• Connecting the Dots

    Posted by Michael Musick on 11/15/2018 9:34:00 AM

    Last month, the School Board received the Lake Oswego School District Special Education Audit that was conducted in the Spring. Dr. Laura Katzman, Program Director for the Urban Special education Leadership Collaborative Education Development Center, presented the 70-page report. District leadership commissioned the report so we could have an objective assessment of what is working well and what needs improvement.

    According to Dr. Katzman, “The District could be a leader in this work.” Because of our emphasis on equity in our strategic plan and the implementation of Response to Intervention (RTI) and professional learning communities (PLC) over the past four years, the District is positioned to support each and every student in their academic journey.

    We can do more.

    Last year, Dr. Anthony Muhammad came to LO to talk to our staff about equity and inclusion.  He is a nationally known educator and author who speaks about a culture of collaboration and building teacher efficacy to reach all learners. His message included ways to enhance our efforts to focus our equity lens to provide culturally engaging lessons and supports, and he said, “Unless all the adults in your school believe that every student can learn at high levels, then we do a disservice to all of our students.”  This goes for students of color, students who experience poverty, and students who have special needs. All of these students have been underserved by our schools and community. That, in turn, produces low student performance. We started addressing this issue by providing professional development for all staff focused on identifying implicit bias and by implementing RTI and Collaborative teacher time (PLCs) on Thursdays.

    The recommendations that Dr. Katzman suggest are designed to bring special education services into alignment with general education. Patrick Tomblin, our executive director of special services, is excited to execute a world-class roadmap so every student experiences a welcoming and supportive environment and academic success. Please read the entire report here. I have pulled out each of the recommendations that we will be working on in collaboration with our teachers, staff, and parents:

    • Create a special education strategic plan focused on educational outcomes that align with the District’s overarching focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion
    • Examine alignment between RTI and special education service and staff; collaboratively develop protocols and disseminate best practices, both for academics and social-emotional learning
    • Examine current evaluation and classification policies and practices; track data disaggregated by socioeconomic status, disability classification, race/ethnicity, and gender
    • Address the achievement gap by focusing on the RTI model, providing professional development for Universal Design for Learning (UDL) model, and continue monitoring attendance, behavior, and course performance while focusing special education supports and services on student outcomes
    • Include students with disabilities in “All Means All” and provide messaging that illustrates that special education students should succeed as do their peers without disabilities
    • Examine how learning specialists and educational assistants are deployed
    • Provide collaborative opportunities for general and special educators
    • Shift special education supports and services provided in general education in the student’s home school
    • Develop a continuum of supports and services focused on access to and success in the core curriculum
    • Provide professional development for special education and general education staff to ensure students receive accommodations and modifications to access the general education curriculum
    • Include social-emotional learning in current RTI model and identify key stakeholders to support this work at the building level

    We are grateful for Dr. Katzman’s findings and we are excited to work together with our staff, SSPAC, parents, teachers, and administrators to ensure each and every child receives what they need to achieve academic success. You can find the detailed report here.

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  • We Must Create the Community We Envision

    Posted by Michael Musick on 10/30/2018 4:35:00 PM

    Our community has been affected by national events including the horrific event in Pittsburgh. Three hate crimes have splashed across the national news in the last week alone. We can feel bombarded by these profoundly disturbing events, which affect all of us, no matter our age.


    As a school community, we are an extension of what happens in the wider world. We hear the sadness in conversations around us and we see the hurtful actions of our students who are acting out for whatever reason. When our students choose violence to address their issues instead of seeking help from adults, we must all take responsibility for guiding our students to make safer choices.


    Every single adult who works for LOSD can provide support for our students. We are not only committed to creating safe, inclusive schools but school communities that value each and every student. LOSD has the resources to help every student develop into the fullest expression of a contributing citizen.


    Bullying, discrimination, and harassment are all a result of students feeling less than. We hurt others when we don’t feel good about ourselves. It is learned from the media and from other people who do not value themselves. To counter this, we as a school community must lift up and support each other in order to give each of us a chance to grow into positive community members. Whether the intentional acts of violence or unintentional discriminatory behaviors that have been seen recently in two of our schools, each action has damaged relationships and hurt us all.


    In the most profound sense, we must come back to a common understanding of what it means to be in community. We are responsible to and for each other. We are interconnected. When students are in pain, all of us feel it. It can come out in hurtful ways, but we have the resources, knowledge, and ability to wrap around students who need help.


    I ask that you help us do this work. Schools cannot do this alone. We need parents and community members to help students see there are other ways to resolve disputes and that there is no need to bully each other. As a District, we are in the process of training all of our staff in ways to interrupt discriminatory behavior such as using Speak Up from Teaching Tolerance and the elementary PBIS Toolkit. Parents and students can anonymously report incidents through SafeOregon or to their building leaders.


    Each school has a diversity, equity, and inclusion team that can help guide us in building healthy relationships while offering compassion to people with opposing viewpoints. Every adult should be a resource for students. As adults, we need to help students move from being bystanders to upstanders. We are not there yet, but if we have the courage to have difficult conversations about the complexities of race, ethnicity, gender identification, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, and cultural and faith-based practices we will be stronger for each other in building the community we all want. We can hold each other accountable for creating the safe and nurturing place we all envision.

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  • District Progress

    Posted by Michael Musick on 10/25/2018

    Students are finishing up their first quarter, the leaves are turning, and the squirrels outside my office are having a field day. It is fall in Lake Oswego. It is also time for the Oregon Department of Education to release its School Report Cards.

    As I said in my email earlier this week, I could not be more proud of the students, teachers, administrators, and Board members who believed in each child. Academic Progress is one of the main indicators on the District Report Card that demonstrates our strategies are paying off. Our 3rd-grade through 8th-grade students are making steady progress in English language arts and mathematics. This indicator represents the laser focus our teachers and staff members have on ensuring each and every child receives what they need in order to move forward.

    Our strategy has been to increase the rigor of our classes while providing supports. Students are now willing to take the risk on a “Grade 13” or an AP course because they know they can get the extra help they need. Through RTI support structures like the Academic Support Centers students are excelling, pushing themselves, and succeeding.

    Another indicator to watch is On-track To Graduate. According to this report, more than 95% of our underclassmen students are on that path. We know who needs additional help to make it across the finish line. Our RTI coordinators, math and English tutors, academic support center teachers, and engagement specialists support, tutor, and nurture our students to make their dreams come true.

    School is not all about numbers. Students should have the opportunities to find their passion, discover who they are, and become thoughtful, caring citizens in our community. While achievement on tests is important, this is also an important performance season for our students. We have performances for band, choir, orchestra, and plays at all of our schools. We have sports teams that are performing at the highest levels. I encourage the whole community to come out and celebrate our students’ accomplishments as we strive to give them well-rounded experiences and challenging opportunities that develop lifelong learners and contributing world citizens. Thank you for your collaborative efforts in making our mission come true.

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  • OBOB Superintendent Letter

    Posted by Heather Beck on 5/7/2018

    A Message from Superintendent Dr. Heather Beck


    Dear LOSD Families,


    For the last four years we have been on a journey toward embracing all members of our community. We use inclusive phrases to focus our conversations such as “all means all” and “we are better together.” These phrases are words to live by, not just cursory slogans.


    We also have a thoughtful school board that values equity, diversity, and inclusion setting specific goals in the district's strategic plan. In order to honor these values, we must embrace all opportunities to learn about multiple perspectives, different worldviews, alternative lifestyles and individual experiences.


    For several years, LOSD students have participated in the Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB), which is a voluntary, state-wide reading program and competition. We’ve had great participation from our schools in the past.


    The 2018-2019 OBOB reading list has recently been released. One of the books, George, is a novel by Alex Gino, which tells the story of a transgender student. The OBOB selection committee found it to be age appropriate for grades 3 through 5 and appropriate in furthering students’ understanding of diversity of experiences and perspectives.


    Our students have a choice whether or not to participate in OBOB. If they choose to participate, students will read from the entire list, not an edited list. Because this is a voluntary program, students do not have to read every book to participate in the competition. You can find out more about the book selection process here.


    Living in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community does not mean just accepting a person’s race or color or religion or ability. It means accepting their gender identity and the whole person they are. George offers our students an opportunity to build their awareness and deepen their understanding of diversity and inclusion of all people.


    Our mission statement and our strategic plan both guide us in our work, especially around intellectual freedom and how we help our students see multiple points of view. This is a critical step in the district's work toward ensuring all students in our schools are successful. We encourage you to join us. If you want to support your child reading this book, but need the words to discuss transgender topics, your principal or school counselors will be glad to help guide you in these conversations.

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  • We Are Better Together

    Posted by Heather Beck on 2/19/2018

    We are better together.


    I began the year with this theme and I continue to believe it. To root out discrimination, racism, sexism, or ableism, we must ensure each student is loved and respected.


    I have hope for our community and our nation. Hope for healing our relationships. Hope for understanding and appreciating our neighbors with all our similarities and differences. Hope for our community to be its best and to live by our shared values of respect, compassion, and ultimately, love.


    I want to take this opportunity to apologize to our students who have negative experiences in our schools. Every child is entitled to positive school experiences and interactions. We began the process of healing the wounds we have experienced over the last three weeks by actively listening and learning from each other: from students walking out in support of love and acceptance to our parents stepping into the peace circles last Tuesday evening.


    At the community level, our restorative practices process is public and quite powerful. Our peace circles revealed how hard it is to have conversations about race, gender, special needs, class, and all the other things that we imagine divide us. With practice, patience, and persistence, we can do better at helping our students learn to appreciate the differences that ultimately unite us.


    Our community has learned that microaggressions, the sarcastic jabs and jokes, and the use of derogatory names as terms of endearment, are not acceptable behaviors in our schools and should not be in our homes. If students or parents hear these words, ever, please report them to the teacher and principal. Please help us by alerting us to this behavior. You can also report incidents anonymously at http://safeoregon.com/ .


    Living our mission to be a safe and inclusive learning environment means creating a welcoming place where everyone belongs and feels safe. We will continue to have these conversations in our classrooms using a variety of curricula. We will continue to listen and learn with our parents and with the broader community. Next month, I will report back on our donor-funded trip to the Museum of Tolerance in LA, where we will have spent two days learning how to facilitate community conversations on these issues.


    I am hopeful for our future because we are engaged in a learning process that will make us a better community today, tomorrow, and in the future. Through these actions we will be better together.

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  • District Dyslexia Initiatives

    Posted by Heather Beck & Patrick Tomblin on 12/18/2017

    District Dyslexia Initiatives


    This blog post is a joint effort between

    Superintendent Heather Beck and Executive Director of Special Services Patrick Tomblin


    November was a busy month for dyslexia training in our district. Every one of the Elementary Instructional Specialists and the Title I teachers have completed the required training. Now, each elementary school has at least one specialist who has met the training requirements.


    The district teamed up with ORBIDA to present eight dyslexia awareness sessions during our PD November staff development days. Barbara Steinberg, reading and dyslexia specialist of PDX Reading, presented one session on Phonemic Awareness. Staff also had sessions on Balanced Literacy, Audio Books, and Accommodations for Students.


    The Reading Cohort, which is made up of more than 35 teachers, is working on their Reading Endorsement through Portland State University. We are working in collaboration with PSU staff to ensure that a dyslexia module is included in the training.


    Our current focus is on evaluating potential assessment tools to help us identify the risk factors for dyslexia. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has yet to publish the list of acceptable assessments. The district currently uses DIBELs for its assessment tool, which we think will be on the approved list. Once the assessment list is published, we will review the list and provide training for staff as needed.


    There are a couple of questions that parents have asked recently. They include the following:

    • Will district staff be able to diagnose dyslexia? No, the district will identify whether a student has “risk factors” in certain areas of reading, which may indicate that a student has dyslexia. As with ADD, the district does not diagnose disabilities.
    • Will district staff be trained in Orton-Gillingham, Wilson or the Slingerland programs? No, currently these are not district adopted or approved curricula. The trainings our staff attended were developed by PDX Reading–a state approved training organization. The training was geared toward teaching reading strategies in Phonics, Fluency, Phonemic Awareness, Vocabulary and Comprehension; not one particular reading program.


    Our staff is excited to have the new resources and training to ensure our students have the best chance at learning the read, early. As the state releases new information we will have staff trainings and continue to update the community with our initiatives.


    If you have any questions please contact Patrick Tomblin, Executive Director of Special Services at 503-534-2359 or at tomblinp@loswego.k12.or.us.

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  • Welcome to the New School Year

    Posted by Heather Beck on 8/14/2017

    Welcome to the new school year!


    I am always excited at the possibilities a new school year holds. As I begin my 4th year as your superintendent, I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight some of our accomplishments. We


    • successfully negotiated four-year contracts with both of our labor associations,
    • passed a $187 million construction bond to renovate and improve our schools,
    • continued to embrace All Means All by engaging in deeper conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion and how these are manifest in our schools and policies,
    • changed our school start times to support healthy lifestyles for our students,
    • significantly improved our support of gifted and talented and special education students, while implementing new math and English language curricula,
    • formed professional learning communities so teachers can collaborate on best practices,
    • unblended the majority of elementary classrooms and increased instructional supports at all levels,
    • improved teacher and classified professional learning opportunities in order to have the most qualified and prepared educators working with students,
    • expanded student access to challenging and advanced courses as well as elective classes,
    • updated the athletic handbook and train our coaching staff four times a year,
    • installed dark fiber, launched a new website, and modernized our fleet of buses to all propane,
    • increased the graduation rate from 89% to 92%,
    • balanced the budget, set revenue policies and provided training for the Board.


    As you can tell from this partial list of successes, the pace of change has been significant and the work is transformative. It takes all of us to create a vibrant teaching and learning community, driven to ensure our students are career and college ready. Although we have been leaping forward with extraordinary speed, this work brings us much closer to our mission, vision and goals.


    Our accomplishments highlight one important truth–none of us works in isolation. We need each other to ensure our students receive the highest quality education for an ever-changing global community. It took the entire LO community to pass our bond. It takes an entire community to keep improving our academic and athletic outcomes. The hard work of our students, parents, teachers, board members, and community last year gives a solid foundation to realize our goals. Let’s launch into the 2017-18 school year, ready to help each student reach another year of growth, knowing that we can meet any challenge because we are better together.

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