How Are the Children?

Posted by Site Master on 10/18/2019

"How Are the Children?"

Dr. Sue

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 trose1@ttsd.k12.or.us 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!”