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4/11/2008 7:25:00 AM
Superintendent's Update #250
Superintendent's Update

In This Issue:
  • Schools in Oregon Must Still Catch Up
  • Oregon’s 2006-07 Dropout Rate Inches Up to 4.4%
  • Oregon Diploma Talk
  • Opportunities and Financial Resources for Schools
  • Susan’s Schedule

Schools in Oregon Must Still Catch Up

Op-ed by Susan Castillo, The Oregonian, April 8, 2008*

The Oregonian has it right. We need to take the recent national reports about education in Oregon very seriously. While the Oregon Department of Education might have questions about some of the criteria or data used to measure success, the reports do serve to highlight areas of our public education system that need improvement. report card The Oregonian also got it right when the editors pointed out that the state invests less per student than the national average. It made them wonder if Oregon has lost its “education mojo.”

I don’t know about mojo, but I do know that Oregon has a lot of catching up to do. Let's remember where we started. Think back to the days when Oregon made headlines for drastic cuts to school days and class sizes so large that students couldn't get a desk in their math class unless another student stayed home sick. And don’t even get me started on the issue of deferred maintenance.

Thank goodness the worst of those times is behind us. After years of cuts, this year is the first to see our schools receive a significant reinvestment by the Governor and the state legislature. We're already seeing positive results for our students: smaller class sizes, literacy programs, and expanded after-school programs. The reinvestment in public education must continue in the 2009 legislative session.

We also are catching up with other states and nations by setting and implementing new diploma requirements that raise our level of expectations for all students. We are already moving forward on making those changes real; next year's ninth graders will be the first class to graduate under the new high school diploma requirements.

The State Board has approved a set of essential skills that everyone agrees are fundamental to success in the 21st century. The Board is also deciding how students will demonstrate those essential skills, getting them ready for work and college - through a combination of classroom work samples and state/national tests - before they get an Oregon diploma. If you’d like to see all the work we are doing on the diploma, please visit www.getreadyoregon.org.

One area the national reports focus on is how we prepare and support our teachers. We know that is absolutely essential for the success of our students. In 2007, legislators allocated $5 million dollars to support a pilot project for mentoring new teachers and administrators, a much needed investment to retain talent in our workforce. Mentoring works, and it's time to expand this program.

The Chair of the House Education Committee, Peter Buckley, has made a commitment to lead the way in the 2009 session to help us secure statewide professional development support to our teachers. This is a smart investment that will help our already outstanding teachers strengthen their skills to better meet the needs of all students. Oregon needs a statewide, sustained effort to address this critical need, and we need to support the legislature's efforts to help our teacher workforce deliver high quality instruction for each and every student.

On the educational technology front, Oregon is developing sustainable partnerships with the private sector to provide schools with 21st century tools. Programs like “Accelerate Oregon” introduced to us by Intel, will help schools plan and implement new solutions that enhance teaching and learning to prepare our students for life.

Today, Oregon is providing professional development on integrating technology into classroom instruction for teachers, administrators and curriculum directors through a variety of partners, such as the Organization for Educational Technology and Curriculum (OETC), and through digital course materials and teaching tools on the Oregon Virtual School District website.

The result is that in many schools we see teachers using technology to increase achievement and inspire student learning and creativity by providing expanded access to museums, libraries, and experts in a variety of fields. Students in Oregon today conduct research and investigations to create written material and video podcasts that are shared with a worldwide audience. Using technology, students collaborate on projects with their classmates, with students in other schools, and with their peers around the globe.

We have some outstanding efforts underway at the state, district, and school level -- but what we need is a statewide and systemic effort to ensure that progress reaches every classroom in Oregon.

Sustained progress can only come through energetic support and continued reinvestment from Oregonians. We’re making steps in the right direction, and we’re catching up with those states that have seen strong public support. If it takes a couple of low rankings to spark the state’s attention and focus, then that is just fine with me. As long as we use that spark to ignite the passion we need to support of students, teachers, schools and education in Oregon.

* The Oregonian limits op-eds to 500 words. This is the unedited response to the Oregonian's "The Dog Ate my Rankings" editorial which ran April 1st.
Oregon’s 2006-07 Dropout Rate Inches Up to 4.4%

State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo announced today that Oregon’s statewide dropout rate for the 2006-07 school year was 4.4%, up slightly from last year’s 4.1%. Oregon defines a dropout as a student in grades 9-12 who withdraws from school without receiving a high school diploma, GED, modified diploma, or transferring to another school.

“We all know that there is no way students can expect to be successful in the future if they do not graduate from high school today,” Castillo said. “It is clear from today’s report that parents, schools, communities, and we at the state level need to continue our efforts to reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates. Every student is different and has different reasons for deciding to drop out, so we need to urgently pursue a variety of strategies now to help them stay in school longer – including school-based programs and partnerships with families and communities.”

Even with the increases in the Oregon’s dropout rate, it continues to be significantly lower than the very high dropout rates of the mid-1990’s. A decade ago, the statewide dropout rate stood at 7%, and the Hispanic rate was about 18%. The African American rate was nearly 12% and the Native American rate about 10%.

“The most important thing we can do is to identify those students most likely to drop out as early as possible, and schools and communities across the state are doing great work in this area,” Castillo said. “I want to thank the many volunteers, teachers and administrators who work to reach struggling students at home, in school, in the workplace. I want to especially commend Portland Public Schools and the Portland Schools Foundation for their great work with Connected by 25 around the transition from 8th grade to high school. Providing services and assistance to middle school students is so important in order to prepare them for a smooth transition to 9th grade. If we can get students off to a solid start in high school, they are more likely stay in school and graduate.”

“Another initiative that will help reduce the dropout rate and increase the graduation rate is the Oregon high school diploma. The requirements are tied directly to student interest and aspiration in the personal plan and profile, making high school more relevant. Students see that staying in school and working hard to finish has meaning in their future. The new requirements also allow more flexibility in how students work through high school. In addition, they have more opportunity to explore career options that will help them develop a vision and pathway for their future,” Castillo said.

“Finally, I am working with our federal delegation to continue the funding for Career and Technical Education programs and federal Perkins dollars. These are important resources for those students who want and need a more practical application of learning, such as in carpentry, automotive technology, electronics, and other courses.”

“Historically, Oregon’s dropout rate has changed with ups and downs in the economy. As the economy improved and the unemployment rate went down, the dropout rate went up. Often, a student makes the decision to drop out because of the availability of jobs, especially when the economy is prospering as it was in 2006,” Castillo said. “Some factors contributing to the dropout rate are outside of our control.”

Click here for school-by-school rates.
Oregon Diploma Talk
This weekly item highlights actions taken, various questions, resources and background relating to the new Oregon diploma.

RHS student wins video contest

Excerpt from The News Review, by Teresa Williams

What do comic books and high school graduation requirements have to do with each other? Ask Chase Gilley. He’s a junior at Roseburg High School, and he won the “I’m Ready, Are You?” Oregon Diploma Video Challenge for his division, which includes students in 10th to 12th grade. The Roseburg High School Leadership class got honorable mention for its video. Gilley The contest was sponsored by the state Board of Education and state schools Superintendent Susan Castillo. Students were asked to tell about their dreams for the future, how they plan to reach their goals and how the state’s new diploma requirements will help them get there. The state has added more English, math and fine arts requirements, as well as career-related learning, to earn a high school diploma.

The rules were straightforward, but Gilley’s film teacher Mary McClintock said the topic was especially difficult. She gave students the choice between a video for the high school’s Literacy Week or the state contest. Gilley chose to explain how the diploma requirements will help him become a comic book scripter. He set up a video camera in the library and interviewed himself, taking a half hour and then editing it down to a minute and 28 seconds. He also shot footage of comic books and of his teachers. Gilley was getting ready for a trip to Washington, D.C., so he only had two days to put the short film together. “To be perfectly honest, I didn’t feel it was my absolute best work,” he said. He was surprised to find out his video made him a finalist, and even more surprised to find out he’d won. He’ll get a new computer for his efforts.

His video begins with the words “Are You Ready?” followed by an outside shot of the high school. Then Gilley introduces himself. “When asked the question ‘Are you ready?’, it’s not that hard of one for me to answer,” Gilley says. “I know what my future holds for me, and that future is one filled with comic books. Yes, comic books. More specifically, I’d like to become a comic book scripter.”

He explains how English, science and history will help him in the future.

Gilley didn’t talk about math in the video, but the state will be requiring students to take three years at Algebra I and above in the future. That’s one of the major changes to diploma requirements. Math isn’t Gilley’s favorite subject, but he’s not opposed to the new requirements. He said art schools have similar requirements for admission, so he’s taking Algebra II, even though it’s not yet required in high school.

English has the most obvious tie to Gilley’s goals, since he wants to write. Understanding history is important, too, he said. And since many comic books are science fiction, knowing science is essential, too.

Click here to watch Gilley's video.

PHOTO: Roseburg High School student Chase Gilley works to edit a video in the media lab at his high school on Thursday. Gilley recently won an Oregon Department of Education video contest. ROBIN LOZNAK / N-R staff photo

Detailed information regarding the Oregon Diploma can be found at
Get Ready Oregon

Opportunities and Financial Resources for Schools

The Oregon Department of Education is now accepting nominations for the 2008-09 Oregon Teacher of the Year. Anyone may nominate a candidate for the Oregon Teacher of the Year. However, a candidate cannot nominate him/herself. To nominate a teacher, go to the ODE website and fill out the “Talent Pool Recommendation” form. At the end of the talent pool recommendation, click the box to nominate the individual for the Oregon Teacher of the Year.

“The Oregon Teacher of the Year award honors a representative of all the great teachers in Oregon,” Castillo said. “Candidates for Oregon Teacher of the Year should be exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled educators. They should inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn. They should have the respect and admiration of students, parents, and colleagues. Candidates should play an active role in the community as well as in school, and they should be poised and articulate representatives of all Oregon classroom teachers.”

A Blue Ribbon Panel consisting of Legislators, former Teachers of the Year, business leaders and key education organization leaders will select the finalists. The finalists will be interviewed by representatives of the State Superintendent’s office. State Superintendent Susan Castillo will select the Oregon Teacher of the Year. The deadline for nominations is June 2, 2008. The 2008-09 Oregon Teacher of the Year will be announced at the beginning of October.

Due to budget constraints, the 2008-2009 Oregon Standards Newspaper will be an online version only. There will be no printed copies sent to schools and ODE has no immediate plans to return to paper copies. The fall edition of the online newspaper will be posted on the Oregon Department of Education’s REAL website late July 2008.

To ensure the Oregon Standards Newspaper continues to meet the needs of the educational community, the data base containing Oregon’s standards will be reconstructed to accommodate the new core and content standards currently in development. This will improve the site’s functionality and the capability of each content standards-driven application in REAL (i.e., Searchable Standards, Standards by Design) that interacts with the data base. The restructuring will also help improve the look, feel, and usefulness of future online editions.

Please look for future news announcements to include updated information, new website features, and tips for ways to best download and print the 2008-09 edition. If you have questions, please contact C. Michelle Hooper eMail at 503-947-5694 or go to REAL website.

We are looking for elementary and middle school science teachers who are interested in the opportunity to receive excellent science curriculum and training for the classroom that fosters student engagement in science, health, and literacy. Teacher opportunities: Hands-On Science Curriculum, Stipend, Graduate Credit Available, PDU's, Travel, Meals and Lodging Paid.
Two Dates and Two Locations:
Bend: June 16th-27th, 2008
Coos Bay: August 4-15th, 2008
For more information go to the http://www.eou.edu/ed/discovery/index.html. For an application or more information contact: Brenna Hines eMail, Education Coordinator, Northeast Oregon, 541-962-3801.
Susan’s Schedule
Week of April 7th – Susan Castillo spoke at an Oregon Leadership Network conference in Eugene; attended the Harvard ExEL Leadership Institute in Eugene; and traveled to Washington DC for the Council of Chief State School Officers Legislative Conference.
Week of April 14th – Susan will attend the Council of Chief State School Officers 2008 Legislative Conference in Washington D.C.; meet with Congresswoman Darlene Hooley; meet with Senator Ron Wyden, and attend a discussion of Singapore math curriculum hosted by the Asia Society.

The April 2008 issue PDF of Superintendent's Pipeline is available on the ODE website.

For scheduling inquires, please visit our website at: http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=848
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