The Power of CommunityPosted by Site Master on 12/18/2019
“The Power of Community”
It is hard to believe we are deep into December and knocking at the door of a new year. If I could only choose one word to describe our collective daily as well as the Student Success Act work to this point, it would be community. Of the many definitions one can find for community, I offer the following: community is experienced as a unified body of individuals with common interests living in a particular area. A pretty tall order when you consider our district community of staff and students is nearly 15,000 nested in four municipalities across two counties with a total population of nearly 80,000.
Public education is the pathway to social justice and democracy. As a community, we have a responsibility to live and work in ways that connect, not divide us. As we have engaged as a community of this size in the Student Success Act work, it would be easy for us to not live as a unified body and take the path of least resistance, defaulting to the loudest voices advocating for a singular, exceptional position. The last thing we need to do in our world today is cling to a way of life grounded in exceptionalism.
What I’ve witnessed with our community, in our classrooms and departments, is the strength of how we as a community work in unified ways. We are modeling for our children how to learn and work in ways that are interconnected with a commitment to ensuring the needs of every community member are met.
As I reflect on the coming new year, I am excited about our future. Most importantly, I am humbled by and grateful for you all – district staff, parents, civic and community partners for the special contributions you make each and every day on behalf of all of TTSD’s children. We are a community unified in the common interest and responsibility of investing in our youngest members. I thank you. It is an honor to serve as your superintendent.
Quest for Student SuccessPosted by Site Master on 11/12/2019
"Quest for Student Success"
This month, I am excited to update you regarding our district Student Success Act (SSA) work as well as share that the first Golden Hedgehog has been awarded for the year.
First, the Golden Hedgehog award. This award, inspired by author Jim Collins’ Good to Great Hedgehog Concept, recognizes district staff who are applying intentional focus and efforts that result in successful academic achievement for our students. Congratulations to Deer Creek Elementary 4th grade teachers Stephanie Burke, Rhianan Ewer, Alison Mangles and Lauren Merkel! They closed the English Language Arts SBAC gap for Special Ed students, emerging bilingual students and students navigating poverty by 7% while simultaneously raising achievement for all students. At the November 4th board meeting, I asked them to share their “special sauce” recipe for closing the gap and raising student achievement overall. Here is what they shared:
- While each teacher engaged her craft individualistically, instruction across the four classrooms were standards-based, explicit and consistent.
- They consistently disaggregated student data as a team throughout the year, adjusting their instruction based on formative assessment data.
- They committed to the creed, “My student is your student are our students”.
- They believe their students have the agency to succeed and adjust their instruction to scaffold their students to success.
- They are intellectually curious about how to improve their instructional skills and specifically identified the value of the literacy coach as a thought partner in their work.
What I found interesting about their story is that they are a direct reflection of what we find in best practice research, e.g. Zaretta Hammond, Geneva Gay, Muhammad Khalifa, Robert Marzano, Michael Fullan to name a few. And, this highly effective team is just the tip of the Tigard-Tualatin School District (TTSD) iceberg. In “Sit with Dr. Sue” coffees at Bridgeport, Metzger and Tualatin Elementary, staff shared how they are collaborating, analyzing assessment data in teams, accessing instructional coaches as thought partners and most importantly, learning from each other. This work is not only happening at the elementary level.
At the middle level, a work group consisting of teachers from all three middle schools, staff, board, and community members are engaged in “reimagining middle school” work using the My Ways Student Success Framework Again, the power of this vision and learning from each other will be the basis for future shifts in practice at the middle level.
At the high school level, teachers and staff are examining the impact on student achievement in core classrooms where advanced, rigorous curriculum and instruction are embedded for all students. It is clear I am going to need to get a lot more golden hedgehogs!
The instructional core – the interaction between the teacher, student, and curriculum – is the reason TTSD exists. The examples I have shared about the collective, collaborative professional learning and work across K-12 classrooms demonstrates the power of systems of supports that result in a healthy instructional core where all students thrive. It serves as a guide for the current district and community SSA work. Now, with the power of inclusive stakeholder input that will guide us to create a plan that will close the achievement gap and raise student achievement for all.
As a district, we will continue to seek feedback from wide-ranging, diverse voices representing all corners of our community as called out in House Bill 3427, page 8. House Bill 3427
Since the inaugural October 1st community meeting, we have convened a work group that continues to grow engaging staff, parents, students, grandparents, and community members. District Building Equity Coordinators (BECs) and School Liaisons are convening meetings with our under-represented students and parents at the school level, gathering their input. The Tigard-Tualatin Education Association has developed an SSA survey to collect input from their members, the results of which will also inform the final plan, and TTSD will continue to solicit feedback from the broader community through January 2020.
This is an exciting time for our district and state. And, as this is the month where we reflect on and celebrate our good fortune, I close with words of gratitude for you, for your commitment and for the work you do every day to make our mission of changing the lives of every student for the better a reality.
How Are the Children?Posted by Site Master on 10/18/2019
"How Are the Children?"
I remember the day I heard the fable of the African Masai tribe. I was attending my first district teacher professional development training, the focus of which was on instructional strategies for working with underserved student populations. The presenter who shared the story was a highly regarded district teacher leader and skilled “all business” instructional coach committed to closing the equity and opportunity gaps for underserved students in our district. She told the story of Masai who were considered to have warriors more fearsome and more intelligent than any other, and their traditional greeting. “Casserian Engeri,” or “How are the children?”. This traditional greeting of the Masai acknowledged the high value the Masai placed on their children’s well-being and that the priorities of knowing their children by name and need were securely in place. She then posed the question to the room, “I wonder how it might affect our consciousness of our own students’ welfare if we took to greeting each other in the same daily question, ‘And how are the children?’” I remember the total silence that fell over the auditorium that morning as we thought how we each might respond to her question. Over the 20 year course of my career, it has become my practice to reflect on that question, as a classroom teacher, school and district administrator and now superintendent as a result of that asked question. As we collectively review our district and school report cards for the 2018-19 school year, how are we as a district system providing for the educational and social emotional needs of our children?
First, a word about the new report card format. At-A-Glance school and district profile graphics show how TTSD schools and the district compare to the statewide average in categories like chronic absenteeism, graduation rates, average class size and more. In five minutes or less parents can evaluate their school and district’s impact on their students.
Overall, the district and our schools’ outcomes are above the state average regarding on track for graduation, graduation rates, and chronic absenteeism. The district on time graduation rate is 87% compared to the state on time rate of 79%, with continued growth in special education student on time graduation at 74%. Alberta Rider ES, Bridgeport ES, Deer Creek ES, and Durham ES achieved high levels of student academic growth and progress for the 2018-19 school year. This means every student, regardless of circumstance, achieved at least one year’s academic growth. Deer Creek teachers achieved more than a year’s growth, closing the achievement gap for special education, bilingual students and students navigating poverty by 7%. Durham teachers raised math achievement for a student population significantly impacted by poverty, an achievement noted by the Oregonian this week.
While the data gives reason for celebration, the data also reveals we have significant work still to do. Of 16 schools, four posted high levels of academic growth. Our opportunity as a district is to support the remaining 12 to achieve the same in pursuit of higher percentages of student proficiency in math and language arts. While we continue to make progress towards a 100% on time graduation rate, our opportunity is to close the on time gap for underserved students of color, bilingual students and students navigating poverty.
TTSD has a proud tradition of community support for our schools as exemplified by support for bond projects, local option tax for teachers and volunteerism in our classrooms. As shared in my September Blog, there is opportunity for continued collective action in addressing our students’ academic and social emotional needs through the Student Success Act community engagement meetings. Over 800 community members indicated their interest through our first survey with 80 parents, district staff and students now engaged in the process of reviewing district data to guide the district’s work in developing a comprehensive plan for actions we must take in our classrooms and in our schools to ensure the academic and social emotional needs of all students, especially the underserved student are met. Please see the district home page, your TTSD phone app, your building principal or TTSD Director for Community Relations, Traci Rose, at firstname.lastname@example.org for the dates of upcoming work group meetings where you can participate and make your voice heard.
So how are TTSD children? Can we truly say without hesitation, “The children are well. Yes, all the children are well?” While many are well, we have much work and opportunity to ensure our underserved students and families experience the same academic successes as their peers. Working together, I look forward to the day when we as the TTSD community can say, “Yes all our children are well!”
A Call to ActionPosted by Site Master on 9/13/2019
“A Call to Action”
As I write this month’s blog, I think about all the excitement for another school year observed throughout the district this past week. From the ribbon-cutting celebrations at Templeton, Byrom, Mary Woodward, and Durham elementary schools, to the amazing energy of staff welcoming returning students and families across the district. Throughout the district I saw our TTSD community and the many students who had parents, grandparents and caring adults in their lives make their student’s first day an awesome one. I also observed many students who did not have that caring adult but were welcomed with an even greater level of excitement and warmth by caring staff. The late educator Rita Pierson noted, “Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best they can possibly be.” That is the power of public education! Society daily spills over into our classrooms every day because public education is an integral part of society. When we respond from a place of care for each student, regardless of their life circumstances, we affirm the life-changing power of public education!
Once again, we have a historic opportunity to be a statewide exemplar of collective community, coming together to determine how we will invest TTSD’s portion of the $2 billion state investment to address two critical educational issues: meeting students’ mental and behavioral health needs; increasing academic achievement and reducing academic gaps for all, especially students of color; emerging bilingual students; students navigating poverty, homelessness and foster care.
Your voice is vitally important to guiding our district’s plan. Please respond to the district survey HERE of your willingness to participate in fall and early winter planning sessions. Our conversations will begin by reflecting on the three district priorities: 1) Developing community and culturally responsive teaching and leadership skills that result in equitable outcomes for each student and in staff that feel supported and affirmed for their work; 2) Developing strong social-emotional learning networks of care for both students and staff; and 3) Developing district human capital as a catalyst for student learning by recruiting, supporting and retaining a diversified work. With you help, we will decide how to allocate funding into the four Student Success Act categories: class size reduction; social-emotional learning; expansion of whole child initiatives; extension of the school day and/or school year. The timeline to develop the Student Investment Plan is short and the work intense, but the investment of these funds is a game-changer for our students and families, staff and ultimately our community.
One of my favorite quotes is by Marian Wright Edelman, President of Children’s Defense Fund. “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.“ It is an exciting time it is for our district, community, and state as collectively as we bring to life Ms. Wright Edelman’s words through the Student Success Act community engagement process. Thank you for your participation and continued care for our students, families, staff, and community at large.
Current Legislative SessionPosted by Site Master on 4/15/2019
I’m writing today to share important information regarding the current legislative session focused on school funding, how the district is engaging in this critical work and how you, too, can join us in these efforts.
On Thursday, April 4, the Joint Committee on Student Success (JCSS) released their framework for investment of $2B in K-12 education per biennium in House Bill 2019 (HB2019). This framework outlines three funding priorities directing the $2B investment:
- 50% for a School Improvement Fund. SIF would be distributed to school districts based on the current funding formula with a double weight for poverty. SIF funds may be spent in one or more of the four “buckets”: Social Emotional Learning (SEL); Increased Instructional Time; Class Size; and/or Whole Child Instruction. Based on feedback we are gathering from our community and staff, we know that proactive, as well as restorative SEL services, are a priority for our district as a whole. I have provided testimony to both the JCSS as well the TTSD Board that increasing mental health supports to the classroom are a priority for me as your superintendent.
- 30% for the Student Success Fund. Major highlights include: fully funding CTE/Measure 98; funding for universal school meals; doubling high cost disability funding; and funding for multiple equity-focused initiatives such as the African American and Black Student Success plan, Latino Student Success and Native American Student Success plans.
- 20% for expansion of Early Learning programs, including: fully funding Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Ed; Expansion of Head Start, Preschool Promise; and targeted investments in culturally specific early learning programs and Relief Nurseries.
- Additionally, districts may receive an additional $100-200 M to be applied to the Current Service Level (CSL)/State School Fund from the JCSS. This would provide between $8.97 to $9.07B for CSL, of which TTSD receives approximately 2% of the allocation.
The JCSS also outlined spending accountability measures with which we are already familiar:
· 4-year graduation rates;
· Ninth grade on track;
· Third-grade reading level achievement;
· Attendance and,
· The possibility of local measures determined by the district
Members of the TTSD community have been tireless in their proactive advocacy work with Washington County legislators as well as testifying to the House and Senate Education Committees and the JCSS Subcommittee on Transparency and Accountability. Joining me in advocating for clear mechanisms for investment, accountability policy and legislation in Salem and with lawmakers include School Board Vice Chair Maureen Wolf, Chief Financial Officer David Moore, and Controller Elizabeth Michels, Assistant Superintendent Karen Twain, Tigard High School Principal Andy Van Fleet, and Trauma-Informed Specialist Alfonso Romero.
Amendments to HB 2019 were completed on Tuesday, April 9. Thursday, April 11 the JCSS took over three hours of testimony representing voices from across the state in support of this legislation. The accompanying revenue reform package, as presented, will raise the estimated $2B and will solely be allocated to K-12. Following the hearing, the bill was renumbered and is now HB 3427. The bill is expected to reach the House floor for a vote the week of April 29 and is expected to pass. It will then move to the Senate with the goal of moving to the Governor’s desk by the end of the first full week of May. That said, it is expected there will be community advocacy groups that will seek to overturn revenue reform legislation with a special election in January 2020. Continuing to share the great work we do in TTSD running up to this election will be more important than ever.
What does this mean for our current work in developing our district’s budget? On April 2, we completed the Community Budget Work Group process where community members, school staff, parents and students convened to provide input on the 2019-20 budget. Presentations, materials, and notes from these sessions are available on our district website under the “About Us” heading on the first page. On the drop-down menu, click on “Strategic Financial Plan”. On the left-hand side of this webpage you will see 2018-19 Community Work Groups link.
CFO David Moore and I will be visiting every school in April and May to share state and TTSD budget updates as well as to gather staff input regarding priorities and answer questions. Please see your building administrator for information regarding your school’s date and time. Please also note if you have specific budget questions, such as why we hold reserve funds and how those funds are allocated, CFO Moore is available via email or phone to answer any and all questions you may have.
Additionally, I continue my community outreach work to our partners such as PTO/PSO leadership, Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, as well as convening evening community meetings to share the state of the district including our budget process, use of state resources, updates on our current Bond work and to gather larger community input.
In February of this year, I provided our Board with an update to my performance goals, which are focused on closing our equity of student academic outcomes gap. Beginning 2019-20 I have committed to supporting our schools through revenue identified in HB 3427 in achieving targets of 5 % academic growth/year for all students and 8% academic growth for our underserved students of color and diverse languages. My leadership team and I are committed to the transparency of information and process as we work to meet these critical growth targets.
Your questions, concerns, and input are vital to ensuring we are allocating resources in an equitable and efficacious manner to achieve student outcome goals. As always, please feel free to reach out to me with questions and concerns. Additionally, the following Cabinet members are available to provide additional information and support as useful to you:
1. Director of Finance, David Moore: Current budget, budget development, State School Fund. He may be reached at email@example.com
2. Director of Community Relations, Traci Rose: Community and Government Relations (including tools for state and federal advocacy), Media Coordination (Local and National News outlets), School and District Communications (Parent/community communications, emergency communications, website) She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are at a critical juncture for our schools. Now is the time to act and make your voice heard. HB 3427 would bring greater fairness to the state’s tax system while raising additional revenue for schools. It would invest exclusively in pre-K through high school in a targeted way that ensures accountability of resources while protecting the current base. This is potentially a transformative moment for education and our legislature must act now to pass this legislation.
Please take a few minutes of your time to send an email to your legislators and urge them to adequately fund public education.
Go to https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/FindYourLegislator/leg-districts Where you will find a simple way to look up the email addresses for both your Senate and House members.
I ask that you please CC: email@example.com so we can support your efforts.
Tell your story! Tell your legislators, both House and Senate representatives, what your dream is for public education, for your children, grandchildren and the children of Oregon. We’ve all seen the impact of reductions, but we need to collectively focus on what we want as we look to grow public education in Oregon. Keep your email simple and focus on key messages:
- Fund education adequately! Support the proposal from the Joint Committee for Student Success (House Bill 3427) to create a $2 billion investment in our children.
- Talk about your dream of what our education system should be and can be when we make true investments.
- Your belief that your children’s success, Oregon’s success, requires quality schools and that the status quo is NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
- Give an example of the situation in your school.
- Talk about the need for smaller classes, increased learning time, and/or greater supports for students.
- Ask them to show the leadership you elected them for and to solve this problem and fund schools.
Thank you in advance for your advocacy! Only through our concerted action, in partnership with districts around the state, will we be able to make a difference for our kids. Take time now to act!