Principal Chat... REVEALED October 2016

Scientific Study-- An Area of Opportunity

Janet began by handing out copies of the state of Oregon’s district and school report cards from 2015-16, which were released back in August.  Not sure how we missed them, since they are very clearly buried in the internet.  Huh.

The good news?  Bonny Slope is rocking it with a Level 5 in Achievement.  You might need a degree in Statistics to be able to read this thing, but the various and multiple charts reveal that Bonny Slope students beat both the Oregon average and the “Like School” average by 6% points when it comes to both Language Arts and Math.  Nailed it!

And……. then there’s the bad news.

On closer reflection, Bonny Slope still has work to do, most specifically in the area of Science and achievement with underrepresented student groups. Confused by all the jargon and all the tiny charts?  Let’s hold hands & walk through a quick vocab list.  Here we go.

STATE REPORT CARD-- Oregon sends out a report card every August, measuring every school district and every individual school.  Demographics are given on tons of data, everything from ethnicity to vaccination rates.  There are five levels of school ratings, with Level Five being the top.  Test scores from last two years are used to derive levels.  Schools are compared to “Like-Schools” (see below).

TEST ASSESSMENT LEVELS-  Soooo… to make this even more ridiculous to describe, the assessments themselves (Smarter Balance & OAKS) have four levels-- not to be confused with the school rating levels (from above).  So glad that’s genius (eye roll).  The little black boxes on the charts represent the percentage in Level 1-- not meeting state standards.  The white boxes indicate the percentage that is level 3 and 4-- meeting and exceeding state standards.  This is where we want high numbers.  

SMARTER BALANCE-- Oh, honey.  Just google it.  This controversial test shook up the country when it rolled out about three years ago, especially with its relationship to the very scary Common Core Standards.  Forget multiple choice and filing in the dots.  This test requires students to highlight, underline, explain and infer… basically, students must prove WHY they know the answer-- not just guess the answer.  It’s harder, it’s longer, and it’s new.  Bonny Slope’s 3rd through 5th graders took it in both Math and Language Arts last year.  

OAKS-- This is last decade’s model.  It’s your tried-and-true fill in the dot test, just like the one you remember.  Smarter Balance doesn’t have a Science equivalent, and only fifth graders take the Science OAKS Test.  Smarter Balance replaced the OAKS in Math & Language Arts two years ago.

LIKE-SCHOOL-- Now it gets complicated.  It is no longer acceptable to simply achieve well.  Now schools are being compared to other schools JUST LIKE THEM-- in terms of demographics, median income, etc.  It’s not really beneficial or enlightening to compare a low-income school’s test scores to those from an affluent community-- schools who face substantially different daily realities.  This “Like-School” comparison allows schools to be compared to their peers.

STUDENT GROUPS-- Here’s the nitty gritty.  Instead of just giving a blanket assessment of the student body, these little charts break data down into very targeted groups.  This is where we see specifically whose needs are not being met, especially when we compare ourselves to those “Like-School” numbers.  These groups range from Financially Disadvantaged, English Language Learners, Students with Disabilities, TAG students and every single ethnicity at the school.

Okay.  Still with me?  Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s discuss the bitter truth.

Bonny Slope’s test scores in Science were down compared to our “Like-School” in almost every single category.  The Like-School average was 13% at level one (not meeting standards).  We were at 19%.  Every single underrepresented student group (Economically Challenged, English Learners and Students with Disabilities) scored below the Like-School average.

Why?  Well…take your pick.

  • Only the fifth grade takes this test and maybe it was a fluke.  The prior year’s numbers had not been down.

  • Students are no longer familiar with taking fill-in-the-dot tests.  We are entering an era where students are USED to and PREFER the Smarter Balance style.

  • Bonny Slope needs to expand its science vocabulary.  If you don’t know the meaning of “variable,” it’s hard to answer the question, “Which is the variable?”

Bonny Slope’s PYP Coordinator, Jennifer Oordt, will bulk up and emphasize scientific vocabulary across all the grades and PYP units as we work towards IB reauthorization.  The current science standards (aptly named Next Generation) are more content focused and less experiment based.

Other takeaways from this report card-

  • 11% of our population are economically disadvantaged-- that’s one in 10 students.  While the Slope enjoys quite the reputation around town, we must recognize and be cognizant of all our students’ realities.  Is this a sudden change?  Probably not. Many families may still need to sign up for the free and reduced lunch as this status is self-reported.

  • 92% of BSE is vaccinated.

  • Our average class size is slightly higher than the state average.  Lame.

  • 93% of surveyed 4th and 5th graders say they feel safe, welcomed and accepted at school.

  • 91% of surveyed students have one adult in their life that really cares about them (though the chat sniffed that this wasn’t 100%).

Feel like you’ve read this before?  School report cards came up this time last year.  Check out October 2015’s Principal Chat summary here which dives into how student growth is measured.

Model Magic

Beaverton School District is changing how literacy is delivered.  Every single elementary school teacher was given an in-service training last August on how to best use the Workshop Model, the current best instructional practice that yields high student growth.

What’s it look like? Imagine a teacher teaching a lesson to the entire class. Instead of then walking around and conferring 1-on-1, teachers would break students up into smaller groups based on level or skill.  Some teachers at the Slope were already using this technique, but now every elementary teacher in the district is being trained on how to implement it.  This method allows teachers to stay on the same page and have similar lessons in every single classroom.  The Workshop Model moves into Math instruction next year.

New Guy In Town

BSD’s new Superintendent, Don Grotting, has been upfront with principals about being instructional leaders--  changing the method in the classroom and identifying the best practice for students.  Schools can’t get by with just high achievement, but need to show growth for all students.

Still Lost in Translation

Confusion over our Spanish program persists, most especially regarding its ultimate goals.  Hearing an echo?  This topic is a common discussion point at these chats and was summarized here in September 2015.  In a nutshell, PYP’s goal with Spanish is an exposure to the culture, not an academic study.  Its purpose is to give an international perspective.


Ah.... lice.  Just the word makes your skin crawl.  Literally.  Here's the thing, BSE.  We won't get any emails from the school unless THREE unrelated cases are reported within TWO weeks.  Them's the rules.  So UNLESS YOU REPORT, no one else gets warned.  So email the office and give the rest of us a chance.  (scratches neck)

And that’s a wrap!  Join us for the next Principal Chat on November 18th at 2pm.