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Monday, September 26, 2011

The Joy of Observing Learners-September 27, 2011

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                                 
            As I stepped into Kim Parson’s room during the first minutes of the day, students were identifying the attributes of polygons.  They were drawing angels, naming rays and comparing and contrasting different shapes.  Do you know what a quadrangle with two pairs of parallel sides, all right angles that is not a square is called?  Fourth graders do.  They also know how to discuss mathematical terms with partners and defend their thinking OR change their thinking if presented with a compelling argument.  When I think back to my fourth grade experiences, I’m sure that all I remember is doing page after page after page of computation.  I don’t recall being asked to think so deeply, make generalizations based on a set of attributes or develop a logical argument to persuade others to come to similar mathematical conclusion. 
            One of the fourth grade classrooms was quietly taking a math test but the others were all working from the Everyday Math adoption.  By the time I reached Mr. Shotola’s classroom students had dry erase boards out and were drawing and labeling different polygons.  They would show their work for the teacher to see then describe attributes of the polygon they were creating.  In Mrs. Stratton’s class, students were matching attributes to geometry terms.  A team I observed defined each term in their own words, discussed qualities of the terms based on their own understanding and came to consensus on definitions.  Great things are happening in our school during the first part of the day.
            In other parts o fthe school, Mrs. Tanksley’s fifth graders were identify interrogative and declarative sentences. Mayri and Garris were working on life cycle posters and comparing and contrasting cheetahs and jaguars.  Jacob was writing about a camping trip in Mrs. Martin’s class as soft music played in the background.  Jane was working with a team of classmates in Mr. Hayhurst’s class to write to 1000.  Mr. Morgan’s students were discussing the reasons for writing.  In the first grade area, our Literacy Team (made up of Julie Fryer, Debbie Simmons, Mary Kramer) did reading fluency assessements witn individual first graders.  Our school is abuzz with learning!
            In addition to all the teaching that is going on, this is the time of year when we are learning about your students.  Members of our Literacy Team are working with individual students to determine what each child knows and is able to do.  This one minute assessment is administered to students in kindergarten through fifth grade. In the computer lab, students will also complete a comprehension component and a math component.  The assessment tool we are using this year is called Easy CBM and replaces DIBELS.  These snapshots of learning provide us with information about how our children are doing compared to other students their age or grade level.  The information, along with Developmental Reading Assessments (DRA) and informal classroom asessments, will help teachers inform and differentiate (or tailor) instruction. These assessments will be done each trimester and provide us with information that we are able to use to determine how much an individual child has grown or changed and how close he or she is to meeting or exceeding benchmarks.  Because EasyCBM is new to us this year, I am not sure just yet what individual reports will be available for us to share with parents.  I hope that we will be able to have something to share with you but do keep in mind that these “snapshots” of learning are meant to be just a part of a child’s “scrapbook of learning,” so don’t put too much importance on any one score. 
            One thing that parents often ask after they receive information about a reading assessment is, “What can I do to help my child be a better reader?”  As with anything, the best way to become more proficient at a skill is to practice.  I’ve enjoyed reading classroom newsletters and I’m happy to see that most teachers are expecting students to read or be read to each day.  A study by R.C. Anderson revealed that the students who scored in the 98%ile or above on national reading tests read about 60 minutes a day outside of school.  When I read this study I thought of my own children.  One of my kids does very well on reading tests and in looking at that child’s day I found that reading happened at least 60 minutes a day  when we added up time spent reading at the breakfast table, in the car, before bed, and just about any time there’s a free minute.  This study challenged me to create home reading opportunities for my other kids as well.  I know that scoring well on tests is not my main objective for students but a pleasant product of strong skills.  As a parent, I want my kids to read well so they can have access to information.  I want them to know how to read with a healthy skepticism.  I picture them reading to solve problems, to relax  or to learn new things.  I know that readers are leaders and I want my own kids, as well as my students, to have unlimited possibilites because they are empowered with the skills needed for future success.
            Thank you for making my first month at Sexton Mountain so pleasant. 


Dr. Teresa Clemens-Brower
a.k.a.  Mrs. C.-B.

Reminders and FYI

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Traffic Flow
Thanks for the friendly, patient attitudes at arrival and dismissal each day.  Thank you for following established traffic patterns.  Thank you for pulling as far forward as possible before dropping or picking up students. Thanks for teaching children the safest routes to walk.  Thanks for being so very, very patient!  As the weather changes this fall, there will be more traffic at dismissal time so practicing patience now will prepare us for the rainy days ahead!

Talented and Gifted Testing
Every year students are considered for Talented and Gifted services in Beaverton School District.  These services are provided by your child's classroom teacher(s).  If you think your child might qualify, you may wish to complete the Parent Information Form which is available in our school’s office.  Completing this form gives our school TAG committee more information about your child, but it is not required.  All qualified students will be considered regardless of its completion.
Oregon law and District policy define gifted students as those who score at or above the 97th percentile on a standardized, nationally normed test of mental ability and/or academic achievement.  Behavioral, learning, and/or performance information is also considered before a student is identified for TAG services.  The Parent Information Form must be completed and returned to our school’s TAG facilitator, Michele Cobain, or the school’s office.

Student Verification Form
Please review your child's Student Verification form and complete or correct all missing or erroneous information.  Pay particularly close attention to your address, phone number, zip code, emergency information and employment.  Sign the form and return it to school as soon as possible.

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