The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Superintendent marshals resources to achieve classroom goals


January 17, 2017

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of reports about how Schools Supt. Tom Yahraes and district staff are working to boost student achievement.

While Sweet Home School District officials analyze data, identify areas of need and set goals to make improvements in student achievement, schools and classrooms need resources to get the job done.

As part of the district’s effort to improve in four priority areas that he has identified, Supt. Tom Yahraes told the School Board in October that he would be pushing resources where they are needed.

Yahraes told the School Board at that time that Sweet Home students were performing poorly on state assessments in recent years compared to statewide averages, and he outlined a plan to do something about it.

He keyed in on three priority areas, and later added a fourth.

Improving student achievement is a key priority for Yahraes, he said, and he is implementing plans to improve core instruction by aligning curriculum to the standards, ensuring effective use of instructional time and student engagement strategies, and aligning and connecting assessments to core standards.

Two other priorities are developing thriving citizens and cultivating a culture of organizational wellness and effectiveness. The fourth is continuous facility maintenance, repair and upgrades.

To begin pursuing these priorities, he identified four specific steps. First was the formation of an academic leadership team. Second was the creation of school performance plans, which set goals and ways to measure progress on those goals. The New Era focused on these two areas recently.

Third is to push resources where they need to go to support high-need areas. The last step is to identify other indicators of student success. The New Era will look at this step in next week’s issue.

Last week, Yahraes outlined his plans to send support where it is needed. What that really means is how resources are allocated within the district, and that’s a process that’s already under way.

When the district reviewed state assessment test results, it found a larger gap among elementary students than it did at the junior high and high school levels, Yahraes said.

“These kids are below proficiency, below grade. They’re not equipped with adequate skills” to move on to the junior high and high school.

To that end, the district has been looking at instructional hours, ways to give students more time in their seats and to cut down on the “three-day regression” as students forget material during long weekends, Yahraes said. The board voted last month to return the district to a five-day week instead of the current four-day week.

“We needed to address that this year, and we did that as a team,” Yahraes said. “The board recognized that we needed to address time spent in school.”

This is especially important based on the high levels of disadvantages, both economic and from disabilities, noting the obstacles to education that poverty creates at home, Yahraes said. A transition team last week began analyzing hours and instructional contact time to begin developing a calendar for next year.

To address another area of need, specific high student-to-teacher ratios, the district began the year by adding new teachers and support staff at Foster and Holley elementary schools, Yahraes said. The district needs to avoid putting 26 kindergarten students in one classroom, for example.

“We need to have the discipline in our human resources to continue to make the best staffing allocations we can for our students,” Yahraes said.

“We need to continue to analyze our resources and prioritize how we target those resources and have that as a guiding philosophy for Sweet Home,” he said.

Going forward as the Academic Leadership Team continues analyzing data and identifying what’s working, the district will need to share out instructional support where it’s needed, Yahraes said. It’s more generalized than targeted at specific classes, aimed at curriculum areas as they align curriculum across the district.

Looking forward, “we haven’t done it yet, analyzing where we need to pick folks up,” Yahraes said, but he anticipates that “some of it’s updating our systems so we’re working smarter not harder. I want us to look at assessment systems across the boards.”

The district has several other assessment tools and tests beyond state testing, Yahraes said. In one case, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), the test is administered with pencil and paper. It’s graded by a teacher. It takes one-on-one time.

This kind of testing can be more automated, he said.

“Out there are systems where teachers are allowed to teach and provide interventions rather than the labor of scoring. Now that teacher’s teaching instead of scoring. This is working smarter, not harder.”


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