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Monday, February 9, 2015

Remain Calm and Carry On-We've Got This!--February 10, 2015


Dear Sexton Mt. Families:   

DON’T FREAK OUT! I am about to give you my perspective on a possibly controversial subject and it is essential that you remain calm.

Let’ me start with a little story.  A few years ago, a kindergarten student came into my office, put her hands on her hips and said, “DON’T FREAK OUT!”  I can’t remember why she felt the need to start our interaction that way, but her actions were memorable as she obviously thought my reaction to whatever she’d done would be WILD and her words and gesture caught my attention.  I’ve spent decades in public schools, so I really only get freaked out by snakes, worms when they wiggle through the fingers of a child who has told me, “I’m not hiding anything in my hand” and anything that involves regurgitation.  I will admit that IF I watch too much TV, certain news shows can pull me in the freak out direction but when I return to school with my real kids and real classrooms,  I remember that news networks know nothing about the reality of my school and my classrooms so I’m able to remain calm because GREAT THINGS ARE HAPPENING AT SEXTON MT. SCHOOL. 

Again, DON’T FREAK OUT!  I am about to introduce words that, according to some, cause quite the stir in our community.  I think there is so much speculation based on the possible unknown, that again, if you have negative associations with these words, I want to remind you…. DON’T FREAK OUT!   What are the words?... Take a deep breath….The terms are Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessment.

I am sure to have lost a large percentage of my audience as many of my newsletter readers have enough information to not only “not freak out” but to stop reading now because you know we’ve got it covered.  For the rest of my readers, I want to share some information about the terms and what they mean for our school.

For those still reading, I want to stress the importance of keeping calm and carrying on because we have it covered.  If parents are calm, kids are calm.  If kids are calm , teachers are calm.  Calm is good!

Common Core State Standards are what we teach.  Your kids are learning and engaged in the work every day.  We have exceptional teachers engaging your children each and every day in the right things.  We’ve got it covered.  On some news programs, “common core” is used in a way that makes it sound scary but really, it’s what we teach every day.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is the tool used to assess math and English Language Arts standards in third, fourth and fifth grades.  Because our students are working in class daily on the standards, being assessed on the standards is the natural next step.  This assessment is a bit different than the OAKS test of past years because it’s more like a classroom assignment than the traditional multiple choice test. Students take it once then are done with testing for the year.  Again, some make “smarter balanced” seem like it’s a scary thing, we’ve got it covered because it’s simply testing on what we teach. 

The daily routine of school includes the academic and technological skills needed in order for kids to do well, so we won’t make a big deal of testing. If kids are here for the learning, they will be just fine!   It will be just another thing in our day.  If you’d like to see what the tests might be like, you can check out the sample tests.  Unfortunately the sample tests cover several grade levels so the samples don’t necessarily align with standards, but they do give you a chance to learn about the type of assessment kids will be taking.  Again, don’t freak out if it seems a bit hard because it may be on content that is not at your child’s grade level standard.    To get to the sample test  go to http://oaksportal.org/ , log in as a guest student and select an ELA (English Language Arts) or Math test.

You may notice a few things that are different than the “fill in the bubble” tests you may have done as a child.  Some questions require short answer.  Kids will need to type their response.  They practice typing in Technology class and apply the skill on other projects.  Some questions are multiple choice with one answer and some are multiple choice with several answers, so kids will have to read the questions closely and respond, just like they do on classroom assignments.  The math section has number problems and kids will get to use drawing type tools and do lots of clicking and dragging.  Again, these are skills they practice in technology so it won’t be new  for students.

Students in grades 3-5 will take the test sometime during the last 12 weeks of school.  We are going to be pretty calm about testing this year because we will be able to embed it in our regular routine. Our goal is to prepare our students for an ever changing world.  I’ve described some of the changes today and I hope you know that our kids are ready!  In previous newsletters, I've let you know that we are actively teaching and practicing close reading.  Close reading is a skill that will help children think critically and creatively, develop an understanding of important content, act in a self-directed and collaborative way and build skills and information so that they are able to go into the world to navigate locally and globally.  Our emphasis on close reading this year has made it so that our kids are THINKERS and PROBLEM SOLVERS.  Please approach every day of learning in a positive way and exude confidence in your child.  Close reading is a skill that will build college and career readiness skills so that our children will be prepared for a wide range of post-secondary options.   

I tried to approach a serious topic in a silly way today and I hope I haven’t offended anyone.  Teaching and learning is what we do so we really do have it covered!

On an entirely different note,  thanks to all who turned out on Sunday for the fun event that benefited Dorenbecher’s Children’s Hospital. I am constantly amazed by our community and the number of people able to take action on ideas and make them reality. 






Great things happen at Sexton Mountain because we have an amazing community working together!  I feel honored to be part of such a special place.


Sincerely,

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

Reminders:
·      Medications, including cough drops, must be signed in to the office by adults so that we can monitor dosage and use.
·      There are books available for parent check out from the office on the topic of teaching children about Internet images.
·      During morning drop off, please park in a legal space and walk your child to the school if your child is not yet able to independently get in and out of the car.

Thanks:
·      Thanks to the Kelly Jones for picking up books from Powell’s and saving us shipping fees.
·      Thanks to the Ferguson family for donating children’s magazines for our kids to enjoy.
·      Thanks to Kara Ebbutt and Stu Cobain for making deliveries of materials to other schools for us last week.
·      Thanks to Stacy Namdar for the donation of soap.

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.
·      Children’s magazines
·      Sugarless chewing gum
·      Small dry erase boards or small erasers for dry erase boards
·      Liquid hand soap
·      Zip ties

Upcoming Events
February 10 PTC Meeting at 6:30pm
February 16 Presidents’ Day-No School
February 18 PTC Art Fair 6:30-8:00pm
February 19-20 Parent-Teacher Conferences-No School
February 25 Passport Club
February 27 Final OBOB Battle
March 7 OBOB Regional Battle
March 7 PTC Learn and Play Auction
March 9-12 Book Fair
March 10-PTC Meeting at 9:00am
March 12 Kindergarten Orientation at 4:00pm
March13 Grading Day - No School
March 18  5th Grade BizTown Field Trip
March 19 Passport Club (note date change)
March 23-27-Spring Break-No School
April 9 One School One Book Literacy Night-6:30-7:30pm
April 11 Run with the Eagles 5K
April 14 PTC Meeting at 6:30pm
April 15 Passport Club
April 23 Jog-a-thon
April 23 PTC Science Fair
April 24 Staff Development Day-No School
May 12 PTC Meeting at 9:00am
May 13 Passport Club
May 15 PTC Carnival
May 21-Volunteer Appreciation Day
May 22 Staff Development Day- No School
May 25 Memorial Day-No School
June 5 Field Day
June 9 PTC Meeting at 6:30pm
June 12 Last Day of School

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