Thursday, December 11, 2014

Twitter and Tradiciones

Mrs. Oelke's Spanish III students were provided an opportunity to engage in a Twitter Hashtag conversation regarding traditions in cultures.  Students were to review the hashtags and make connections.  Common core aspects were included into this assignment as well.  This is another fine example as to where JWP staff members utilize technology as a learning tool.  It is examples like this and any others that our district can boast a high quality education for all students.

You can see more specifics about this assignment by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Brick by Brick" at JWP - A Good News Article Submission

Head Coach Jerry Kill of the Minnesota Golden Gophers uses the phrase, “Brick by Brick”.  The intentions of those three words is to effectively and efficiently communicate the process in which the coaching staff is utilizing to build the Gopher Football program into a successful one.  At the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton (JWP) Public School District we strive to be the best and do so “Brick by Brick”.

Over the past three years the JWP School District has experienced positive growth in student learning and the development of all staff.  To support these areas of growth, we will share quantitative and qualitative data.

The quantitative data includes test results of our school district and six surrounding districts.  In 2012 JWP was 7th in reading achievement.  Over the past three years we have realized positive growth and now rank 4th in reading achievement.  In the area of Math we were 6th in achievement in 2012 and were 1st in 2014.  We are proud of our students’ growth and look forward to a consistent upward trend.

Qualitative data will encapsulate the development of all staff.  This is the area where “Brick by Brick” comes into play.  At Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton we have set the following ‘bricks’ for a strong foundation:
  1. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) – 90% of our certified staff members have been through PLC training.  At these trainings our staff members have been provided with the knowledge to utilize collaboration in improving practice.
  2. Evaluations – This school year all staff members will experience high quality evaluations that will provide each individual with an opportunity to set a goal and develop an action plan to achieve that goal.  At the end of the school year, all staff members are expected to develop their professional capacity.
  3. Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports – This is a proactive approach to establishing the behavioral supports and social culture needed for all students in a school to achieve social, emotional and academic success.   Staff members at JWP have worked diligently to ensure this program is implemented with integrity.
  4. Curriculum Review Cycle – Teachers utilize curriculum as a tool to increase their skill set and to positively impact student learning.  We have implemented a curriculum review cycle to confirm our teachers have current best practice tools to do their work.
  5. Technology Development – As you all know, technology changes daily.  This leaves our staff with unique challenges to meet the needs of today’s learners.  At JWP we have started a process to explore the tools we need to embrace and implement practices that will prepare our students for the future.
  6. Strategic Planning – Our school board has created a strategic plan that sets a vision for what we want our district to be in the future.  Each year of this plan we recognize growth.  Our school board is committed to this vision and provides the resources to ensure we are a top tier educational institution.
  7. Staff Trainings – This year, our special education department has developed trainings to educate staff on the best practices of reaching the needs of all learners.  The information shared is taken into account when staff members plan their lessons to differentiate instruction.

As you have probably gleaned from this article, JWP is committed to doing what is right to provide a high quality education for all learners.  Considering this article is limited to a specified amount of words, we could not highlight all of the wonderful things we are doing.  With everything in life, there are areas for improvement and we strive to attain continuous improvement “Brick by Brick”. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Cold Weather Decision Making Process

As you might recall, in the past, we had several school days closed due to excessively cold weather.  I am hopeful that we will not experience those extreme temperatures this year.  With that said, I would like to remind our constituents of guiding principles for closing school due to extreme temperatures.
  • Our school buses are housed indoors and are in excellent condition.  In the unlikely event that mechanical failure would occur during cold weather, there are back up buses that can respond to lend assistance in short order.
  • Wind chill temperature, actual temperature and frostbite time frames are taken into consideration when making a decision to stay open or closed. I utilize the NOAA Wind Chill Chart (see above or click here) as my guide.  If frostbite times are in the 30 minutes range, it will be my recommendation to hold school as planned provided other issues such as snowfall, visibility & road conditions are acceptable.
  • I believe that if we operate within the wind chill parameters set forth above, we are putting the safety of students first, but also providing opportunities to continue school on regularly scheduled days.
  • I ask that parents pay special attention to proper clothing for their children during the winter season and especially during these very cold conditions.  Whether a child is in Kindergarten or in 12th grade, all students should have proper winter apparel including mittens and hat before venturing out.
  • If the decision is made to hold school on days of negative wind chills, it is the parent's final responsibility to determine whether it is safe for their child to go to school.  Throughout our district, we have so many different circumstances with different families that a single decision by the superintendent may not properly respond to the consideration of a particular family.  If parents elect to hold their children home due to inclement weather, the absence will be considered an excused absence. 
Please make certain that your alert system information (Infinite Campus) is up to date as we rely on this system to communicate messages regarding school closures.  If you have any questions, concerns or compliments, please contact me directly.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What is the JWP superintendent thankful for?

During this time of year we are called to reflect on the things we are thankful for in life.  On a personal note I am thankful for my wonderful family and the community in which we reside.  Being that this blog is for professional intentions, I will express my thankfulness for the school district in which I am employed and our district's communities.

Lists are always a good way to organize thoughts, therefore, my thankfulness will be expressed below.

1. First and foremost, I am thankful for the students that enter our schoolhouse doors on a daily basis eager to learn and grow.  We have outstanding students that will no doubt contribute to society in a positive way in the very near and distant future.

2. I am thankful for the outstanding staff members (all of them) at JWP that commit themselves to the world's most important job, educating future contributors to our society.  JWP staff members have experienced many changes through that past three years.  Each one of them have found a way to embrace the change and make the best of it.  As this district's superintendent, I can confidently say that you/we are extremely lucky to have such committed personnel positively impacting students on a daily basis. 

3. I am thankful for an outstanding school board.  School board members have a difficult job.  They are elected officials that represent our three communities and put forth 100% effort to ensure the students that enter our schoolhouse gate are provided with a world class education.  These members have set a strategic vision and have committed to ensuring those visions are met.

4. I am thankful for our communities.  The communities of Janesville, Waldorf, and Pemberton have provided us with financial and moral support to accomplish our goal of ensuring all students learn at high levels.  Without the support of these three communities, our recent great accomplishments would not have been realized.

5. I am thankful to those in our school and communities that came before us.  The hard work and sacrifice of those that came before us make us who we are today.  From the settlements of our communities to the development of our current school district, those before us made everything possible today.  You are all greatly appreciated.

I realize that my notations above have not included everyone.  For those I missed, thank you for your contributions to our district and communities.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Legislative Session & Technology

The 2015 legislative session is set to begin on January 6, 2015.  In the education world, this becomes an interesting and important time of the year.  The Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District will focus our lobbying efforts on a variety of issues.  In this blog entry I will share with you the items of interest for our district in the upcoming legislative session as well as technology news.

Governor Dayton and our legislatures have been supportive of education over the past two biennium's.  We have seen an increase to the funding formula, full funding of all day everyday kindergarten, expansion of early childhood education, fiscal allocations for the implementation of the new teacher evaluation law and a variety of other efforts.  Although we are thankful for the efforts, we have a long way to go.

Legislative Priorities

Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton's lobbying efforts will be as follows:

1. An increase to the funding formula with indexing for inflation.
2. Increase in alternative facilities authority so we can maintain our facility.
3. Continued equalization so our local taxpayers aren't stuck with the brunt of funding our school district.
4. Funding of unfunded mandates.
5. A variety of other needs.

Should you want to discuss these items at greater length, please feel free to contact me directly.  


Technology issues continue to be a topic of interest for our district.  Technology changes at a rapid pace.  Many districts throughout the state of Minnesota have implemented 1:1 initiatives in which each student is issued a device.  Our district is in the process of evaluating which device makes the most sense for our students.  Devices being considered are iPads, Chromebooks, MS Surface, Droid Devices, laptops and others.  Should any of you have a particular interest in which device we should implement and have rationale, please feel free to contact me as I would like to discuss this with you.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Must See YouTube Video

This week Mr. Erler (Elementary Principal), Mrs. Miller (4th Grade), Mrs. Morrow (2nd Grade) and Mrs. Schmitz (Kindergarten) attended the Curriculum Leaders of Minnesota Conference.  On Friday our keynote speaker was Scott McLeod (@mcleod for Twitter followers).  For me, his keynote was one of the most engaging conversations I have experienced.  It was wonderful to share this experience with some of our outstanding JWP staff.

Dr. McLeod challenged us to think about how to take technology from substitution use to higher order uses while educating our students.  This comes directly from the SAMR model of technology instruction.

S - Substitution - Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change.  For example, in the past, we may have used a chalkboard to teach and now we use the SMARTboard.

A - Augmentation - Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement.  An example would be the use of "Back Channels" to further discuss a topic or for continued reflection.

M - Modification - Technology allows for significant redesign, which might be concept mapping notes using different pieces of technology linking different learning.

R - Redefinition - Technology allows for creation of new tasks that were previously inconceivable.  An example of this would be that students are asked to make documentary videos of their grandparents or someone else they know in that age range.  They would specifically discuss historical points and cite experience in the documentary.  The documentary would then be shared via Twitter and Google Sites.

*Kathy Schrock (

Ultimately one can look at the SAMR model as being similar to Bloom's Taxonomy.  Moving from the bottom up in Bloom's Taxonomy allows more authentic learning experiences for students.  Likewise is the experience of moving from substitution to redefinition.

Thank you Scott McLeod for outstanding information and tools for future innovation and district wide development!  Those of you that have made your way through this blog entry, enjoy the following video.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Thesis Statements...Do YOU remember?

I was invited into our sophomore English class yesterday afternoon to observe a lesson regarding thesis statements.  These statements are sentences (typically one) that explains what an essay is about.  Mrs. Oelke and her students put together notebooks that cover the topic and provide a point of reference.
As you can see in the above example, students were provided with four potential thesis statements for each story.  The first example is Harrison Bergeron.  One of the following sentences is a better example of a thesis statement.  Can you identify the best example (I do realize it is highlighted above)?

1. "Harrison Bergeron" is a better example of dystopian literature than Divergent.
2. Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" fits the description of dystopian literature.
3. "Harrison Bergeron" is about a society that doesn't even exist.
4. Vonnegut's story could never happen in real life.

In this case, it is sentence two.  Observing this lesson reminded me of how subjective the evaluation of a thesis statement can be.  Our students deserve great kudos for taking on this difficult challenge and persevering.

To add on to the challenge of this, our students were also asked to identify the genre of each thesis statement.  If you have a child in 10th grade or beyond, give them a quiz.  The answer is: dystopian.  Take it a bit further, what is dystopian?  Before quizing them, google search the definition :-).

Mrs. Oelke facilitated an excellent discussion with her students to strengthen their understanding of this topic.  It was enjoyable observing our students taking risks and sharing their belief whether they were correct or incorrect.

This is what teaching and learning is all about!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

School Board Candidates

The 2014 Election brings four open school board seats.  On the final day of filing, the JWP School District had five interested candidates.  Below is a summary of a Q&A held with our prospective school board members.

(Appearing in Alphabetical Order with their responses italicized))

Kelly Eustice (Incumbent)

Hometown/Where you Graduated from High School: Janesville, MN - Janesville High School

Current Occupation/Role: Medical Technologist at Mayo Clinic Health Systems in Waseca

Why have you decided to run for the school board?  Kelly is running for the school board because she wants to stay active and involved in her children's education as well as those of all the families of the JWP District. 

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing our District?  One of the biggest challenges is open enrollment and funding.

What do you believe is the greatest strength of our District?  The greatest strength of our district are our students!  Community support is also wonderful!

Danell (Dan) Hoehn

Hometown/Where you Graduated from High School: Elysian - Waterville-Elysian High School

Current Occupation/Role: Attorney and Partner at Schmidt Hoehn Law, Ltd.

Why have you decided to run for the school board?  Danelle (Dan) has five children who will be educated in the JWP School District.  Therefore, as a parent and resident of the school district he has vested interest in the quality education of his children as well as all of the children attending school in this district.  He is running with the intent to be a contributing member of the organization which will provide that education.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing our District?  In following the issues and challenges facing the school board the past several years, at times there have been an issue or two which loomed large above the rest.  However, he does not believe at this time there is one issue which rises above all others in the school district.  He does believe that some of the key issues which are ongoing include maintaining and enhancing a quality curriculum, student enrollment and funding issues.  If elected, Danelle (Dan) expect he would become more keenly aware and knowledgeable about those issues which are of the most importance.

What do you believe is the greatest strength of our District?  Danelle (Dan) believes the greatest strength of any organization is its people which in this case includes the students, parents, educators, support staff, administration and community as a whole.  He believes the role of the school board is to strive to provide the best environment and tools it can in order to enable people within the organization to excel in their various roles.

Tim Johnson (Incumbent)

Hometown/Where you Graduated from High School: Janesville, MN - Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton High School

Current Occupation/Role: Sr. Industrial Designer at Hearth & Home Technologies

Why have you decided to run for the school board?  Tim enjoys being an active member of the community and this is the best way he can actively support our school district.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing our District?  Tim believes the number of people living in our school district that open enroll to other districts is too high and he wants to be a part of helping our school district become peoples number one choice.

What do you believe is the greatest strength of our District?  Our biggest asset to our school is our staff and their dedication to the students education.

Jennifer Miller

Jennifer will appear on the ballot but will be moving out of the school district.  Therefore, she will be unable to fulfill the obligations of being a school board member in the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Public School District.

Greg Weedman

Hometown/Where you Graduated from High School: Springfield, MN - Springfield High School

Current Occupation/Role: North Star Stone - Store Manager/Commercial Representative

Why have you decided to run for the school board?  Greg's family has been in the Janesville area for nine years had have enjoyed getting to know the school personnel and the community members.  They have two younger children in the JWP school district, and have a personal interest in maintaining the quality of the school system.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing our District?  Technology - Our youth is so advanced that we need to find more creative ways to incorporate technology in the classroom to keep up with the demand.  Also, poverty within the student body.

What do you believe is the greatest strength of our District?  Successful growth in terms of testing/ranks.  The direction of positive re-enforcement in relation to bullying.  Community pride within the school system and throughout the area.

In closing, the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District reminds folks get out and vote on the 4th of November. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Communication Kudos!

Communication between the school, families and communities is of extreme importance.  As mentioned in an earlier blog post, our staff consistently looks for ways to increase our communication capacity.  Our two first grade teachers, Mrs. Sheeran and Mrs. Leiferman have been consistently blogging about a variety of classroom happenings.  To check out the true power behind blogging, please visit the following websites (blogs):

Mrs. Sheeran's Blog:

Mrs. Leiferman's Blog:

Thank you teachers for putting in extra time to create strong communication with our families and communities! 

Teacher Made Video Tutorials

During the 2013-2014 school year the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District adopted a new math curriculum for our students in grades K-12.  The elementary adopted Math Expressions published by Houghton Mifflin. 

With every curriculum adoption there are challenges to be met.  Teachers work hard to familiarize themselves with the new curriculum and to develop appropriate pacing.  Our students and families are challenged to adapt to new languages, appearance, pedagogy and procedures.  Math Expressions is a unique curriculum that challenges our students to look at numbers differently to extend their learning. 

As a way to assist families and students in their understanding of these unfamiliar concepts, one of our third grade teachers, Mrs. Roesler, put together video tutorials.  Once these videos are made, Mrs. Roesler can send them out via e-mail and post them to her website.  This is one fine example of how our teachers work diligently to provide our families with effective communication.  To view an example video tutorial, please click on the play button above.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Flipped Classroom at JWP

The Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton teaching staff have been researching ways to innovate instruction to better meet the needs of our students.  One of those strategies identified by our staff was the "Flipped Classrom".  Several of our teachers have taken on this challenge and are bringing this approach to our students.

The "Flipped Classroom" essentially inverts the classroom.  Instruction takes place online away from school and homework is brought to the classroom.  This instruction is typically completed via an online video.  By doing so, students receive support on homework from the trained classroom teacher.  The examples I provide below are all math focused.  Please take some time to peruse these videos.  If you are feeling really ambitious, try a few of the problems on your own.

Example 1 - High School Algebra - Click Here

Example 2 - Elementary 5th Grade Math - Click Here

If you have any questions about this process, please feel free to contact me directly.  As a disclaimer, I couldn't post all videos of the "Flipped Classroom" work being done by our staff.  Should you want to see more, please let me know.

Friday, October 3, 2014

JWP is Looking GOOD! State Assessment Results are Online.

The Minnesota Department of Education released MMR (Multiple Measurements Rating) Results for all schools in the state of Minnesota this week.  The MMR is given to all schools in the state on an annual basis and measures school performance in the areas of proficiency, growth, achievement gap reduction and graduation rates. A second rating, the Focus Rating (FR), is also used to measure a school’s success in reducing achievement gaps between student groups.

Using the results of the Multiple Measurements Rating (MMR) and Focus Rating (FR), Title I schools can fall into five groups.

Reward Schools: These schools are the top 15 percent of Title I schools based on the MMR. They represent the highest-performing schools on the four domains in the MMR. Currently, the reward for these schools mainly comes through public recognition. MDE plans to share practices from these schools with Priority and Focus schools in an effort to replicate best practices across the state. These schools are identified annually.

Celebration Eligible: These are the 25 percent of schools directly below the Reward school cutoff. These schools may apply to be Celebration schools, and MDE selects approximately 10 percent of Title I schools to receive the Celebration school recognition. Celebration Eligible schools are identified annually, and the application process to become a Celebration school occurs annually as well.

Continuous Improvement: These are the bottom 25 percent of Title I schools that have not already been identified as Priority or Focus. Continuous Improvement schools must work with their districts to create and implement improvement plans as well as set aside 20 percent of Title I funds to support school improvement efforts. MDE audits 10 percent of Continuous Improvement schools to ensure fidelity. These schools are identified annually.

Focus: All Minnesota schools receive a Focus Rating (FR) that measures their contribution to the state’s achievement gap. The 10 percent of Title I schools with the lowest FR are identified as Focus Schools and must work with MDE and the Regional Centers of Excellence to implement interventions aimed at improving the performance of the school’s lowest-performing subgroups. Essentially, Focus schools are designated to attack the achievement gap head on. Focus schools are required to set aside 20 percent of Title I funds to support school improvement efforts. These schools are identified every three years.

Some Focus schools are identified for persistent low graduation rates. These are schools with a six-year graduation rate, averaged over three years, below 60 percent. This separate group of low graduation rate Focus schools will establish goals and develop improvement plans around increasing the percentage of students fulfilling graduation requirements.

Priority: These are the 5 percent most persistently low-performing Title I schools based on the MMR. Just less than half of these schools are identified through their participation in the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. The remaining schools in this group are the Title I schools with the lowest MMR results. These schools must work with MDE and the Regional Centers of Excellence to implement turnaround plans to make drastic improvements for increased student achievement. Priority schools are required to set aside 20 percent of Title I funds to support turnaround efforts, and these schools are also identified every three years.

Our elementary receives a designation each year because it receives Title I funds.  Although our high school receives an MMR rating, it does not receive a designation because it does not receive Title I funds.  I am happy to report that our elementary was designated as a Celebration Eligible school and our high school received a great MMR rating!  Below are snap shots of the MMR growth both of our schools have been experiencing.

This is outstanding news!  Our entire staff has worked diligently to improve their practice and positively impact student achievement. Kudos to all staff and students! 

If you would like to learn more about the MMR, please feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How are teachers evaluated at JWP?

Recently I wrote a blog post about how principals are evaluated at JWP.  This post will be dedicated to discussing how JWP teachers are evaluated.  I will attempt to cover all bases and follow up should I miss any steps.

At the beginning of the school year each building principal meets with their teachers on an individual basis.  During this preliminary meeting, teachers set SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound).  These SMART Goals become the focus of their professional improvement during the school year.

Throughout the school year teachers collect evidence that supports their development in achieving their SMART Goal.  Evidence may include the following artifacts:

·      Dashboards
·      Data folders
·      Projects
·      Portfolios
·      Rubrics
·      State standardized test results
·      Literacy tests
·      MAPs tests
·      Power standards
·      Math tests
·      Presidential fitness test
·      Classroom climate
·      Student data logs
·      Surveys

As teachers collect evidence, they are asked to place it into their learning logs.  The learning logs are documents that are ongoing journals of communication between the principals and teachers.  These logs are meant as two way communication between the principals and teachers as walkthroughs and observations take place.

An important component of our evaluation system is the observation.  All observations are unannounced.  Meaning, our principals simply show up to observe instruction.  After an observation, teachers schedule a meeting with their principal to discuss the overall observation.  During those discussions, areas of improvement and strength are highlighted.  New teachers (two years of experience and under) receive three observations annually while those with three or more years of experience receive one observation annually.

We look at the following during an observation:

Professional Responsibilities
The teacher demonstrates high ethical standards and a genuine sense of professionalism by:
·       Engaging in reflection on instruction
·       Maintaining accurate records
·       Communicating frequently with families
·       Engaging in professional development
·       Participating in a professional community
·       Aligning with building and district priorities
·       Demonstrating professional relationships
·       Understanding the 21st Century Learner
·       Aligning personal practices with building and district practices and values
·       Valuing the spirit of feedback, both giving and receiving for the individual and collective growth

Planning and Organization
The teacher demonstrates excellent planning and organization for student success by:
·       Creating plans that reflect solid understanding of the content, the students, and available resources
·       Writing instructional outcomes that represent focused learning suitable to most students
·       Aligning planning and preparation with formative assessment practices
·       Designing short and long-range instructional plans based on Essential Learning Targets and Success Criteria
·       Developing and utilizing a variety of assessments
·       Using assessment data as a basis for instruction
·       Ensuring that instruction is consistent with school district priorities
·       Planning for time for self reflection

The teacher demonstrates command of instruction by:
·       Possessing a solid understanding of content that can be expressed in many different ways
·       Utilizing content knowledge to ensure student learning
·       Instructing based on RtI and formative assessment practices
·       Engaging students in learning as a result of students having clarity of target
·       Successful use of questioning and discussion techniques
·       Implementing activities and assignments that are of high quality and clearly connected to the target
·       Creating a classroom where teacher and students make productive use of assessments
·       Responding to classroom formative assessment by modifying instruction based on students’ understanding and performance
·       Providing effective feedback that elicits improvement in student performance
·       Utilizing technology to empower students

Classroom Environment
The teacher demonstrates management of an excellent classroom environment by:
·       Valuing students as individuals with unique strengths and needs
·       Creating a classroom environment that functions smoothly, with little or no lost of instructional time
·       Having high expectations for student learning
·       Ensuring that interactions among individuals are respectful
·       Maintaining expectations for student conduct that are clear, such that the physical environment supports learning
·       Establishing a culture of learning that provides a safe environment for risk taking
·       Applying sound disciplinary practices in the classroom

At the end of the school year the teacher and principal have a closing conversation to determine which track each teacher will be assigned.  The substance of this meeting is a conversation focused on the learning log, evidence of reaching SMART goals, and student achievement data.  Based on this conversation, teachers will fall into either the Growth Track or the Intensive Track.

The Growth Track simply designates that a teacher has reached their SMART goal, students have grown academically, and observations of the teacher were successful.  The Intensive Track designates that a teacher has not reached their SMART goal, students have not grown academically and/or areas of improvement were identified during instructional observations.  In the Growth Track, teachers will set new goals to develop their practice.  In the Intensive Track, teachers develop an improvement plan that is closely monitored the following year.  Ultimately, if improvement is not realized in the Improvement Track phase, the potential of being released from employment is present.

In summary, the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District has an effective evaluation process in place for teacher development.  Our process was developed over the last two years with a variety of stakeholders.  This will be the first year that full implementation of this process will be realized.  Should you ever want to discuss this process, please contact me directly.