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Monday, November 25, 2013

iPads, Math, Reading and More-November 26, 2013

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:

When I visited the Fourth Grade Pod last week, students were hard at work on mathematics using the iPads provided by our PTC.  Did you know we have one iPad for every 18 students in our school?

Our fourth grade classes are the largest in our school with thirty-two students in each class and they’ve been using the iPads for a special math opportunity (among other things).  This year our fourth grade students have a special opportunity to learn and practice mathematics in an additional way.   Our school was granted membership to ALEKS for each of our fourth graders. ALEKS is an online program that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn. As a student works through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained. ALEKS avoids multiple-choice questions. 

For the next 52 school days, in addition to the regular lessons in class, our fourth graders will have extra math practice and support using ALEKS on computers and iPads.  An instructional assistant will also support the classroom teachers so that they can work with smaller groups to teach, reteach, or extend mathematical concepts.  The instructional assistant will also teach focus lessons.  Some of our students (like the ones pictured below) have already started working on so they will have a head start.  Kids can also access this resource from home. 
This extra support is made possible through a grant from the University of Oregon.  The U of O project focuses on intervention groups in the area of mathematics at the kindergarten level.  This project funds extra instructional assistant time so that math interventions can be delivered to kindergarten students who have demonstrated a need for extra support.  U of O provides coaching and professional development for the instructional assistants.   Additionally we get a very small stipend for our school.  I was able to use this stipend for items we would typically purchase and thereby freed up a bit of money for additional support for our fourth graders.  I am excited about the targeted interventions for Kindergarten and 4th Grade and can’t wait to see how our students will grow.

Because classrooms have enjoyed the PTC’s donation of iPads for each pod so much, many of the teachers are hoping to change the ratio of 1 iPad for 18 students to a better ratio, so you’ll many requests for iPad minis on the website.  This site links teachers’ projects with possible donors.  Several of our school’s projects have been funded by corporate donors like Chevron.  Many of the projects are funded by many small donations.  So far we have had parents, grandparents and even the co-workers of some of our parents make small donations.  When I made a donation for a project last week I was able to do it through my Amazon account and I got a tax receipt for my donation immediately.  It was an easy way to give.   I’ve posted titles for specific projects in the Wish List section below.   You can link directly to the projects through my Facebook page at .   The iPads provide opportunities for students to research, innovate, and learn in creative ways.   

On Monday, December 2, students will not come to school as it is a Teacher Workday.  On that day, teachers will be working on report cards.   This marks the end of the first grading period.  This will be the first time our teachers have time to input scores into the new report card.  Over the past two weeks, I have shared information about the MATH, BEHAVIORS and WRITING sections of the new report card as well as some of the content areas.  This week I’ll share information about READING.  You will notice that changes are minimal because this area will be revised in 2014-15.  I have provided additional information about reading and assessment because reading is such an important skill and is at the heart of everything we do.

The two columns below show what was on the old report card (left column) that could have been any grade level 1st- 5th and what is on the new report card (right column) specific to one grade.  When you look at the columns below, what similarities and differences do you notice?  Parents at the PTC meeting noticed that the performance key and academic key were similar but that scores on the new report card would show proficiency on year-end targets.   They noticed that the effort grade had been removed from each content area and was instead listed in the Behavior Progress section of the report card.  What do you notice?

Old Report Card
New Report Card
READING (grades 1-5)


READING/LITERATURE (This year there is not much change.  Specific learning targets for each grade level will be added in upcoming years.

Reads accurately
Reads fluently
Comprehends text

Performance Key:
N/A=Not applicable at this time
**  Modified Curriculum/Assessment

Some teachers considered end of year expectations.  Other teachers considered end of trimester expectations.
Academic Key:
4=Highly proficient
2=Nearly Proficient
N/A=Not Assessed this trimester
**  Modified Curriculum/Assessment

All teachers will use the academic key to show proficiency on end of year targets.

Trimester Progress Key
This is the area to pay close attention to since it shows if your child is making the progress we would expect in order to meet end of year targets.
+  significant

A link to the video that describes the whole report card is below:

The ability to process and understand written information is perhaps the most important academic skill students learn.  Through reading, students can learn about every other content area.  READING IS MORE THAN NAMING WORDS.  Reading is making sense of text at deep levels!  To understand your child's reading grade, it is helpful to know how we assess reading (accuracy, fluency and comprehension). 

The benchmark assessment the Beaverton District uses to assess students in reading K-5 is called the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment.)  In this assessment, each student reads a short book at their estimated reading level.  These levels increase based on the complexity of the text, including level of picture support, amount of repetitive language/events, predictability, sentence length and complexity, length of text and font size, vocabulary and word choice and concepts presented.

Oral Reading Skills       
Students at lower levels read an entire book aloud, while at higher levels, they read part aloud, and part silently, and are scored on accuracy (did they read the words correctly) and fluency (how many words did they read in a minute and did it sound like talking).    Students should read 95% or more of the words accurately in a passage in order to be at the independent level.  I’ve included a chart to show how many words per minute we expect students to read at each grade level as well.  Years of research have provided evidence to show a direct correlation between accuracy and fluency and a child’s ability to understand what was read.  

Grade Level
End of Year-Words Per Minute (wpm) Goals
40 wpm on DRA Level 16 Non-fiction
75 wpm on DRA Level 28 Non-fiction
90 wpm on DRA Level 38 Non-fiction
100 wpm on DRA Level 40 Non-fiction
115 wpm  on DRA Level 50 Non-fiction

Comprehension Skills

I believe that comprehension is THE MOST IMPORTANT measure of reading.  Some students do well reading fluently but if they are not thinking about what they are reading, fluent reading is little more than word calling.  Informally, we can assess a student’s comprehension skills just by talking to a student about what they are reading.  From the ability to recall basic facts about the text to doing something with the information they’ve learned, students are called upon to think at higher levels as they progress through the grades.  Below are some of the skills assessed in the DRA:
§  Make predictions                         
§  Determine the important ideas in the text
§  Generate questions                     
§  Support their thoughts with details from the text
§  Understand the text                    
§  Demonstrate awareness of the strategies they use
§  Think beyond the literal level to construct and monitor meaning.

Teachers check comprehension orally at DRA levels 3-24.   At higher levels (DRA levels 28-60), a written summary is expected with interpretation, reflection, and demonstration.  Since writing a summary is a different skill from oral retelling, we continue to teach students the necessary elements of a good written summary and give students multiple opportunities to practice written retells.

Because students read a wide variety of text throughout the day, we want to equip them with skills to understand short and long passages as well as fiction and non-fiction.  We realize that kids will read articles, textbooks, novels, and electronic resources so we must prepare them to think about their understanding and track or record evidence of their learning.

Students use sticky notes to mark pages and pose questions about the text.  Here a student has marked a passage with a question about meaning.  This shows me that the reader is paying attention to his thinking as he reads.  This thinking about thinking as he goes (metacognition) gives me confidence that he OWNS his learning and is not reliant on an adult to prompt him to think deeply.

As students read with a purpose, they note parts of the text (words or phrases) to support their thinking.  Here a student notes information about a characters action to support her theory about the character.  Some children find it much easier to write a summary of the book, when they’ve made small notes about the book along the way.

When students leave tracks of their thinking about a text throughout a book, it is much easier to summarize the book later on and provide evidence from the text to support thinking.  Additionally, sticky notes are small enough that the person writing the note about the text must decide what is most important in order to fit the idea onto the sticky note.  Many small opportunities to prioritize throughout a longer text provide great practice.  Active reading and thinking happen throughout the day, every day in our schools. 

There are certainly many opportunities throughout each day to read for the joy of reading but it’s certainly more fun to read joyfully when skills are well developed and reading isn’t a chore.  Our library is full of great books so students with strong skills also have more choices.

In years past, we’ve used the table below to show us if a child is on track to meet end of year targets.  The table below shows the year-end independent benchmark targets for the DRA test at each grade level. 

Approximate Target in December
Approximate Target in March
Approximate Target in June
First Grade
DRA 6 or 8
DRA 12-14
DRA 16 non-fiction
Second Grade
DRA 18-20
DRA 24
DRA 28 non-fiction
Third Grade
DRA 30
DRA 34
DRA 38 non-fiction
Fourth Grade
DRA 40 –instructional level
DRA 40 –instructional level
DRA 40 non-fiction-independent level
Fifth Grade
DRA 50 –instructional level
DRA 50 –instructional level
DRA 50 non-fiction-independent level

Knowing your child’s reading level will help you better assist them in finding “just right books.”  Reading then talking about or writing about books at their DRA level will help prepare for the next level.  Practice makes proficient.   We have a leveled book room next to the stage where families can access leveled books to borrow.  If you are not able to stop by but would like extra books at your child’s level sent home with your child, please let me know.  Finding the just right book can make the difference between a positive reading experience and a battle.  Publishers often identify books by DRA level or Guided Reading Levels.  I’ve listed a Guided Reading/DRA level correlation key at the end of the newsletter so you can see how they are connected.
With a Furlough Day Wednesday, a Teacher Workday Monday and the Thanksgiving holiday, students will have a long weekend.   I know that my family will spend a lot of time over the long weekend reading.  On our last trip to Bend to visit my parents, my son read a novel for one of his classes.  More than once, he had everyone stop what they were doing to listen to a passage from the story.  Before the weekend was over, my mom was compelled to read the book and together, they had a great discussion.

I wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I hope that you are able to find time to relax and build memories.

Thanks for sharing your children with us!


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

THANK YOU-We are so lucky to have an active and involved community willing to do special things for our kids.  When we work together, our kids benefit.
  • §  Thanks to Shirley Yau for the donation of Swiffer duster refills.  Mrs. Kramer is putting them to good use in the computer lab!
  • §  Thanks to Generations Church for cleaning up leaves and making our campus beautiful!
  • §  Thanks to our Canfield Lunch Buddies for providing some of our second and third graders with an amazing inter-generational experience.

Wish List-These are things or jobs that make a difference to our kids, teachers or school. Send in items or let Mrs. CB know if you can volunteer.
       Donations for our teachers’ projects on   Check out the range of projects at:
       Mrs. Tanksley’s Project
       Mrs. Krueger’s Project-
       Ms. Hunt’s Project-
       Mrs. Antich’s Project
       Mr. Hayhurst’s Project
       Mr. Shotola’s Project
       Mrs. Olson’s Project
DRA and Guided Reading Correlation Chart
DRA Level
Guided Reading Level















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