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4/25/2008 8:00:00 AM
Superintendent's Update #252
Superintendent's Update

In This Issue:
  • Oregon Diploma will hinge on demonstrating proficiency through a variety of approved testing options
  • Oregon school among finalists to win coveted Intel award
  • Oregon Diploma Talk
  • Opportunities and Financial Resources for Schools
  • Susan’s Schedule

Oregon Diploma will hinge on demonstrating proficiency through a variety of approved testing options
Excerpt from the Oregonian, by Betsy Hammond ("Students will get high school diplomas only if they pass state tests, says board")

ODE Note: The State Board has been discussing how to assess proficiency in the "essential skills." Their discussion has focused on the idea that students would be required to demonstrate proficiency in some essential skills through "multiple pathways and options," including state assessment tests OR an alternative testing option that would be equivalent -- such as a standardized reference test (SAT, ACT, AP Exam, etc.), or a locally scored assessment, student work sample or other student project.

SALEM -- Beginning with next year's high school freshmen, Oregon plans to require students to pass state reading, writing and math tests to get a high school diploma.

That would make Oregon the 27th state to require students to prove their abilities on standardized tests to graduate. Nearly three-fourths of the nation's high schoolers already face state graduation exams. graduates' The Oregon Board of Education endorsed details of the new diploma requirement Friday. The idea is to guarantee that every student who graduates from an Oregon public school has the "essential skills" to succeed in college or a career, says state school board member Duncan Wyse, president of the Oregon Business Council.

But it raises the possibility that thousands of Oregon students who have passed all the required courses in high school would be denied diplomas because they can't prove their skills at reading, writing or math.

Oregon plans to require students to meet 10th-grade benchmarks on three long-standing state tests -- a multiple-choice reading test, a multiple-choice math test and an essay to measure writing skills -- to earn a diploma starting in 2012. That looks daunting, considering about one-third of Oregon sophomores now fail the reading exam and almost half fail in math.

But experts say that when students know that their diploma hinges on passing the exam, they try harder and passing rates rise. Middle schools and high schools also do more to prepare students who are weak in any of the tested subjects with extra classes and tutoring. Many states that have instituted a mandatory graduation test were hit with lawsuits on behalf of students who were denied diplomas. States have generally won by proving students were given a fair shot at learning the necessarily skills.

The move comes a year after the Legislature voted to end the state's controversial Certificate of Initial Mastery, or CIM, a badge of academic proficiency that was optional for students. In some ways, the board's decision Friday revives that certificate by giving the tests even more importance than the CIM did. The Oregon Board of Education voted 15 months ago to create more rigorous diploma requirements, but the panel struggled for more than a year to define those skills and how they would be measured. With input from educators and others, the board finally settled on the same state tests they have given for years as the primary way for students to prove their prowess.

At the insistence of the state school board, Oregon plans to allow school districts to come up with a way for students who fail the exams to be deemed proficient by their own teachers. The school district would have to convince a state panel that it has a local test or a performance task that measures the same level of reading, writing or math skill as the state exam. Once the state approves that test or assignment, teachers at the student's school would decide whether the student deserves a diploma.

Oregon officials acknowledge that could lead to controversy. Most states that allow students to substitute a performance task or portfolio of work for a passing grade on the state exam require the state education department or another outside official to judge the quality of the work. In New Jersey, the only state with a mandatory graduation test that allows a locally graded assignment to substitute for a passing score on the tests, the local alternative set off a controversy and school districts' latitude is now being reined in.

Critics there called the local substitute a "backdoor diploma" that lowered the standards, particularly for minority students and those learning English as a second language. In a few high-poverty, high-minority districts, more than half of the students got their diplomas that way. To keep Oregon's standards uniformly high, the state education department probably will develop a monitoring system to make sure no district grades its own students too easily, said Deputy Superintendent Ed Dennis.

The board plans to make the new diploma rule official in June, after a May 28 public hearing in Salem. Doug Kosty, associate superintendent over testing, says he expects a big turnout at the hearing and expects public criticism to lead to some changes in the final rule.

In addition to passing three standardized tests or their equivalent, students would have to prove their skills at public speaking and doing in-depth applied math problems. But those two skills would only be judged by the student's teachers, using a state-developed grading scale, not by a state test. California, which began requiring seniors to pass a graduation test in 2006, denied diplomas to 7 percent of seniors -- or nearly 30,000 students -- last year because they could not pass the test despite repeated attempts and offers of free tutoring. This year, for the first time, Washington is requiring students to pass state reading and writing exams to get a diploma. Heading into their final test opportunity this spring, about 15 percent of the state's seniors still needed to pass one or both exams to get a diploma.

In Oregon, the teachers union does not object to the new graduation requirements -- as long as schools get enough resources to provide after-school tutoring, summer school and other extra support to struggling students, says Courtney Vanderstek of the Oregon Education Association.

The reading, writing and math tests are familiar to Oregon teachers and Oregon educators generally do a great job of getting most students to reach those standards, she said.

"The idea here is proficiency and helping every (student) succeed. It's not seeing how many people we can fail," Vanderstek said. "We can do this if we put in place the supports and resources to help get every student there."

Click here to read entire article.
Oregon school among finalists to win coveted Intel award

Sojourner Elementary School in Milwaukie, OR has been named a finalist for an Intel Schools of Distinction Award (SODA) in the elementary school mathematics category. Sojourner is one of three finalists in this category. sojourner' The Intel® Schools of Distinction Awards is an annual US program that honors schools for implementing innovative and replicable math and science programs that produce positive educational results. On April 15, Intel announced the 18 finalists chosen from public and private as well as urban and suburban schools. Schools compete for $1 million in grants and awards from the Intel Foundation and sponsoring companies.

“We are very excited to see the ever-increasing quality of the applicant pool for Intel Schools of Distinction,” said Brenda Musilli, Intel Corporation director of education. “Improving math and science education in the US is one of the critical issues we see facing this country and it is heartwarming to see examples of such excellence from across the U.S. These schools launch their students on a path to lifelong learning with programs that are rich, exciting and demanding. Like past School of Distinction Award winners, each school has achieved academic excellence in mathematics and science by embracing such 21st century learning skills as digital literacy, critical thinking and problem solving, as well as teamwork and community involvement.”

The finalist schools in mathematics excellence:
  • offer their students a rigorous, challenging and engaging program that teaches mathematics skills and how to apply them to solve real-life problems
  • approach projects as a member of a team
  • communicate succinctly on the subject
The schools' mathematics curriculum include a variety of 21st century instructional strategies that incorporate critical thinking skills and hands-on experiences to ensure high levels of achievement for all students.

Three winners – one elementary, one middle school and one high school - will be selected in each of the two categories in June. To honor their extraordinary commitment to educational excellence and innovation, each winning school will receive a $10,000 cash grant from the Intel Foundation and an award package including curriculum materials, professional development resources, hardware and software valued at over $100,000 per school. In addition, one of the six winning schools will be selected as “Star Innovator”. That school will receive additional recognition and rewards, including an additional $15,000 from the Intel Foundation. Also, on seeing the quality of the finalist pool, the Intel Foundation has announced an unplanned cash award of $2,500 to each of the non-winner finalist schools.

Click here for more information on the program and how to apply.

PHOTO: Sojourner Elementary School in Milwaukie, OR
Oregon Diploma Talk
This weekly item highlights actions taken, various questions and background relating to the new Oregon diploma.

The DRAFT rule on the assessment of essential skills is scheduled for a hearing on May 28 at 1:00 pm in room 251A, Public Services Building. Public comments will be accepted until 5:00 pm on that day. People may submit written testimony to the department prior to the hearing date.

Click here to access a DRAFT of the rule and information about the public hearing.

Click here for general information about the hearing and where to submit written testimony.

Click here to see last month’s news release on the assessment of essential skills.

Click here for comprehensive information on the Oregon Diploma and the implementation task force work.

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

Opportunities and Financial Resources for Schools

The Oregon Department of Education offers a variety of internships associated with various functions, programs and divisions within the agency. The internships are designed to give students real work experience and the opportunity to observe and engage in a variety of roles within state government. Contact Diane Roth eMail at 503-947-5791 for details and how to apply. Click here for general information regarding the internship program including details about the types of internships available, program guidelines, an agency overview, and how to apply.

The Superintendent's office is currently seeking one unpaid research intern this summer to research and organize the Oregon Department of Education’s agency history. This research will be used to create an agency webpage to help celebrate the Oregon Sesquicentennial. Ideally, this intern should have an interest in Oregon history. This intern will be able to work independently using electronic research resources, State Library and State Archives resources. Training will be available. This is a great opportunity to use state research resources and work on a substantive research project.

The Oregon Prescription Drug Program (OPDP) is a state prescription drug purchasing pool open to all Oregonian regardless of age or income. Average savings to participants are 42%. All drugs prescribed by a licensed clinician are eligible for discounts. Click here for more information and to enroll for an ID card.

This fall, Stand for Children will award three $2,500 renewable scholarships to college-bound Oregon public high school seniors who have “Beat the Odds” by succeeding in school despite daunting obstacles. Applicants must demonstrate that they:

• Plan to graduate in June 2009 and enroll in an accredited 2 or 4-year college
• Have succeeded academically (3.0 GPA or better) despite hardships such as poverty, disability, homelessness or personal tragedy
• Have participated in activities that are helpful to others
• Have a financial need.

Scholarship recipients agree to share their story at the “Beat the Odds” award ceremony and fundraiser luncheon on November 12, 2008 and participate in related publicity. Scholarships are contingent on acceptance into an accredited 2 or 4-year college program and will paid directly to the college.

The deadline is September 15, 2008. Instructions, application materials, and information about last year’s winners can be found online.

Stand for Children is a statewide nonprofit organization that gives everyday people the skills and support they need to advocate for improvements to and funding for programs that give children a fair chance in life. The Beat the Odds scholarship awards program is designed to highlight the incredible potential of Oregon’s young people as well as the challenges that prevent too many of them from succeeding. If you’ve “Beaten the Odds” or know a young person who has, please visit our website to learn more about this scholarship opportunity.
Susan’s Schedule

Week of April 21st – Susan Castillo visited Eugene International High School, winner of the 2007 Goldman Sachs Foundation Prize for Excellence in International Education; met with Sue Hildick of Chalkboard Project and Dan Jamison, Superintendent of Sherwood School District to get a briefing on the CLASS project; led an Executive Leadership Program for Educators (ExEL) Study Team meeting; met with Superintendent Carole Smith and Zeke Smith of Portland Public School District; met with Representative Chip Shields; met with Register Guard Editorial Board; spoke at the Springfield Service Learning Day; and spoke at OSBA Celebrating Educational Opportunities for Diverse Students Conference.
Week of April 28th – Susan will attend the Council for Chief State School Officers 2008 National Teacher of the Year conference in Washington D.C.

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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