Dr. A's October Principal Coffee Recap: The Secrets are Spilled

We gathered, sang kumbaya, and comesserated over the raising of tweens.  Read on to hear all the latest, greatest, and perhaps previously unknown details of Cedar Park’s programs and academics. Is this a principal chat or a support group?  The jury’s still out.

Upcoming MYP Visit: Why Does It Matter?

This December, Cedar Park will be hosting the IB bigwigs as they check in to see how we are doing in the MYP process.  Confused with all the acronyms? Let’s back up & give you the short version.

What does IB stand for?

IB stands for International Baccalaureate, a world-wide educational organization that uses a global focused, inquiry-based philosophy and requires a set of specific and standardized framework (with rubrics) for each type of program.  IB programs are found in private, public, and international schools all over the world.

The IB organization has four programs:

  • Primary Years Program (PYP), such as our feeder schools Bonny Slope, Ridgewood, and West TV

  • Middle Years Program (MYP), such as Cedar Park & Meadow Park

  • IB Diploma Program, such as International School of Beaverton, Mountainside High School and Sunset High School

  • Career-Related Program, not found in the Beaverton School District currently (but coming to Southridge soon!)

Currently, Beaverton School District has 16 schools in some level of IB certification.

What does the MYP program include?

IB’s Middle Years Program (MYP) has eight subject groups.  Under each of those subjects are four criteria, each of which are weighted equally to form a student’s final grade.  There will be a range of assessments for each criteria.

What are some outward and obvious signs that Cedar Park is an MYP program?

  • All students take a language (Spanish)

  • Graded on a 1-8 scale

  • Extensive collaborative work; students work in groups

  • All students take some sort of fine art (choir, band, drama, or art)

Why is the upcoming IB visit a big deal?

The IB organization reauthorizes on a five year cycle.  There are two parts to reauthorization– a school’s self-study where they self assess leading up to the visit (which CPMS submitted last spring), and then, the IB pros themselves visit & assess Cedar Park. Everyone basically asks the same questions– Is Cedar Park effectively teaching the standards and practices of IB? What areas can be improved? IB will then sends us an evaluation report, which the school will use to refine a five-year Action Plan.

Check out Cedar Park’s MYP website to learn more nitty gritty details about this educational approach.

Rumor Patrol

No, there was not a big fight that required an ambulance being called to the school.

After School Clubs are OPEN

Registration is happening & they start 10/16. There’s a large range this year, from basketball and soccer, to Girls Who Code and robotics.  More info on registration can be found here. (Update:  Both coding clubs are full, but ESL and Homework Help have room!)

Cedar Park is lucky to have a PTC that can subsidize these after school clubs, as many local middle schools are unable to offer clubs due to lack of funding. The BEF grant of $12,000 pays for soccer and transportation.  Stipends to pay teachers and additional fees are covered by the PTC.

Summa Staying?

BSD is in the middle of reorganizing its Summa program and is consolidating to only three sites-- Whitford, Meadow Park, and Stoller, the original three.  Why, you ask? Because for many smaller programs, it’s just not sustainable. It’s more cost-effective for the District to consolidate into three larger programs, as opposed to eight smaller programs.

The current 7th grade is scheduled to switch to Meadow Park next fall, but Dr. A and parents are lobbying to allow them to finish out at CPMS.  Dr. Anderson is hopeful that the size of that program will allow her to keep it one more year so those students are not forced to transfer. (UPDATE:  The District has confirmed that the current 7th graders will finish the Summa program here at Cedar Park next year).

Advanced Math Still an Option

Shannon expects to always have at least one section of advanced math each year for those students that don’t qualify for Summa, but still test high in math.  Each spring, all incoming 5th grade students are invited to take a math placement exam.

Class Sizes: What’s the Damage?

6th grade Summa students within our boundaries started at Meadow Park this fall.  With the loss of those students, CPMS expected to lose around 32 students. However, our 7th grade grew by 35 students over the summer and our enrollment actually increased to around 1050.

Current classroom sizes?  Low to mid-30s. The AGS 2 class is at 44.  (Did you know:  AGS stands for Algebra Geometry Statistics.  Most students take Math 6/7, Math 7/8, AGS 1, and then AGS 2 as freshman. We do have a small population of 8th graders taking AGS 2 here at Cedar Park. We have an even smaller group taking AGS 3 that are shuttled to the high school.)

Invitation Only: The Scoop on Fall Conferences

This fall’s invitation only conferences had a mixed reaction from the assembled group.  Dr. A explained that with only a month and half of school, it’s important to reach out to our struggling students right at the beginning and perform triage before things really start hemorrhaging.  Teachers felt it made a bigger impact and gave more time with families. Around this table, parents just want face time with teachers.

Spring conferences are for everyone and are scheduled for February this year.  

Parentvue Perplexity

Dr. A inadvertently opened a can of worms when she asked how we felt about Parentvue, BSD’s online parent web portal. The group’s biggest complaint?  Lack of consistent posting when grades are loaded all at once. It’s just hard to know how your baby’s doing when you don’t see a thing– and then a slew of mediocre grades suddenly come through at the end of a grading period.

Canvas isn’t treating us much better.  Contractually, the standard is somewhat vague on how often teachers need to be posting and communicating with families, and so the range between teachers is often significant.  The pinch point is hard to identify and as parents, we need to patient and if truly concerned, be as proactive as possible.

Proficiency Grading & All Its Glory

We could write pages and pages about the nuances, research, and pragmatics of the proficiency sensation that’s sweeping the nation.  While some parents find it hard to wrap their brain around, this approach to learning and grading is very much here to stay across the country in the foreseeable future.

How to describe it?  Well, first toss out all your childhood memories of measuring school grades. Those NO LONGER APPLY. Seriously, let those go or you’ll never understand the new model.

Proficiency grading, also known as standards-based learning, revolves around one thing– providing an opportunity to learn a defined set of skills (learning targets) for each grade and subject. A student’s journey to gain those skills is not always straight.  Students are given multiple opportunities to show proficiency and growth. Hence, if your cherub just isn’t getting it at the beginning and has a series of poor assessment scores, those won’t necessarily sink their final grade, as long as they have since proven that they are now capable of those skills.

Check out BSD’s rather handy dandy FAQ regarding standards-based learning. You might learn something!

Oh and hey– just for your own knowledge– Oregon law states that homework scores canNOT be taken into account when giving academic grades.  Yup, you heard it here first! It’s a state law.

THAT is why all of the homework/stamp systems are only part of the behavior grade.  Behavior grades are tracking and reporting habits and work, but essentially, academic grades must represent ACADEMICS (do they demonstrate knowledge of the material?), not how students behave in class (positively or negatively).  Additionally, back in our day, homework was found to actually inflate a student’s grade, even though their learning did not increase. Read more here to have your decades old view of report cards upended.

Six is the New A

Much to their older siblings’ chagrin, our current students are thrilled with BSD’s decision to reformat the grading rubric.  Again, such a long backstory here, but this change was hours and hours of work and meetings by our BSD administrators. Ultimately, they found that the MYP rubric’s grading was not consistent with non-IB Beaverton schools’ rubrics.  So…. they made it consistent. And the children rejoiced.

Technically, the assessment hasn’t changed– just the letter grade they get at the end.

Advisory Revamp

Cedar Park’s advisory program is still a work in progress.  This year, advisories only meet once a week (Thursdays) and teachers are given more specific lessons plans. Additionally, some advisories have become more topic specific, with leadership and community service advisories recently organized.

Other Interesting Nuggets of Information You’d Have Learned If You’d Been Here:

  • Cedar Park t-shirts will soon be for sale, including hats! Love this. A little school pride could go a long way around here. Tattoos, anyone?

  • CPMS is generally a 50-50 split of students going to Beaverton and Sunset.

  • Middle school boundaries will be changing soon.  That discussion should start next year, so buckle up, America.

  • Our first student social will be in January during school hours.

  • Art Lit is BACK, baby!  This year’s got a whole new leadership team, but using the lessons from last year to maximize and streamline the process to make it enjoyable for students, teachers, AND volunteers. Look for more info soon.

  • Due to the recent safety issues, the spring pacer test may have a different route. Historically, students have ran on the sidewalk around the block.  Sadly, no middle schools have tracks, so everyone is rethinking the safest and best possible method to finish this PE assessment.

  • Cedar Park has a new MYP coordinator (Amy Hattendorf) and our teachers are working collaboratively twice a month to get on the same page when it comes to assessments and strategies.

  • One Outdoor School camp had a chef go MIA.  Cedar Park enjoyed opening week of OS, so they’re working out the kinks.  Good thing? Kids didn’t even notice.

  • So… turns out CPMS has some vending machines.  Who knew!? Apparently these machines are quite the cash cow for Cedar Park’s student body fund. Parent feedback was to look into only stocking water and gatorade and not the coke zero.  Dr. A said she’d chat with the vendor.

  • Cedar Park’s cell phone policy continues to be “Off and Away.”  However, kids on their phones during passing time are hard to police.  

See you for Dr. A’s next Principal Coffee & Tea on Tuesday, 11/27 at either 8:45am or 6pm.