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5/5/2011 4:00:00 PM
Superintendent's Update #342
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:
  • A Big Thank You To Oregon’s Teachers
  • Taking the Initiative: Teachers Step Up To Create Rich, Standards-Based Oregon Studies Curriculum
  • Oregon Diploma Talk
  • Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools
  • Susan’s Schedule

A Big Thank You To Oregon’s Teachers
By Susan Castillo student'

This week is national teacher appreciation week – an opportunity for all of us to go back to the heart of education and honor the people who work tirelessly, each and every day, to support, instruct, and inspire our students. As a nation and a state we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our teachers who come to school every day and put their hearts and souls into their work. And it is not easy work. Our teachers put in long hours. They pour over data with colleagues to ensure they are targeting instruction effectively. They stay up late grading papers, come in early to coach a first year teacher, stay after school to work with a struggling student, and spend their Saturday afternoons at student events. They do all of this because they believe in what our students can accomplish, because they know that with support and encouragement, our students can excel.

We know that the single biggest factor in student success is an excellent teacher. And yet, far too often teachers do not receive the recognition, appreciation, and respect they deserve. So this week, I invite you to take the opportunity to thank the teachers in your lives for all they give to their schools, their communities, and their students. Take the time to visit a classroom if you haven’t done that in a while. Send your child’s teacher a card. Thank a colleague for their leadership and support.

Every time I walk into a school, I am struck by the passion, creativity, and determination of our teachers. In the face of budget cuts, shrinking staff, increasing class sizes, and changing state and national requirements, our teachers never lose sight of what they are there for. They never lose sight of our kids. Through it all our teachers remain committed to providing each and every student with a rich, high quality, engaging education that will prepare them for future success. They know that the future of our state and our nation is built in our classrooms, one child at a time.

To all of our dedicated and inspirational teachers - thank you for all you do!

Taking the Initiative: Teachers Step Up To Create Rich, Standards-Based Oregon Studies Curriculum
By Susan Castillo

As I reflect on teacher appreciation week, there are many qualities that I admire about Oregon teachers. But one of the things I admire most is the commitment to quality that I see in our educators. Teachers spend evenings, weekends, and holidays creating personalized lesson plans and activities to provide students with a rich and engaging way to approach the content. Teachers refine, enhance, and build upon these lessons from year to year to ensure they are accessible to a wide range of students, are interesting and relevant to kids’ lives, and are closely tied to Oregon’s content standards. This all takes a great deal of time, energy, and an intimate knowledge of Oregon’s standards. But teachers choose to go the extra mile because they know the difference this rich, personalized, and high quality instruction can make for our kids.

Teachers across Oregon do this work every year – reviewing and adjusting their materials to better meet student needs. Most of this work is done on a small scale – developing individual lessons for specific classrooms. But I recently learned about two teachers who took this idea to a whole different level developing not just a few lessons but a full curriculum – a curriculum designed to be used across the district, and ultimately to be available to anyone in the state.

About four years ago, Medford school district began reviewing possible textbooks for 4th grade Oregon studies. But teachers were dissatisfied with the options available to them; they simply couldn’t find strong Oregon studies textbooks that were tied to Oregon standards. Veteran teacher Anna Meunier compared the proposed textbooks with the lessons she had developed over 20 years of teaching 4th grade and decided that the district could do better – on its own. So Meunier asked if she could take a stab at writing a social studies curriculum based on the activities, lessons, and materials she had been using in her own classroom. Impressed with her rich, standards-based lessons, the district agreed and paired her with fellow 4th grade teacher, Sarah Flora to write the district’s new curriculum.

For two years, these two teachers spent every free minute – after school, weekends, summers, and holidays writing a 1,373-page curriculum complete with worksheets, study guides, activities, tests, and pictures. The curriculum is built around Oregon’s content standards and includes units on Native Americans, the Oregon Trail, explorers and fur traders, maps, geography, economics, and government. The curriculum is now being used district-wide and is undergoing its final round of edits, as teachers from around the Medford School District provide their input and suggestions. So far, I hear that teachers love it! The final version is expected this fall and the goal is to make this curriculum freely available to other districts around the state in the years to come.

What really stood out to me in this story was the initiative that these teachers showed, the willingness to step up and say “I know we can do better and I am willing to make it happen.” This is what I love about our teachers. Time and again, I see teachers stepping up to serve as leaders, coaching fellow teachers, or working in teams to improve instruction in their schools or districts. They do this because they care. They care about the quality of instruction we provide to our students. They care about meeting the needs of all of their kids each and every day. And they care about being an active and integral part of their learning communities.

I want to say a special thank you this week to Anna Meunier, Sarah Flora, and all of the countless teacher leaders out there who step up in large ways and in small ways to improve education in their schools, their districts, and our state.

To learn more about the creation of Medford’s new Oregon studies curriculum, see the Medford Mail Tribune article at: http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110412/NEWS/104120312&emailAFriend=1.

Oregon Diploma Talk
This bi-weekly item highlights actions taken, various questions, and background relating to the Oregon diploma.
Many Oregon educators and parents have questions about the newly adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the common assessments that will be used to test students on these standards. Below are a few frequently asked questions and answers we thought might be of interest to readers. Learn more at: www.ode.state.or.us/go/commoncore.

Q: What is the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) common assessment?
A: States adopting the CCSS will implement a student assessment system aligned with the CCSS for mathematics and English language arts beginning in the 2014-15 school year.
  • Along with 30 other states, Oregon is a member of the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) which has formed to create an historic assessment system.
  • The common assessment is a natural continuation of the work already underway in Oregon and builds on our current assessment system and the work of the Oregon DATA Project.
  • By partnering with other states, Oregon will be able to leverage resources, share expertise, and produce a system that will meet the needs and expectations of Oregon students and teachers.
  • Until the common assessment is designed, piloted, and implemented, however, ODE will continue using the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) to assess students in math, reading, and writing. Oregon will continue to assess science and social science using OAKS until CCSS are developed for those content areas.
Q: What will be included in the new assessment?
A: The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is developing an assessment with three major components: (1) a summative assessment; (2) an interim assessment; and (3) formative assessments and tools.

Summative Assessments:
  • Include computer adaptive selected response (multiple choice), constructed response, and performance tasks;
  • Produce composite content area scores, based on the computer-adaptive items and performance tasks;
  • Will be administered in the last 12 weeks of the year in grades 3–8 and high school for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. Students will have two opportunities during this testing window.
Interim Assessments:
  • Optional computer adaptive assessments and performance tasks, administered at locally determined intervals;
  • Designed to provide actionable information about student progress;
  • Based on publicly released items and tasks;
  • Grounded in learning progressions across grades and how college and career-readiness emerge over time.
Formative Tools and Processes:
  • Provides resources to inform teachers about student progress toward achieving the CCSS;
  • Will be used by teachers and students to monitor a student’s learning needs, check for misconceptions, and/or to provide evidence of progress toward learning goals.

Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools

Superintendents' School Health Leadership Award
The American School Health Association (ASHA) proudly sponsors an annual award saluting a superintendent who recognizes the connection between student health and academic achievement. The Superintendents' School Health Leadership Award, presented by the ASHA Council on Administrative Support for School Health, was established to celebrate superintendents who are committed to meeting the needs of the whole child in a coordinated and comprehensive fashion. Award nominees are superintendents who demonstrate exemplary commitment to student and staff health within their districts and beyond. The deadline for nominations is June 1, 2011. More information is available at: http://www.ashaweb.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3355#Superintendents. Feel free to share this announcement and consider nominating someone.

Visiting Teacher Opportunities
The Oregon Department of Education has signed agreements with China, Mexico, and Spain to allow for visiting teachers from each of these countries to work in Oregon schools. Click here PDF for a brief description of each program and its offerings. Please contact Rendy Jantz, rendy.jantz@state.or.us, for additional information or if you are interested in bringing a visiting teacher to your district.

Oregon Blue Books Available
Get 2009-10 Oregon Blue Books to use as textbooks in your classroom — only $15.00 for a case of 20 books! The Oregon Blue Book is Oregon’s official fact book and almanac published every two years since 1911 by the Secretary of State’s office. It contains everything you ever wanted to know about Oregon’s economy, executive, legislative & judicial branches, election history, state history, public education, all 242 cities and 36 counties, and government finance. The Almanac section lists facts such as highest mountains, longest rivers, state bird, animal, nut, flower, beverage, shell, Oregon’s Olympic medal winners, renewable energy plants, and so much more!

Avoid shipping costs by arranging to pick them up. Otherwise, add $16.00 per box for UPS shipping. Not many of the 2009-2010 Oregon Blue Books remain, so act now before they’re all gone. Reserve a case, get an order form, or arrange a pick up by contacting Julie Yamaka at the State Archives: Julie.a.yamaka@state.or.us or 503-378-5199.

Evergreen Wings and Waves Essay Contest
1st through 8th graders who live within an hour drive of McMinnville are invited to submit an essay by May 19 for a chance to win a class trip to the Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark and a $500 College Savings Account courtesy of the Oregon College Savings Plan. One winner for each grade level will be announced on May 27. To download an entry form, see contest rules, and view essay prompts by grade level, go to the Evergreen Wings and Waves website. For more information on the $500 college savings account, please visit: www.oregoncollegesavings.com.

Susan's Schedule

Week of May 2 – Superintendent Castillo met with legislative leaders about the education budge and will meet with her Youth Advisory Team on May 6. We are currently accepting Youth Advisory Team applications for the 2011-2012 school year. If you are a student or know of a student who may be interested in being a part of this Team, please review the application online at http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=634, due May 23, 2011.

Week of May 9 – Susan will speak to participating teachers, coaches and project directors of the 21st Century Technology-Rich Learning and Teaching Title IID grants in Portland, will meet with legislative leaders about the education budget, and will speak at the National Assessment Governing Board’s meeting in Portland.

The May 2011 issue of Superintendent's Pipeline is available on the ODE website.

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