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2/16/2012 7:36:00 AM
Superintendent's Update #355
Superintendent's Update

Welcome to Superintendent Castillo's monthly update which highlights the hard work and achievements of schools across Oregon. The Superintendent's Update also gives you the latest information on important initiatives facing Oregon educators, administrators, and students.

Here’s what you’ll find in this issue:

  • Closing the Achievement Gap: Spotlight on Woodburn Academy of Art, Science, and Technology
  • Moving Away from No Child Left Behind: A District Perspective
  • Oregon Diploma Talk
  • Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools
  • Susan’s Schedule

Closing the Achievement Gap: Spotlight on Woodburn Academy of Art, Science, and Technology
By Susan Castillo

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

Woodburn Academy of Art, Science and Technology (WAAST) Principal Geri Federico pulls no punches when describing the state of student achievement at Woodburn High six years ago. “Our scores were dismal,” she says. When the school won a Gates Foundation Small Schools Initiative grant to split the large high school into four themed academies, Federico, the high school’s associate principal at the time, had some misgivings. Today, she says, “It has been, hands down, the best thing we could have ever done.”

Results tell the story. All four high school academies have seen performance improve. WAAST leads the way with double digit improvements for the past two years in students meeting math and reading benchmarks. Personalization is key. The small-school approach means WAAST students, though they share the school building and campus with the other academies, are enrolled in a self-contained academy of 350 rather than a school of 1,300. The students choose which academy to attend and are further divided into cohorts that meet daily with a teacher who provides guidance and support. “You really know every student and every staff member – you see them every day,” says math teacher Jamie Jeffrey. “It feels like a family.”
When the small-school conversion occurred in 2006, the staff made a fresh start. The principal and teachers developed common agreements to align curriculum, instruction, and assessment and created a professional development plan to support their goals. “When you have a staff of more than one hundred, it can be hard to get everyone on the same page,” Federico says. “Now we can get all our staff in one room at the same time for a conversation.”

A major change was what Federico calls the “de-privatization” of classrooms. Teachers opened up their doors, collaborating in teams and conducting regular “learning walks” to observe each other in practice. During weekly late starts, teachers get time to work closely in teams focused on academics, assessments, professional development, and equity. Federico has been working to improve her skills as an instructional leader. Supported by the school district partnership with the Center for Leadership (University of Washington), she has been spending more time in the classrooms and working with teachers. “We work together collaboratively,” says Federico. “Our classrooms are open so that it becomes a lab experience where teachers are working together and students are working together.”

The focus on educational equity is especially important in a high-poverty, high-minority community like Woodburn. That diversity poses certain challenges, but it is also the school’s strength. “Having that lens on equity is so important,” says teaching and learning facilitator and teacher Mary Bonner. “You see what happens when we make assumptions or excuses about kids who come from poverty or are English Language Learners.” Undergoing training on equity has helped create a more respectful, supportive environment in the school, says Bonner. “Equity doesn’t mean everything is equal, but it does mean everyone gets an equal shot... You have to have those high expectations.”

WAAST' WAAST is also making a push towards a proficiency-based model – evaluating students on how well they grasp key skills and concepts, rather than just “seat time.” “We’re having conversations about how our instruction needs to change; how our assessments need to improve,” says Jeffrey. She compares proficiency to the process of getting a driver’s license – students have to be able to demonstrate what they know. “You don’t get anything for just reading the manual,” says Jeffrey. “What matters is how well you can drive... It’s just like what students experience outside school – it’s the way the world works.”

All of these steps – high standards, proficiency – are geared toward preparing students for graduation, as well as college and careers. Several times a year, the students work on their education plans and profiles to set goals for themselves. “Students have multiple opportunities throughout the school year to look at their transcripts, identifying what credits they’ve completed and which ones they still have to complete,” says counselor Tony Manetti. “The kids don’t get lost in the shuffle.”

Devon, a sophomore at the school, says WAAST is a huge improvement over the big high school he used to attend. “I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to come here. It’s a great atmosphere, everyone’s nice, teachers are awesome, and work gets done.”

Click here to learn more about WAAST and other schools closing the achievement gap including short videos sharing each school’s story.

Moving Away from No Child Left Behind: A District Perspective

The following is an extract from Springfield Superintendent Nancy Golden’s opinion piece which ran in the Eugene Register Guard on February 7. Nancy clearly and eloquently sums up many of the frustrations surrounding the current No Child Left Behind mandates and the opportunity presented by our recent federal waiver proposal. Our state is taking a bold new approach to accountability and reporting, one that we believe will better serve both our students and our schools. You can learn more about the waiver design process and read the recently submitted waiver at: http://www.ode.state.or.us/go/nextgen. We expect to hear back from the US Department of Education regarding our proposal later this spring.
- Susan Castillo

It’s time to abandon No Child Left Behind

By Nancy Golden

The Oregon Department of Education estimates that 800 schools across our state won’t meet NCLB standards next year, and that school districts will be forced to divert $30 million to $45 million from classrooms to pay for mandated programs in sanctioned schools.

There is a better way. Oregon has applied for a waiver to replace the punitive provisions of NCLB with a flexible Oregon alternative that ensures accountability and better student outcomes — if the Legislature approves the creation of educational achievement compacts this February.

To be freed from NCLB, the U.S. Department of Education requires states to develop accountability systems that distinguish performance among schools and push every school and district toward better outcomes. Rather than merely resetting NCLB’s arbitrary yardstick for measuring success, Oregon’s waiver application proposes a new approach based on “achievement compacts.” Those compacts are dynamic, transparent partnership agreements between the state and each educational institution. Through achievement compacts, school districts would set ambitious, but achievable goals for performance on outcomes, such as third grade reading, high school graduation and closing the achievement gap.

Those are key milestones in our students’ path to graduating from high school ready for college and career — or, as we say in Springfield, “prepared for a bright and successful future.” I have already been collaborating with our teachers’ association leaders about what a Springfield achievement compact would look like. When it comes time to develop the compact this spring, the school board and I will invite broad participation from the community, and our budget priorities will align to meet our goals for our students.

With the achievement compacts in place, our local efforts will be aligned with 196 other school districts across Oregon. We will each set our own targets and strive, together, to help Oregon meet the state’s 2025 goal: 100 percent high school graduation; 40 percent of students earning a two-year degree or career certification; and 40 percent earning a bachelor’s degree or higher. The achievement compacts will also allow us to compare outcomes among districts — what’s working and what’s not, with similar students — which will be useful to policymakers, teachers and parents alike.

While setting goals is important, what matters most is reaching them. With the compacts in place, the state plans to relieve all school districts from some state-imposed rules, standards and reporting burdens that have impeded innovation. The state also plans to set up a tiered system of supports and interventions designed to boost achievement at lower-performing schools by drawing on the expertise of similar schools that have done better. It is time to dispense with NCLB’s top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to school accountability. Without bold change and the adoption of achievement compacts in February, we risk being left with the status quo under No Child Left Behind — an unacceptable outcome.

The choice is clear, and the time is now to move forward on our shared vision for student success in Oregon.

Oregon Diploma Talk
This item highlights key topics relating to the Oregon diploma and the Common Core State Standards.

We know that students who take more rigorous courses are better prepared for college and career. The good news is that many Oregon students take some form of advanced coursework while in high school either through Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate programs, or direct enrollment in college courses through our Dual Credit programs. However, as the College Board’s recent Advanced Placement Report to the Nation shows, there is still a lot of work to do. Only about one quarter of last year’s seniors took an AP course during high school and the participation rate for minority and low income students is even lower. While the recent report only looks at Advanced Placement exams and does not factor in the almost 16,000 students taking dual credit courses or those enrolled in IB programs, it provides a clear picture of some of the persistent gaps that need to be addressed if we are to provide all students with the rigorous content they need to be prepared for their futures. Click here to learn more.

Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools

NO BULL Teen Video Contest
You are invited to participate in The Great American NO BULL Challenge, an annual campaign that inspires America’s 25 million teens to stand up against bullying by creating videos with an anti-bullying message. The NO BULL Challenge is a free campaign and platform that can be used to educate middle and high school students about bullying awareness and prevention by integrating social media, scholarships, prizes and a red carpet awards event (Teen Video Awards, produced by Live Nation) to highlight the best of the best videos from around the country. View one of the recent student-created videos here. Both students and educators are provided all of the necessary resources they need via the online NO BULL toolkits. To learn more about the campaign or to get started, visit: www.nobullchallenge.org. Video upload deadline is March 15, 2012.

Oregon Middle and High School Principal of the Year Nominations Sought
Do you know of a middle or high school principal in your community, district, or the state of Oregon who is worthy of recognition? The NASSP/MetLife Principal of the Year Award provides a great way to honor that outstanding individual. COSA is now seeking nominations for both middle and high school principals. The nominee must be an active middle or high school principal and a current member of NASSP and OASSA. Applications are available on the COSA website by clicking here. To encourage participation, COSA has shortened the initial application process. Oregon applicants should complete all parts of the national form, except the three essay questions, and provide only one letter of recommendation from their immediate supervisor /superintendent. Completed applications (except the three essays) with only one letter of recommendation are due into the COSA office by Friday, March 16, 2012.

Imagine Tomorrow
Imagine Tomorrow challenges 9-12 grade students from Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Washington to seek new ways to support the transition to alternate energy sources. Students research complex topics, then innovate technologies, designs, or plans to mobilize behavior. They forge connections in their communities and create positive change. In this competition, as in life, solutions are limited only by imagination. There is no registration fee and house and meals are provided at no cost. In addition, small grants are available to help teams launch their 2012 projects. Registration opens March 1 and closes April 2. Register early – space is limited. The competition will be held May 18-20, 2012 at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. Visit http://imagine.wsu.edu/ to learn more or contact organizers at imagine@wsu.edu eMail or (509) 335-1467.

Susan's Schedule

Week of Feb 6 – Superintendent Susan Castillo met with Representative Sherrie Sprenger, participated in the Oregon Education Investment Board meeting, released statewide fall enrollment numbers, met with Representative Peter Buckley, interviewed with KEZI regarding school enrollment numbers, participated in a pre-peer reviewer opportunity regarding Oregon’s ESEA flexibility request, and met with students of the West Linn High School Lobby Club.

Week of Feb 13 – The Superintendent spoke before the Ways & Means Education Subcommittee, lunched with statewide elected officials and participated in various meetings with the Governor’s education advisors.

Week of Feb 20 – Susan will participate in various meetings with the Governor’s education advisors, and will participate in a SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium meeting regarding Common Core State Standards with other state superintendents.

Week of Feb 28 – Susan will co-present with Ben Cannon, Education Policy Advisor to the Governor, before the Hispanic Metropolitan Luncheon in Portland; meet with Malbert Smith and Anne Schiano of MetaMetrics; and listen to feedback on important education issues from her Youth Advisory Team.

The February 2012 issue of Superintendent's Pipeline is available on the ODE website.

Click here to access archived issues of Superintendent’s Update.

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