Students countywide benefit from Golden Bell–winning programs
Three winning programs illustrate the power of well-run county office of education programs
County offices of education provide countywide services to the districts and educators in their counties to support student achievement. While a school district board focuses on the students residing in its district, county boards of education consider the needs of all students residing in their counties. These three 2020 county offices of education Golden Bell winners are excellent examples of providing countywide services.
Stanislaus County Office of Education FOCUS program
Developed in collaboration with local law enforcement agencies, the Stanislaus COE’s Focusing on Children Under Stress, or FOCUS, program decreases the negative effects of exposure to violence and trauma on students. Research shows that prolonged exposure to violence and trauma can undermine a child’s ability to learn, form relationships and focus properly in the classroom.

FOCUS strives to connect trauma-exposed students with help as quickly as possible via confidential communication between first responders and school districts. This is done through an app developed by the Stanislaus COE’s Technology and Learning Resources team. Law enforcement personnel who respond to an incident where a child is present use the app to quickly send a confidential FOCUS notification to community service agencies and the student’s school district. This alerts the school that this child may have been exposed to a traumatic incident and may exhibit or develop academic and behavioral problems. To protect confidentiality, no specific details about the incident are given.

Once the designated school official receives the notification, the child’s teacher is alerted. The teacher then knows to observe the student’s behavioral and academic performance and use trauma-sensitive interventions as deemed appropriate. The teacher may also refer the student to the school counselor. In addition to providing school interventions, FOCUS utilizes community resources and agencies to ensure wraparound services to meet the child’s needs. FOCUS began as a pilot program serving three districts, but now serves all 25 Stanislaus County school districts and their 110,405 students.

Napa COE Digital Innovator Program
The Digital Innovator Program was developed to familiarize educators with new tools, skills and strategies to increase student engagement, productivity and academic achievement in their classrooms. Building on the success of the NapaLearns program, which provided scholarships to more than 100 Napa County teachers to earn their master’s degrees in innovative learning (educational technology) at Touro University, and with the goal of sharing the knowledge of the scholarship recipients, NapaLearns partnered with the Napa COE to launch the Digital Innovator Program, providing a platform for these graduates to share their expertise with a wider community of educators.
More than 1,000 attendees have participated in Digital Innovator Program professional learning events.

The program seeks to provide a platform for ed-tech leaders to share their passions and skills with other educators; give teachers the tools to make their classes more interactive, relevant and motivating for students; and improve student achievement by better engaging students.

More than 1,000 attendees have participated in Digital Innovator Program professional learning events, including Napa COE’s annual InnovatEd conference, in-person workshops and/or webinars. Attendance at these professional development events has also enabled Napa COE to increase the number of educators in the NapaLearns/Touro University Innovation Learning Master’s program from 100 educators in 2016 to 169 in 2020.

Some innovative program examples include Phillips Elementary School students who have created their own games with the goal of submitting them to tech companies; students at American Canyon Middle School who won $250 for their video, “Homelessness in America,” in the C-Span Video Challenge; New Tech High School students won the 2019 Best In Network award for the Napa Lighted Art Project, in which they created original artwork and sound design that was projected on a 70-foot wall in Napa over the course of a week.

Santa Clara COE Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month
More than 60 different languages are spoken among Santa Clara County’s 263,000 K-12 students. In 2017, the year after the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 690 recognizing and celebrating April as National Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month, the Santa Clara COE began hosting its own annual celebration of the month. The purpose is to advocate for local educational agencies to build systems that recognize bilingual/multilingual learners’ language and cultural assets, ensuring educational equity and access to district policies, and supporting bilingual and multilingual language programs.

SCCOE’s activities during the month include holding an art contest for students to proudly express their names and identities; coordinating Spotlight Learning Walks in partnership with schools to encourage educators and community members to visit high-quality dual language and English language development programs; and, as the culminating event, hosting a showcase featuring school and district teams presenting their signature practice in one or more of the following areas: 1) dual language programs: Seal of Biliteracy and Pathway Awards, 2) achieving language and academic success, 3) diversity and global education, and 4) parent and community leadership and engagement. The showcase also recognizes LEAs that have adopted a resolution for the California English Learner Roadmap; Seal of Biliteracy and Pathways Awards; and/or the “My Name, My Identity” program, which is intended to foster a culture of respect.

A school district staff member who works with English learners and participated in the 2019 showcase described the event as providing “invaluable information gained from the different presenters and the work they are doing with EL students, as well as working with non-EL students and progressing them towards multilingualism.”