STAR Staff Newsletter

Week of March 16 - 20, 2015 Vol. 26

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Welcome Back! I hope you all had a very restful Spring Break! I'm glad you're back!


Life Principle Word for this Week:


Focus on Expectation #8 - "We will practice virtuous living using the life principles."

Monday, 3/16

  • Computer Lab Closed all day - Secure testing preparation for TELPAS
  • Need to refer someone to SIT?

Tuesday, 3/17

  • 2nd Grade TELPAS testing in computer lab
  • Amy @ Title I meeting (9 - 11ish)

Wednesday, 3/18

  • 3rd Grade TELPAS testing in computer lab
  • UNT Masters Program on Campus during lunch to offer dessert and an opportunity to learn about earning your Master's online (optional attendance)
  • Amy @ GAM

Thursday, 3/19

  • 4th Grade TELPAS testing in computer lab
  • Biometric Screenings on Campus (optional attendance)
  • Faculty Meeting

Friday, 3/20

  • Grade level planning - Let's meet in the data room this week!
  • District level "Sweeper Team" on campus to verify TELPAS writing samples

Next week - We will begin summative conferences during co-curr time, as well as before and after school. Begin to think about what you would like to share with us justifying proficiency in each of the 8 domains.

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All Staff -

Read the article below on your own time, meaning, not during your regularly scheduled Monday meeting. :)

THINK (don't answer)

What is poverty? Do you know which students come from low socio-economic homes?

Do you know who had breakfast today, dinner last night, etc?

What % of our school is currently economically disadvantaged?

RESPOND with your thoughts and reflections about the article below. Think about your role at the school. How do you play a role?

(At the end of your comment/feedback/reflection, please type your name so that you can receive one hour of PD credit for your participation.)

Why Teach Differently to Those from Poverty?

The brain is run by three things. First, behavioral geneticists estimate that about 30-40% of how we turn out is genetics. But that leaves 60-70% up to either the environment or environment and genetics combined (gene expression). Those who grow up in poverty experience a very different upbringing from middle or upper class kids.

Students who grow up amid economic insecurity often face many obstacles: parents without education, lack of healthy attachments, lag of cognitive stimulation, lack of enrichment activities, violent neighborhoods and lack of access to medical resources. The latest neuroscience science is showing how these emotions have effects on the brain and how they can directly impede learning. Some scientists and educators are suggesting ways in which kids and college students can combat the long-lasting effects of poverty-related stress.

How Chronic Stress Derails the Brain

Out of all the issues, one of the greatest is acute or chronic stress.

Occasional stress is good for us. Cortisol is actually a molecule of energy. But in response to fear or stress, the brain quickly releases adrenaline and cortisol, activating the heart, blood vessels and brain for life-saving action — fighting, flight or freeze. At school most kids don’t fight or flight, they just freeze up in class and do nothing.

The most severe stressor is a threat. The brain gives the threat priority over anything else — including schoolwork — and it creates powerful memories to help prevent future threats.Fear also interferes with learning. A study published in the February online journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience shows that students raised in low-income homes have stronger fear reactions — with potential consequences for concentration.”All families experience stress, but poor families experience a lot of it,” says Martha Farah, psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. David Diamond, a professor at the University of South Florida, has studied the effects of stress-related hormones in rats for decades and spoken at Jensen conferences. He found that high cortisol levels affect the hippocampus — a key learning center in the brain — in three ways. They suppress electrical activity, decrease efficiency and reduce new cell growth. In fact, chronic stress actually shrinks the hippocampus. That impairs learning, memory and mood.

These effects, thought likely to occur in humans as well, might be one reason it’s hard for impoverished students to concentrate and learn — especially if there is extra stress, violence or abuse in the child’s environment, Diamond says.

Has anyone actually compared the brains of middle class kids with those from poverty?

One researcher reported that growing up in poverty affects thinking processes associated with several brain systems. Sixty healthy middle-school students matched for age, gender and ethnicity but of different socioeconomic status took tests that challenged brain areas responsible for specific cognitive abilities. Researchers found that children from low-income homes had significantly lower scores in areas of language, long-term and short-term memory, and attention.

The research, Farah says, suggests that the effect of stress on the brain may be the reason for these detected differences and disadvantages. “Growing up in a socially disadvantaged environment often exposes people to threats to their health and well-being,” says Peter Gianaros, an assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, who headed the research.

Can Teachers Change the Brain

There are science-supported ways to mitigate these accentuated fear and stress responses and nurture the brain, researchers and educators say.

“Change the experience, and you change the brain,” says San Diego-based educator Eric Jensen, author of the book “Enriching the Brain: How to Maximize Every Learner’s Potential,” who has developed a teachers’ training program, “Teaching with Poverty in Mind.”

“Many good schools have shown they can create experiences that change the brain for the better.”

Among those experiences:

* Targeted preparation. To help children succeed in school, Jensen teaches educators to build students’ brain capacity in areas shown by science to be lagging: attention, long-term effort, memory, processing skills and sequencing skills. He recommends a slate of activities for each — for example, compelling stories, theater arts and fine-motor tasks all build attention skills, he says.

* Foster a mind-set of hope, determination, change and optimism — and security. There are many ways to foster hope, Jensen says, including asking about and affirming a student’s dreams, bringing successful students back to talk to new ones, giving useful feedback on schoolwork and teaching students how to set and monitor their own goals.

Studies by Dr. Helen Mayberg of Emory University have reported lower activity in the thinking parts of the brain in people with depression, and research has uncovered brain changes as people get better, either with medical treatments or psychotherapy.

Dr. Eric Kandel, a Nobel laureate and neuroscience professor at Columbia University, found that positive emotions — safety and security — affect learning capabilities of mice.

“Behaviors and thoughts that relate to hope, love and happiness can change the brain — just as fear, stress and anxiety can change it,” Kandel says. “It’s completely symmetrical.”

  • Meditation. This has been proven in studies to lower stress.
  • Social connectedness. According to Diamond’s work at the Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Fla., “When people are experiencing strong stress, they recover much better when they have social support than when they are socially isolated,” he says. Jensen recommends mentoring programs for children and student groups.
  • Take control. “Feeling helpless increases stress hormones,” Diamond says. To offset learned helplessness and develop a sense of control, Jensen advised students to learn time-management skills and goal setting — and reward small accomplishments.
  • Exercise. “Exercise stimulates and energizes the brain to more efficiently process information. Exercise actually makes more brain cells,” Diamond says. Sports, aerobic exercise, yoga, dance, walking and even exercising the smaller muscles used for playing a musical instrument can change the brain. Music is calming, Diamond says. “If you feel better, you learn better.”
  • Eat well. Marian Diamond, a neuroscientist and professor at UC Berkeley, has been using dietary changes to improve the learning capabilities of orphans and impoverished children in Cambodia. For students living in poverty in the U.S., she said, “Be sure you’re getting good sources of protein and calcium. Each day, eat an egg — or egg whites — a glass of milk, and take a multivitamin.” Other researchers recommend cutting back on sugar and smoking because they raise cortisol levels.
  • Specific skill-building. There are several specific skills that can and should be fostered. Without these skill sets, students will struggle and fall further behind every year. Some schools do things that boost these skills, many of them do it accidentally.
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The 17 Classroom Practices - HERE they ARE! Which ones do you practice & follow??!!

The classroom practices are as follows:

1. Educators and learners model desired behaviors and attitudes such as those set forth in the Life Principles and the Eight Expectations for Living.

2. Educators and learners speak in complete sentences and address one another by name, demonstrating mutual respect and common courtesy.

3. Learners are taught thoroughly and to mastery, insuring success for all. Whole group instruction is interwoven with flexible group instruction and individual instruction.

4. Learning experiences are integrated, related to the real world, reviewed consistently, and connected to subsequent curricula.

5. Critical thinking skills are taught.

6. The environment is non-threatening and conducive to risk-taking. Mistakes are viewed as opportunities to learn and grow.

7. Memory work, recitations, and/or writing occur daily. These enhance character development and effective communication skills while extending curricula.

8. Enriched vocabulary is evident and is drawn directly from challenging writings, informational text, and/or wisdom literature.

9. The Magic Triad, a positive and caring environment, and discipline with dignity and logic are evident.

10. Learners’ work is displayed in some form. Positive and timely feedback is provided through oral and/or written commentary.

11. Word identification skills are used as a foundation for expanding the use of the English language.

12. Learners assume responsibility for their own behavior. Their choices determine consequences.

13. A school, class, or personal creed is recited or reflected upon daily to reaffirm commitment to excellence.

14. All learners experience success. The educator guarantees it by comparing learners to their own past performance, not the performance of others. Learners are showcased, and past failures are disregarded.

15. Educators teach on their feet, thus utilizing proximity. They engage learners personally, hold high expectations of learners, and should not limit learners to grade level or perceived ability.

16. Educators and learners employ effective interpersonal communications skills.

17. Educators and learners celebrate the successes of others.

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From the Assistant Principal:

STAAR Training Round 1- March 25th for Writing STAAR March 30th-31st- All Staff Members must be trained

-Classroom teachers, ISTs, CoCurr teachers, Please meet me in the data room during your conference times. Training will occur through Embedded Professional Development.

-Resource, Dyslexia (Monolingual-Bilingual), Speech, GT, Front Office Staff, Nurse, Instructional Coach, 3rd Grade tutors, STACC, STACC Paras., ESL Teacher, Diagnostician, will be trained in the library at 3:30 pm.


Teachers, please send your students on time to CoCurr. CoCurr are classes that students must attend. Students should not stay in class to catch up on work. Please make sure that you send your students on time.

RTI/SIT Calendar

-March 16th Last day for Referral

-March 19th Parent conference

-March 24th Email intervention logs to assigned IST/ESA

-March 26th SIT Meeting


-Friday, March 20th Sweeper teams visit WRES to verify Writing Collections.

-TELPAS Online Reading dates have been posted on the school calendar. Due to State Testing (TELPAS), the computer lab will be closed during the week of March 16-20th , since it will be considered a secure test site.

Readiness Check Results-Data

We improved a great deal by increasing 10 percentage points. Great job! 07 doors were unlocked. Please email me if you need additional magnets. Mr.Filmer will conduct these checks each month. Let's aim higher; 100% is the campus goal.

54 Doors checked

47 Doors locked 87%

07 Door unlocked 13%

**Any questions about this section should be included in the Meeting of the Minds document and addressed to Mr. Rodriguez.

From your Instructional Coach

Did You Know....

Reading & American Schools

Reading is a critical skill not only for success in school but also for success in life.

From Big Ideas in Beginning Reading:

  • “Overall, national longitudinal studies show that more than 17.5 percent of the nation’s children – about 10 million children – will encounter reading problems in the crucial first three years of their schooling” (National Reading Panel Progress Report, 2000).
  • Approximately 75% of students identified with reading problems in the third grade are still reading disabled in the 9th grade. (Shaywitz, et al., 1993; Francis et al., 1996)
  • In a sample of 54 students, Juel (1988) found the probability of being a poor reader in fourth grade given you were a poor reader in first grade was 88%.
  • “… a longitudinal study of students with poor word identification skills in the third grade (Felton & Wood, 1992) indicated that most of these students failed to significantly improve their skills by the end of eighth grade.” (Felton & Pepper, 1995)

**Any questions about this section should be included in the Meeting of the Minds document and addressed to Ms. Hill.

From the Counselor:

**Any questions about this section should be included in the Meeting of the Minds document and addressed to Mrs. Smythe.

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Happy Birthday!

3/19 - Happy Birthday, Cindy Jalovec!

3/19 - Happy Birthday, Julio Marquez!

3/20 - Happy Birthday, Alyssa Charboneau!