Salem Findings


February 11, 2008

Sandy Husk, Superintendent

Salem-Keizer School District

PO Box 12024

Salem, OR 97309-0024


Dear Superintendent Husk:

This letter serves as the final report of the Oregon Department of Education (ODE)

investigation of the Salem-Keizer School District’s Talented and Gifted Education

program. The report includes findings, required actions, additional recommendations,

and commendations. A summary document of investigation survey data is attached at

Appendix A.


The Oregon Department of Education received a complaint from the Salem/Keizer

Student/Parent Advocacy Association as allowed in Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR)

581-022-1940. As a result initiated a review of the Salem-Keizer School District

compliance with OAR 581-022-1320 Rights of Parents of Talented and Gifted Students

and OAR 581-022-1330 Programs and Services for Talented and Gifted Students. The

complaint and subsequent review focused attention on the TAG program at district

middle schools and high schools.


Investigation Methodology

In carrying out its investigation, the Department reviewed data and records submitted by

the District, conducted surveys, held meetings with District staff and parents and

conducted interviews with students, teachers, building administrators, and district staff.

Andrea Morgan, Education Specialist and ODE TAG Specialist, led the review. Ray

Lindley, Ph.D., Director; Lynn Wilson-Dean, Education Specialist; and Tom Thompson,

Education Specialist, all from the ODE Office of Educational Improvement and

Innovation, assisted with the data collection at the parent meeting and during school

visits and teacher interviews. The data report generated from the surveys and

interviews is attached to this letter as Appendix A.


Sandy Husk, Superintendent

February 11, 2008

Page 2


ODE examined the following issues:

1. Whether the District is in compliance with Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR)

581-022-1320 and is informing parents at the time of identification of the

programs and services available to their child. The OAR stipulates providing an

opportunity for parents to provide input to and discuss with the district the

programs and services received by their child. It further requires notifying parents

of their rights to request the withdrawal of their child from the TAG program and

to file a complaint under OAR 581-022-1940.


2. Whether the district is assessing each student’s advanced level of learning and

accelerated rate of learning and providing instruction to TAG students that

addresses their assessed levels of learning and their accelerated rates of

learning in compliance with OAR 581-022-1330.



The Salem-Keizer Schools’ TAG Program:

District TAG program staff:

The 2007-2008 district-level TAG program staff includes three (3) full-time Program

Assistants and one (1) half-time Program Coordinator. During the 2006-2007 school

year, the staff consisted of two (2) Program Assistants.


School-level TAG staff—the school district handbook provides the following

descriptions of staff roles and responsibilities:

TAG Advocate

Each school building has an assigned TAG Advocate. The TAG Advocate is a

full-time teacher that receives an additional stipend for TAG Advocate duties.

They receive training from the district’s Program Assistants and Program

Coordinator. The TAG Advocate’s role is to:

Lead the school TAG Services Team.

Coordinate the identification effort within the school.

Manage student TAG records.

Communicate with parents during the identification process.

Act as a liaison between TAG Program Assistants and school staff.

Keep the principal and staff informed of TAG Services Team decisions.

Sandy Husk, Superintendent

February 11, 2008

Page 3


Principal’s Role:

Maintain communication with parents

Plan and develop instructional programs that result in educational

progress in all curriculum areas in all grade levels.

Teacher’s Role:


Initiate the TAG identification process on behalf of a student

Be aware of TAG students’ characteristics and learning needs

Assess level and rate of learning in different content areas

Use curriculum modification strategies

Develop a written instructional plan and communicate the plan to parents,

student, and other teachers.



The Salem-Keizer School District has established standards for the TAG program:

There will be an ongoing search for students eligible for TAG services.

Information will be provided by the school to parents in a timely manner when

a student is identified.

Level(s) and rate(s) of learning will be assessed.

Documentation of instruction for assessed level(s) and accelerated rate(s) of

learning will exist.

There will be opportunities for parent input and regular communication among

parents, school staff and students.

There will be a shared responsibility among parents, school staff and


Appropriate service options for each student to work at assessed level(s) and

accelerated rate(s) of learning will exist.

Opportunities will exist for interaction with other TAG students.


Instructional Plans

The school district TAG handbook explains that elementary students have written

individual instructional plans. The plan documents the instructional differentiation for

the student. Secondary students (middle school and high school) do not have individual

instructional plans. At the Secondary level, teachers write TAG instructional course

plans which outline assessment and instructional modification that can be available to

students enrolled in particular courses. These TAG instructional course plans were

readily available at all schools visited.


Sandy Husk, Superintendent

February 11, 2008

Page 4


Secondary Talented and Gifted (TAG) Instructional Plan Grades 6-12

Teachers, either individually or in teams, complete course-level plans. The district’s

plan template includes the following sections:

Pre-assessments to determine level and rate of learning--assessment is to occur

within the first 3 weeks of the course and should document percent, grade,

percentile, specific observation;

Differentiated Instruction:--description of what and how differentiation will take

place in the course;

Post-assessments--show they align with state and district requirements.


Supplemental Programs and Services

Other programs and services that provide additional opportunities for TAG students are

available, although these vary from school to school and are dependent on school

resources, parent volunteers, community support and special teacher training.

(Examples: Destination ImagiNation, Junior Great Books, Pentagames, Model United

Nations, Academic Decathlon, Speech and Debate Team, Robotics.)


TAG Program Communications

The Salem-Keizer School District submitted copies of the following documents that

communicate the district’s Talented and Gifted Education program to parents, students,

and other district constituents:


TAG Standards--Talented and Gifted Programs and Services (September 2006):

gives an overview of the TAG program and lists the eight district standards.

Talented and Gifted Programs and Services (9/06): Salem-Keizer Public

Schools: includes the TAG Philosophy, Oregon Administrative Rules, a chart

that differentiates the “Bright Child” from the “Gifted Learner”, the district’s TAG

identification process, Instructional Services for TAG Students, the district

standards for TAG, and contact information.


TAG Parent Handbook: Talented and Gifted Programs and Services (September

2006): includes information about the district identification process and

instructional services, roles of parents, teachers, and support staff, and

resources available to parents.


Parent flyer “To the Parents or Guardians of Students Identified as Talented and

Gifted” (not dated): This flyer gives a short, concise description of the TAG

statutes and Oregon Administrative Rules, identification process, programs and

services, parent or guardians’ responsibilities and rights, and contact information.


Sandy Husk, Superintendent

February 11, 2008

Page 5





Salem-Keizer School District does not consistently provide an opportunity for parents of

middle school and high school students to discuss TAG services available and give

input to their student’s TAG program. Conferencing about TAG is expected to be part of

the regular parent-teacher conferences. Teachers provide parents with copies of the

course-level TAG plans at conferences and upon request, but do not consistently

identify what within the TAG plan will actually be provided for an individual student.

When the parent signs a student’s class schedule sheet, the district believes it has

provided the opportunity for parent discussion and input.


Salem-Keizer School District does not provide sufficient opportunity for middle school

and high school parents to discuss their child’s TAG services with the District. The

regular parent conferences scheduled at the beginning of the school year are designed

to acquaint parents and teachers, but are not of sufficient length to allow for developing

a plan of instruction. Teachers indicate that they communicate with parents of TAG

students “as needed,” but there is no regularly scheduled opportunity to address parent

or student concerns.


Finding: The Oregon Department of Education concludes that the Salem-Keizer

School District is not providing an opportunity for parents to provide input and discuss

programs and services to be received by their children and is not in compliance with

OAR 581-022-1320(2).



Salem-Keizer School District is not consistently providing instruction that addresses

individual TAG students’ assessed levels of learning and their accelerated rates of

learning. This constitutes a violation of OAR 581-022-1330. The secondary level TAG

Instructional Plan (course plans) list options that might be available to TAG students.

Students are allowed (whether TAG-identified or not; in almost all cases the Honors and

TAG options are identical) to select from the options offered without attention to the

individual student’s rate and level of learning. At one high school visited, only one

teacher interviewed knew the identification categories of his/her TAG students. Written

surveys and teachers interviewed from this school commented that “SASI [the district

student information system] doesn’t tell us that.” The result is that TAG identification is

generalized throughout the school classrooms with students identified as Academically

Talented in Mathematics given the same instruction and assignment options as

students identified as Academically Talented in Reading or Intellectually Gifted.


Sandy Husk, Superintendent

February 11, 2008

Page 6


During interviews, teachers used the terms “TAG” and “Honors” interchangeably,

indicating that they perceived these two groups of students as being essentially the

same. Giftedness was related to a student’s motivation. Teachers expressed the belief

that the Honors options and assignments are the default TAG program. If a TAG

student underachieves or does not pursue extra assignments and Honors enrollment,

his/her rate and level of learning are not addressed.


According to the TAG course plans, teachers rely upon State/District Assessment Data

and CIM tracker data as pre-assessments to establish a student’s rate and level of

learning. In mathematics, the previous math teacher’s recommendations and

observations and the Math History Report are also consulted. While these reports

provide some information about a student’s level of learning, it is not clear how these

reports establish a student’s rate of learning.


Many of the TAG plans examined do not specify the options available to TAG students.

The following are descriptions included in course plans collected at the schools visited:

“Assignment differentiation; enrichment; placement to higher level class, if


“TAG students will have opportunities for independent inquiry and research,

assignment modification/differentiation, enrichment projects in place of

assignments involving repetition.”


Parents and students indicated that differentiation options were made available only if

the student or parent insists. Student rate and level of learning was not consistently

assessed to determine appropriate instruction. Many times, teachers reported that they

allow students to choose whether they will do work that is different from the regular

class assignment. In several TAG course plans, it is noted that “students will have

choice of how to present research findings/topic choice within assignment perameters

[sic]” or “TAG students may request alternative assignments or projects which will

require a higher level of application of learned concepts.” The course plans did not

describe how this will meet rate or level needs of TAG students, particularly in the case

of the student choosing a less than appropriate method of presentation.

Students and parents indicate a concern about TAG students being given more work

rather than different work, and the TAG course plans, particularly in mathematics

classes, indicate the practice of offering TAG students more work: “enrichment

problems for extra credit,” “extensions of mathematical investigations,” “extensions of

regular problems.” The plans do not address the differentiation of the original

assignments and instruction.


Sandy Husk, Superintendent

February 11, 2008

Page 7


Teachers indicate that Honors, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate

courses meet the needs of high school TAG students by virtue of their reputations for

rigor. Very little to no assessment of TAG students’ rate and level of learning occurs in

these classes to ensure that the instruction is indeed appropriate.

Accountability systems to ensure that administrators, TAG staff, and teachers provide

the instruction to which TAG-eligible students are entitled are not evident. The current

system is focused at the course level. Teachers list some possible modifications in the

TAG Instructional Plan, but implementation strategies are not evident or sufficiently

documented as to which modifications are provided to students. OAR 581-022-1330

requires that “the instruction provided to identified students shall address their assessed

levels of learning and accelerated rates of learning.” The generalized statements in the

TAG Instructional Plans do not specify how instruction will address the rate and level of

individual TAG students who come to the classroom with different TAG identifications

and with a variety of instructional needs.


Current district opportunities for teacher professional development show that some

teachers are receiving instruction in providing differentiated instruction for TAG

students. Data submitted to Oregon Department of Education by John Weeks, Director

of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, shows that Salem-Keizer School District in

2007-2008 has 498.24 FTE high school teachers and 366.49 FTE middle school

teachers. [Note: The district reports the number of teachers in terms of FTE. The

participants in activities conducted are reported in terms of individual participants.

Participants may have attended more than one activity.] Table 1 shows information

provided by the district TAG program staff to Oregon Department of Education for 2006-

2008. It charts professional development opportunities that have been provided for

teachers throughout the district. Information in the “% of District Teachers” column is

the approximate percentage of district middle and high school staff involved as

calculated by ODE staff.


Sandy Husk, Superintendent

February 11, 2008

Page 8


Table 1

Activity Number of


% of



Summer Academy session “How to

Differentiate to Meet All Students’ Needs”

33 3.8%*

Year-long differentiation class for West

HS (1 South HS teacher participated)


8 took class for 3 credits


Year-long differentiation class for teams

from high schools


(ECH--1, McKay--3, McNary--2,

North--6, South--4, Sprague--3,



“How to Write Instructional Course Plans”

training for new MS and HS teachers and

new TAG advocates

24 n/a

Individual schools and/or teams of

teachers trained in writing course plans


(West—12 math and ELA

teachers, North—8, Roberts—



HS & MS Department Chairs training in

Course Plan Writing and Pre-Assessment

to meet rate and level needs of the gifted

18 n/a

“Quick Adaptations for Differentiating”


40 in 2006-2007

58 in 2007-2008


Work with MS and HS teachers,

counselors, specialists, and TAG

advocates to write plans for individual

students at West, North, Stephens,

Houck, Judson, Walker, McKay,

Whiteaker, Crossler, Howard Street,



(15 student plans resulted from



All Advocate Trainings—4 70 per training n/a

New Advocate training 8 n/a

Bilingual/Title 1 training 30 n/a

ALEKS and Passkey-online trainings for

teachers, administrators, and parents

40 n/a

Advocates session with study skills brain

research specialist Teresa Massey

71 n/a

Session on Sternberg’s Intelligence

Model, sessions on Bloom’s and Learning

Styles and Learning Modalities, Social

Emotional Issues

42 8.42%

Glad Training related to the Gifted 30 6.02%*

Junior Great Book and Daybook training 15 (Whiteaker, Houck, Crossler) 4.09%**

* if all participants were MS or HS teachers

**of all middle school teachers


Sandy Husk, Superintendent

February 11, 2008

Page 9


Finding: The Department concludes that the district does not have in place a system

that ensures the provision of instruction that addresses TAG students’ assessed levels

of learning and accelerated rates of learning and is not in compliance with OAR 581-

022-1330 (2).



In accordance with Oregon Revised Statute 327.103 (3), the Superintendent of Public

Instruction determines that Salem-Keizer School District is found conditionally standard.

Salem-Keizer School District must implement the district’s plan of improvement to bring

the Talented and Gifted program into compliance with Division 22 Standards. Salem-

Keizer School District has 90 days from the date of this letter to submit a plan to correct

all deficiencies. Upon acceptance of the plan of correction, the Salem-Keizer School

will have until the 2008-2009 school year to implement the plan and correct the



To be in compliance, the district shall take the following corrective actions:

1. Assign responsibilities for corrective action processes and timelines to specific



2. Establish a procedure for clear written notice on at least an annual basis to all

parents of TAG children concerning the parents’ rights to provide input to and

discuss with the District the TAG programs and services to be received by their

child. The procedure must ensure that the district offers an opportunity for parents

to provide input and to discuss their child’s TAG program with a representative of the

District (this can be a teacher, building TAG Advocate, building administrator, or

district TAG staff member).


3. Develop systems of accountability that ensure administrators, TAG staff and

teachers provide the appropriate instruction at rate and level or learning for TAG

students. Require all teachers to document:

a. the students assigned to them who are TAG identified and the

student’s identification category;

b. how the individual student’s rate and level of learning is determined in

the particular class; and

c. the differentiated instruction provided for the individual TAG student

that is based on the student’s level of learning and rate of learning.

Documentation need not be complex but it must be sufficient to allow

the District to monitor compliance with TAG requirements. Compliance

with the District’s documentation policy is one way to meet this



Sandy Husk, Superintendent

February 11, 2008

Page 10



In addition to the findings and corrective action described above, the State

Superintendent makes the recommendations below. The recommendations in this

section are advisory and are not based on findings of noncompliance with legal



1. Provide regular and sustained professional development for all middle school and

high school Salem-Keizer teachers in the following areas:

a. Formal and informal assessment;

b. Design and implementation of effective, research-based instructional

materials and strategies for talented and gifted students; and

c. Development of differentiated instruction for various levels of TAG-identified



2. To facilitate better communication with students, parents, and other constituents, the

District TAG web site resources, hard-copy handbooks, pamphlets, and flyers should

be edited to include current Oregon Administrative Rule references and contact

information. The 2006 editions of materials submitted to Oregon Department of

Education include references to rule numbers that were changed in 1996. Materials

available from the district web site have out-of-date, by over 3 years, links and



3. The district should help teachers explicitly communicate the ways that instruction is

being appropriately differentiated for TAG students in the regular classroom.

Parents and students should be aware of the differences between what the TAG

student is asked to do and what other students are assigned and how this

differentiation meets the TAG student’s particular rate and level of learning needs.



ODE Staff observed some teachers who demonstrated mastery in assessing students’

rates and levels of learning and differentiated instruction that met individual TAG

student needs. In these classrooms, students are required to use higher-level thinking

skills, perform at increased levels of proficiency, and complete advanced work in a

content area.


ODE Staff appreciates the work of Salem-Keizer district-level and building-level staff to

accommodate ODE requests for meetings, building visits, and surveys in the interest of

completing this compliance investigation.


Sandy Husk, Superintendent

February 11, 2008

Page 11

If you have questions or concerns about the investigation, supporting data, or orders,

please contact:


Andrea Morgan, Education Specialist

Oregon Department of Education

255 Capitol St. NE

Salem, OR 97310-0203

(503) 947-5772



Salam A. Noor, Ph.D.

Assistant Superintendent

Office of Educational Improvement

and Innovation

(503) 947-5649