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.