Making Connections

Common Core Parent’s Guide in English/Spanish
October 1, 2013, 5:00 am
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Common Core Parent’s Guide in English/Spanish

Parents will learn the ins and outs of the Common Core State Standards and what their students will be expected to know and to do to meet them.  Published by the Oregon Department of Education.


Educators and a Little Hope Make a Big Difference
September 30, 2013, 3:22 am
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PortlandStateUniversity – resources for supporting new educators

Scholarships available for graduate-level students in the
IAL program:

Brakke-Daggett-Petti Family Educational Leadership Endowed Scholarship

Thrasher Scholarship – for students training to teach in areas of teacher shortages

Sandy Kaplan Scholarship – for students with multicultural experience who plan to work with non-native English speakers

Capps Family Scholarship for students planning to teach in inner-city schools

Article Review and Reflection:

Peterson, Deborah S., Urban Principal Finds Hope, Educational Leadership, Vol. 70 No 7, Apr 2013 reprinted with permission in Portland State University Magazine Fall 2013, p.10.

All educators want to make a difference in the lives of young people.  That’s usually why they become educators.  Most are happy if they know of one or two for whom they have made a difference.

This is the story of an unexpected transformation at Roosevelt High School that has made a difference for countless young people and will keep on transforming generations to come.  Deborah Peterson took a post that she didn’t want – being the principal at a failing high school that couldn’t find an adequate leader to bring it around.  She agreed to take it on temporarily until an permanent principal could be signed on.  She tells of the chaos she met at every turn in trying to organize her office and all the paperwork for managing a school.  Missing, besides furnishings, were an instructional philosophy, a master schedule, a bell schedule, teaching plans, curriculum maps, community engagement plan, budget, activities plan, school calendar and hiring plans.  She writes, “The depression in the office chair matched the depression in my heart as I realized the magnitude of the work ahead.”  She realized that she needed more than a list of things to do;  she needed hope as did her students, their families and their community.  She set out to establish that by attending a summer baseball game in the Cascade Mountains.  First she was introducing herself to the opposing teams families.  Then, once pointed in the right direction, she was beginning to meet the real families of her school when Gatorade was dumped on her head in celebration of the win.  She went to other locations around the area to meet more families, including a bar where a group of Optimists met.  Building relationships continued.

In the meantime, the first day of class arrived and she learned that the secretary in charge of schedules was “ill.”  Then she learned that the class schedules promised hadn’t been printed.  She took the opportunity to get to know individual students as schedules were obtained.  She created a video featuring students and staff to establish a behavioral responsibility plan.  It was a success.  It was followed with a pep assembly a week later that turned into chaos as a protest against the new administrators.  The positive behavior plan PBS was enacted to respond to those students.

She also talks about employees who had been mismanaging limited funds and behaving unprofessionally.  For example, one always took Fridays off.  Additionally, there were school partners who took students out of class to tutor or mentor them.  It was insisted that they would have to meet students before or after school and not disrupt their class time.

After five months, when things were starting to flow, Deborah asked that the search for the permanent principal be stepped up.  In a meeting with parents, community leaders and other stakeholders, one person questioned, “Why can’t we just have Deborah?  She is exactly what we want.”   Deborah anguished over the call to her to be the permanent principal.  She had her own teenagers at home who needed her.

She talked about the “tragic gap,” or tension between what is and what we know to be possible, if we are willing to work hard.  She ended up accepting the permanent principalship and stayed for four years.  The community stakeholders all came together during that time, achievement scores doubled, 17 sections of advanced placement classes were created as well as dual college enrollment programs and 50% of the seniors were accepted at colleges.

This story inspires me to keep doing what I am doing but continually strive to do it better even though I have 15 schools to support, each one having a different focus and requesting different resources.  The other day I was visiting one of my schools and I greeted a teacher in the hall saying I remembered her face but not her name.  She exclaimed, “You and Geri visited my class last year and modeled a Stone Soup lesson.  My class and I enjoyed it so much that we continued reading different versions of Stone Soup the rest of the year, using the strategies you shared with us.”  (Cammy at Miller)    I was delighted that we had made a difference in at least one classroom.

“The Best Resources For Talking To Parents About The Common Core Standards”
September 28, 2013, 3:47 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

“The Best Resources For Talking To Parents About The Common Core Standards”.

My correspondent in France, who teaches English as a World Language to his French-speaking middle schoolers, sent me a link to Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day (see ) saying it was one of the best resources for his English lessons.  I chose the seventh link on his list to find an article about the Common Core Standards from Northwest Education. The article is from an excellent series that provides the answers to the basic questions we all asked when the concept of creating nationwide learning standards was raised, once again, five years ago.  It was a question that had been proposed repeatedly in the past, but which was repeatedly beaten down in earlier eras due to the rights of the individual states to direct their own public education as established by the Constitution.  In the Civil Rights Era of the sixties, the need for standards became more and more apparent.  If all Americans had the right to a free education, that education needed to be equitable to all across the states.  For centuries it had not been equitable for all.

We have finally arrived and agreed, at least 48 of us states, to adopt these Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  The states which have not adopted them, have had to produce their own standards, albeit they were required to show the same rigor and approximate progression of standards as those in the CCSS.  While realigning curriculums, units of study, lesson plans and all the accompaniments for educating our students has been a long road – on which we still tread – it is a good road, in my opinion.  With the CCSS, we educators can be confident that we are guiding our students to make inroads into the content and thinking skills that will prepare them to be contributing citizens and leaders in a global society.  Following is the essence of the article linked above.  If you have time, read the whole article.

What are the Common Core Standards? The CommonCoreState Standards (CCSS) are a coherent progression of learning expectations in English lan­guage arts and mathematics designed to prepare K–12 students for college and career success. 

How were they developed?

 The CCSS effort was launched in June 2009, through a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association working together with parents, teachers, school adminis­trators, and experts from across the country. National and international research, evidence, and standards—including standards from countries that are often recognized for high-quality education—informed devel­opment of the CCSS.

What are the benefits:

No matter where a student lives, the same standards will be required at that student’s current grade level..  They emphasize literacy skills across the curriculum.  Basic shifts or changes from previous standards incude:

Reading: Text complexity and growth of comprehension

-Writing: Text types, responding to many types of reading, and research

-Speaking and listening: Flexible communication and collaboration for a variety of   situations, not just for formal presentations

-Language: Conventions (grammar) and vocabulary and effective use of language, i.e., using the right language at the right time

The article gives clear examples of a history standard and a math standard and what would be expected to meet each.

How will students be assessed?

Smarter Balanced Assessments Consortium (SBAC) or Partnership for the Assess­ment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), both aligned to the CCSS, to be implemented beginning 2014-15  (See my BlogRoll – first item Oregon Scoring Guide – we will be using SBAC)

What can parents do to prepare to help their children?

    • Create a study group with other parents, community members, or school staff to examine the new standards. Ask questions.

• Be involved in site council, parent-teacher association, or other committees, and ask your school administrators and teachers how they will prepare to teach to the standards and how they will measure student progress toward meeting the standards. Ask how parents and community members can provide regular feedback and support.

• Attend school board meetings and ask whether policies will be developed to support schools in this work.

• Talk with business and community leaders about the need for high goals and clear expectations for our children’s education.

    • Talk to your children about the importance of graduating from high school ready for college and career success. Discuss how the stan­dards will be used to guide teaching and learning K-12.

In summary, according to the article:

 The CommonCoreState Standards:

Are aligned with college and work expectations;

Are clear, understandable, and consistent;

Include rigorous content and application of knowl­edge through high-order skills;

Build on strengths and lessons of current state standards;

• Are informed by other top-performing countries so that all students are prepared to succeed in a global economy and soci­ety; and

• Are evidence-based.

Source: http://www.corestan­

New Choice Literacy Podcast: Chris Lehman on Student Research
September 23, 2013, 4:35 am
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New Choice Literacy Podcast: Chris Lehman on Student Research.

Here is the Podcast from Christopher Lehman’s Blog.


Doing Research, Presenting Research, Preserving Research
September 23, 2013, 3:39 am
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Crowdsourcing Fifty or so ways to leave your paper:.

From the BLOG Neverending Search by Joyce Valenza

I love to read articles about education, specifically ideas for supporting principals and teachers to establish classrooms where students thrive on learning.  Happily, that is my job as an English Language Acquisition Specialist (ELAS).  I have been thinking about how to organize all the articles I read so I can easily access them when I want to refer to them.  My Practicum 538 at Willamette University requires a reading log and reaction log.  Where could I do this better than on my Making Connections Blog that I started three years ago when I first became an ELAS.

In reading Chris Lehman’s recent BLOG entry about teaching students to do research (Choice Literacy online newsletter BIG FRESH), I realized that doing research doesn’t mean we need notecards, piles of non fiction texts and GOOGLE.  We do research every day as we make decisions about what to eat, what to wear, how to organize our homes and work areas, how to get enough exercise and stay healthy, how to manage our finances and so on.  We need an easy system for accessing all that we learn in our research.  Thus I will resume my Making Connections BLOG to organize my ideas and resources.

The above BLOG entry by Joyce Valenza offers an endless menu of ways to do, present and preserve research.

Just ASK Publications and Professional Development – Just for the ASKing!
September 1, 2011, 5:46 am
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Just ASK Publications and Professional Development – Just for the ASKing!.


Read the September publication of Just ASK.  Keep up to date on current hot topics in education.  What do you think?

Use the following sentence patterns to get started or use your own:

On the topic of…, I feel that….  Some reasons for my opinion include:

In regards to…,I believe that…

I agree/disagree with … because…

Just ASK Publications and Professional Development – Just for the ASKing!
November 1, 2010, 2:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Just ASK Publications and Professional Development – Just for the ASKing!.