As we begin this year, the Sherwood School District continues to focus on individual student growth while delving even more deeply into our three, primary initiatives:
1. A smooth transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
2. Implementation of a Proficiency-Based Model of Teaching and Learning
3. Infusion of Instructional Technology into our classrooms
In the world of education there are relatively frequent opportunities to stray from the current focus, in order to chase the newest, “shiniest” opportunity or initiative. These opportunities tend to become even more alluring when there are fiscal resources linked to them. In Sherwood, we have a Board of Education and a District team of administrators and staff who are committed to staying the course -- doing our very best to ensure that each and every student in our district is given the supports and opportunities necessary to learn, to find what brings them joy, to grow and to achieve.
Common Core State Standards
First, the transition to the Common Core State Standards. Oregon is one of 46 states that has adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This initiative, launched by the governors and state school chiefs, will ultimately lead to better curriculum, more collaboration between teachers and easier transitions for students moving from state to state. The CCSS are more rigorous than current Oregon standards, embedding higher-order thinking and 21st Century skills into learning and asking students to demonstrate learning in a variety of ways.
In addition to new standards, the assessments students are given will also change. The year 2015 will be the first year our students will be administered the Smarter Balanced Assessment, in lieu of the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS). The primary difference between the OAKS and Smarter Balanced Assessments is the rigor of the test; students will also only have one opportunity to pass, whereas they were afforded two opportunities to take OAKS.
While every district in our state is making this transition, Sherwood has identified it as one of our primary initiatives in hopes of helping to ensure a smooth transition -- one that supports staff and students -- and helps to prepare our system for more rigorous standards and assessments. You can learn more about the Common Core State Standards here: http://www.corestandards.org/.
Proficiency-Based Model of Teaching and Learning
Next, the implementation of a proficiency-based model of teaching and learning. Proficiency is a combination of research-based best practices in instruction and assessment. Largely in place at the elementary level for several years, it is not a new program or curriculum that the district is implementing. In a proficiency-based model, the teacher becomes more of a facilitator of learning, as opposed to a disseminator of knowledge, and students have multiple ways to demonstrate what they have learned.
It can be tempting to think that proficiency is about changing how teachers grade student work, but this is merely one aspect of this model of teaching and assessing students. House Bill 2220 mandates school districts to, at least one time each year, provide parents with a report indicating their student’s achievement measured against Oregon State standards at the student’s grade level. This grade will be based solely on the student’s academic performance and cannot be influenced by student behavior. You will notice that our report cards this year have a new look in order to report student achievement relative to standards. We have numerous resources online to help parents understand proficiency; click here to learn more.
Last, but certainly not least, instructional technology. We have 21st Century learners in our schools; they are learners who are ‘digital natives’ and who, all too often, are asked to learn in ways that are not consistent with the changes taking place, relative to technology, in the world around them.
Our focus on instructional technology works in concert with our other initiatives and will only strengthen students’ ability to learn and eventually demonstrate acquired skills. Last year alone, we deployed over 600 handheld devices to our classrooms; devices that are now in the hands of students and teachers who are using them as opportunities to learn, work, communicate and research using technology -- skills that will set our students up to succeed in the 21st Century.
While we are excited to continue our focus on the initiatives described above, the Sherwood School District also remains committed to the needs of every student to have opportunities in the arts, athletics, CTE programs, just to name a few! Through several years of budget reductions we are still able to offer a varied complement of electives for our students; those offerings and opportunities have remained a priority and our offerings are reflective of those priorities.
There is amazing work taking place place each and every day in our schools and a great deal of what we are able to do and provide for our over 5,000 students is due, in large part, to the hundreds of volunteers and supportive city and community within which we live. For the productive partnerships we enjoy and appreciate -- we thank you!