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Monday, January 9, 2012

Tummy Aches, Preparation, and Assessment-January 10, 2010

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                                   

Last Tuesday, my son called at about 2:00 pm and told me his tummy hurt when he sat down.  He asked if I’d come and pick him up from school.  I told him to go to science and ask his teacher if he could stand up. With all the junk food he ate on Rose Bowl Monday, I figured stomach discomfort wasn’t unusual.   By Wednesday afternoon, we were in the ER at St. Vincent’s as he was getting prepped to have his appendix removed.   Since then, we’ve been getting to know the staff at the pediatrics ward and my husband and I have been taking turns staying there.  We are hopeful that by the time we send home this letter, he will be home too.

I realized over the past week that there are a lot of things we could have done ahead of time to make our stay easier.  We could have a list of all the medications each person in our family takes so when quizzed at 1:00 am, we’d be more accurate.  We could have given our house key to more neighbors so the dog would have been taken care of more easily.  We could have more routine places for putting things so when trying to describe where to find the much needed item for a surprise hospital sleep over, my extended family could have found it more easily.  Preparation, even for the unexpected, makes things easier.

At school, we take being prepared very seriously!  We are preparing for the Oregon Statewide Assessment a bit differently this year and since PREPARATION seems to be my theme of the week, I wanted to let you know, so that you could prepare accordingly.  Often times when it comes to big tests, families will get a note right before the test reminding adults that kids need to get plenty of rest and have a healthy breakfast before the big day.  While in my 22 years in education I have noticed that this is important, what really makes a difference on test day is whether or not the kids were well rested and nourished for DAILY instruction and skill practice.  I’ve noticed that when kids practice being critical readers or mathematicians daily, they develop the habits of mind that ensure success on tests.

Fourth graders will take an important writing assessment the week of February 13.  Students will be given three different writing prompts.  They will select one to write about.  They will have three days to brainstorm, draft, and write the final copy. The paper will be no longer than two pages, so needs to be concise, but will need to have enough information so that the reader clearly understands what the writer is trying to convey.  Papers will be scored in six different areas including organization, ideas/content, conventions (spelling and punctuation), voice, sentence fluency and word choice.  Families can help PREPARE for the writing assessment by encouraging children to write frequently (starting in kindergarten) and to always be mindful of who will be reading the writing.  Frequent writing builds stamina so the small muscles in the hand and the pathways in the brain can develop an idea at length.  Considering the needs of the audience or reader means that the writer will use concise words, make sure to develop an idea thoroughly and to use conventions, words and structure that will make it easier for the reader to understand.  Practice (or preparation) makes proficient!

Third, fourth and fifth graders will take the state reading and math test online this year.  Fifth graders will also take the statewide science test.  On all these tests in years past, students had the opportunity to take the test multiple times.  This year, in most cases, students will have just one opportunity to show what they know.  In past years students started testing as early as November, but this year we will wait until spring.   Families can help PREPARE for these tests by encouraging accuracy and critical thinking on daily classwork and homework.  One of the things I’ve noticed is that many kids develop a habit of rushing through things so when it comes to tests, careless errors are made by simply not reading the problem or task.  Battle this bad habit by encouraging kids to slow down and do high quality work on all projects. 

 As I visit classrooms, I see kids learning the skills and knowledge they will need to be successful on the tests.  More importantly, they are learning the things they will need in order to be successful in whatever they choose.  Last week in Mr. Shotola’s class, kids were using body parts to approximate different measurements.  They showed that the width of their pinky was a centimeter and if they held up fingers like goal posts, the distance between was a decimeter (a reference I used later in the day to visualize the size of an appendix).  In Mr. Pfaff’s class, children were reflecting on what it meant to be an engaged learner.  They identified what they needed in order to be most successful and really showed a high level of responsibility for their 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 each child’s reading fluency.  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.  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 assessments, 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.  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.  

Great things are happening daily at Sexton Mountain.  We have a great staff working hard to make sure that our kids are prepared. Last week when my son called from school, the attendance secretary at his school was the one who told me that my son seemed a bit off.  She sees him regularly because of his asthma and expressed genuine concern for his tummy ache.  His principal noted that he wasn’t himself also.  His teachers also shared that he seemed to be more wiped out than the typical middle-schooler the day after winter break.  As a parent, I am thankful that my child has a group of caring adults that make such a difference in his life each day.   I hope that your child feels cared for at school each day!  Thank you for sharing your child with us!


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

Reminders and FYI

Wish List--These are little things or jobs that will make a difference to our kids.  If you have things you'd like to share, feel free to send them in.
  • Gallon sized ziplock type bags

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