PSU alumna honored for innovative curriculum project

Brooke O'Neill3PSU alumna, Brooke O’Neill, and the David Douglas School District are recipients of this year’s Excellence in Curriculum Leadership Award by the Oregon Association of School Executives (OASE).  Ms. O’Neill, who is the DDSD Director of Curriculum, is a committed PSU Viking, having completed four programs at PSU: a bachelor’s in social science, ’91; the Graduate Teacher Education Program, ’92; Initial Administrator’s License, ’02; and the Continuing Administrator’s License, ’09 .  In addition, the David Douglas School District (DDSD) is a long-time partner of the Graduate School of Education.

The OASE award, issued in June at the annual COSA conference in Seaside, recognized a project entitled: Professional Learning Teams Informing Proficiency-Based Reporting.

Ms. O’Neill organized the district’s 713 teachers into Professional Learning Teams at each of the schools. The teams were formed to increase student achievement by looking at proficiency-based reporting. In order to do this, they implemented a one-hour district-wide late start every Wednesday morning to have the opportunity to review assessment data and focus on instructional strategies. “What do students need to know?” “How will teachers know they’ve learned it?” What will teachers and students do if they don’t learn it?” and “What will teachers do if they already know it?” This was a real chance to have impact on the achievement gap.

In addition, Ms. O’Neill worked to realign the district report card to better reflect the state’s new Common Core State Standards—something that had never been done before. With the new report card, teachers can see exactly where more instruction will impact academic improvement.

“Without the support of the school board, we never could have done this,” she said. It is unprecedented to take that much instructional time out of the school schedule, so parents, administrators and school board members all needed to be committed in order for it to work.

The district is in the third year of the project and has made great strides. The Oregon Department of Education requested that they share their report card with other districts statewide.

“Brooke is an absolute life-long learner,” said Don Grotting, David Douglas superintendent. “She is committed to seeing every student in our District achieve to their potential, and she is always looking for ways to either refine or research best-practices for delivering instruction in order to make that happen.”

Ms. O’Neill grew up in Beaverton and says Portland State University was always her first choice for her education as she watched friends go off to other schools. She loved the energy of PSU’s urban setting where, “the city is our campus.”

“I was able to save a lot of money living at home while attending PSU,” she said. She was able to maintain part-time jobs while attending class. “I had no student debt when I graduated,” she said. She feels PSU’s undergraduate program prepared her extremely well for graduate programs. She would recommend PSU for many reasons beside the convenience of the downtown location: the diversity of the students—of various ages and experiences, top-notch professors, and exceptional student support. “There was never a reason to go anywhere else,” she said.

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