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Extra Credit — Milestones Framework: Overview

February 24, 2010
Portland Public Schools' Milestones Framework is a set of measures that show how students are performing at key points in their education, from kindergarten to graduation. As a whole, these measures help our school district link teaching and learning strategies across all our grades and all our schools. It’s about teaching in the present with an eye to our students’ futures.

An in-depth look at Portland Public Schools

Winter 2010: In this issue

1. Milestones Framework: Overview
2. Milestone 1: Harrison Park taps creativity to teach pre-reading 
3. Milestone 3: Boise-Eliot puts special emphasis on writing
4. Milestone 4: Step Up puts students on track to graduate
5. Milestones help PPS tackle racial disparities 
6. ‘Young, Gifted & Black’ reframes achievement debate
Measuring results
The five-part MIlestones Framework spans kindergarten through high school.

The Milestones are:

  • Ready to read At the beginning of first grade, all students should be ready to read, so they have a foundation for future academic success.
  • Reading to learn – By the end of third grade, students should be reading to gain an understanding of their world, in a variety of subjects.
  • Ready for high school – In middle grades, students should have strong attendance habits and the writing and math skills to grasp more demanding content in high school.
  • On track to graduate When entering 10th grade, students will have passed core subjects with strong grades and have enough credits be on the road to graduation.
  • Graduate from high school on time – Students should have the skills needed for college or a career.

These measures are assessed using such indicators as attendance, writing and passing college prep exams. The measures were chosen because they correlate to success at the next levels of a student’s education.

  • Example – A student who exceeds the state standard for third-grade reading has a 91 percent chance of meeting the state standard in eighth grade. (So Milestone 2 -- reading to learn – leads to Milestone 3, ready for high school.)
  • Example – Meeting eighth-grade standards lays the foundation for success in ninth grade, where students must complete six credits with a C grade in core subjects (Milestone 3: Enter 10th grade on track to graduate).

“Milestones are about knowing where our students are headed and taking the steps to get them there,” says Superintendent Carole Smith.

Framework developed in 2008
PPS began developing the Milestones Framework at a district level in fall 2008 to measure student performance and to target interventions where they are most needed. The Milestones are rooted in and an acknowledgment of the work our teachers are already doing in the classroom and in special programs and district-wide initiatives at key transition points.

You’ll learn about three of these efforts in this issue of Extra Credit:

  • Milestone 1: Ready to Read – A Harrison Park K-8 teacher in the ESL program developed a DVD to teach English language learners and English speakers pre-reading skills. She’s partnering with the school’s kindergarten teachers to share the tool with all students.
  • Milestone 3: Ready for High School - At Boise-Eliot K-8, the principal and teachers created a collaborative culture to identify and assist struggling students using a team approach. Their work has been especially successful in raising seventh-graders’ writing scores, a key skill for success in high school.
  • Milestone 4: On Track to Graduate The Step Up Program, offered at three PPS high schools, helps at risk students with the transition into ninth grade, keeping them on track with the assistance of mentors and team- and skill-building work.

Where we are, where we’re headed
Last August, Superintendent Smith and her leadership team highlighted for building principals the student performance data for two of these Milestones, and one other, that relate to long-term success. This 2008-09 data became the baseline from which district leaders, principals and teachers are reaching higher:

  • 42 percent of third-graders exceeded the benchmark on the state reading test in 2008-09. (Milestone 2).
  • 55 percent of seventh-graders met or exceeded the benchmark on the state writing test (Milestone 3).
  • 82 percent of students tracked recorded attendance of 90 percent or better (Milestone 3).
  • 44 percent of students passed eighth-grade algebra (Milestone 3).
  • 51 percent of 10th-graders were on track to graduate (Milestone 4).

By most measures, students in Portland Public Schools outperform their peers on state tests. But PPS administrators note that Oregon scores are weak compared to most of the rest of the country. Smith and her leadership team set a goal for the 2009-10 school year of 5 percent improvement in assessments at each of the middle three Milestones.

They set the same target for closing the achievement gap at each of those Milestones: A 5 percent narrowing of the gap between white students at each marker and the racial or ethnic minority group scoring the lowest at that marker. Learn more about our focus on the achievement gap in this issue of Extra Credit.

Parents’ role and reporting back
You won’t see a report card for each student or school based on the Milestones. Rather, the framework is a road map to direct teaching and learning strategies at the school district level. But parents can also use the Milestones to support their students' learning. See our Milestones Web site for ideas.

In addition, Portland Public Schools is holding itself accountable for Milestones results. We will keep the community informed of our progress.

We laid out the Milestones and targets in our 2009 Report on Our Schools. The 2010 Report will update our progress. Look for it next fall.

“District leaders, principals, teachers – we all have a role in helping students reach their Milestones,” Smith says. “We look forward to reporting back to our staff and community on the results of our efforts.”

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