Letters and comments for December 29, 2011

By Observer Upload January 12, 2012 05:07 pm
Letters and comments for December 29, 2011

Success story

To the Editor:

I wanted to take this opportunity to tell the La Grande community about something good that’s happening in the schools here, a success story that is drawing the attention of the rest of the state.

As the director of data literacy for the Oregon Department of Education, I visit school districts, large and small, across all of the state. La Grande School District stands out with the work it is doing to narrow the achievement gap.

How is the district doing that? By giving teachers the time and support they need to thoughtfully strategize about how they can help all of their students succeed. They don’t just guess at what they need to do. They work in teams — professional learning communities or PLCs — that meet regularly to look at test results, behavioral trends, attendance statistics and other data. Then team members help each other identify the best strategies to help their top students stretch, and their struggling students succeed.

Professional learning communities are structures that have proven to make a real difference in the classroom, and the La Grande School District is elevating them to an art form. To make these teams work, teachers need two critical components — time to look at the data, and support to keep the process going. This is where La Grande, under the leadership of Superintendent Larry Glaze, really excels. Not only does the district provide teachers with release time for their hard work in the PLCs, it gives them additional support with a district data team. This team sets districtwide achievement goals and observes the PLC meetings weekly, so teams get meaningful feedback about what is working well.

It’s a design that other school districts in the state are watching closely.

I expect that the hard work of La Grande educators — and the support shown them by your community — will continue to be a success story for Oregon, and for the students lucky enough to live in the district.

Great job!

Mickey Garrison

Oregon Department of Education