Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer International Education Institute

The Summer International Education Institute started with the Bridges
Festival Celebration held from July 23 - July 27, 2014. This festival was a
culmination of activities by students, teachers, parents and community
members involved with the Bridges Conference that took place between
January and June of this year in various countries.

The Summer International Education Institute started on Monday, July 28,
2014, and will end on August 8, 2014. Classes start at 8:30 a.m. and end at
2:30 p.m. each day.

The purpose of the Institute is to bridge the gap between cultures and
education through teamwork and global partnerships. The Summer
International Education Institute provides a collaborative and blended
learning experience for every student to interact with other students from a
different culture. Some of the institute courses include: Science and
Technology Exploration, Course Work on Ipads & Personal Computers, and
Cross-Cultural Team Building Activities.

This is a great way for the School District of Janesville students to partner

with international students for a global learning experience in their own city

Monday, July 28, 2014

SDJ Director for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Dr. Kim Ehrhardt, Reacts to Proposed Repeal of the Common Core State Standards

During the past four years, the School District of Janesville has been working diligently to upgrade and revise the existing district curriculum to ensure that  students who graduate from the district are college and career ready.  An important element of this effort is to align the district curriculum to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Common Core State Standards originated from the National Governors Association who sought to create a series of improved and more rigorous learning standards that would be applied nationwide.  Previously, each state had set its own benchmarks for proficiency on state standardized tests.  This practice created inconsistency with some states setting the bar high and others low.  The Common Core is designed to establish national standards so states cannot use soft benchmarks to make every student appear to be above average; therefore,  an important goal of the Common Core is to ensure that students in Georgia are making the same progress on universal learning targets as those in Wisconsin.  The State of Wisconsin formally adopted the Common Core in 2010 and joined 44 states in this collaborative effort to enhance student achievement outcomes for its students.   In a related matter,  the state legislature approved retiring the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) and replacing it with a new Common Core based assessment known as the Smarter Balance Assessment.  The School District of Janesville has been active with piloting this new assessment in select schools as determined by the Department of Public Instruction.  Feedback from the pilot schools confirms that the new assessments are a more academically challenging experience for our students than the former WKCE.  In addition,  feedback from pilot schools also validates the need to upgrade and revise the current district curriculum to more rigorous levels. 
While many educators agree that the Common Core State Standards are not perfect, they are a big improvement over the former Wisconsin Model Academic Standards.  Specifically, the CCSS offers more specific direction to educators relative to more precise learning targets at each grade level and contains higher expectations for student learning outcomes.  It is unclear to district officials what aspects of the content of the Common Core are of concern and thus causing some state politicians to ask for their repeal.  For example, CCSS standards in reading and language arts for fifth graders seem reasonable and state that students should be able to
1)   Find information from print and digital resources to solve a   problem;
2)  Identify the main ideas and supporting details in a text; 
3) Cite evidence to support an answer.
It then falls to states and local school districts to determine exactly how students achieve these targets and how the curriculum is developed.
State Superintendent Tony Evers stated that “It’s campaign season in Wisconsin and around the country, and, not surprisingly, politics trumps sound policy.”    As Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, I believe that such an “about face” in curriculum reform efforts would be counterproductive. “A considerable amount of time and effort has already gone into teacher professional development, the purchase of new educational resources and the development of aligned curriculum in preparation for implementation of the Common Core and the administration of the new assessment in the spring of 2015.  It is estimated that school districts in Wisconsin have already spent over 25 million dollars with Common Core development.    The repeal of the Common Core would cause considerable confusion and disruption and may be perceived as politically meddling in the work of educators.   Also, abandonment of Common Core State Standards would sacrifice our ability to make true comparisons between and among the educational performances of students in different states.  This would take us back to the original problem the governors were trying to address by creating the Common Core, thereby robbing us of the opportunity and promise of real accountability for student learning and achievement.  

In conclusion, it seems largely impractical to replace the Common Core Standards with new state standards at the start of the upcoming legislative session.  Those few states that have replaced the Common Core State Standards (Indiana) have generated a set of standards that look nearly identical to the CCSS.  The School District of Janesville’s Board of Education went on record last spring (2014) by adopting a resolution that supported the Common Core State Standards in the State of Wisconsin.  “As a final reflection, I believe we need to stay the course with the Common Core, making adjustments and refinements as necessary and not throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater as we strive to ensure that our graduates are career and college ready.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bridges-Global Educational Conference
Intergenerational Day Video

The second video in our “Bridges” series showcases Intergenerational Day at Edison Middle School.  This is a day when students interview grandparents to learn about life when they were young.

Edison Middle School has sponsored this program for the past twenty years.  Students continue to be excited about this chance to interact and stay in contact with the grandparents.  We invite you to get involved with this opportunity to build bridges along with the School District of Janesville.

Joins us for the International Arts Festival, hosted by the School District of Janesville (SDJ), July 23-27, 2014.  The festival will showcase projects that have developed from cross-cultural collaborations.

For more information, please contact us at 608-743-5000.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bridges-Global Educational Conference

The Bridges-Global Educational Community Conference unites students, teachers, parents, and community members in classrooms around the world from January-July 2014.

Part of the conference will include an International Arts Festival hosted by The School District of Janesville (SDJ) that will take place July 23-27, 2014. The festival will showcase projects that have developed from this cross-cultural collaboration.

The blogs for the next several days will feature videos entitled “Bridges.” These videos will show how several SDJ schools participated in “Bridge Building” activities that are another part of the conference.

What is “Bridge Building?” It is promoting mutual understanding and communication between and among people with different backgrounds (Senior Citizens/Youth, Veterans/Non-Veterans, etc.).

The first video will explain how the district got involved, what the conference is about, and how can you get involved.

Please contact us at 608-743-5000 for additional information.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Congratulations Parker High School Baseball Team

Congratulations to Coach Brian Martin and the Parker High School baseball team for an outstanding season. As Superintendent, I am very proud of your accomplishment.

Coach Martin stated it best in his comment, “When we focus on things and have a goal and a way to attain it, we’ve come through.  The approach has been, let’s play one pitch at a time.”  This philosophy earned Parker a top ranking in the Big Eight Conference.

With a record of 22-5, the team finished second place in the Big Eight Conference, another great accomplishment.  The last time Parker High School qualified for the WIAA state baseball tournament was in 1992 (22 years ago).  The coach at that time was Mr. Dan Madden.

Parker defeated the Bay Port Pirates by a score of 4-3 in their first game of the tournament to advance to the semi-finals.  There they met the Sun Prairie Cardinals.  The WIAA state tournament is taking place at the Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, Grand Chute, WI, from Tuesday-Thursday of this week.

Congratulations! You have made the School District of Janesville extremely proud.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lunch Balances

Many people have asked the question, “Why am I receiving phone calls from the School District of Janesville’s Foodservice Department?”  This is a good question, especially since the school year (except for summer school) has ended.

Mr. Jim Degan, Foodservice Manager, cites the following reason:  “To inform parents of an outstanding balance on a student’s lunch account.”

Alert Now messages are sent out to all parents of students with negative balances on their accounts so that the parents are aware of the amount owed to the School District for meals students have already consumed for this year.  The Alert Now messages will continue until the outstanding balances are paid in full.

Please contact Mrs. Cynthia Tiffany, Foodservice Secretary, at 608-753-5132 to make payments.

Enjoy your summer.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Father's Day

As we look forward to a great weekend in Janesville, I want to salute all our dads and hope they have a great Father’s Day on Sunday.

Every once in a while it is energizing to stop for a minute and look at the many things in life we can be thankful for. Our fathers are at the top of that category.

For those of you who can share Sunday with your dad, take time to thank him for the love he gives every day and the sacrifices he has made over the years to make sure you had every opportunity to succeed. You know he’s so proud of you. His love is unconditional – there’s nothing expected in return.

Some have lost their father, but they think of him on a daily basis. There are so many people in our community who watched their dads work at the GM plant or Parker Pen, for example, in a continual effort to provide their children with a better life. Many of their children were first-generation college students and graduates. Many of them went on to become teachers in the same school district they attended.

Sadly, not everyone is blessed with a loving, caring dad. For some, including some of our students, the family unit does not include a dad. We recognize the challenges faced by those students. That's one reason we pledge to not only educate every child, but to provide all our students with a safe and caring learning environment.

Dads are largely responsible for generations of a better educated citizenry, many of whom have dedicated their working lives to making sure every child receives a great education.

I applaud our dads who play multiple roles such as a loving parent, a role model, a mentor and, occasionally, an emergency auto mechanic when the car breaks down on the way to prom.

If you can spend Sunday with your dad, just hug him - squeeze him tight and tell him how much you love him. He may be a little shy, but it will make his day.

For those who can no longer share the day with dad, keep thinking about him and how important he was. He’s always by your side.