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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Academic Language, Thoughtful Learners, Academic Learning Targets and More-October 25, 2016

Sexton Mt. Families:

Our school is full of deep thinking language learners and thoughtful citizens!  This morning I had an opportunity to spend time with 5th graders as they learned from Ms. Amanda and Ms. Ashlee (SRC teachers) how to be Adaptive Physical Education buddies.  They learned about differences and how needs are met in a range of ways.  They learned about sensory processing and the importance of being concise with words.  While it wasn’t explicitly stated, I would guess that our students could infer that structure and routine are an important part of our self-contained program. One of the things I love most about our school is how understanding our students regard difference and how good they are at finding similarities.

The background knowledge our students use to understand similarity and difference in people and places is developed through reading.  When kids pay attention to the thoughts, words and actions of characters in stories, they are able to make inferences and connections.  During the presentation today, Penny remembered what we learned about structure and routine as our school read Rules by Cynthia Lord.  Penny noticed that in Rules, the main character’s little brother got very upset when the schedule changed.  If the routine changed, he would scream or cry.  As Penny learned about the need for structure and routine for students she made the connection that sometimes kids don’t have the words to express frustration when schedules change.  Pippa made connections with Wonder by R. J. Palacio. 

This year we are working school-wide to increase student use of academic language.  Students are using discipline-specific vocabulary as they provide evidence to support their thinking in all areas.  Teachers are learning to support students as they press one other in order to deepen levels of understanding. All Sexton Mt. students are English Language Learners.  Some are multilingual and some are monolingual, but all are growing in this area.  On an informal language assessment, less than half of our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders scored in the “advanced language” range.  In the primary grades, less than one third of our students scored in that range.  During the daily English Language Development block, students are speaking and writing related to content.  Initially, this was an area of focus because some students weren’t making the progress we expected. Students identified as economically disadvantaged or English Language Learners or identified as having a disability were not learning at the trajectory needed in order to be College or Career ready.  Upon closer examination, we also saw that our high achievers were starting strong on state assessments but many were not meeting growth targets.  For every student, the ability to use language in increasingly complex ways to access content is essential.   Students are expected to apply higher level thinking skills at deeper levels every year as they work to build a foundation for college and career readiness.  Our teachers work diligently to maximize time for our wide range of learners.   Notice how the Academic Learning Targets (ALT) listed below for English Language Development (ELD) are rigorous and relevant across content standards. 
ALT 1 - Construct Meaning -I can construct meaning from oral presentations and literary and informational text through grade-appropriate listening, reading, and viewing
ALT 2 - Oral, Written Exch. -I can participate in grade-appropriate oral and written exchanges of information, ideas, and analyses, responding to peer, audience, or reader comments and questions
ALT 3 - Speak - Write -I can speak and write about grade-appropriate complex literary and informational texts and topics
ALT 4 - Oral, Written Claims -I can construct grade-appropriate oral and written claims and support them with reasoning and evidence
ALT 5 - Conduct Research -I can conduct research and evaluate and communicate findings to answer questions or solve problems
ALT 6 - Analyze, Critique -I can analyze and critique the arguments of others orally and in writing
ALT 7 - Adapt Lang Choices -I can adapt language choices to purpose, task, and audience when speaking and writing
ALT 8 - Determine Meaning -I can determine the meaning of words and phrases in oral presentations and literary and informational text
ALT 9 - Create Speech, Text -I can create clear and coherent grade-appropriate speech and text
ALT 10 - Use Standard English -I can make accurate use of standard English to communicate in grade-appropriate speech and writing.
Please think about how you can encourage academic language development at home in these areas.  As you read with your children or discuss the day, encourage them to make connections and play with words!
Students talk about the books they read.

Students use the language of negotiation during games.

Starting in September 2017, the Beaverton School District will implement a 90-minute early release on Wednesday afternoons to allow teachers time to collaborate and participate in professional development opportunities. The schedule change is a result of the new contract between the District and the Beaverton Education Association. The agreement adds nine student days over the next three years.

We recognize the impact this change will have on families and that childcare may be a challenge.  We are exploring opportunities for additional after school activities with the Beaverton Education Foundation and other community partners.  The District recognizes this fact and has already begun the planning process. Some of those steps include weekly planning meetings, conducting parent focus groups and regular communications about the change. Much of the work is focused on determining how to support families and students in the transition.

Sexton Mt. parents will have the opportunity to learn more and to provide input during the Principal’s Time within each Parent Teacher Club meeting throughout the year.  The PTC meeting minutes will capture the major talking points if you are not able to attend the meetings.  You can find these under the “About PTC” section at

The District has developed an Early Release/Teacher Collaboration webpage. There is a link to this page on our school webpage in the “School Resources” box. The webpage includes a FAQ page that may contain answers to many of your questions.  Planning for Early Release/Teacher Collaboration will continue to take place throughout the 2016-2017 school year. Please check the District’s BSD Briefs newsletter, our school newsletter and the Early Release/Teacher Collaboration webpage for updates.

Learning Options Information for 2017-18 should be considered.   The Beaverton School District is nationally recognized for high student achievement and innovative programs. Beaverton students in grades 6-12 have the opportunity to investigate learning options that best fit their academic needs. Students can choose their neighborhood school or one of a number of small learning options. Transportation is provided.

Learning Options Applications are available. All applicants must reside within the Beaverton School District boundaries. Current Beaverton School District students are able to apply online using their student ID. Resident students not currently attending a Beaverton school will need to complete a paper application available online, or at any school office.

And finally, just a reminder that we expect that families will check their own children regularly for lice or nits. Students must be lice free at school.  If three or more related cases of head lice are brought to the school’s attention, a notice will be placed in our newsletter.  Some experts believe that checking your child’s head weekly is a good practice because it helps you to catch outbreaks early and interrupt the life cycle.

Great things are happening at Sexton Mt. and throughout the Beaverton School District everyday.  Thank you for supporting us as we empower children for a future filled with choices.

Thanks for sharing your children with us!


Teresa Clemens-Brower, Ed. D.


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