Curriculum Fair and Forecasting

Students at Columbia River will soon begin planning for their next year coursework.

On Tuesday, March 12, students will have the opportunity to gather information about possible course choices in the annual Curriculum Fair. Students will be able visit short informational sessions about three different courses. Seniors will participate in a Financial Reality Fair during this time as well. Both the Curriculum Fair and Financial Reality Fair will take place on Tuesday afternoon during a special schedule.

During the last two weeks of March, counselors will be visiting English and History classrooms to work with students on schedule forecasting for next year. Students will be asked to bring home a forecasting planning form, to share their plans with parents and guardians. Please take a moment to go over student choices.

Forecasting is an important step in building the master schedule of classes for the 2019-20 school year, as we use this information to determine what courses and how many are offered.

Questions about forecasting or course options can be directed to your student’s counselor.

February 2019

This morning we faced inclement weather and Vancouver Public Schools determined the best course of action was to keep students and staff home to avoid the slick roads. Nevertheless, a morning like this leads to a productive day in the office for River’s Administrative Team and our office staff. A dozen or so teachers have made it in and are diligently planning and getting caught up on grading. A couple hours at my desk gives me a chance to write up the February Newsletter and Blog.

We have great news to share about students accomplishments over the recent weeks. As we are wrapping up the winter athletic season and I encourage you to take a look at our student’s achievements. Please take a look at our website to get the all the updates.

A wide variety of accolades were earned in music, Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), Video Productions (CRTV) and multiple athletic teams and athletes earned post season opportunities. River’s first state title of the year was earned by our Bowling Team who won the Academic State Championship last week. Congratulations to all who participated and have given us so much to celebrate so far this year.

High School & Beyond

Our second semester started last Friday, and this means we have begun our eighth and final semester with the Class of 2019. As these Seniors make their plans for next steps, I want to highlight the abundance of post-secondary planning tools Vancouver Public Schools has put together for students and families. This is coming in the form of the VPS Family Newsletter. In the attempt to simplify and streamline critical information for students regarding high school and beyond, these newsletters are further broken down by high school grade level. I encourage you all to take a look and click the links to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (https://studentaid.ed.gov) and research the cost of attendance resource calculator from the US Department of Education ( https://collegecost.ed.gov).

Updates on Attendance

In the coming months we will continue our school -wide effort to improve on time daily attendance. You have seen the “25” signs around the building, encouraging students to “arrive at 25”. (Arriving and 7:25 would be five minutes early for period 1). student leaders have been at the doors greeting our students early and we will be celebrating on time, improved and perfect attendance over the next several weeks. Columbia River’s Annual Performance Score Card category of “Climate and Culture” shows students at or above the goal of 90% attendance rate increasing 7% from the 2015-16 school year to the 2017-18 school year.

We still have lots of work to do. In June, 2018 we ended at 75%. This means we have room for improvement and there is no better time than right now.

Thank you for your support and have a great start to the semester!

Arrive at 25

As we begin 2019, I have been reflecting on the work we accomplished last year.  This is an important and rewarding exercise.  And the time is now to think about how these efforts can push us to reach even higher in the months ahead.

Last summer, I was invited to participate in the Clark County Truancy Project.   Additionally, River was invited to participate in Vancouver Public School’s Attendance Project Initiative.  The aim for both is to become more strategic about relaying the importance to regular school attendance.  It is not terribly complicated:  success in school and graduating on time is connected to regular attendance.  The work of both groups is to engage students and families who have been referred numerous times for school attendance issues. Typically, the focus is on those students who attend less than 80% of the year.  

It seems these numbers sneak up quickly on students and families.  If you are only missing a day here or a period there, you may not see the larger picture.  Missing two classes per month in the course of a September – June school year does indeed add up to 20 absences.  Keeping in mind that we have 180 school days in the typical year, our systems consider this level chronic.  

As I have stated in River’s School Improvement Plan:  Our goal is 90/90 by 2020.  This means that 90% of our students are on time and in class 90% of the school year in 2020.  Although we are not there yet, we are getting close.  Our team believes that if we begin by addressing morning tardies (e.g. when large numbers of students arrive late in the morning).  

At Columbia River High School, we do fairly well with daily attendance.  Below we have some data to share and to celebrate (September to December attendance rates): 

  • Class of 2019:  215 Seniors have a daily attendance rate of 85% or better.
  • Class of 2020: 203 Juniors have a daily attendance rate of 85% or better.
  • Class of 2021: 217 Sophomores  have a daily attendance rate of 90% or better There are 291 students in grade 10 at River this year.
  • Class of 2022: 207 Freshmen have a daily attendance rate 95% or better; add 60 more students with 90% or better and our 9th grade is off to a terrific start.  

We are beginning January, 2019 with our “Arrive at 25” campaign.  Very simply, all students have to do is arrive for first period at 7:25 AM.  The theory of action is that if students make the effort to arrive 5 minutes before period 1, we will reduce and perhaps eliminate the “tardy bell entrance” for those students who are running late.  Class will begin at 7:30, but won’t it be great to arrive early and eager!

We acknowledge that students are not always in control of their morning schedules.  Some students rely on carpools.  Some students have siblings or other family to care for and to help get prepared for the day.  We also acknowledge those who are late because of coffee run and made choices along the way to school that allowed precious morning moments to escape.  (Lattes and mochas and specialty coffees are available in the Upper Commons by the way, and for a half the cost of our local shops!)  

With a concerted effort, we believe we can improve and get to 90/90.  I hope everyone is enjoying the Winter Break.  I look forward to seeing you at 7:25 on January 7, 2019!

Arrive at 25

Varsity Academic Awards 2018

Yesterday we honored the achievements of 27 Juniors and 43 Seniors at our Varsity Academic Awards Ceremony.  The picture below captures a few dozen of those recognized individuals.

2018 Varsity Academic Awards

The Varsity Academic Awards Program was started 18 years ago by a group of Columbia River High School students.  The program recognizes students who have consistently shown a high regard for academics, citizenship and involvement in our school community.

Students must meet the following criteria:

  • Junior or Senior in good standing at Columbia River High School with no truancies or disciplinary referrals
  • Hold a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher based on four semesters of high school
  • Participated in a Columbia River High School Associated Student Body club or organization for at least one semester or compete in at least one sport for at least one full season

We are so proud of these and all of our River students who work so hard and represent our community so well.

It is a pure joy to work with the students and Faculty at River.  As we enter the season of gratitude, I wish you joy and encourage you to reflect on how amazing our River students truly are.

 

Systems of Support

Academic Interventions

Columbia River High School has dedicated time to Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for more than 10 years. Because the Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) and the greater community agree to spend the time and have made the financial commitment to continue PLC work on a weekly basis, it makes sense to provide evidence of training, promising practices and an outline for the future of the PLC work at River.  Most specifically, we want to show how we will help our students within their academic day.

Start with the experts:

In higher performing school systems, “teachers identify struggling students as early as possible, and direct them towards a variety of proven interventions strategies, developed at both the school and district level, that assist all students in mastering grade-level academic objectives.” National Center for Educational Achievement, 2009, p. 34)

“One of the most productive ways for districts to facilitate continual improvement is to develop teacher’s capacity to use formative assessments of student progress aligned with district expectations for student learning, and to use formative data in devising and implementing interventions during the school year.” (Louis et al., 2010, p. 214)

“If a school can make both teaching and time variables… and target them to meet each student’s individual learning and developmental needs, the school is more likely to achieve high levels of learning for every student” (Mattos & Buffum, 2015, p. 2)

“One of the most important things leaders can do is to create the conditions that allow people to experience progress in their work and then recognize and celebrate their accomplishments, even small accomplishments” (Amabile & Kramer, 2011)

What is River doing to remain high performing and to address student needs?

River faculty recently reviewed data sets from the first quarter of the 2018-2019 academic year in addition to reviewing the overall credit accrual for the Class of 2019, 2020 and 2021. (Note the class of 2022 will be awarded earned credits for semester 1 at the conclusion of the semester in January 2019.)  We know the work to be done.

We have designed systems of tiered support by grade level to address attendance and behavior concerns. The next, bold step for us is to focus on our academic interventions.  This means we must become more strategic in supporting students academically within the classroom by teachers who know their learners best.

If you were at River last year, you may remember our January work on study skills, organization and preparation for finals in “J-Term” Sessions.  We received very positive feedback and have built upon that effort by connecting to PLCs.

Last week, River teachers coalesced and designed a schedule that will take place on Mondays that will drive the Monday afternoon PLC work. Students will have a rotating block of time designated by period allowing for an additional 41 minutes of contact time.

These precise support systems in each class and will take place every week students as progress {with the extended time} through their current schedule.  November 5, for example, is focused on academic intervention for period 2. Students will stay in their period 2 class for 41 additional minutes. If students are invited by a different teacher to work on a re-take, re-do or re-assessment activity, we expect students to take full advantage of the opportunity.


What it is for River students

  • Opportunity to check progress using Skyward
  • Opportunity for personal academic organization
  • Opportunity for checking understanding in targeted academic areas
  • Opportunity for re-take, re-do, make up course work

What it is not for River students

  • This is not… a time to leave campus
  • This is not… a time to be social
  • This is not… a time to be on the phone/social media
  • This is not… a time to waste on non-academic activities

What it is for River Faculty

  • Opportunity to check student’s progress and execute targeted academic interventions for struggling students.
  • Opportunity to provide academic extensions for students.
  • Opportunity for modeling academic organization.
  • Opportunity for checking understanding in targeted academic areas.
  • Opportunity to re-teach, re-view, re- assess students who need additional time.

What it is not for River Faculty

  • There is no expectation of additional classroom and lesson preparation by teachers.
  • There is not additional duty/ responsibilities to be assigned to teachers.

River’s graduation rate has exceeded the district average and the state average and our like peers for decades.  River is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School with an exceptional pass and success rate on the IB Exams.  River has been recognized by Newsweek, US News & World Report and achieved numerous local, state, national and international awards.  Most recently, River was awarded the IB Excellence & Equity Grant (2018) and is an active participant in the IB E2 Initiative.

Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns: Alex.Otoupal@vansd.org

 

Parent/Teacher Fall Conferences 2018

Greetings River,

Cool temperatures are setting and we are experiencing the beginning of a gorgeous autumn season. Today, October 15th marks the 25th instructional day of the 2018-2019 school year and we are eager to review progress with your student.
Columbia River High School will hold parent/teacher conferences during the following sessions:

• Thursday, October 18th from 2:30 pm – 5:00 pm
• Thursday, October 18th from 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm
• Friday, October 19th from 7:30 am- 10:30 am

Parents, you have the choice to attend one of the sessions listed above. Teachers will be available at tables in the commons. After you enter the Main Hall, you will be able to locate your child’s teachers by assigned table. This format is often called “arena style”. This format appeals to us because we are all in essentially the same space for conversations about academic progress.
The design of the parent/ teacher conference is to be a short (roughly 10 minutes) discussion on your students’ progress and performance over the first six weeks of school. This is a great time for you, as a partner in the learning, to ask your own clarifying questions about the larger objectives of the course, details about the standards and ask questions you may have about the subtle nuance of a teacher’s delivery or approach to learning.

We always approach the conference as an opportunity to learn more about your student’s progress and about your student as a person. Please take advantage of this terrific opportunity!

Sincerely,

Alex Otoupal – Principal

River Fall Newsletter Updates & Presentations

September 28,2018

Greetings River,

After a challenging startup of the 2018-2019 school year, we are off and running and it has been a great start!

River hosted a terrific Curriculum Night last week with an impressive showing of family and community. We provided information about the future of the International Baccalaureate Program at River, revealed updated renderings of our Re:Design from our partners at LSW architects and offered a first hand “a day in the life of a River student”.

Throughout the year, we will continue a series of program updates to keep you informed our major initiatives with our IB Excellence and Equity (E2) Initiative and as our Career- related Program develops.

We will continue to host grade level meetings to provide specific information that pertains to your students’ current experience and post high school planning. Notably, Senior & Senior Parent Night will be Monday, October 8th in the Lower Commons beginning at 6 pm. There will be information sessions on accessing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Head’s up! The new 2019-2020 FAFSA launches October 1.

Homecoming Week is already upon us next week. Associated Student Body Leadership Students have planned numerous activities for our first Spirit Week of the year. Note the schedule for next week included in our bulletin. We will have a Forty Minute Early Release Monday, and assemblies on both Thursday and Friday next week. We will have our first dance of the year on Saturday. Students from all grade levels are welcome to the dance, tickets on are on sale before and after school as well as at lunch.

Click here for more information.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,,

Alex Otoupal – Principal