Changing challenges: Parents alerted to new tools, requirements

September 2012 Posted in School

By Kristine Thomas

Mount Angel Superintendent Troy Stoops and Silver Falls Superintendent Andy Bellando recently met in Stoop’s office to provide some insight of what parents and community members can do to help students for the upcoming school year.

Both men emphasized the importance of parent’s being involved in their student’s life from checking grades online to attending school events.

“Parents need to be involved in the education of their kindergarten through 12th grade student,” Stoops said. “They need to be aware where they are at academically. It’s not just the school’s part to educate students but also the parent’s part.”

Parents in both school districts can go online and check their student’s grades, attendance and assignments.

“We are providing access to information so parents can have it real time,” Stoops said. “They can know if their student went to class or is missing work.”

Because less paperwork is being sent home, many forms are online. He encourages parents to use email or call to communicate with their child’s teacher.

Too often, parents know about a student’s academic performance when grades are mailed home or are surprised the student is not on track to graduate at the end of senior year.

“Don’t wait until the end of the grading period to see how your student is doing,” Stoops said. “A child’s perception of how he is doing is often different than what’s on paper.”

“It’s important for parents to ask questions about how their student is doing,” Bellando said, adding this doesn’t mean starting when a student is in high school.

“There is a law that says we need to begin discussing when a student is in fifth grade if they are on track to graduate,” Bellando said.

School districts working together

This year, for the first time both school districts have coordinated their early release days. There are 12 early release days so teachers can work on professional development.

Also new this year is a sports medicine teacher at Kennedy High School who will teach one period at Silverton High School. Kennedy students will continue to attend agriculture classes two periods a day at Silverton High School, Stoops said.

Both school districts are sharing a 2012 CTE Revitalization Grant. The districts’ project called “Building the Pipeline through Project-Based Learning” was awarded $170,365. The grant will be used for high school engineering courses plus agriculture survey and industrial courses at Mark Twain Middle School. Money also will be used for a computer lab.

Requirements are changing

Both Bellando and Stoops advise parents to know what the graduation requirements are for their students. For example, the Class of 2012 had to pass a reading assessment to graduate. The Class of 2013 needs to pass a reading and a writing test while the Class of 2014 will need to pass a reading, writing and math assessment.

Parents should also know what core curriculum graduation requirements are, they said.  The idea of raising the bar so that students can perform at a higher level is “nothing new,” Bellando said.

As the standards for kindergarten through 12th grade continue to increase, Bellando said it creates unique challenges for schools, especially with budget cuts.

“We have the finest educators in front of our students and in my experience they are doing more with fewer resources while helping students meet the higher challenges and higher requirements,” Bellando said.

Both superintendents are proud of the work the schools do to help prepare students to graduate.

“Schools have the obligation to perform and meet the needs of the students,” Bellando said. “Parents need to ask questions at conferences, even at the elementary ages, if their student is on track to graduate.”

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