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6/2/2011 1:15:00 PM
Superintendent's Update #344
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:
  • Full-day Kindergarten Essential for Better Schools
  • Closing the Achievement Gap: Spotlight on Tigard-Tualatin’s Tualatin Elementary
  • Oregon Diploma Talk
  • Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools
  • Susan’s Schedule

Full-day Kindergarten Essential for Better Schools
By Susan Castillo

By Susan Castillo and members of the Oregon Full-day Kindergarten Implementation Committee (Karen Twain of the Tigard-Tualatin School District, Brenda Lewis of the Beaverton School District, Don Grotting of the David Douglas School District and Don Kordosky of the Oakridge School District), as printed in the Register Guard on May 28, 2011.

Everyone in Oregon wants answers when it comes to public education. The questions at the forefront:

How can we raise student achievement and better prepare students for life after high school? How can we ensure that American students are prepared to compete for jobs with students who are academically outperforming them in other countries?

The answer currently resides in Senate Bill 248. This legislative plan levels the playing field and ensures that all children, regardless of race or economic standing, get off to a strong start academically. Yet the bill is at risk of failing.

Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, has created a smart plan to bridge the gap that exists between the nearly 15,000 Oregon students that have access to full-day kindergarten and the 30,000 who do not. The plan would ensure that all students, regardless of race or economic status, have equal access to full-day kindergarten beginning in 2015. It would abolish the disincentives in our funding system that make it harder for school districts to provide full-day kindergarten for all their students.

Opponents believe our schools can’t afford to take on a new requirement during these harsh economic times. But Oregon can no longer afford not to provide full-day kindergarten.
The data provide irrefutable evidence that full-day kindergarten is the most effective change that Oregon can implement to promote long-term academic achievement and close the achievement gap that exists for students who are members of minority and lower socioeconomic groups. Here in Oregon, the schools that offer full-day kindergarten have realized huge gains in academic performance for their low-income students and students of color.

Oregon has raised significantly academic expectations for students. We must recognize that we cannot increase achievement simply by increasing high school graduation requirements. The only way to increase academic outcomes for our graduating seniors is to increase the academic achievement in the lower elementary grades and kindergarten. The most effective way that we can improve education in Oregon in the shortest amount of time with the least expense is with full-day kindergarten.

SB 248 is more than “feel good” legislation. It puts a stake in the ground and sets a date certain for breaking from the status quo — a status quo that keeps us limping from one biennium to another, expecting better results from the same tired old funding system.

By establishing a start date with the 2015-16 school year, our districts and the Legislature will have the time they need to plan and prepare for full-day kindergarten — just as they did in the early 1980s, when Oregon established a required half-day kindergarten. That legislation was passed during a recession as an unfunded mandate two biennia into the future. Districts were ready well before the deadline.

Taxpayers want and deserve a greater return on their investment. They are calling for better performance from their schools and students. Full-day kindergarten is the best answer to our most pressing question in Oregon public education: What can we do to maximize academic development for our children? The answer is full-day kindergarten.

Closing the Achievement Gap: Spotlight on Tigard-Tualatin’s Tualatin Elementary

This feature highlights high poverty and/or minority schools recognized in 2011 for their progress in closing the academic achievement gap.

Last year, the Tualatin Elementary community dreamed up a plan to start a school garden on a mucky, useless patch of land behind the school. At first the idea was hard to imagine, but the work of teachers, students, and volunteers made the garden take root and flourish. Today, every grade in the school has a plot to plant, tend, and harvest. The “Sustainable Learning Garden” has even provided vegetables the students have eaten as salsa or squash pudding in the school cafeteria.

“My belief,” says 2nd grade teacher Karen Waibel, one of the project organizers, “is that kids need to see a purpose for learning. They need things to touch and feel and do, so that they can understand.”
Tualatin is one of the district’s most diverse schools, as well as one of its most successful - over 90% of students met or exceeded the state standards in math and reading last year, earning the school an Outstanding rating on the Oregon Report Card for the first time. Tualatin Elementary offers both full-day and half-day kindergarten options for students.

The school has found success using the Effective Behavior and Intervention Support (EBIS) program to help struggling students. The district-wide initiative uses data to develop strategies designed so students can reach benchmark and turn around problematic behavior. The teachers meet with parents so they can be involved in solutions, too. “Having the families involved helps them to see what we do at school,” says Erin Gillam, the school counselor and psychologist.

Principal Johanna Cena says the school staff doesn’t view EBIS as a district mandate but as a system that teachers and staff use every day to guide their instruction and the decisions they make about interventions. “If a child is struggling, we’re on it,” says Cena. “We look at kids in a systematic way and develop very specific interventions...Teachers really need to know how to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of all their kids... Failure is not an option.”

A commitment to Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) techniques improved instruction of English Language Learners (ELL). A Spanish language arts program is aimed at helping younger English Language Learners, effectively doubling the time they get on reading in both languages. ELL teacher Katherine Binford says she has seen students blossom in the program, becoming bilingual readers and even exceeding the reading benchmarks in English and Spanish within a couple of years of arriving in the country. “These kids that are getting both languages at the same time are exceeding their peers on reading assessments,” says Binford. “That’s my favorite part of the job -- teaching kids how to read. There’s nothing better.”

Cena, a one-time ELL teacher, notes it was also critical to hold trainings on “Courageous Conversations about Race” to understand the impact of race and culture on equity and academics. Teachers made home visits and did more outreach to families.

Africa Ramirez-Lopez, an instructional assistant as well as a parent at the school, serves as a liaison to many Latino families. “I get them to come to meetings and say what they feel – what we’re doing right or wrong, what they may need help with,” she says.

“It’s about building relationships with our students,” Cena says. “We can be using the right strategies, but we also have to make those connections to understand the cultural aspects of what’s going on in the classroom and what’s going on with kids at home.”

The Tualatin Elementary Arts Foundation provides students with afterschool enrichment opportunities they would not get otherwise, such as the “ukestra” ukulele orchestra. About 2/3 of all students get to participate in the afterschool program at minimal or no cost. “When students get a chance to express themselves, they believe in themselves,” says 3rd/4th grade teacher Kathryn LePore, who teaches hip-hop dance and spearheaded a drive to secure a grant to save the program. “We want to activate all parts of their brains.”

“Winning the Celebrating Student Success Award is an honor for the school, especially the students who work so hard,” says Binford. “The message that it sends to the kids is, ‘You can do it!’”

Click here to learn more about Tualatin Elementary and other schools closing the achievement gap. Videos on this year’s schools are coming soon!

Oregon Diploma Talk

This bi-weekly item highlights actions taken, various questions, and background relating to the Oregon diploma.

The Oregon State Board of Education recently adopted higher cut scores for reading which are aligned to national and international standards. These new achievement standards, effective starting in the 2011-12 school year, will provide teachers and students with more information about where students are today and what they need to do to prepare for high school and beyond.

Visit the ODE Reading Achievement Standards webpage for more information on these new cut scores, the standard setting process, and educator resources.

Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools

Announcing Ninth Grade Counts Summer 2011
Summer is right around the corner and we know that “summer learning loss PDF” accounts for up to two-thirds of the achievement gap in ninth grade. The support provided through Ninth Grade Counts partner programs is making a positive, measurable difference for students across Portland and Multnomah County. We are pleased to release the 2011 Ninth Grade Counts Guide Book, available in English PDF and Spanish PDF. Ninth Grade Counts programs provide academic support, enrichment, and exposure to college and career options in order to help incoming ninth graders prepare for high school and beyond. Most programs also offer the opportunity to earn high school credits. The initiative is a part of Summer Youth Connect, a series of summer support opportunities sponsored by the City of Portland, Multnomah County, the Portland Schools Foundation and Worksystems, Inc.It will take the best efforts of the entire community to support all students from cradle to career. Let’s get started today! Click here to learn more.

Sustainable Solutions Conference, June 21, 2011
Join us for the first annual Sustainable Schools – Sustainable Solutions Conference, Engaging Students to Meet the Essential Skills, taking place at Gladstone High School on June 21, 2011. Featured speaker Jaimie Cloud will give you a deepened understanding of Education for Sustainability, systems thinking, and how to integrate them into your classrooms, schools and districts for success and in support of Oregon’s Essential Skills. If you are an Oregon teacher or administrator and would benefit from a scholarship, apply now while they last! These funds are contributed by the Oregon Education Association and Oregon Community Foundation. Details and registration are available from the conference website: http://www.sustainableschools.org/about/conference.htm or contact: Lori Stole, lstole@zerowaste.org eMail, 503-307-4067.

NASA Accepting Applications from 'Inspired' High School Students
U.S. high school students are invited to participate in NASA's Interdisciplinary National Science Program Incorporating Research Experience, or INSPIRE, through an online learning community. INSPIRE is designed to encourage students in 9th through 12th grades to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Applications are being accepted through June 30. NASA will make selections for the program in September. The selected students and their parents will participate in an online learning community with opportunities to interact with peers, NASA engineers, and scientists. The online community also provides appropriate grade level educational activities, discussion boards, and chat rooms for participants to gain exposure to careers and opportunities available at NASA. Students selected for the program also will have the option to compete for unique grade-appropriate experiences during the summer of 2012 at NASA facilities and participating universities. The summer experience provides students with a hands-on opportunity to investigate education and careers in the STEM disciplines. INSPIRE is part of NASA's education strategy to attract and retain students in the STEM disciplines critical to NASA's missions. More details are at: www.nasa.gov/education/INSPIRE.

Susan's Schedule

Week of May 30 – Superintendent Castillo met with legislative leadership on the Department of Education’s budget, spoke at the Tualatin Rotary Club on “Meeting the Challenges of the New World Economy: The Imperative of Increased Expectations for Oregon Students,” met with students of Tigard-Tualatin School District’s Intercambio Leadership and Race in the 21st Century class, attended an education reception hosted by Governor John Kitzhaber, announced the 2011 Oregon ECMC Scholars, and spoke at an all-school assembly at Tualatin Elementary – a 2011 Celebrating Student Success Champion (see above for Tualatin’s story).

Week of June 6 – Susan will attend the PCUN-UO Partnership: Celebrating Latino History event in Eugene and will speak at the Birth to Three Family Matters Event in Eugene.

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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