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9/8/2011 4:12:00 PM
Superintendent's Update #348
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:
  • Student Achievement on the Rise but Fewer Schools Meet Federal Targets
  • Closing the Achievement Gap: Spotlight on Lot Whitcomb Elementary
  • Oregon Diploma Talk
  • Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools
  • Susan’s Schedule

Student Achievement on the Rise but Fewer Schools Meet Federal Targets
By Susan Castillo

Last week, I released the 2010-11 test results for Oregon students and this morning I released the final AYP results for our schools. I am very proud of the progress Oregon students and schools made this year, especially in math as we ask more of our students than ever before.

Lot This past year, we raised the bar in elementary and middle school math, asking our students to demonstrate a higher level of mastery in order to meet state standards. We did this to ensure our students would enter high school with the skills needed to succeed and graduate college and career ready. We believed that our students were capable of achieving at these higher levels, and this year’s test results clearly demonstrate that they are. We are seeing our students rise to the challenge of these higher math expectations with increased student learning at all grades. As expected, not all students will get over this higher bar the first year, and that has impacted both test results and AYP ratings, but these results clearly indicate that our students are on the right track.

Our test results also give us better information than ever before about how many of our students will be prepared to meet the Essential Skills of reading, writing, and math which will be required for the graduates of 2012, 2013, and 2014 respectively. It was good to see so many more of our students demonstrating proficiency in these key subject areas. But while the percent of students meeting is up dramatically in all four areas, we clearly have a great deal of work still to be done. Based on this year’s results, 17% of our high school students are not meeting standard in reading, 32% are not meeting standard in writing, and 32% not meeting standard in math. Particularly with the 6,800 students who have not yet met the reading requirements for graduation next spring, we have our work cut out for us to provide these students with the instruction and supports needed to meet this requirement.

I know these are challenging times. Budgets are tight, and we are in a time of great change with more rigorous expectations in reading and math, approaching essential skills requirements, and the Common Core State Standards on the horizon. Challenging times to be sure. But these are also very exciting times. Education is all about learning and growing, the process of continuous improvement—for students, yes —but also for teachers, administrators, policy makers, and board members.

As we look ahead to the school year to come, I hope that you are as excited as I am about all of the possibilities these changes hold in store for our students, our schools, and our communities. Thank you for everything you do every day for Oregon kids and thank you for your commitment to this important educational journey!

Closing the Achievement Gap: Spotlight on Lot Whitcomb Elementary
By Susan Castillo

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

At Lot Whitcomb Elementary, learning starts with trust. Five years ago, the Milwaukie school was struggling with behavior and academic issues as the school’s demographics were shifting. Based upon the data that was collected they knew they had to change the way they delivered instruction.

Recognizing the need to change, the school started what Principal Sid Ong calls a “journey,” beginning with a school-wide reading of the book, “Learning to Trust.” The book lays out strategies for understanding, engaging, and motivating students. Teachers took the lessons to heart and started seeing their kids in a new way. “We spent four months on the book study – we had the author, Marilyn Watson, volunteer to come up,” Ong says.

Lot Within just a few months, discipline issues declined and teacher and student morale rose. “Kids felt empowered and started talking about community.”

Second grade teacher Marie-Claire Wonacott, who helped bring the book to the school’s attention, says Whitcomb was transformed by the philosophy. In fact, the staff plans to re-read the book this year.

“You realize that every kid comes from the position of wanting your love and your caring and your acceptance, but some just don’t know how to get that,” says Wonacott. “This book really got teachers to see kids in that light – going from, ‘Here’s a kid who is defying me, that’s not OK,’ to ‘why is this child defying me?’ and ‘What can I do to help them be successful?’ Because teachers are relating to kids in a different way, the kids change how they relate to the teachers and to the other kids in the classroom.”

A Reading First federal grant eight years ago funded extensive teacher training that continues to pay off today. Whitcomb revamped its approach to literacy, establishing a consistent core curriculum, grouping students according to reading levels, and fostering teacher collaboration on instruction, assessment, and intervention.

“The grant caused us to rethink how we deliver reading instruction and how we use our resources,” Ong says.

The school’s professional learning communities make the curriculum work. The teacher teams meet weekly to study student data and share successful strategies. Whitcomb teachers also work in teams to design interventions based on the Response to Intervention (RTI) model. “We work collectively, always questioning whether what we’re doing is working,” says Donna Bush, instructional coach.
“There was a point in time when we did what we did based on what we believed in our hearts was best for students,” says 6th grade teacher Katie Morgan. “Now we keep track of what they’re learning and how they’re learning. We’re not waiting to the end of the month or the year to see whether or not students are improving – we’re making sure as we go along. And as soon as you start looking at that data and you start implementing that strategy, you realize, ‘Wow, this works much better and much faster.’”

Grants also support the Ready, Set, Go early childhood intervention program, aimed at getting at-risk children prepared for kindergarten. The program works closely with families to engage parents in their children’s learning – a connection that pays off as the children grow up.

“Our biggest regret is that we can’t bring in more students – it’s just one teacher,” says Ong. He notes that the cohort of students who first started in the program are now in middle school and thriving.

Learning at Whitcomb doesn’t stop when the school day ends. The Child and Family Enrichment (CAFE) after-school program, run in partnership with the non-profit Metropolitan Family Service, offers students two extra hours in school, plus dinner before they take the bus home.

The Celebrating Student Success Award is a hard-won validation of the work the school community has done to raise student achievement.

“We put a lot of ourselves into what we do, and we don’t always see that other people recognize the work that goes into creating a school... where children will learn,” says Morgan. “The fact the state has recognized that work is a huge validation that we have to keep doing what we’re doing.” It’s not just one strategy or program making the difference at Whitcomb, she adds: “It’s the whole package.”

Click here to learn more about Whitcomb 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.

Want to learn more about the Common Core State Standards? The Oregon Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Stewardship Team and Oregon Department of Education staff are sponsoring a series of CCSS webinars beginning this fall and continuing throughout the school year. The webinars will provide updates and answer questions about CCSS implementation. Each webinar will run from 2:30-3:30 p.m. and will be recorded for later viewing. The topics and dates for the webinars are as follows:

SMARTER: October 11, 2011; February 14, 2012
CCSS Resources: October 25, 2011; February 21, 2012; May 8, 2012
Instructional Materials: October 18, 2011; February 28, 2012; May 1, 2012

Information about joining these webinars will be posted on ODE’s Events Registration web page over the next several weeks. For more information about the Common Core State Standards, visit www.ode.state.or.us/go/commoncore.

Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools

2012 National Teachers Hall of Fame Nominations
The National Teachers Hall of Fame annually honors five teachers who have demonstrated commitment and dedication to teaching our nation’s children. Anyone may nominate a teacher by completing a nomination packet. Candidates must be certified public or nonpublic classroom teachers with at least 20 years experience teaching in grades preK-12. Nomination forms may be accessed at www.nthf.org or by calling the Hall of Fame office at 620-341-5660.

Nominate a Librarian for the I Love My Librarian Award
Do you have a great teacher librarian in your school? Maybe he or she helps you find resources for teaching, explains the databases to you and your students, offers to team teach lessons to incorporate information literacy skills, knows just which book to entice reluctant readers, points you towards a new tech tool, or has creative ideas for ways students can present research projects. If so, consider nominating him/her for the I Love My Librarian award. Winners receive a $5,000 cash award and a plaque and will be honored at a ceremony in New York. Nominations are being accepted online at http://www.atyourlibrary.org/ilovemylibrarian through September 12th.

First Freedom Student Competition
The First Freedom Student Competition is a national essay and video contest offering high-school students an opportunity to compete for $2,500 awards as they examine the First Amendment and the history and implementation of religious freedom in American democracy and the world today. The upcoming school year’s topic, guidelines, student flyer, and classroom poster can be found at http://www.firstfreedom.org/. The online student registration deadline is Monday, November 14, 2011. The video upload deadline and postmark deadline for mailing the entry and its accompanying materials is Saturday, November 26, 2011.

Susan's Schedule

Week of September 5 – Superintendent Susan Castillo attended the Springfield School District’s “State of the Schools” event where Governor John Kitzhaber presented plans to improve Oregon’s education system to create better results for students, more resources for teachers, and a better return on taxpayer dollars. Susan traveled to Brazil with other state superintendents for an educational trip and conference.

Week of September 12 – Susan will meet with Brazilian education officials, and participate in the Council of Chief State School Officers 2011 International Conference on Education. Susan will present in two of the conference sessions. One session will focus on “Key Findings and Actions from the 2011 International Summit on the Teaching Profession, New York City.” A second session will focus on teacher recruitment and preparation. This international trip was paid for with funds from the Pearson Foundation and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The September 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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