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8/18/2011 9:00:00 AM
Superintendent's Update #347
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:
  • Adding a Touch of CLASS
  • Closing the Achievement Gap: Spotlight on Jason Lee K-8
  • Oregon Diploma Talk
  • Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools
  • Susan’s Schedule

Adding a Touch of CLASS
By Susan Castillo

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Lebanon Community Schools to see the excellent work being done there with the Chalkboard Project's CLASS initiative. I sat in on a meeting as representatives from the teachers union and the district administration partnered on an ambitious agenda. Slowly but surely, they are getting traction on some of the most pressing issues facing teaching and education today: professional development, career paths, performance evaluations, and alternative compensation models.

This CLASS work is deeply collaborative—and ultimately, trust is going to be the key to its success. Lebanon has an innovative superintendent in Rob Hess, who will be the first to tell you he has been effective because he has earned the trust of teachers.

This isn't top-down reform. This is happening at the district level, with teachers driving the agenda. After all, they understand better than anyone that an effective teacher is the single most important factor in the classroom. In Lebanon I got to see first-hand how committed everyone is to this work.

"Our teachers are 100% involved and empowered in the conversation," says Kimberly Fandiño, a teacher and special projects coordinator as well as a former president of the teachers union. She's the one who invited me down to Lebanon.

The old ways of doing things don't work anymore. The teachers working on the CLASS Project understand they need to change the way they do business if they want to be more effective at their jobs —and that's really what every teacher wants. The Lebanon teachers already involved in this initiative can see the benefits. The word they used over and over to describe their approach was "rigor," and that really says everything you need to know about their commitment to doing the right thing.

"It's not about teachers doing more, it's about doing things differently," Fandiño, says. "We understand that every teacher, even the most exemplary teacher, can always get better."

This isn't easy to do—change is never easy. But everyone around the table understands that the status quo must change, and that they are the ones shaping the future of education. They also understand this is ultimately about student outcomes. Already some of these districts are showing significant improvements in student achievement. A strong majority of teachers in those districts say that the work is making a difference in their schools.

I commend the Chalkboard Project's outstanding leadership with CLASS. They understand the need to be both innovative and collaborative. Thanks to Chalkboard's work, 14 districts across the state are taking on this challenge, leading the way for the entire state. This spring, the CLASS initiative got an extra boost through additional federal funding and support from the Oregon Legislature—ensuring that this innovative and inspiring work will continue building bridges and bringing us together to do the work that is so important for our children's future.

Closing the Achievement Gap: Spotlight on Jason Lee K-8
By Susan Castillo

This feature highlights high poverty and/or minority schools recognized in 2011 for their progress in closing the academic achievement gap.
A “Cycle of Inquiry” – a constant process of examining achievement data, recalibrating instruction and monitoring student progress – drives every decision made about kids at Jason Lee School.

“The idea is that we have systems set up where we’re regularly checking in on students, both formally and informally, reflecting on that, shifting our response based on what we’ve learned, and then starting all over again,” says instructional facilitator Katy Mayo-Hudson.
The Northeast Portland School is remarkably diverse – the school has similarly sized populations of Asian, Hispanic, African-American, and White students. Poverty has grown over the years, from 57% of students a decade ago to 77% today.

Lee’s commitment to excellence begins with full-day kindergarten for all kids. Thanks to the full-day commitment, last year, 100% of kindergarten students completed the school year academically ready to start 1st grade.

“Many of these children come in the door, and they don’t know the letters of the alphabet,” says Sam Yamauchi, a kindergarten teacher who has been at Lee for 26 years. “If we can get kids reading and writing by the end of kindergarten, it can change everything.”

A Reading First grant five years ago jump-started a new era of excellence at Lee. Teachers started analyzing student data and working in teams, and slowly but surely, achievement started to rise.

“Through our professional learning communities, I’ve had the opportunity to work with my colleagues and talk about what they’re doing in their classrooms,” says 5th grade teacher Holly Wilson. “Then with the Cycle of Inquiry, we create a plan, implement, assess, and reflect together – how it worked, what didn’t work... It’s really helped me as a teacher to direct my instruction and make every single thing I do in my classroom be really intentional.”

As part of their ongoing development, Lee teachers are videotaped in their classrooms. “They watch themselves and we have a conversation afterward, and it’s been transformative because teachers get to see themselves in a different way,” says Principal Sascha Perrins.

The school’s leadership team is a standout. Perrins and Assistant Principal Leslie O’Dell get praise from the staff for their accessibility. “They don’t stay in their offices behind closed doors,” says Wilson. “They’re constantly in the classrooms, and I think that sends a message not only to the kids, but to everyone who works in the building.”

Jason For struggling students, the school uses the Response to Intervention (RTI) program to systematically track academic progress and design instruction for individual students.

“So much of learning is about the relationships between the students and between the teachers and the students,” says Mayo-Hudson. “The teachers here are very much connected with individual kids. We concentrate on creating a safe place for them here at school.”

Many pieces contribute to the bigger picture – the school is in its second year of school uniforms, a move driven by families; the Playworks program structures recess and other programs in a way that has engaged kids and reduced discipline issues; an “Eat Your Greens” policy in the cafeteria requires that every student eat something green from the salad bar at every lunch. “There’s a connection between exercise and nutrition and student achievement,” says Perrins.

Most Lee students come from families in which parents didn’t go to college. So teachers foster their students’ college ambitions, and the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program for 6-8th graders helps students get on track to higher education before they even enter high school.

“We’re constantly talking to them about college, and that creates a sense of urgency about the work they are doing,” says Perrins. ”When you care about kids, you have high expectations.”

5th grade teacher Wilson echoes that sentiment. She grew up in poverty and knows firsthand the importance of holding her students to a high standard. “We don’t let them slide or slip up,” she says. “I tell my students that the challenges they face are just that – challenges, and everyone has an opportunity to rise above.”

Click here to learn more about Jason Lee 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.
Oregon is one of the governing states in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) which is working to develop common assessments for the Common Core State Standards (national learning expectations to be phased in over the coming years). SBAC recently released draft content specifications in English Language Arts/literacy for public comment and review. Based on the Common Core State Standards, the content specifications provide a framework for the development of the SMARTER Balanced assessment system. SBAC is seeking feedback from interested stakeholders on these English/literacy specifications by August 29.
SBAC anticipates release of draft content specifications in mathematics on August 29 for public comment and review; feedback for mathematics is anticipated to be due by September 19.

Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools

Oregon FIRST Robotics Grants Available
Public high schools, charter schools, and alternative programs housed in an ESD or community college are eligible for funding for FIRST™ robotics teams. Grants are through the Oregon Department of Education and the application is available online at: http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=1626. Application are due by September 22, 2011. Questions? Please contact Tom Thompson at tom.thompson@ode.state.or.us eMail.

En Camino Educational Toolkit for Families
The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) has released new informational tools to help parents and families prepare for college. En Camino is a comprehensive toolkit of educational resources that support Spanish-speaking families’ aspirations for education and educational attainment and help create strong transition partnerships between programs and postsecondary educational institutions. The new set of multi-media resources will help people unfamiliar with navigating the U.S. college system gain access and information necessary for preparing and succeeding in college and beyond. Visit www.famlit.org/myfamilygoestocollege for more information.

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 eMail or 503-378-5199.

Susan's Schedule

Week of August 15 – Superintendent Castillo participated in the State Board of Education Retreat at the Chemeketa Viticulture Center in Salem.

Week of August 22 – Susan will participate in the Council of Chief State School Officers CEO to CEO Exchange meeting in Utah.

The August 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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