Green Acres was targeted as a focus school through the Oregon waiver system replacing the No Child Left Behind act.
Focus schools are considered high poverty schools ranked in the bottom 5 to 15 percent of Title I schools by the Oregon Department of Education. They are in need of support to bridge the achievement gap, said Crystal Greene, communication director from ODE.
Green Acres is the highest poverty school in the district, said Lebanon Community School District Superintendent Rob Hess.
Focus schools must create a comprehensive achievement plan, and school officials must submit a self-evaluation addressing why they were selected as a focus school and how they will improve that, Greene said.
“What’s in the plan will vary by school,” Greene said. “It’s highly individualized.”
The school is also working with a coach from Education Northwest, Sara Ticer, who will help them throughout the process, Greene said.
Ticer was in charge of all the elementary schools in the Springfield School District when Hess was assistant superintendent there.
There will be an appraisal during the school year where people from the state will assess the school and recommend any changes to their achievement plan, Greene said.
Ticer is working with a team of five teachers and the principal, Boon Setser, from Green Acres who attend trainings. They come back and collaborate with other Green Acres teachers and the principal about how to improve the school, Setser said.
“We’ve all been trained, and we’re all working through this whole process,” Setser said.
As part of the focus designation, Green Acres will receive a grant up to $100,000, Hess said.
After school program
The school will be starting a district-wide after school program for 100 struggling students as part of the plan to improve the school.
“Our goal is to create a world-class after-school program,” Hess said.
Kids who struggle with academics do the best with small group instruction, Hess said.
“The after-school program will be a way to get the kids who are the furthest behind, small group, high-quality instruction,” Hess said.
Instructors from the program will collaborate with classroom teachers, Setser said. This will help tutors know what level students are at in the classroom and what their assessment scores are.
“This is going to provide teaching, reteaching and processing time,” Setser said. “This is going to be really awesome.”
Research shows kids need additional instructional time that schools in Oregon cannot provide, Hess said.
“Oregon has the second shortest class time in the nation,” Hess said. “We’re going to extend the school day. We think this will make a difference and we’ll find out with the results.”
After discussions with teachers during the self-evaluation process, the school decided to cut a program designed for struggling readers called 20-20-20, Setser said.
Students would have lunch for 20 minutes, recess for 20 minutes, then go to color room for 20 minutes.
Color room was meant to give interventions for struggling readers; however, 20 minutes wasn’t enough time to establish an effective intervention system, Setser said.
Cutting this program will add 4,000 additional minutes of instructional time to the school year, Setser said.
“I’d say that’s a great step toward focusing,” Setser said.
One improvement the school was working on before getting the focus designation was getting accepted into No Excuses University, Setser said.
This means the school has eliminated excuses from their culture, Setser said.
“What this NEU does is it narrows your focus,” Setser said.
“No Excuses University is a network of elementary, middle, and junior high schools across the United States,” according to the NEU website.
“These schools actively promote a comprehensive model of college readiness to all students the moment they begin elementary school.”
Part of the NEU program at Green Acres is creating a visual effect, which includes lining the halls with college banners including one in every classroom.
Setser’s office is even decorated with Eastern Oregon University flags where he earned his master’s.
“With the grant, the coach, the NEU that we’re doing already and the after-school program, this is an awesome opportunity,” Setser said. “I can’t wait until the end of the school year so I can look at the data.”
Setser didn’t want to wish time away, he added.