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Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services
Assistant Superintendent for School Performance
Executive Director of Secondary Schools
Coordinator of Secondary Teaching and Learning
Coordinator of District TAG Programs
Our district's mission is to engage and challenge all learners to ensure academic excellence, and our strategic objective is for all students to graduate with career- and college-readiness skills.
We really do mean ALL.
We don't expect that simply because advanced learners are doing well in their courses, or that because they may not be as vocal as other students in their classes, that they don't need as much from their teachers. Our core values include standards-based, career- and college-readiness expectations for all students, meeting the needs of diverse learners through differentiation, and the heterogeneous grouping of students within the instructional environment. (See Board Policies IA: Instructional Goals and IE: Organization of Instruction.)
Rigor and Standards-Based Teaching & Learning
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) require students to read, write, speak, reason, analyze, problem-solve, and explain at a higher level. In looking at how we help students reach those standards, it is clear that our advanced curriculum most closely aligns to these higher standards. In order to teach to those standards, all of our Mathematics and Language Arts courses must look more like what some schools have designated as "advanced" or "accelerated" courses in the past. Our elementary and middle schools are already teaching to those standards, which means that more of our students are coming to high schools ready for this challenge. We believe that all of our students will benefit from participating in courses of a higher rigor, as long as we build in supports for those students who are struggling to reach this level. We also understand that some students will need to have opportunities for acceleration and/or to learn the material at greater depth. Our goal is to effectively differentiate and provide opportunities for those students to learn at their appropriate rate and level as well. For students who are consistently exceeding their grade level standards, we would encourage them to take AP/IB or dual credit coursework.
What follows is a Q&A that attempts to capture and provide responses to some of the most common questions we have been receiving from students, teachers, and parents over the past few weeks. Please review them and let us know if you have other questions by filling out the form to the left.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the District’s TAG plan?
All first grade students are screened for giftedness with the Kingore Observation Inventory, a six-week analytical observation tool, and the Kingore Planned Experiences, classroom activities specifically designed to demonstrate gifted characteristics. Students identified as Talented & Gifted via the first grade screening process will receive a “Potential for Gifted Performance” (Potential to Perform) designation.
Starting in 2016, all second grade students will be assessed for giftedness with the Cognitive Abilities Test, Form 7 (CogAT7) Screening Form. Those who perform in the top 15% nationally on the CogAT7 Screening Form will be further assessed with the complete Cognitive Abilities Test, Form 7. Students identified as Talented & Gifted via the second grade process will receive one or more of the following designations:
Academically Gifted: Math
Academically Gifted: Reading
Potential for Gifted Performance (Potential to Perform)
Personalized Education Plans (PEPs) are created for all TAG-identified students in grades K-6 to describe for teachers how students can best be served during their school day. At the secondary level, teachers create TAG education plans for their courses that describe how they will differentiate and provide appropriate instruction for advanced learners and TAG students, including strategies like cluster grouping, curriculum compacting, and tiered instruction. These plans are collected by building level TAG Coordinators and are available for parents to review upon request. Older TAG students also have access to university-level coursework, both tutor-supported and independent study.
In addition, TAG students are encouraged to participate in extracurricular enrichment activities. We have the TAG, You’re It! Program on select Saturdays for students in elementary school and Teen Thinksplosion for students in grades 7-10. There are also clubs like Destination Imagination, the Hour of Code, Science Oympiad, Math Counts, and more.
Thanks to an investment by the School Board, we now also offer a Parent Portal and parent classes where parents of TAG students can learn more about what it means to have a TAG student and how best to support them.
TAG Coordinators receive monthly professional development on strategies for engaging and challenging TAG students, and a Schoology course has been set up so that coordinators can easily communicate with one another and access important information to distribute to staff. Additional professional development is offered to staff throughout the school year.
How many TAG students are in the Hillsboro School District?
Approximately 7.5% of our students are TAG-identified (just over 1500).
Can kids get “retested” for TAG?
Students can be referred for gifted identification eligibility at any time. Student referrals typically begin with a teacher observation period, which may or may not lead to formal testing. Formal testing, outside of screenings performed on every first and second grade student (as of 2016) require parent permission. Talented & Gifted identification requires multiple evidence points and eligibility decisions are made by a team. Please contact your school’s TAG Coordinator with questions about this process.
In addition, nationally normed percentile rankings from state reading and math assessments will be considered for Talented & Gifted identification in grades 4-11. These eligibility referrals occur in the fall of each school year based on state assessments from the previous school year. Students identified as Talented & Gifted via the state assessment referral process may receive one or more of the following designations:
Other states allow for TAG kids to have an all day experience.
Per state law, school districts in Oregon have a responsibility to identify and serve TAG students; however, no money is provided by the state to carry out this service. The money we set aside to ensure we have a district-level TAG Coordinator and school-based TAG Coordinators comes from our general fund. We simply do not have the money to be able to provide a separate day-long experience for TAG-identified students, nor does research support that this model is what’s best for students’ academic and social-emotional development.
How do we learn about TAG options for our students in and out of school? Who is the TAG coordinator at my student’s school?
The TAG coordinators at each school are listed on the TAG page on the HSD website. They are the key contact for students or parents who may feel they need more information or support to meet the needs of students identified as TAG. Information about district wide opportunities for TAG students are on our website and may also be promoted by the TAG coordinator at the school. Parents and families should talk to the school principal, teacher or TAG coordinator for site based questions or concerns.
Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards
Why is/was HSD considering changing its course offerings?
About three years ago, coinciding with the shift to Common Core State Standards, teams of teachers started coming to agreement on "planned course statements” for every course we offer across high schools. They also began developing common assessments for each course.
As we became more familiar with the rigors of CCSS, we discovered our previous Advanced Course offerings were actually now aligned with our standard course expectations. As we started developing a common course catalogue last fall, we began to clarify what we were teaching in courses offered across the district for a consistent and viable curriculum. Additionally, with an increase in our offerings of Advanced Placement courses and dual articulated courses for college credit, we are offering more rigorous opportunities with a defined connection to college readiness.
However, after feedback from students, teachers, administrators and parents, we realized that not offering the advanced track option within certain subject areas felt rushed and made people very uncomfortable. We don’t want to move forward with any changes until we can ensure that our students who need challenging opportunities can access them in ways that meet their needs.
How do we raise the level of rigor for everyone and help our most advanced students not just “do more” but have different opportunities?
Our new standards really push us to help our students use and apply their knowledge of content. Through performance tasks, project-based learning and applying concepts and ideas to unknown settings, problems and situations, all of our students can be challenged to think at new levels. The tasks our teachers are developing and refining over time for our new standards will bring a new level of rigor into our classrooms for each student.
Who decides on curriculum materials and when and if courses are going to change?
Basic graduation requirements and instructional standards are set at the state level. Districts have the ability to set their own standards for more advanced diplomas (for example, Hillsboro School District has a Chancellor’s Diploma and recognizes students who both earn a Chancellor’s Diploma and maintain a GPA of 3.75 or higher as Honors Graduates).
Districts must also go through a process of adopting instructional materials for all different subject areas. The adopted materials must be in alignment with the state-adopted standards. The state provides lists of approved materials or districts may go through an independent adoption process (independent adoptions still need to be approved by the state). Typically, adoption processes are undertaken by teams of teachers and administrators with expertise in a particular area. They review available materials and make recommendations for adoption. In Hillsboro, we have a Citizens Curriculum Advisory Committee (CCAC), which is an appointed committee of the School Board. Not all districts have such a committee; in fact, it’s relatively unique in Oregon to have a citizen oversight committee specifically for curriculum. The CCAC is kept abreast of all curriculum adoption processes and is invited to review materials and share their thoughts. They make recommendations to the Board before the Board votes to approve.
Similarly, if a new course is proposed, the staff member(s) proposing the course will present to the CCAC first and secure their recommendation before going to the Board. Once approved by the Board, a new course is available to be picked up and taught by any of our schools.
Each year, our high school leadership teams (principal, assistant principals, counselors and perhaps teacher leaders) come together to discuss what courses they will offer for the following school year. This process is extensive and takes into account the overall Master Schedule (how, when and what to offer and what are the impacts of these decisions?), number and licensure of teaching staff, historical student interest in certain courses, new courses that may be taught and what might have to go away as a result, District expectations, etc. First and foremost, our high schools must offer sufficient courses for students to proceed toward graduation. Next, elective and other courses are considered for making students’ experience more enriching (e.g. AP/IB and dual credit courses, AVID, art, drafting, welding, etc.).
It is important to note that the process of determining annual course offerings does not need approval from the CCAC or the Board; however, principals do undertake this process in collaboration with each other and with district-level administrators to ensure their plans meet the needs of students for the coming year given the resources available and employing best practices.
What is the research behind heterogeneous (mixed ability level) instructional settings?
Research* has shown that ability grouping (high, medium, low) hurts low and middle level learners and provides minimal benefits for high level learners. There is, however, evidence that cluster grouping within a heterogenous class for specific purposes is good practice (e.g. TAG students do benefit by challenging each other at times and should be grouped together for activities intended to enrich and extend learning). (*See John Hattie’s meta-analysis of more than 300 research studies from around the world and over time on factors that influence student learning. Visible Learning, Hattie, J., 2009, pp. 89-91.)
Accelerated and Advanced Courses, Honors Options, and AP/IB/Dual Credit
The proposed elimination of the last few advanced/accelerated classes at Glencoe and Century was just the last straw--parents were already unhappy that the number of those options was declining over the past few years. How can we get all the advanced/accelerated classes back that we used to have and will you try to take them away again next year? What will the process look like from here?
This sentiment has been heard and is understood by District and school administration. Sometimes, regardless of what research says is a best practice or what philosophically or theoretically may be the preferable path, you simply must acknowledge and appreciate the realities that are in front of you. That is where we have found ourselves with this issue. Our plan for the 2016-17 school year is fourfold:
Offer the advanced/accelerated courses that were either printed in the course catalogue as options for the 2016-17 school year (Century) or that have been most recently offered (Glencoe).* (*Note that Glencoe is also adding AP European History as a new class aimed at sophomores.)
Reinstate/add the opportunity for students to earn “honors” in “regular” courses. These options will be developed consistently with an appropriate level of rigor to warrant the “H” (please see additional information in subsequent questions/answers).
Research, study, and discuss how best to serve the needs of all learners in our schools moving forward. Analyze data from Hilhi and Liberty, our high schools that do not have advanced/accelerated classes, as one way to gain additional insight.
Continue to dialogue with students, teachers, and parents about their classroom experience and how to improve it.
We have no plans to make dramatic changes in course offerings again next year. Any changes implemented in the future would only come as a result of a comprehensive process that involves and informs all stakeholders and is designed to best meet the needs of students.
Why do Hilhi and Liberty High Schools not offer students the option to take accelerated/advanced classes?
We believe all students deserve rigorous learning opportunities, and we believe all students can graduate ready for college, whether or not they make the choice to enroll in a post-secondary education program. Our high schools have taken similar approaches in supporting students to challenge themselves and succeed in high-level coursework.
However, our high schools have differed in some ways in their approaches to course sequencing. Some schools have offered courses called “advanced” and “accelerated,” while others have embedded “honors options” and other differentiated opportunities within standard course offerings. Each approach has pros and cons associated with it. Common to each is the end goal: to prepare students to enroll and succeed in the highest level course offerings available, especially for juniors and seniors.
We are working together across schools to see which approaches yield the best results in terms of the numbers of students taking AP, IB, Dual Credit and CTE courses, as well as the success rate of those students. This work requires a lot of collaboration, planning, and teamwork from teachers, school leaders, parents, students, and the community and will continue into the future.
How does the model work for “honors options” for students?
In schools without advanced or accelerated courses, the “honors options” approach has been an effective way to challenge advanced learners. In a mixed ability level classroom, students have the option within each unit to choose the “degree of difficulty” of their experience. All students will master the basic standards, but those who choose the honors option will often be challenged to apply their learning in extraordinary ways, engage in projects that extend their learning, and/or be assessed in a more rigorous way to demonstrate a higher level of proficiency based on the standards for the unit.
One of the main reasons previous honors options (“H” on the transcript) were phased out is because of a lack of consistency from class to class on what constituted sufficient evidence that honors-level work was completed. In one class it may have meant completing one additional project, whereas in another it may have meant completing assessments with a more rigorous Depth of Knowledge every time.
As we look to provide the opportunity for advanced students to challenge themselves even in “regular” courses, we will work to provide alignment and consistency of practice in determining the level of work that constitutes honors.
What if students choose not to challenge themselves?
We have discovered, and research supports it, that giving students choice in their work and assignments allows them to challenge themselves and be more in charge of their learning and, in fact, students self-select advanced options in a majority of cases. In schools with honors options, students self-select the honors options based on their beliefs about their own academic ability. One of the promising outcomes of the honors options within a heterogeneous learning environment is that students develop a sense of self-efficacy when they succeed in meeting the challenge. This is not only a benefit to the already identified TAG and advanced learners within the course, but is also a benefit to the student who has not yet discovered their abilities to achieve at the highest level. That said, teachers acknowledge the need to coach students into challenging themselves and supporting them into meeting those challenges. And, by partnering with parents who know their students best, we can work as a team to challenge our students.
Is the “honors options” model transcripted?
Yes. The student who opts into the required number of honors activities during a given semester would be awarded an “H” on their transcript for that course.
How do honors options impact a student's diploma?
Honors options may be available within certain high school courses for completing enough assignments/assessments of an appropriate level of rigor. Students who earn a Chancellor’s Diploma and maintain above a 3.75 unweighted GPA will be recognized as Honors Graduates. Please see Board Policy IKF: Graduation Requirements for additional information.
What about math? What are the pathways to the most advanced math courses?
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics includes recommended course “pathways," which are categorized by grade level in grades K-8 and by conceptual categories in high school. The CCSS Pathways are models, not mandates. States and districts reserve the right to move individual standards, award credit, adopt curriculum, etc. as they see fit. (See pp. 2-3 of Appendix A of CCSS for Mathematics.) In Hillsboro, we have chosen to follow the “Traditional” Pathway for high school courses, i.e. Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and Fourth Course offerings.
We have also used the recommendations of the CCSS for Mathematics: Appendix A for Middle School Acceleration and High School Math in Middle School (pp. 80-81). We use multiple data points and input from teachers and families to determine the best sequence of courses for each individual student. Beginning at 7th grade, the majority of students are enrolled in Math 7 or the “compacted” Accelerated 7th Grade Math. Students then continue in 8th grade with Math 8 or the “compacted” 8th Grade Algebra I.
The Traditional Pathway prepares students for Algebra I in 9th grade. Within the Accelerated Traditional Pathway, a “compaction" of courses is based on a 3:2 ratio. The contents of Math 7, Math 8 and Algebra I (with content standards delivered in an accelerated manner, but none omitted) are covered in just two years. The Accelerated Traditional Pathway prepares students to enter Geometry in 9th grade. These two pathways are outlined in the CCSS for Mathematics: Appendix A and meet the needs of almost all students in terms of academic rigor and college and career readiness.
Based on multiple data points and in consultation with teachers, administrators and families, a very small number of students may need to skip the equivalent of two grade levels ahead in math. Students who walk to another classroom in elementary school for math (e.g. from 2nd grade to 4th grade) would be on a trajectory to enter 8th Grade Algebra I as 7th graders. Teachers and school leaders create accommodations for these students who sometimes enroll in Math 7 as 5th graders and high school Geometry as 8th graders. NOTE: This student population is very small—from 1-5% of all students at any given grade level—according to current data. We use extreme discretion when making the decision to advance a student beyond the pathways recommended by CCSS.
Hillsboro School District is committed to providing equitable access to rigorous coursework for all students. We have created protocols to ensure 1) appropriate placement in math courses for each individual student, and 2) enrollment of students in Traditional Pathways, Accelerated Traditional Pathways, and advancement beyond grade level in ways that are demographically representative of the student populations within each school. This first goal holds us accountable for meeting the individual needs of students. The second goal holds us accountable for creating equitable programs for students based on gender, race, and socioeconomic background. For example, regarding the distribution of 7th graders among math classrooms, we look to see that Math 7, Accelerated 7th Grade Math, and any group of students advanced into 8th Grade Algebra I are demographically representative of the 7th grade cohort as a whole. If 60% if students are in Math 7, 37% are in Accelerated 7th Grade Math, and 3% are in 8th Grade Algebra I, we would expect to see students in each of those classrooms in roughly proportional representation in terms of demographic groups.
The proportion of students in the Traditional Pathway versus the Accelerated Traditional Pathway is related to the academic supports in place for students K-12. Over time we hope to see more and more students reaching 8th Grade Algebra I. There is research to support challenging students in math by allowing them to accelerate, but there is also research that recommends caution and planning when accelerating students to ensure proper academic supports. There are many ways to accelerate and/or challenge students in math. (Please see CCSS for Mathematics Appendix A page 81 for more detail on this topic.)
The pathways as described in CCSS for Mathematics and as adopted by the State of Oregon should in no way hinder our students from reaching their full potential. In fact, we should see students accelerating and deepening their learning as we improve our programs and practices.
What is the difference between AP, IB and Dual Credit Courses? Why is the District pushing them? Does the District get money for offering more of them?
Each of these courses has a common element of providing college-level coursework. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses provide specific, prescribed curriculum that has been predetermined to be at a college level of rigor that, unlike “advanced” or “accelerated” is recognized nationally and internationally. Both prepare students for college and offer an opportunity to take a final test that, if a student performs at a high enough level, can provide them with college credits.
Dual Credit courses are high school courses taught by District staff members that have been developed and/or vetted with local higher education partners (PCC, Portland State University, Western Oregon University, etc.) to ensure alignment with college-level coursework. In some cases, the teachers themselves need to be “approved” by the college in order for the college to award credit; in other cases, the teachers need to teach to the approved syllabus and administer the approved assessments. Students who take these courses and do well in them (C or better) will be awarded both high school and college credits. Note that not all colleges will accept credits awarded in this manner (e.g. colleges outside of Oregon).
The District offers these opportunities to students because our goal is to prepare students for their next step after high school. Many students know they want to go on to college after graduating high school. Some don’t believe they want to go to college, but decide later that they do. Some students simply love to be challenged academically. Providing these courses is a good way to prepare students for college. Also, research shows that students who already have college credit before graduating high school are more likely to enroll in college.
The District does not receive any financial incentives for offering more AP/IB or Dual Credit courses. We provide them as a measure of responsibility and because they are requested by students and parents.
Transcripts, College Admissions, and Scholarships
Are students going to be at a disadvantage applying for college if they take fewer courses titled “advanced” or “accelerated”?
The consideration that is placed on accelerated or advanced courses in the admission process is dependent on the college that is being applied to. This is also the case as students apply for scholarships. Some of the confusion around this issues is due to the lack of clarity from district to district and state to state regarding what the “accelerated” and “advanced” title means. Colleges want to see a rigorous transcript including four years of math, three years or more of science, four years of English, two or more years of a second language, AP/IB classes, advanced courses and dual credit courses.
What are weighted grades?
In a system of weighted grades, students who challenge themselves by taking AP or IB courses receive a different “weight” for their marks. For example, in a standard class (Biology) a student would earn 4 points for an A, 3 for a B and so on. For AP Biology, students would earn 5 points for an A, 4 for a B and so on. Weighting grades encourages students to challenge themselves to more rigorous classes without fear of impacting their grade point average (GPA) and simultaneously allows them to improve their GPA if they receive high marks.
Classroom Experience, Differentiation, and Cooperative Learning
How will we support teachers to meet these diverse needs for learners?
Teachers develop skills in differentiating to meet student needs in their teacher preparation programs and hone those skills with every year of experience in the classroom. They also work in Professional Learning Communities to share expertise and plan together. Our teachers differentiate learning daily; even if students are homogeneously grouped, those students still have different needs. However, if teachers feel they would like to have additional training, we offer professional development and support throughout the year.
Isn’t it unrealistic that a teacher can differentiate for students with classes of 30, 40 or 50 students?
The topic of class size and its impact on student achievement has received a lot of attention nationally from researchers and educators. Our Board and Budget Committee have a shared value of lowering class size in Hillsboro. Larger class sizes create challenges for students and staff in our schools on a number of levels. The bottom line is that the quality of teaching and the engagement of students in relevant, rigorous learning opportunities are more predictive factors in student success than class size. In other words, even in schools with large class sizes, highly effective teachers and highly engaged students can overcome the potentially negative impact of overcrowded classrooms.
That said, we don't want to minimize the challenge of meeting the instructional needs of all students in large classes. Our teachers work very hard to serve all our students’ needs; we will continue to improve our teaching and learning in Hillsboro. We will also continue to invest in lowering teacher to student ratios at every level as funding allows.