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Superintendent's Update #321
Superintendent's Update

Superintendent Castillo's bi-weekly updates showcase the efforts and achievements of Oregon schools. Through these regular updates, the Superintendent hopes to increase communications regarding important initiatives for Oregon's students. Click here to access archived issues of Superintendent’s Update.

In This Issue:
  • New Resources for Educators to Support Reading Success for Students
  • Online, Adaptive, and Interactive – the Future of Assessment
  • Oregon Diploma Talk
  • Opportunities and Financial Resources for Schools
  • Susan’s Schedule

New Resources for Educators to Support Reading Success for Students

By Susan Castillo

To be successful, our students need a wide range of skills. They need to have a solid foundation in math and science, they need to be strong communicators and team players, and they need to be able to understand and participate in the world around them. But all of these proficiencies rely on a key foundational skill: reading. Without strong reading skills, our students will be unable to reach their highest potential either in school or after graduation. The Oregon State Board has made the importance of literacy very clear by selecting Reading as the first of the Essential Skills required for graduation, starting with the class of 2012.
Our state has shown a strong commitment to reading, and I see that each time I visit our schools. We have increased the number of reading coaches in our classrooms, created longer literacy blocks in elementary schools, and provided more learning opportunities throughout the school day for struggling students to achieve grade level in reading. But we need to do more. There are still too many of our children who are not reading at grade level, too many who are still falling through the cracks.

Not all teachers think of themselves as reading teachers, but in order to get all students to grade level we need to change this. I am pleased to announce a new tool designed to help ALL of our teachers keep the focus on literacy. The Oregon K-12 Literacy Framework, unveiled this month, is the culmination of years of work by the Literacy Leadership State Steering Committee (LLSSC). The Governor and I jointly appointed a Steering Committee in 2004 to coordinate Oregon’s effort to improve literacy pre-K through high school. Too often we think of literacy as an elementary issue. However, reading at grade level is critical at every level—K-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12. And it is critical in all subjects, not just language arts. In order to prepare our students for success in school and success after graduation, we need to provide all of our students with a strong foundation in literacy.

The goal of the Literacy Framework is to ensure that all students read at grade level as soon as possible after entering school and that they continue to advance in grade-level reading skills each year. The Framework’s model enables schools to provide support for all students whether that be at the elementary, middle, or high school level. This practical tool provides step-by-step guidance for schools to improve their literacy programs and better support their students as readers and learners.

I encourage you to learn more about the Literacy Framework by visiting our website and reading the FAQ on page 8 of this month’s Pipeline.

As always, I welcome your feedback on this or other topics. Feel free to contact me at superintendent.castillo@state.or.us eMail and thank you for all you do every day for Oregon students.

Online, Adaptive, and Interactive – the Future of Assessment

By Susan Castillo

I am proud of the assessment system our state has built over the past 20 years. Oregon is a national leader in the field of online adaptive student testing. Through our online system, we are able to allow multiple testing opportunities to ensure students can demonstrate their best work. Our test items are written by Oregon teachers specifically for Oregon students. And we recently expanded our online offerings to include an Online Writing Assessment for our high school students.

But we all know that tests, especially multiple choice tests, can only tell us part of the story. Multiple choice state tests generally don’t allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in an interactive manner. But thanks to a new type of test item to be field tested this spring, this is starting to change.
Those of you familiar with the Oregon Department of Education’s weekly Assessment and Accountability Update or the monthly Superintendent’s Pipeline are probably already familiar with this exciting new type of test item. These items, referred to as “machine scored constructed response items,” will ask students to actively engage in demonstrating their knowledge through manipulating elements on the screen to solve problems and answer questions. These items more readily assess students’ ability to use strategic thinking. Students are asked to apply and demonstrate their knowledge in a manner more similar to classroom or real-world situations. This type of interactive demonstration of knowledge and skills has always been a part of our classroom assessments, but now, for the first time, we will be able to assess these skills using the online state tests.

This year, there are relatively few of these items and students will likely only see 1 to 2 per test. However, we will continue to expand the number of these items over the coming years. In an effort to increase our available pool of interactive items while reducing development costs, Oregon is negotiating an item sharing agreement with Delaware and Hawaii, two states that have recently adopted online adaptive testing.

Although still early in the process, this is an exciting step in our development of interactive, adaptive, engaging tests that provide meaningful, timely, and accurate information about what our students know and are able to do.

These field test items will be available in math, science, and reading starting April 19 this year. A short Grades 3-12 New Item Types practice test including these interactive items is currently available at https://oakspt.tds.airast.org/student/ (note: the practice test is only accessible via Mozilla Firefox and you must have Java installed for the items to display correctly). I highly encourage everyone - students, teachers, parents - to visit the practice test and play around with these new items. Get familiar with how they work and the types of questions included. Additional sample items are available on the AIR website.

Oregon Diploma Talk
This bi-weekly item highlights actions taken, various questions, and background relating to the Oregon diploma.
Applied Academic Courses

Q: Will high school students be at a disadvantage for college entrance if they take applied courses instead of more traditional courses in core academic subjects?

A: The Oregon University System (OUS) has a set of standards that are used to determine whether or not a course offered is a college prep level course. Each high school submits a list of courses that are reviewed by OUS. Information about Oregon College-Readiness Standards can be found at: http://www.ous.edu/cadev/courses/dbsearch?page=6

Applied academic courses may not be recognized by OUS as college prep level courses; however, OUS does provide opportunities for schools to submit additional documentation on courses to appeal that decision. Four-year colleges and universities outside Oregon have different policies regarding admission requirements.

Applied academic courses do not impact admission at a community college. Community colleges often require students to take placement tests to identify the appropriate level of math and writing courses. Some degree and certificate programs may also have specific prerequisites.

The Oregon Education Plan and Profile is the tool that students, parents, and educators should use to determine the best options for each student. If applied academic courses are more relevant to a student’s college and career plans they may be the best choice. Other students may benefit from more traditional academic courses. The approach to the math content may be different in each option; however, the rigor should always be equivalent.

If you have questions about Applied Academics, please contact Tom Thompson eMail.
Opportunities and Financial Resources for Schools

Honors Diploma Seals for Graduating High School Seniors

Hard work and good grades are to be applauded. Superintendent Susan Castillo and the State Board of Education offer a way for public schools in the State of Oregon to recognize those graduating seniors who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement during their high school careers. An Oregon honors diploma seal is available for students who have obtained a GPA of 3.5 or above, based on the seventh semester accumulative reports.

If you wish to participate, please email Jennifer Busey eMail with the following information:
• School Name:
• Number of Seals Requested:
• Contact Person and Phone Number:
• School Mailing Address:

If you have any questions, please contact Jennifer Busey eMail at (503) 947-5740.

Superintendent’s Youth Advisory Team Seeking New Members

During Susan Castillo’s first campaign for Superintendent of Public Instruction, the idea of a student advisory board for the Oregon Department of Education was put forward by several of her volunteers. Susan embraced the idea of giving students an opportunity to voice their concerns about Oregon’s educational future. To this end, we created a Youth Advisory Team for Superintendent Susan Castillo; this group of Oregon public school students plays a role in changing and improving public education in Oregon.

We are in the process of recruiting 5-8 new members for the 2010-11 year. We are looking for a diverse group of high school students from all areas of the state who are ready to take on the challenge of advising the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Members must attend three to four meetings in Salem and should have an interest in using their personal experiences to advise the Superintendent and other state leaders, students, educators, and community members.

Education professionals are encouraged to advise a student to apply to the Youth Advisory Team. Applications can be accessed on our website at: http://www.ode.state.or.us/superintendent/yat/.

Applicants will be asked to address the following in their applications:
• Why you want to be on the Youth Advisory Team.
• Three assets you will bring to the team.
• A brief explanation of your involvement in public school (both curricular and extracurricular activities).
• An accurate idea of your ability to attend the meetings held in Salem, given that the department cannot provide transportation.

For more information, please contact Diane Roth eMail at the Oregon Department of Education, (503) 947-5791. Applications will be accepted until May 20, 2010.

Don't Miss the 2010 Middle and Grade School Science Competition

Why: To foster Science education and innovation
Who: Middle school grade students s (Grades 6-8 – currently enrolled) & Grade school students s (Grades 3-5 – currently enrolled)
What: Science Competition
When: Saturday, May 15th, 2010
Where: Cascade Hall, Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, Oregon

Important Dates:
Project Registration Form due: Monday, May 3rd, 2010
Project Entry Form due: Monday, May 3rd, 2010

For registration information and competition guidelines, visit: http://www.oregonstatefair.org/competition/science

For further information, contact Jeff Trejo eMail, (503) 947-3257.
Susan's Schedule

April 12 – Superintendent Castillo spoke with Tom Drummond, Director of the College Dreams Program and Steve Boyarsky; spoke at the Oregon Leadership Network’s Spring Institute in Eugene; and participated in the Excellence in the Harvard University Educational Leadership (ExEL) Spring Institute in Eugene.

April 19 – Susan will participate in the State Board of Education meeting, and speak at the Oregon PTA Convention in Clackamas.

April 26 – Susan will receive an Outstanding Latina in Government Leadership award at the El Poder de la Mujer Conference in Portland.

The April 2010 issue 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
Please forward this UPDATE to others who might find it of interest.

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