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5/17/2012 7:37:00 AM
Superintendent's Update #358
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:

  • Celebrating Student Success: Spotlight on Washington Elementary
  • Federal Flexibility Waiver Update
  • Oregon Teacher of the Year Helps Advise U.S.E.D. on Teacher Policy
  • Oregon Diploma Talk
  • Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools
  • Susan’s Schedule

Celebrating Student Success: Spotlight on Washington Elementary
By Susan Castillo

This week, I had the great pleasure to visit Pendleton’s Washington Elementary, one of this year’s Celebrating Student Success Champions. While I always love visiting our schools, I find it especially inspiring to visit our Celebrating Student Success honorees and learn firsthand what they are doing to close the academic achievement gap. CTAG

I was joined in my visit by local officials, including the Mayor of Pendleton, who were so proud to show their support of the great work going on at this amazing school.Walking into Washington Elementary you can feel the energy—and the commitment. I know the staff would be the first to say that there is still work to be done to get all kids to the high standards they have set for them, but the school has a clear and focused vision and they are seeing strong results.

At Washington, which is located on the edge of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, nearly half of the students are Native American. That distinctive diversity "enriches the experience for all our kids," says Principal Curt Thompson. For example, in addition to the typical slate of afterschool activities and sports, students get to participate in programs such as Sons and Daughters of Tradition, which teaches about Native American culture and values through art, history, and language.

With more than 70% of its students coming from low-income backgrounds, Washington understands that children need to have their basic needs met if they are expected to succeed in school. The community comes together to make sure that happens for every child. The school offers students a full breakfast every day and even sends groceries home for the neediest families on Fridays. The staff also works to connect students and their families with housing and social services—whatever it takes. “If a kid needs glasses, "says Rhonda Smith, a child development specialist and counselor, "I have a grant from a business in town that allows me to say, 'Honey, we’ll get you to the doctor tomorrow to get an exam and get you glasses so you can read.’”

When the school was forced to cut educational assistants, a "Work to School" partnership was created in which area businesses share employees for an hour a week to tutor students. The students benefit from the individualized attention, and the adult participants appreciate the opportunity to make a difference in kids' lives. "The program engages the community in a way that truly gives businesses a hands-on way to help our school increase student achievement," says Thompson.

With that community involvement setting the foundation, teachers are more able to focus on academics in the classroom. After noting gaps in curriculum consistency, Washington aligned the K-5 curriculum and schedule. Struggling students now receive the same grade-level core instruction as everyone else, while also getting the strategic small-group support they need to keep pace. The Response to Intervention program, a data-driven approach to identifying and supporting struggling students, spurred many of the changes. Teachers collaborate more than ever, using and sharing data to make decisions about instruction. "That focus on data is fairly new," says Thompson. "It used to be people would say, 'I think we need to change x, y or z.' Now any decision we make is based on data… You have teachers in the lunchroom talking about a new idea, and they will be asked to show the data."
All this led to a shift in thinking from what teachers were teaching to what students were learning. "The focus isn't so much on what you're doing as a teacher," says Smith. "The focus now is on what your kids are doing, and how you can help them be better learners."

That carefully cultivated "culture of learning" has teachers working together in professional learning communities and visiting schools inside and outside the district for "learning walks" to observe peers in their own classrooms. “We never stop learning,” says Jan Levy, a kindergarten teacher. “We’re always looking for new materials and new strategies to meet the needs of our kids.”

As a result, all teachers feel they have a stake in the school and its students. When the master schedule needed to be reworked to allow for more intervention time, every certified staffer volunteered to attend a work session to hammer out the details.

That commitment to continuous improvement is essential when teaching children facing so many challenges. The students in turn appreciate that Washington is a safe and happy place for them to be, regardless of what else is going on in their lives. "We have kids coming into kindergarten not knowing letters or sounds," says Levy. "And then by the end of the school year they’re starting to read… Working here can be a challenge, but the rewards are great because you know you’re really needed.”

For more on our 2012 Celebrating Student Success Schools, visit: http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=3585. A brochure with stories on all of this year’s winners will be available online by the end of the month.

Top Photo: Superintendent Castillo, Washington Elementary Principal Curt Thompson, and Washington students display the awards check.

Federal Flexibility Waiver Update
By Susan Castillo

This winter, Oregon was one of a number of states to request a federal flexibility waiver from the cookie-cutter mandates of No Child Left Behind. This waiver provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to design a new accountability system that better serves our students and schools, focuses on supports rather than sanctions, and better aligns our education system around preparing students for college and careers.

Oregon is currently in the second phase of the waiver review process. We are actively working with our partners at the U.S. Department of Education on revising and refining our waiver to ensure federal approval. This is a standard part of the process and one our colleagues in other states are also engaged in. We anticipate final federal approval later this spring.

I know many of you have questions about what the final version of the waiver will look like and what it will ultimately mean for our students and our schools. We will have additional details available once the federal review and approval process is completed. However, in the meantime, I encourage you to visit our website for more information and resources.

I appreciate your patience as we continue to move through this process. This is very important and exciting work and it has only been possible thanks to the engagement of stakeholders from around the state who gave of their time and expertise to help draft a new direction for accountability in our state.

Oregon Teacher of the Year Helps Advise U.S.E.D. on Teacher Policy
By Susan Castillo

Elena In April, Oregon’s 2012 Teacher of the Year, Elena Garcia-Velasco, joined state Teachers of the Year from around the country in Washington D.C. for a week of activities honoring their accomplishments and contributions. At the end of the week, the teachers came together for a conversation on how to improve the teaching profession in the United States.

As described in a U.S. Department of Education blog post, what began as a discussion on how to elevate the teaching profession, “grew into a passionate plea by the teacher leaders for total transformation.”

When asked to describe how she lead the profession from the classroom, Elena Garcia-Velasco said, “I teach because I want to change the script.”

To access the full blog post, click here.
To learn more about Elena or the Oregon Teacher of the Year program, click here.
To nominate a teacher for Teacher of the Year, click here.

Photo: Oregon Teacher of the Year Elena Garcia-Velasco (right) with Jill Biden.

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

In order to graduate prepared for today’s, and tomorrow’s, careers, our students need to leave school with a strong foundation in science and technology. Oregon is one of 26 states helping to lead the development of rigorous Next Generation Science Standards to help ensure that our students are ready to compete.

These new K-12 science standards will be rich in content and practice and arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education. The first public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will be available for review now through June 1. You can read the standards and link to the survey to give feedback on the standards from http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards.

The NGSS will be based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education developed by the National Research Council. For more information on the development of the Framework and to download a free PDF version of the Framework, please visit: http://www7.nationalacademies.org/bose/Standards_Framework_Homepage.html.

Opportunities and Financial Resources for Students and Schools

Seeking Nominations for Oregon Teacher of the Year
The Oregon Department of Education is now accepting nominations for the 2012-13 Oregon Teacher of the Year. Anyone may nominate a candidate for the Oregon Teacher of the Year program; however, a candidate cannot nominate him/herself. To nominate a teacher, fill out the Talent Pool Recommendation Form at http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=221. At the end of the recommendation, check the box to nominate the individual for the Oregon Teacher of the Year. The deadline for nominations is May 24, 2012. The 2012-13 Oregon Teacher of the Year will be announced during the fall of 2012.

ASCD Seeks Outstanding Young Educators for Recognition and $10,000 Award
For the past decade, ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator Award (OYEA) Program has recognized creative and committed teachers and administrators under the age of 40 who demonstrate excellence in educating the whole child. OYEA winners will receive: a $10,000 award; recognition at the 2013 ASCD Annual Conference; and the opportunity to participate in a year-long program of professional development and networking. Anyone can nominate a colleague or you can nominate yourself. Go to www.ascd.org/oyea and complete an online application today! Nominations for 2013 close on August 1, 2012.

Susan's Schedule

Week of May 7 – Superintendent Susan Castillo traveled back from Beijing, China. The Chinese Ministry of Education invited and hosted a small group of education leaders from the United States to participate in the 3rd Annual US-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange in Beijing. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong, the highest-ranking woman in the Chinese government, co-chaired this event purposed with engaging state education leaders with provincial education leaders in order to form new or strengthen existing partnerships in the areas of K12 education. This year’s education focus was on standards; quality, including teacher quality; and equity. While visiting Beijing, Susan met with high ranking officials from the Confucius Institute, also known as Hanban. The Oregon Department of Education has a Memorandum of Understanding with Hanban confirming a partnership to provide teacher training programs, educational materials, and support through various other resources. Susan also spoke on an education panel at the 2012 China Overseas Studies Forum that was hosted by the Tencent QQ – a social network based in China with approximately half a billion users.

Week of May 14 – The Superintendent traveled to Pendleton to visit Washington Elementary School, a 2012 Celebrating Student Success Champion; met with local educators for a listening session and to share updates on education reform; and met with Les Minthorn, Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Susan also participated in the State Board of Education meeting.

Week of May 21 – Susan will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio for the Collaborating to Transform the Teaching Profession Conference with a team from Oregon consisting of: Hanna Vaandering and Lindsey Capps of OEA, Betsy Miller-Jones of OSBA and Chuck Bennett from COSA. This conference is focused on highlighting innovative approaches – at both the State and district levels – to improving student achievement by dramatically increasing the stature of the teaching profession and the number of highly effective teachers in our nation’s schools.

May 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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