Dr. Michael E. Zalar
Reconfiguration – An Idea Whose Time Has Come!
The possibility of reconfiguring grade levels has been a topic of discussion in the Oregon School District for the past decade. Many of you remember the Space Planning and Management (SPAM) Committee that studied this issue for several years in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. At that time the committee recommended to reconfigure grade levels but the decision was scuttled due to a change in administration. Since then, educational reform initiatives at the state and national level have created more pressure to change traditional public education and improve student achievement. High stakes testing and accountability has expanded through the Ohio Achievement Test (OAT) in grades 3-8 and the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) which has become a requirement for high school graduation. Presently, the state of Ohio has adopted new more rigorous Common Core State Standards (CCSS) which will be accompanied by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessments beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.
The Board of Education revisited the idea of reconfiguration last year after the results of a community survey disclosed dissatisfaction with school performance on the district report card. The administrative and district leadership teams researched “best practices” related to district performance using student achievement data from the Ohio Department of Education. Cross functional teams made site visits to high performing districts and shared their findings with the Board of Education. Numerous community forums were conducted to share this and other information with students, parents, staff and the community. Feedback from all of the forums was solicited and presented to the Board of Education. In December of 2012, it was recommended that the district reconfigure our two middle schools in an effort to improve our biggest student achievement gaps, primarily in math and science. At that time, the Oregon City Schools Board of Education approved the reconfiguration of grades 5 thru 8 effective for the 2013-2014 school year.
This is an exciting time for the Oregon School District! We have the tremendous opportunity to effectively create two entirely new schools. Next year Eisenhower will become an “Intermediate” school and house grades 5 and 6. Fassett will become a true “Junior High” and serve all 7th and 8th graders. Schedules are being developed that will better meet the teaching and learning needs of both students and staff. A steering committee has been formed to think through the numerous challenges that will need to be resolved in order to start the next school year successfully. I am confident that the end result will be a better educational program that will significantly improve student achievement.
These are challenging times for everyone. The speed of change continues to occur at an ever increasing pace. The “status quo” is not acceptable if we are going to improve performance and ensure that our students are prepared with the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in the 21st century. I believe the reconfiguration of our middle grades will be the catalyst for systemic change resulting in the overall improvement of our entire school system. I applaud the Board of Education for listening to the community and making this courageous decision. As always, I look forward to continuing this work together on our “Journey towards Excellence.”
I may be reached by calling (419) 693-0661or by emailing
Michael E. Zalar, Ph.D