis, MO where they placed 3rd!
  • Congratulations to our Mustang musicians who were invited to perform with the 2016 All-Southern and All-State Honor Bands and Orchestras. These accomplished student-musicians were selected through a competitive audition process that involved several hundreds of highly skilled high school students from throughout California.

All-State Honor Symphony Orchestra

Cameron DeLuca, clarinet

All-State Honor Symphonic Band

Pleia Hall, clarinet

All-Southern Honor Jazz All-Stars

Jules Gilliam, trumpet

All-Southern Honor Orchestra

Paul Callender-Clewett, viola

All-Southern Symphonic Band

Pleia Hall, clarinet; William Henderson, clarinet; Daniel Popov, tuba; Adrian Yu, bassoon

 

  • Congratulations to the MCHS Marching Band and Colorguard who had a fantastic performance at the Oxnard H.S. Tournament on Nov. 7, with the band winning Tournament Sweepstakes (including all caption awards). Percussion placed 1st in the 4A division, while Colorguard placed second.
  • The Mira Costa Marching Band and Colorguard gave a stellar effort in their 2nd of 5 field competitions on Oct. 17 in their show : "Stratosphere Above the Clouds." They placed first in their 4A division for Band and Auxiliary and Percussion placed first in Sweepstakes!
  • CyberPatriot: This was the first year of the program and the team placed top 5 in California, missing the National Championships by a matter of points.
  • Model United Nations: Our students won their fourth National Championship in six years. Four thousand students from schools of 13 different nations around the world competed over 3 1/2 days. Mira Costa is a "3 peat" champion from past years. Our team consisted of 40 students: 7 seniors, 18 juniors and 15 sophomores. When we go to NY we go to compete at one of the most elite and well run conferences in the world. Other groups tour, we take on the best and the brightest. Any country, any topic, any time.
  • Broadcast: Our Mustang Morning News students were named Best in Show at both the National High School Journalism Convention and by the National Scholastic Press Association as the best show in the country. They have received superior or excellent ratings in six separate categories.
  • La Vista: La Vista won the Silver Crown from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association for the the  paper's print and online hybrid publication. The paper also received the CSPA's Gold Medal for Overall Excellence and All-America status for scoring in the top one percent of all papers judged by the CSPA.
  • A record seven National Merit Finalists were named from Mira Costa this year:
Lauren Koch, Mariel Nunan, Darby Power, Jiahe Qi, Danit Rich, Alessandro Varieschi, and Tanner Yamada
  • Costa senior Taya Stewart was awarded the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship. As a recipient of this award, she will receive a fully funded scholarship covering tuition, books, and room and board through a doctorate degree. This highly selective program receives thousands of applications each year, with only 1,000 students receiving the award, which is funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Miriam Sachs has won our school-site Poetry Out Loud competition the past three years in a row, going on to represent Mira Costa at the county-level competition three times (which broke the Costa record set by the previous winner, Taylor Howat, who had represented Costa in the LA County-level competition twice). This year Miriam won the entire county-level competition, going on to represent not only Mira Costa but all of LA County at the state-level competition in Sacramento where she was awarded 3rd place out of forty contestants representing counties all over California. This means Miriam has set three records: She is the first student to win Costa's Poetry Out Loud competition three times, the first Costa student to win the entire county-level competition, and the first Costa student to place in state-finals!!!
  • Rachel Bloom (MCHS Class of 2005) won the Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a TV comedy!
  • Costa junior Ronald Clinton was selected among an elite number of students across the country to participate in the Disney Dreamers Academy in March 2016. Intellectually curious, compassionate and courageous leaders are chosen each year for this honor.
  • Pooja Nagpal was selected by Girl Scouts of the USA to receive the prestigious Young Woman of Distinction Award (YWOD). Only 10 women are honored each year across the country with this award which is determined by their outstanding Gold Award project.
  • Bay League Champions: There are 30 varsity sports at Mira Costa. This year we won our
League Championship (Inglewood, Morningside, Peninsula, Palos Verdes, and Redondo Union) in  16 sports:

Badminton

Girls Beach Volleyball

Boys Cross Country

Boys Golf

Girls Golf

Hockey

Rugby

Boys Surf

Girls Surf

Girls Swim

Boys Tennis

Boys Volleyball

Girls Volleyball

Boys Waterpolo

Girls Waterpolo

Wrestling

Girls Golf – State Champions

Boys Volleyball – State Champions

Rugby – Western Region Champions - National Championship qualifiers

 

  • This year we were proud to celebrated an unprecedented 41 NCAA signees. Student-athletes from Costa will be competing all over the country next year, including:
  • Baseball
Reese Alexiades - Pepperdine University; Trevor Franklin - Pepperdine University

Brett Davis - Penn State University; Blake Hammerstein - Hofstra University

Will Proctor - University of Georgia; Zack Chan – University of Hawaii

  • Girls Beach Volleyball
    • Hayley Caputo - U of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Girls Cross Country
    • Amanda Han - Claremont Mckenna College; Alexis Johnson - Columbia University
  • Boys Cross Country
    • Ethan Williams – UC Santa Cruz; Ty Garrett – UC Santa Barbara
  • Football
    • Cameron Alexander - San Jose St.
  • Girls Golf
    • Andrea Lee – Stanford; Danielle Richman - Fresno State
    • Marni Murez - Boston College
  • Boys Golf
    • Nick Harry - UC Santa Barbara
  • Boys Lacrosse
    • Jaelyn Carpenter - University of Montevallo; John Van Sickle - Drexel
    • Zane Crandall - Lafayette College; Hayden Frye - Eastern University
  • Rugby
    • Justin Johnson - Penn State
  • Girls Soccer
    • Hannah Watkins - University of Chicago
  • Boys Soccer
    • Justin Fairchild - Cal State Dominguez Hills; Sam Hefter - University of Pennsylvania
  • Softball
    • Haley Marschall - Austin Peay
  • Swim
    • Matt Woicik – MIT
  • Boys Tennis
    • Jeremy Chung - Fordham University
  • Track
    • Myan Elrington - Baker University
  • Girls Volleyball
    • Ashley Anselmo - CSU Long Beach; Emma Smith – University of Hawaii
    • Erin McCarthy – Harvard; Sam Snyder - Boston College
    • Sara Feld – Georgetown; Avery Hazelrigg - USC
    • Chloe Markland – Stetson
  • Boys Volleyball
    • Roy McFarland – UCSB; Jackson Wedbush - USC
    • Robert Mullahey – Pepperdine; Sam Jones – UCLA
    • Tyler Morgan - Volleyball UCSD
  • Girls Waterpolo
    • Kaylee Brownsberger – USC

 

95% of the senior class received at least one 4-year acceptance to a college or university.

 
Ben Dale, Ed.D.
Principal
 
 
March 2016 - Good Stuff
Click here for March's message
 
February 2016 - New Courses
Click here for February's message
 
December 2015 - On the Bright Side
Click here for December's message

November 2015 - The Academic School
Click here for November's message
 
October 2015 - Not Easier but Easier On Them
Click here for October's message

September 2015 - Welcome New Family Members
Click here for September's message

Past Principal's Messages
Click here to see messages from 2010-2015