Lake Oswego School District 2008

Response to the LOTAG PTA Recommendations from 2006

(the PTA recommendations are in Bold Type)

 

1.          Increasing ability grouping at all grade levels;

a.      The Lake Oswego School Districtís focus on continuous improvement emphasizes instructional strategies that provide inclusion and opportunity for all students. Ability grouping is employed where practical, defensible, and beneficial to the learning of all students.

b.      At the elementary level students are grouped by ability in reading and mathematics, and TAG students are given opportunities for pullout sessions with the TAG Coordinators.

c.      At the middle level, where students have more options in the activities they may participate in both during and after school, a different approach is used. During the school day, students are most visibly grouped in mathematics. In the other core areas, students may be grouped for individual classroom activities. In addition, students have the opportunity to group by areas of interest in their elective courses. Elective opportunities increased for students during the 2007-08 school year with the addition of 2.0 FTE at each junior high school. This translated to six additional trimester offerings in the areas of English and science. Our junior high schools also offer a variety of after school activities for students to participate in with their social and academic peers.

d.      At the high school level students are grouped by ability and interest level in their core area courses. The high school level offers a wide variety of course offerings. Students have the ability to develop their four-year plan according to their interests and acceleration needs. In addition, the high schools offer a variety of after school activities for students to participate in with their social and academic peers.

 

2.          Requiring all teachers, administrators, and TAG coordinators to have an appropriate minimum number of credits in gifted education;

a.      The Lake Oswego School District has a strong, highly qualified, and well educated teaching staff. While the school district is supportive of teachers earning credits in gifted education, we would not recommend requiring a minimum number of hours in this area. While many advanced courses are applicable to gifted education, few course offerings are targeted specifically to that domain, and we believe the professional development opportunities the district provides are more focused on whatís important for TAG students than any college course teachers could take. The district does extensive professional development work with teachers in the areas of differentiation, rate and level of learning, explicit teaching, and problem-solving strategies; and will be introducing sessions focusing on special needs, including TAG and special education.

 

3.          Adopting more flexible philosophy, policies, and practices regarding acceleration, from early kindergarten admission through early high school graduation;

a.      Flexibility provided by the district is grounded in the distinction between rate (speed) of learning and level (depth) of learning. Rate of learning should not be the primary determinant of acceleration. Moving students through course material because they can perform well with a surface level of understanding hurts them in the long run when advanced courses at the secondary level require the application and understanding of the deep structure of knowledge and skills. The districtís focus on differentiation provides flexibility for the level of learning students may achieve.
 

4.          Negotiating and approving inter-district transfer agreements for gifted students wishing to attend TAG magnet schools in Beaverton or Portland districts;

a.      TAG students are treated consistently with the way all students are treated regarding transfer requests: Requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis relative to district guidelines. It is important to note, however, that the receiving district must approve the studentís eligibility to attend their schools, and that the receiving district must also have the space available in their magnet program.

 

5.          Supporting teachers at all levels to effectively differentiate curriculum;

a.      The Lake Oswego School District has a well-developed professional development program focused on differentiated and advanced curriculum. An illustration of our focus on professional development efforts is that all schools have chosen to work on instructional improvements during their in-service times throughout the school year. The district is also working to develop partnerships with parents around the development of thinking strategies for students.

Some of the districtís professional development and partnership programs are listed below:

                                                              i.      Principals of Learning

                                                            ii.      Mindful Teaching

                                                          iii.      Academic Merit Program (AMP) Development

                                                           iv.      Scholarsí Alliance

                                                             v.      Raising Minds

 

6.          Providing each school with additional TAG coordinators who have specialized training in gifted education;

a.      Additional TAG FTE was provided at both junior high schools last year. We always strive to provide the most value for available resources, and have recently added elective courses that help serve the needs of advanced students. This additional support has been focused on our middle level where there have been the greatest concerns.

 

7.          Paying more attention to the rate of learning in TAG students, by telescoping curriculum based on demonstrated understanding;

a.      As stated earlier, the depth of learning for a TAG student is important as well. (See Attached) The district believes that although one can differentiate rate of learning from level of learning, from a teaching and learning perspective they are functionally inseparable because genuine learning for understanding and application requires a level of depth that takes a significant amount of time.

Memorization is important to learning, but learning is much more than memorization.  All learning except for simple rote memorization requires the learner to actively construct meaning.  Constructing meaning requires mindful engagement with new learning, relating the new learning to prior knowledge, and the application of new learning in reasoning and problem solving.  Learning for meaningful understanding is much more than the acquisition, retention and retrieval of information; it is a process of discovering and constructing meaning from information filtered through the learnerís unique perceptions, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings.

What may be deceiving is that some learning can be mastered, especially if it is highly structured, clearly defined, and the learning tasks require only memorization, retention, and recall. Some skills also lend themselves to on-demand demonstrations. But there is an important distinction between knowing and understanding. When a student knows something, the student can recall it and tell or explicitly show someone what he or she knows. Learning with understanding, however, goes beyond recall because understanding is the ability to do a number of thought-demanding applications of what one knows. When a student understands something, the student can explain it, find evidence and examples of it, generalize from it, create analogies similar to it, and apply it in a variety of situations. Quite simply, teaching and learning for understanding require a great deal of ďseat timeĒ in a classroom.

 

8.          Creating TAG peer groups at all levels to meet student needs for intellectual and social/emotional peers, using volunteer adult mentors to supplement paid staff, through challenging elective courses and small learning communities;

a.      When establishing programs and activities for students, the districtís philosophy is that participation should be inclusive in nature and based on interest and ability, instead of an academic or service-identified designation. Participation in the districtís Scholarsí Alliance program, for example, does not have a GPA prerequisite, although that has been suggested in the past as a means of managing enrollment in the program.

b.      In addition to the elective offerings that have been added over the last few years, individual schools offer clubs and extra-curricular activities in which students can participate with peers at their intellectual and social/emotional level. (See list). Students may initiate new clubs within district guidelines that allow them to pursue activities of interest with like-minded peers.

c.      The Community School continues to broaden its efforts to add enrichment opportunities for students, and during the past year has added a variety of classes and clubs including robotics, film making, and Saturday Academy classes.

 

9.          Implementing International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program within two years, and growing an IB Diploma program to follow;

a.      The TAG Advisory Committee studied the IB program in comparison to the current AP program during the 2005-2006 school year. The school board concurred with the TAG Advisory Committee findings and the administrative recommendation that the AP/Honors program, which has many significant strengths, should continue to be the program upon which the district builds its improvement efforts. The following reasons were cited:

                                                              i.      Proven effectiveness.  The AP/Honors program has proven to provide challenging academic offerings to our students.  It is also recognized in the college admissions process as an outstanding program within the context of Lake Oswegoís comprehensive college preparatory offerings.

                                                            ii.      Designed specifically for Lake Oswego students.  The AP/Honors program has been designed, taught, evaluated, and revised over many years by our teachers to meet the specific needs of Lake Oswego students.

                                                          iii.      Shaped by our master teachers.   No variable the district can influence is more significant to the rate, retention, and application of learning than the quality of teaching that our students receive.  The vitality of teachersí instruction is enhanced when they can significantly shape the curriculum they teach to meet their own expectations as well as design instructional strategies appropriate to that curriculum to meet the needs of their students.

                                                           iv.      Ownership with flexibility.  In an ever-changing environment characterized by limited resources and increasing competition, the districtís ability to evolve program offerings and structures is critical to our success in meeting the challenges we are facing. 

                                                             v.      High value in relation to cost.  The AP/Honors program has provided consistently high value within the context of the districtís limited resources. 

                                                           vi.      Strong support from key people.   The continued commitment to the districtís AP/Honors program is supported by the districtís teachers, the districtís Talented and Gifted Advisory Committee, and the districtís administration.

 

10.     Proactively identifying and accommodating the needs of TAG students with learning disabilities;

a.      The school district does currently have processes in place for proactively identifying students who could be dual identified. In addition, the new special education model will further our efforts in this area (see attached). The new model differentiates to meet the needs of special education students. This model will also allow for more focus from our learning specialists on the specific learning needs of our students.

 

11.     With parent and student input, designing and administering a comprehensive survey to evaluate TAG services in LOSD during the current school year; and

a.      The TAG Advisory Committee developed and administered surveys to students, parents, and teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school level. The results of the survey were reported to the school board last spring. The TAG Advisory Committee recommended the school district focus on the following areas:

                                                              i.      Structure of TAG services at the middle school level

                                                            ii.      Increase time with TAG coordinators at the elementary level

                                                          iii.      More resources and professional development for teachers

                                                           iv.      Communication at all levels

 

12.     Committing to long-term visioning and ongoing evaluation of LOSDís TAG program, in accordance with national best practices in gifted education.

a.      The school district has been committed to long-term visioning and on-going evaluation of its services. Most recently, not only has the TAG Advisory Committee been involved in the evaluation of the TAG services, but the school board has appointed several ad hoc committees to evaluate culture, finances, and programs in the school district, all of which affect TAG students. TAG Advisory Committee will also provide a continual review and report to the school board about TAG services in the school district. The National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) Standards are used as a reference when reviewing school district services. The school district does match a majority of the ďExemplary StandardsĒ as identified by NAGC (see attached).


The district is committed to long-term visioning and ongoing evaluation of all of its programs and professional development. In addition, the school district is focused on research-based best practices in all areas instruction and learning for all students.