November 14, 2016
  Special Education Adopts Sonday System

The Special Education Department at the Novato Unified School District adopted the Sonday System this year.  The Sonday System® is a suite of Orton Gillingham multi-sensory language instruction used to provide direct instruction for struggling readers, such as students with Dyslexia, Specific Learning Disability, or English Learners. The program is evidenced-based, multisensory, direct, explicit, structured and sequential - all required components of effective reading methodologies

Our special educators, e.g., Resource Specialists, Special Day Class teachers and paraeducators, at each NUSD school are now trained in the Sonday System® - Reading Intervention Program based on the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching reading. This training offered hands-on use of the materials and practical strategies to use to teach Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension.

Some comments from teachers:
“I love the routine and the repetitiveness and have seen visible increases in students’ confidence and willingness to read and write. Additionally, general education teachers have noticed the changes.”                                             - Kelsey Olson, San Ramon, Resource Specialist
“It is very user friendly. You can use the program in as little as a half an hour a day. The students like spelling the words in the air and chorally reading the sight words and word families.                                                                        - Joe Smith, Olive SDC Teacher
“I’ve seen changes with older students who have had persistent difficulty with letter reversals. The Sonday System has really helped them with correcting that learning issue, along with improving their decoding and segmenting skills.” 
                                    - Elizabeth Elbing, Lu Sutton, Resource Specialist

The Special Education Department feels fortunate to have this available to students who require this specific type of instruction and are grateful for the investment in the materials and professional learning to equip staff at every level with tools to intervene. According to Liz Smith, Director of Special Education, “Being able to read is a key component to having a successful life. Staff are now even more empowered to make a difference.”

National School Psychology Awareness Week

On behalf of the talented, dedicated, and capable school psychologists, we would like to recognize November 14-18, 2016 as National School Psychology Awareness Week: with the theme “Small Steps Change Lives.”  Our School Psychologists are advanced degree specialists trained in culturally competent assessment, disability identification, Special Education eligibility, instructional support and interventions, counseling and mental health support, crisis response, and data analysis.  They apply expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior, to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. This year's theme, "Small Steps Change Lives," reminds both students and adults to make positive contributions and building skills to promote personal achievement, growth, and resilience, as well as a sense of connectedness and well being.   

With the high demands and ever-growing responsibilities placed on school psychologists, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. It is crucial that school psychologists recognize—and help fellow educators recognize—how even the small things we do every day can have a profound impact on the students we serve and on the culture of our school communities. This awareness not only helps keep adults resilient, but it serves as a model for students, who look to adults to see how they should interact and engage with the world. By encouraging and valuing intentional, small, positive efforts, adults and students grow academically, build understanding, create compassion, and become more resilient. Ultimately, these strengths empower all to feel connected with one another and to take steps—both individually and collectively—to change lives for the better.  Most importantly, students begin to recognize how the small actions they take over the course of time—studying, practicing, being respectful, exploring—make a big difference in their lives as well as the lives of others. Individual small steps help build the path to creating a positive, connected, and respectful school community.  

When you see one of our School Psychologists share a smile, hello, or thank you to let them know they are appreciated. 


What is a MARS task and how are they used in math classrooms?

A MARS task is a mathematics performance task aligned to grade level common core standards.  Each task has three parts that always start with the entry level access questions.  These lead into a core mathematics section where students show their knowledge of the grade level standard.  The final level of the task is where the questions ramp up to show if students can go conceptually deeper and beyond the grade level standard.                        
The MARS tasks are developed by the Silicon Valley Math Initiative ( of which NUSD is a member district. SVMI provides Professional Development for its members so they can continually improve instruction in mathematics at all levels while keeping a focus on student learning.  The MARS tasks are one component of their work, and teachers are trained in the use of a rubric to score the tasks.  Teachers use the tasks as part of regular classroom instruction, for formative assessment, as well as for benchmark assessments across the district.  These tasks help teachers see their students’ level of understanding, identify common misconceptions, and measure higher level thinking.

District Office
101 7th St
Novato, CA 94945
Phone: 415-897-4201