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Monday, October 31, 2011

College and Career Readiness

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:   

The Nike School Innovation Fund brought Dr. David Conley to Beaverton last week.  On Thursday morning, I got to hear about the four key dimensions of college and career readiness.  Conley defined college and career ready as “the degree to which schools prepare their students to continue to learn beyond high school.”  He goes further to define learning as “the ability to engage in formal learning in any of a wide range of settings:  university classrooms, community college, certificate programs, apprenticeships that require formal classroom instruction as one component, and military training that is technical in nature and necessitates the ability to process information through a variety of modes developed academically, such as reading, writing and mathematics.”  A brief description of each of dimension of college and career readiness is below.

·      * Key Cognitive Strategies enable a student to learn, understand, retain, use and apply content from a range of disciplines.  These strategies describe the intentional behaviors students must use in a variety of learning situations.  They are the habits of mind or thinking skills kids need to have in order to be successful.

·      * Key Content Knowledge includes two academic skills necessary for future success, reading and writing, as well as core academic subject knowledge and skills.

·      * Academic Behaviors are also considered self-management behaviors.  This area includes a range of behaviors that reflects great student self-awareness, self-monitoring and self-control.

·       *Contextual Skills and Awareness is a broad category of skills and abilities that help students “fit in” to different situations. 

I have been thinking a lot about the academic behaviors students need to have in order to be successful.  When kids are working do they ask themselves, “Am I understanding what I am doing?”  Do they have a plan if they don’t?  Can they stay focused even if it’s a task that may not be of high interest to them? When I visited Mrs. McConnell’s room recently, a group was reading a science text then posing questions. In Mrs. Kreuger’s classroom, students were reading the criteria for learning then comparing it to what they thought they knew.  In the computer lab, fifth graders were asked to monitor their progress on a project in order to finish by a certain time.  What types of behaviors do you see at home that show you your child is able to monitor his or her own learning? 

Your children likely won’t be happy with the news I’m about to share but I also learned last week that one of the things that might help with developing these academic behaviors is doing chores before and after school.  When I was in elementary school, I would get up very early in the morning to do my chores.  I had to feed the horse, make sure the water trough wasn’t iced over, feed the neighbors lambs then get to the bus stop about a mile from my house. We lived quite a way out of town so I’d do my homework on the long bus ride home then do my evening chores that included hauling wood for the stove before going out to play.  Unfortunately for my kids, they don’t have as many sensory input opportunities as I did and I learned last week, that the lack of a wide range of activities might make it harder to focus in the classroom.

At our staff meeting last week, Occupational Therapist, Marcia Loggins, shared information on the importance of sensory input in helping kids focus and be ready for learning in the classroom.  Incorporating fine motor and sensory motor tasks into everyday activities will prepare your child for school including focusing in class, following directions, completing work, handwriting and general fine motor skills. 


In the Kitchen
In the Yard
In the Bathrooms
When Practicing Handwriting
*make cookies or bread dough—knead the dough, roll out with a rolling pin, cut the dough with kitchen scissors
*make a salad, tear the lettuce, cut up the vegetables (with supervision)
*spread butter, jam honey or peanut butter
*stir, stir, stir
*wash dishes
*cut out coupons
*write a grocery list
*rake leaves
*pull weeds
*dig in the dirt
*use garden scissors to trim small plants or cut flowers (with supervision)
*blow bubbles
*use soap crayons  to write on the shower or tub wall
*use vinyl alphabet letters to practice spelling
*use shaving cream to finger paint or practice writing
*scrub skin with loufa or rough sponge
*vary the color, smell, weight and size of markers, crayons or pencils—try watercolor pencils for a change of pace
*write in a cookie sheet full of rice, cornmeal, salt, toothpicks or strips of paper
*tape large pieces of a paper on the wall to write on a vertical surface

One of the things I notice about the lists of tasks for the kitchen is that many of these chores can be broken down step by step. Kids often see adults doing work but don’t realize all the small steps you do automatically in order to successfully complete a project.  In my house this week I plan on being more explicit about the steps that go into different tasks.  From making dinner, to planning for my book group discussion, I can show how I approach tasks so that my son can learn to chunk large tasks into more manageable ones.  I’ll also encourage him to list the steps he needs to take in order to successfully complete his school projects.  This is also an academic behavior.

Great things are happening at Sexton Mountain School!  Thank you for sharing your children with us.  We have important work to do!

Fondly,


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

Wish List 
*Playground balls (soccer and basketball)
*Mini-marshmallows for upcoming writing project

Reminder
Many of you have probably heard that one of our Sexton Mt. families had a house fire a few weeks ago.  The parents and three children are so grateful that no one was hurt in the fire, but it has still been very difficult to recover from such a loss.  Although they had insurance, it will not come close to replacing all that was lost in the fire.   Many of you have already asked how you can help.  Our counselor has experience with such events and has found a way to support the family.  If you are able to help, there is a way that you can show support and encouragement to the family during this difficult time.  We will be collecting gift card donations to give to the family.  Gift cards to help them replace clothing, kids toys, and household goods would be especially helpful.  You can do this by ordering gift cards through the Scrip Program here at school or by purchasing the gift cards on your own and dropping them off at the school office. If you want to order gift cards through Scrip, please fill out the order form and write “donation” across the top of the form.  Our Scrip coordinator will make sure that those orders are given to the family.  Thank you so much for being willing to be supportive and encouraging to this family and to help show what a caring and supportive community we have here at Sexton Mt.   Please contact Michelle Solberg, our school counselor, if you have questions.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hard Workers-October 25, 2011


Dear Sexton Mountain Families,

Great things are happening at Sexton Mountain Elementary School. Teachers are teaching, learners are learning and we have tremendous parental support.  As I visited classrooms this week, the first thing I noticed was the number of parents and grandparents hard at work in the pods, workrooms and classrooms.  One dad was making a chart, moms were preparing an Art Literacy lesson, some were correcting papers, others were playing math games and reading with children. We also had a group of parents working on the Jog-a-thon money collection, another group working on the Entertainment book fundraiser, and a dad organizing family night at a local restaurant.  These parents are busy raising money for our PTC that in turn provides amazing experiences for our kids. All our volunteers were making a difference for our learners. 

In addition to our hard working parents, students were hard at work too.  In music, I visited a fourth grade classroom when they were learning how to properly place a clarinet mouthpiece in the mouth.  Before even getting to the point of practice, students had to assemble the mouthpiece, put it on the clarinet, then curl their lips around their teeth.  Watching fourth graders follow multi-step directions with precision, then use cheek muscles many didn’t even know they had, was quite comical.  When the kids did their first long steady blow of breath into the clarinet, the room was suddenly full of some smooth and steady tones but also a lot of squeaks (followed by student’s squeals). The room was full of PROMISE!  With each practice, they got better and better.  I can’t wait to see how they sound a few weeks from now.  I visited our kindergarten classrooms as they were practicing for an earthquake drill.  They now know how to duck, cover and hold on.  In Ms. Burnett’s classroom, a student surveyed each member of the class about lunch choices.  Another student graphed the results then all students compared the results using mathematical terms like least and greatest.   I happened to catch our fifth graders during science discussions this week.  They were defining science vocabulary words, reading the National Geographic and charting information about biomes.

Not only are teachers doing great things with students but also with one another as well.  Ms. Lynch and Ms. Yokom lead a small group staff discussion on how to encourage students to use more descriptive language.  Their explicit instruction on how to elicit children to go from, “Ice cream” to “I want white ice cream please” was inspiring and I thought about how this might apply to all students in our school in spoken and written language.  At the inservice teachers attended on October 14, we were encouraged to have children practice saying and writing longer sentences by using the 7up rule (sentence needs to have seven words or more).  When I was in Ms. Martin’s room last week, kids were using a vocabulary word in a sentence and they were making sentences more concise and longer by adding descriptive words. 

Children and adults in our building are learning by doing and by reading.  Our Site Council is reading the book Mindset by Carol Dweck.  We will be meeting with the Site Councils from Nancy Ryles and Scholls Heights to discuss implications this book might have for our work.  The District’s TAG coordinator, Heidi Hanson, provided our school with multiple copies of the book.   If you’d like to borrow a copy, stop by the office.

We had our first Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) assembly this week.  At the assembly we celebrated Eagle Eye winners and learned about classes who had the best behavior in the cafeteria, library, gym or music through the Golden awards.  We also talked about behavior data and how we can all help reduce the frequency of misbehaviors by attempting to solve problems when they are still small.  Children were reminded about the strategies provided in Kelso’s Wheel too (see the Student Handbook for more info) and their thinking was challenged about assumptions we sometimes make.

During this week's assembly, Mr. Mori presented a lesson on "Similarities and Differences."  In one segment of the lesson, he projected an image of a very small home, and explained that at the time he was born, his family lived in a small two-room structure in the back yard of someone's property.  He then asked a series of questions to students about what they could tell about a family who might live in such a home.  "Can you tell by looking at the home whether the family is friendly or unfriendly?" was one example.  His questions stumped a large percentage of our students, who indicated with confidence that they could, in fact, tell by looking at the home whether the family was hard-working or lazy, nice or mean, healthy or unhealthy, and so on.  The lesson Mr. Mori tried to convey is that we all should be careful about how we form opinions about people before we get to know them.  The discussion could have gone on for much longer, and so we encourage you to continue the conversation with your children at home. 

As your children get older, your opportunities for great discussions seem to shrink.  I realized this last weekend when I found myself with two of my kids in the car with me for a trip downtown.  We went to see Blue Man Group at the Keller and it was the first time in ages I’d been alone with my electronic-free kids for more than 10 minutes.  Trapped in the Subaru, there was nothing to do but talk.  On the way home, they were trying to come up with words to describe to their dad what they’d seen and how to capture the perspective of a Blue Man then share it with someone who didn’t have the first hand experience.  We all got to write about our observations in our thank you notes to the friend who’d given us the tickets.

Special experiences can provide opportunity for rich language development but so can ordinary experiences like a walk on a fall day.  On Sunday I did the Columbia River Gorge Half-Marathon and part of the walk was through a state park overlooking the Columbia River.  The views were breathtaking (or it could have been the hills that took my breath away) but the discussion about changing of the seasons seemed to be my recurring eavesdropping experience.  The Mark Hatfield trailhead must be a place many families visit because small children on bikes or in jogging strollers were all along the route.  More than once I heard children talk about the size, shape and color of leaves.  Prompted by parents, kids stretched sentences or phrases.  One little guy was taking a break from his bike and collecting a bouquet of fallen leaves.  He started by holding up a yellow leaf and saying, “Look at this big one.”

His mom replied, “Big and yellow and…”  He finished, “It’s big, yellow and crunchy like it will disintegrate in my hand any minute.”  Maybe this week, your family can take a leaf walk.  You don’t need to go to the gorge to observe things of beauty and the changing seasons.  THPRD’s many trails or parks might provide the perfect place to develop rich language.  Maybe after your walk, you can encourage your child to write about the experience. What you do with language development at home, makes a difference in school. Thank you for sharing your children with us!

Fondly,

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

Wish List  *Playground balls (red rubber wall ball type balls), basketballs or soccer balls

Reminder
Many of you have probably heard that one of our Sexton Mt. families had a house fire a few weeks ago.  The parents and three children are so grateful that no one was hurt in the fire, but it has still been very difficult to recover from such a loss.  Although they had insurance, it will not come close to replacing all that was lost in the fire.   Many of you have already asked how you can help.  Our counselor has experience with such events and has found a way to support the family.  If you are able to help, there is a way that you can show support and encouragement to the family during this difficult time.  We will be collecting gift card donations to give to the family.  Gift cards to help them replace clothing, kids toys, and household goods would be especially helpful.  You can do this by ordering gift cards through the Scrip Program here at school or by purchasing the gift cards on your own and dropping them off at the school office. If you want to order gift cards through Scrip, please fill out the order form and write “donation” across the top of the form.  Our Scrip coordinator will make sure that those orders are given to the family.  Thank you so much for being willing to be supportive and encouraging to this family and to help show what a caring and supportive community we have here at Sexton Mt.   Please contact Michelle Solberg, our school counselor, if you have questions.

District Goal for 2010-2015:  All students will show continuous progress toward their personal learning goals, developed in collaboration with teachers and parents, and will be prepared for post-secondary education and career success.
The Beaverton School District recognizes the diversity and worth of all individuals and groups.  It is the policy of the Beaverton School District that there will be no discrimination or harassment of individuals or groups based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, marital status, age, veterans' status, genetic information or disability in any educational programs, activities or employment. 

Sexton Mountain Elementary School n 15645 SW Sexton Mountain Drive n Beaverton, Oregon 97007 n Office: 503.672.3560 n FAX 503.672.3563

Monday, October 17, 2011

Writing Goals, Budget Challenges, and Family in Need-October 18, 2011


Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                        

I didn’t have my first bagel until I was 15.  My future husband had asked me to go to lunch with him and he introduced me to fresh bagels at a bagel shop in Bend.  I still think of the day I met him any time I smell bagels, so last Friday when The Portland Bagel Company donated bagels for our teacher training, memories of long ago filled my mind as the smell of delicious bagels filled my car.   Thanks to The Portland Bagel Company for treating our teachers so well.  We had a fabulous day of learning strategies for increasing student engagement.  It was the perfect end to a busy week.

As I shared last week, when OSU has a home game I go to Corvallis and feed my daughter’s dorm mates before and after the football game.  Last weekend we had about triple the number of kids come before the game so I was nearly out of food by noon.  As the kids left, saying they were excited to have more home cooked food following the game, I panicked a bit since my cupboard was nearly bare.  Luckily, I had the entire game to come up with plan B and amazingly round two was surprisingly successful.  I chopped and mixed all my leftovers (things I’d scraped from the bottom of the bowls) with shredded cheese packed the concoction into tortillas and grilled them up. Following the game, the kids swarmed in like locust and I then had a new understanding of bare cupboard. Kids were happy and didn’t seem to notice that I’d taken something familiar and changed it up a bit.  Because we served it up with a smile, they also didn’t seem to notice that all the extras were missing.  We didn’t have dessert, we had cups so they could share the remaining soda, and games and friends, seemed to take importance over the food.  They left satisfied and I was left trying to remember the Mary Poppins quote about sufficiency being enough.

Last week, it seems like the “bare cupboard” experiences at school were many.  With the loss of our technology teacher, we decided to approach the challenge by using part of our non-salary budget to fill the gap.  We decided to use about one-third of our paper or product budget for a person.  We hired an instructional assistant, to supervise students in the computer lab so that our children have regular access to technology and we could continue our specials schedule.  I believe that the best way to improve instruction is by providing a common chunk of time for teachers to discuss student learning and plan for teaching and to have common assessment data for teachers to use to inform discussion about instruction.  We do this after school but also during the school day when students are in PE, Music, Library or Technology. We hired a classified employee to supervise the lab, so that students can work on the projects teachers assign them to do in the lab, thereby providing common plan time and time for kids to use technology.   The classified employee is different than a teacher in that they do not plan instruction, the cost (about $23,000 for the remainder of the year) is much less and the hours are fewer so that this is just a fraction of the cost of a teacher.  Twenty three thousand dollars is still about one third of our non-salary budget so we intentionally decided to be very careful with our spending over the remainder of the year. 

Dema Blood will join our staff to serve in this role.  Dema has been volunteering at Sexton Mountain this year as one of a Teacher Corps volunteer.  She recently graduated from George Fox University with her Masters of Arts in Teaching.  The current economic reality means that there simply were not positions available for all the recent graduates.  Luckily for our school, we were able to hire a highly qualified teacher for our role of instructional assistant.  She will work closely with teachers to teach the technology learning targets.  We are hoping to get more parent volunteers in the computer lab as well to assist students.  If you would like to volunteer, please let Mr. Mori know, as he is working with Mrs. Blood during the transition.  To see what types of projects your kids are working on, visit the staff section of our school website and scroll down to the Tech Lab links.  These links support the tech learning targets or classroom content targets.

By last Tuesday I was feeling pretty confident that we would get through the “bare cupboard” experience of being downsized a staff member when on Wednesday, I learned that all schools non-salary budgets were being reduced by 15%.  Because the District’s budget was built on the expectation that the state would fund schools at $5.8 billion, but the actual funding level was $5.725, so adjustments need to be made.  Along with the $23,000 we used for the technology teacher, this reduces the amount we have for items like paper by almost 48%.  Again, an adjustment, but a challenge we can navigate if we are cautious.

As a result of our tight budget, we will be very intentional with our use of consumable supplies.  Teachers are already thinking of ways to save.  Instead of a math worksheet that is good for one use, it could be that a math game will be made that can be played again and again and again.  Already, they are being very creative.  My grandparents grew up in Salem during the depression.  Their stories about that time period always made it sound like a fun adventure.  They came together with family and friends to share resources and it seemed like they built relationships and memories.  I’m sure that if we are careful with our attitudes and come together to do what we can for kids, our children won’t notice the squeeze.

One thing we will be doing in the upcoming months is adding a “Wish List” to our newsletter.  This will be a list of items or actions that people will be invited to donate to our school.  For instance, last week a teacher needed paper fasteners or brads for a project.  It happens that I have a box of them in my junk drawer.  Since my kids have outgrown projects requiring paper fasteners, I was easily able to donate the box from my junk drawer to a classroom so we didn’t need to order them from the office supply store.  It seems like a small gesture but we all know that a bunch of little actions combine for big impact.  Take part if you like and are able. 

My goal in providing you with so much information about the budget is to be transparent with our process and to hopefully answer any questions you might have so that we can then focus on the important job of TEACHIING and LEARNING!  Great things are happening at Sexton Mountain School!

In last week’s newsletter, I shared information about the writing project students completed with me recently. Student work was analyzed then discussed at a recent staff meeting.  This snapshot of learning provided us with information about what kids were able to do independently in a given period.  Here are some fascinating facts about what groups of students were able to do and goals for next steps in teaching.

Kindergarten students wrote 573 letters, 133 words and 28 sentences.  During the next six weeks, kindergarten teachers have set a goal to increase the number of phonetically written words students produce in their time with me.  At home, families can encourage kids to draw then write about the picture.

Seventy-one percent of students in first grade had legible handwriting, 39% of students capitalized the beginning of sentences and 36% of students had ending punctuation.  Eight percent of students had a piece with a beginning, middle and end.  During the next six weeks, first grade teachers have set a goal to increase the percentage of students who consistently capitalize sentence beginnings.  At home, families can encourage students to write observations about fall.  Maybe you can start a fall journal.  Encourage your child to write three sentences a day about what they are noticing and praise kids when they remember to capitalize sentences or end them with punctuation or gently ask, “How do we start a sentence?” When reading with your child, encourage them to point out sentence starts and endings.

In second grade, 83% of students had an introduction, 83% of students had supporting details and 41% of students had a conclusion. During the next six weeks, second grade teachers have set a goal to increase the percentage of students who include a conclusion sentence.  At home, families can encourage students to have a final sentence that restates or reminds the reader about what the writing was about.  Some kids find that re-writing the introduction sentence using synonyms is a nice way to write a conclusion.  Second graders seem to be reading and writing a lot about animals in class right now.  They are fascinated with all the different types of bats or frogs.  Ask them to write 5 sentences about a different animal each night.

In third grade 70% of students had an introduction and 46% of students had a concluding sentence.  What teachers also noticed however was the high number of students forgetting to use correct capitalization and punctuation at sentence starts and endings, so the third grade team set a goal to increase the number of students capitalizing the beginning of sentences and using some sort of ending punctuation mark.  At home you can have your child write a summary of their nightly reading.  Praise kids when they remember to capitalize a sentence or end them with punctuation or gently ask, “How do we start a sentence” or “How will your reader know when the sentence is done?”

In fourth grade, the expectation for writing increases dramatically.  The targets in fourth grade call for multiple paragraphs, including an introduction paragraph and a concluding paragraph.  Eleven percent of students had multiple paragraphs, 7% of students had an introduction paragraph, .9% of students had a concluding paragraph.  Knowing that they are end of year targets, the fourth grade team has a set a goal to increase the number of paragraphs by teaching kids how to write strong paragraphs.  You can help at home by encouraging your child to write a topic sentence, then supporting sentences that provide facts, examples, reasons or details, and a concluding sentence. 

In fifth grade, 65% of students had multiple paragraphs, 27% of students had an introduction paragraph and 33% of students had a concluding paragraph.  The fifth grade team has set a goal to increase the number of students including a paragraph of introduction and a concluding paragraph.   You can help at home by encouraging your child to write a topic sentence, then supporting sentences that provide facts, examples, reasons or details, and a concluding sentence.   On drafts, encourage them to underline topic sentences and concluding sentences with a green pencil and details with yellow.

We will do our next school wide project the week of November 21. It will be interesting to see how much students grow and change.

As I visited classrooms last week, it was fun to see kids hard at work toward some of these goals.  In Mrs. McConnell’s class, students were reading about different U.S. cities then writing a paragraph about the city. A student told me that the criteria for the project was to have a topic sentence and supporting details.  Mrs. Parson’s students were using a graphic organizer to write about space.  They had a clear beginning, middle and end. Ms. Cobain’s first graders analyzed a text to see when the author used capital letters. Mr. Hayhurst worked with a group of students to analyze the characteristics of different types of bats. Mrs. Wesner worked with a group of kindergarten students on English language development.  They sang, chanted, labeled and discussed before writing the initial consonant sound for different pictures.  Our teachers are teaching and our kids are learning to support the short-term goals we’ve set.

Speaking of goals and the progress students are making toward them, teachers are looking forward to meeting with parent/guardians soon during our fall parent/teacher conferences. Here are some tips for making the most of your time.
The focus for fall conferences is goal setting.  To make best use of the 20-minute conference times, before your conference time, please take a moment to jot down: a) what you would like to share about your child’s strengths, challenges and special interests, b) any questions you may have, and c) your ideas of the specific academic or behavioral goals you would like to see your child working towards this year.  The goals that you and your child’s teacher agree upon will be recorded on the Individual Student Plan and Profile document used district-wide.  Student progress toward the goals recorded will be reviewed and celebrated during spring conferences.
•Unless your child’s teacher has indicated otherwise, students do not participate in conferences.
Please make every effort to be on time for your conference.  Out of respect for our families and their busy schedules, we will make every effort to adhere to the start/stop time of each family’s conference.  Thank you for your help.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to attend parent/teacher conferences.  When parents and teachers collaborate and work together, our students thrive and excel!

My early morning exercise partner is a teacher and she had conferences last week.  She mentioned that conference time is one of her favorite parts of the year because it’s when adults who care deeply for a child come together for a great discussion.  I always enjoy learning about the perspectives of our parents.  In fact, I got to hear from some of you last week at the PTC meeting.  We had an interesting discussion about head lice.  I have asked teachers to have students put jackets in backpacks or hang coats on the backs of chairs in order to prevent opportunities for head lice to crawl from one coat to another.  This means our classrooms are looking a bit more cluttered than when everything is stuffed into the coat rack area. I have also asked that headphones NOT be used in the computer lab unless students bring them from home and store them in a sealed ziplock type bag clearly labeled with the student’s name and teacher.  This means our lab might be a bit noisier too.  Thanks in advance for understanding.  

As I’ve met with groups or individuals, I’ve been amazed by the compassion the Sexton Mountain community shows.  Many of you have probably heard that one of our Sexton Mt. families had a house fire a few weeks ago.  The parents and three children are so grateful that no one was hurt in the fire, but it has still been very difficult to recover from such a loss.  Although they had insurance, it will not come close to replacing all that was lost in the fire.   Many of you have already asked how you can help.  Our counselor has experience with such events and has found a way to support the family.  If you are able to help, there is a way that you can show support and encouragement to the family during this difficult time.  We will be collecting gift card donations to give to the family.  Gift cards to help them replace clothing, kids toys, and household goods would be especially helpful.  You can do this by ordering gift cards through the Scrip Program here at school or by purchasing the gift cards on your own and dropping them off at the school office. If you want to order gift cards through Scrip, please fill out the order form and write “donation” across the top of the form.  Our Scrip coordinator will make sure that those orders are given to the family.  Thank you so much for being willing to be supportive and encouraging to this family and to help show what a caring and supportive community we have here at Sexton Mt.   Please contact Michelle Solberg, our school counselor, if you have questions.

Another way I’ve seen Sexton Mountain families show compassion and caring is by volunteering.  From classroom projects to Sparky’s Running club and Popcorn Friday, we have a great group of involved parents.  While supervision is something we won’t skimp on at school, we can always use extra adults to play with and encourage kids at lunch and recess.  We love to have extra adults join us for lunch to help kids practice social skills (and open juice boxes) and recess to help kids peacefully play games. If you’d like to join us for our mid-day meal and play break, be sure to stop by the office to pick up some Eagle Eyes to give to kids you see being especially safe, respectful or responsible. Fifth grade parents especially are encouraged to come out and play.  This may be the last year your child gets a recess or will think it’s cool for you to play.  Grade level lunch times are listed below.  Boys and girls eat at their own pace then clean up and leave for recess.  Children have a total of fifty minutes for lunch and recess.  Start times for each are below.
·       ESL Kindergarten -11:00
·       Full Day Kindergarten-11:00
·       First Grade-11:00
·       Second Grade-11:25
·       Third Grade-12:40
·       Fourth Grade-11:50
·       Fifth Grade-12:15

Though I started my letter to you talking about “bare cupboard” experiences, I realize that I spent just one page telling about the challenges of our current economic reality but two pages telling about the great things happening at Sexton Mountain School for our kids.  We have amazing kids, great teachers and a fabulous community of parents and grandparents willing to go the extra mile for our students.  Like my flock of college kids, who left happy and satisfied following the miracle meal of leftovers made with love, our kids are going to have a great 2011-2012 school year.  Thank you for sharing your children with us!

Fondly,

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

Wish List
*Headphones for use with computers-The disposable kinds that airlines used to give out would be perfect!
*Playground players
*More people to sign up for E-news

Sign Up for E-News If you would like to have the newsletter sent electronically please send an email to Teresa_Clemens-Brower@beaverton.k12.or.us with “newsletter and your child’s name” in the subject line

District Goal for 2010-2015:  All students will show continuous progress toward their personal learning goals, developed in collaboration with teachers and parents, and will be prepared for post-secondary education and career success.
The Beaverton School District recognizes the diversity and worth of all individuals and groups.  It is the policy of the Beaverton School District that there will be no discrimination or harassment of individuals or groups based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, marital status, age, veterans' status, genetic information or disability in any educational programs, activities or employment. 

Sexton Mountain Elementary School n 15645 SW Sexton Mountain Drive n Beaverton, Oregon 97007 n Office: 503.672-3560 n FAX 503.673-3563

Monday, October 10, 2011

Friendship Skills, Writing, and Community Support-October 11, 2011

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                               

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, weekends are so busy in the Brower house that I look forward to coming back to work for things to slow down.  Between the OSU game on Saturday and the Portland Half-Marathon on Sunday, it was full indeed, but the time provided me with opportunities to reflect on school, teaching, learning and parenting.

On Saturday we went down to Corvallis to see my daughter.  We take our camper down and park in the Wilson Hall parking lot.  About 90 minutes before the game begins, a crowd of sleepy teens dressed in orange come out to enjoy whatever food I’ve prepared.  The best part of tailgating with college freshman and sophomores living in dorms is they think I’m a great cook.  This is the ONLY group that I can confidently say this about.  While the kids eat and play games, I get to listen. Knowing who your child spends time with is important.  Are friends providing positive influence?  Is my child responding in a way that shows respect?  Are friends encouraging healthy habits?  Are they bringing out the best in my child?  Does she do the same in return?  Do they build her up or tear her down? For my daughter, these are questions I’ve been asking since about the time she learned to walk.  Now that she’s away a college, her social skills and emotional health are as important to her success as her study habits and cognitive skills.  At Sexton Mountain, we are a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support School (PBIS).  We teach kids how to be safe respectful and responsible.  We appreciate working with you on this important task.

When the football game begins, my kids and husband enjoy the game while I relish my quiet time. This week, I spent time reading the papers your children wrote with me last week.  Once every six weeks, I will do a project with each grade level.  The purpose of the project is to provide students with a common experience to write about.  The writing will be read and analyzed for themes then discussed, along with classroom work samples, to set goals for next steps in teaching.  During this writing project time, circles of Mr. Sketch marker colors were drawn on coffee filters then kids added a bit of water and observed what happened.  Next, they wrote about the experience.  The writing provides a snapshot of what a child is able to do independently.  On Saturday, I read each of the papers and tried to quantify some of the progress toward grade level learning targets.  Reading student writing brings me great joy! In addition to learning about the children as writers, I get small glimpses of their perspective and personalities.

On Sunday, I did the Portland half-marathon.  Because I’m a slow walker, I had a lot of time to think over my 13.1 miles.  I reflected on International Walk and Bike to School Day.  Kids certainly enjoyed walking with friends.  Thanks to Holly Heaver for organizing! Did you know we have fewer tardy students on the days on our organized walking day? During my half-marathon, I thought about how much I appreciated the support and enthusiasm of all the volunteers along the route.  This fall I’ve been blown away by how generous Sexton Mountain parents have been with support and enthusiasm.  Though the Portland Marathon was a very well supported race with lots of fun along the way, it really paled in comparison to the Sexton Mountain Jog-a-thon last week.  If you were here last Thursday you know that we had cowbells and encouragers along the route so that our kids felt supported along the way.  A number of kids shared their sense of pride in setting their new personal best records.  Many were excited about the money they would raise for the PTC and the important and very special experiences they provide for our school.  Thanks to Karyn Johnson and Michelle Vondenkamp for organizing this event and for all the volunteers who turned out to support our kids. 

As I walked, I thought of the meetings I’ve had over the past few weeks. I’ve had a chance to meet with several teams to discuss student learning.   After we completed the school-wide Easy CBM assessment, teams have been meeting to discuss the data and plan for the next steps for instruction.  This process is called Response to Intervention (RTI). RTI integrates assessment and intervention within a multi-level prevention system to maximize student achievement.  With RTI, schools identify students at risk for poor learning outcomes, monitor student progress, provide evidence-based interventions and adjust the intensity and nature of those interventions depending on a student’s responsiveness.  In some cases, the process helps us to identify students who might become eligible to receive special education services.

Our RTI process starts with a universal screening of all students in our school. Universal screening tests are typically brief and are used with other classrooms’ assessments to corroborate students’ risk status.  The universal screening tool our school uses is called EasyCBM.  EasyCBM assigns a risk level based on students’ scores.  The “high”, “some” and “low” risk levels correlate with percentile scores.   Students that fall within the low risk range are within the 40-99th percentile.  Students falling within the some risk range fall within the 11th-39th-percentile range.  Students in the high-risk range fall within the 1st-10th percentile.  In the high-risk range, this means that if 100 students at this grade level took the assessment 90 or more of the 100 students would perform better than a child in this range. 

At Sexton Mountain, grade level teams meet every six weeks to formally discuss student progress.  We informally talk about student progress almost daily.  During our formal discussion, we use the universal screener as well as the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA), informal classroom assessments and observations to guide our discussion as we focus on our most at risk students.  For students not making the progress expected in order to be on track for meeting year-end goals, the team plans additional interventions and support.  We contact families of students needing additional support and let them know what we will be doing at school to support the child.  We can also offer suggestions for what you can do at home.

As I walked last weekend, I thought about all of the great things that are happening for our students at Sexton Mountain. We have great students, staff and parents. I am so happy to be part of this community of learners.  Thank you for sharing your children with us.

Fondly,

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Joy of Writing and Community Support-October 4, 2011


Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                            

Without a doubt, the very best part of my job is observing students learning.  Last week, our staff development focus at our Tuesday meeting was writing so, later in the week, it was a delight for me to see our writers at work.   In Ms. Cunningham’s class, Brody wrote about his funny, awesome cat. In Ms. Hiatt’s room Renika was writing fiction (her words) about a world with floating snakes.  Mrs. Jenkin’s third graders were analyzing writing with a rubric to determine what made a quality paper.  Savannah, Rachel and MacKenzie in Ms. Weigel’s room were reading about spiders and writing facts in their own words. Next door, Sofia was working on adding details to her weekend news.  In Mrs. Olson’s class a girl was writing a personal narrative about a trip with friends.  She told me she was re-reading to make sure her purpose was clear.  In Mrs. Stratton’s room, kids were using FRED (facts, reasons, examples, and details) to support a topic sentence.  Alyssa was certain that the sentences she had to add support to the topic sentence, "Younger siblings can be annoying" were INDEED facts where others in her group thought she was giving examples.  It provided for an interesting discussion.  I am enjoying getting to know your children through their work.  I look forward to seeing them grow in the upcoming year.

I’ve enjoyed learning about the character of our families last week too.  Thanks to all who sent notes of support and asked great questions last week as we dealt with a reduction in staffing.  With any decision there are costs and benefits and by Wednesday of last week, many parents were stepping forward to offer solutions for dealing with some of the costs of losing a staff member.  We are slowly formulating a plan for how we will deal with the loss and your suggestions have been greatly appreciated!    Here are some things I learned about our community. We have an amazing volunteer with rich technology backgrounds.  Between kids, parents, and staff, we have solution-oriented thinkers.  A positive environment just makes the process more enjoyable! We value technology.  We are a community willing to serve kids. Using this knowledge, we are exploring possibilities and hope to have something to share with you next week.  In the meantime, students will continue to go to technology class in their regular specials rotation.

Between International Walk to School Day on Wednesday, the Jog-a-thon on Thursday and all of the other fun and learning that will take place this week, Sexton Mountain volunteers, staff and students will be busy this week.  Thank you for sharing your children with us!

Fondly,

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