Friday, October 2, 2015

Janesville Moves to STAR Assessments

GUEST BLOGGER:  Amy Sheridan
Coordinator for Talented and Gifted, Assessment, Elementary Math

In an effort to support instruction in Reading and Math, the School District of Janesville has moved to the STAR Assessment by Renaissance Learning.  Beginning this fall, all students in kindergarten through tenth grade will be assessed three times per year in Early Literacy/Reading and Math.  Using the same assessment system across all levels will allow schools to use comparable data to monitor student progress from elementary through high school.  This will be especially helpful during transition years when students move from elementary to middle school, and from middle school to high school.

The STAR Assessment serves as a universal screening and progress monitoring tool, which means that teachers can set goals for students, and continue to monitor student progress between screening windows. The STAR Assessment also connects teachers to a library of lessons and activities that are Common Core aligned, and also connected to student’s suggested skills determined by individual results. This is a great asset to teachers who are differentiating and personalizing student learning.

By screening students three times per year, the program will generate a Student Growth Percentile (SGP) for each student.  The SGP helps teachers and schools determine if students are growing at adequate rates by comparing the growth in achievement of students across the United States.  For example, if a student receives a SGP of 70, that means the student grew more than 70% of students in the United States that started at the same grade and skill level as the student.  The School District of Janesville has also incorporated the SGP into the student achievement goals.

STAR assessments are computer adaptive, allowing for the assessment to adjust to each student’s unique responses, meaning the computer program adjusts the difficulty of questions throughout the assessment.  Computer adaptive assessments provide an individually tailored experience for students, quickly identifying skills the students have mastered. Computer adaptive assessments are also extremely efficient; students spend less time testing, allowing for more time to be devoted to learning in the classroom.

The first screening window has been smooth sailing, and we are looking forward to seeing the positive impact STAR will have toward documenting our students' achievement.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Global Education Achievement Certificate Program

Coordinator of Title Programs 
ELL, Title I, World Language, and K-8 English Language Arts, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Department

The School District of Janesville is proud to launch the Wisconsin Global Education Achievement Certificate / Global Scholar Program to our students.  This certificate will be awarded to graduating high school students who have demonstrated engagement with global issues throughout their high school careers by successfully completing courses, participating in co-curricular activities, and providing service efforts that have a global emphasis and foster the development of global competence. This recognition focuses and validates the excellent global education learning opportunities already in place within the School District of Janesville, while encouraging students to enroll in classes with global content in the arts, sciences, and humanities in order to explore global issues beyond the classroom. 

Graduates of the School District of Janesville in 2016 and beyond may be eligible for this recognition.  While most feasible for incoming freshmen (Class of 2019) who can plan from the beginning of their high school experience to attain the GEAC, it is possible that students in the classes of 2016, 2017, and 2018 may already be on track through coursework, co-curricular involvement, and service hours to meet the criteria, and they could choose to complete the reflections required in a condensed timeline. The intent is to include as many students as possible who meet the rigorous requirements.

Those requirements include the following:

              a.  Four credits in one world language (including English courses
                   for students whose native language is not English)
              b.  Four credits in courses with global content. One credit may be
                   one year of a second world language.
              c.  Eight Reflections demonstrating cultural literacy
                             1.  Minimum of four reflections on books
                             2.  Minimum of one reflection on art, music, or film
             d.  Participation in school wide global activities
             e.  A minimum of twenty hours work on a global service project.

In the next few weeks, students in all world language classes will be introduced to the Global Education Achievement Certificate program, including requirements, application process, and opportunities to participate in related activities, service projects, and experiences for reflection. 

Applications will be submitted in the spring and reviewed by a committee including district curriculum coordinators, student services staff, and teachers.  The committee will forward the names of students who have met all requirements to the Department of Public Instruction to issue the certificates.  In addition, students will receive the designation of “Global Scholar” on their transcripts. 

For more information, visit For student-specific guidance, families should contact their student’s world language teacher, social studies teacher, or guidance counselor.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

School Library Redesign

21st Century Learning, Program Support Teacher

School libraries across the district are going through some exciting redesign projects. The Innovative Learning Specialist team has been working diligently throughout the summer to transform traditional library spaces into welcoming learning environments that better support a climate and culture most conducive to 21st Century learning.

The physical settings are the most apparent change to the spaces. The team of Innovative Learning Specialists has been pulling out all of their design-on-a-dime strategies to create comfortable learning spaces in a number of ways including; genre shelving, comfortable seating and study areas, mobile labs, and new equipment.

Panoramic view of Jefferson Elementary School's Recently Redesigned Space

Genre Shelving at Parker

Some members of the team have taken on the project of genre shelving. This strategy involves reorganizing books to encourage the bookstore type of browsing experience. In addition to alphabetic or Dewey Decimal catalog searching, students and teachers can also find materials organized by areas of interest.

New Seating Area at Marshall 

Several libraries have added comfortable seating and study areas. The varying design of these areas can suit anything from independent work to large group collaboration. The spaces are typically carved out as nooks which are separated by shelving units. The middle school libraries are piloting a mobile lab design. Rather than replacing old desktop computers with new ones, we commandeered existing furniture to create flexible seating spaces equipped with laptops. We can’t wait to see how this new flexible seating works for students and teachers!

Madison Students Creating a Video
Using Green Screen Technology
Finally, every library has new equipment that will be available for student and teacher exploration. One example that we are all very excited about is the green screen kit. Green screen technology can be applied to a great variety of content areas K-12. We would love to share more of our individual redesign projects with you. Please feel free to stop in and check out what we’ve been working on over the summer. Better yet, schedule some time with your school’s Innovative Learning Specialist to start planning changes that can impact learning in your students’ lives.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Summer International Education Institute 2015

On August 25th, 2015, Kevin Miller, the new International Program Consultant, presented information to the SDJ Board of Education regarding the 2015 International Summer Institute.  This year was a cultural and academic collaboration between international students and SDJ students held at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater. This is the third year for the Institute; however, a pilot program was developed this year with UW-Whitewater, Center for Global Education to assist with room and board accommodations and to offer an American University experience.

Goals of this year’s program were to:
  1. Provide SDJ students the opportunity to collaborate with international students culturally, academically, linguistically, and socially;
  2. Offer SDJ teachers the opportunity for professional development by working with international students and American students together in the same classroom;
  3. Provide added revenue for SDJ;
  4. Serve as a tool for recruitment to fill our pipeline with future students; and
  5. Provide economic opportunities to the Janesville community.

The Institute gave international students a taste of SDJ, the City of Janesville and a brief look at what their future could be. There were 26 students, 3 SDJ teachers, 4 international teachers, and 3 global ambassadors serving as guides.  Janesville students came from Craig, Parker and Rock University High School.  International Students were from Liang Feng High School, Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu, China. 

Curriculum included robotics, computer coding, math, science, ACT Prep, and English Language Development, Culture and Communications.  They also participated in sports like volleyball, kickball, football, soccer, and Zumba.  Field trips included a tour of our State Capitol in Madison, Old World Wisconsin, a local farm with hayrides (also roasting marshmallows and s’mores), shopping at Johnson Creek, pizza parties, and friendship.

Along with lifelong cultural experiences attained by our SDJ students, the program also brought an estimated net revenue of over $7,000, and enhanced our international relations.

I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone involved in making this program such a success!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Guest Blogger

EDITORIAL: New school year brings excitement

A back-to-school editorial by State Superintendent Tony Evers
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Tom McCarthy, DPI Communications Officer, (608) 266-3559
I’m always excited by the start of a new school year. It provides fresh opportunities for our teachers and students to get going on new learning while they make new friends and renew social and extracurricular activities.
Amidst the many challenges and changes for the 2015-16 school year, there will be one constant: a singular focus on preparing students to be college and career ready. But what does that mean to be ready for college, ready for careers?
Certainly, we expect all of our students to gain solid academic knowledge in the various subject areas. But there’s more. Students also need to have the social and emotional competence to be able to apply their knowledge, think critically, and communicate and collaborate with others. That’s part of the real world that awaits them. We want our kids to be creative, to show appropriate leadership skills, and to develop the behaviors of perseverance, responsibility, and adaptability so they are ready for the inevitable struggles in life.
Our schools and teachers need family and community support to deliver the rigorous, rich, and well-rounded education our kids deserve. Throughout the spring and summer, we’ve been working on strategies that will support educators as they build relationships that strengthen results for our students. Look for more information on the work of my Parent Advisory Council in September.
During this school year, a number of schools are piloting academic and career planning. It’s a bit of a change in the way schools do things, but the process is a great opportunity for our young people to really think through with their parents and teachers what they want to do going forward. The process honors all postsecondary routes, including military, apprenticeship, certification, technical college, and university education. It also helps students and their families recognize that many people move in and out of different routes throughout their lives.
While Wisconsin’s statewide assessments, used to measure how well students are learning, are changing, they will still have the goals of measuring student academic achievement and improving classroom instruction. And that’s really what it’s all about. Moving kids forward, closing achievement gaps, and making sure the next generation is ready and willing to take charge. We can all make that happen by supporting our hard working students, educators, and school leaders.
Our plan for every child to graduate ready for college and careers is called Agenda 2017.  I just know it’s going to be a great year. Let’s do it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Back to School Message


      A low fog is hanging over the corn this morning behind the house.  My feet are damp from the heavy due and the mug of coffee in my hands is warm and aromatic.  Dawn comes a little later everyday now and the apples are almost ready to pick.  In the stillness, a dash of orange floats by.  A magnificent monarch butterfly settles on a nearby weed and I know fall is near.  My wife Jeanette, a teacher, has already been out collecting monarch caterpillars to place in her kindergarten classroom.  She is hoping one will make its metamorphosis before her student’s eyes.  Jeanette is a wise and gifted teacher because she knows that watching a caterpillar transform into a butterfly can change the course of a child’s school experience.  She knows that if she can connect a child’s sense of wonder with her classroom, school can become a sacred place for kids.  Of course, the caterpillar is only a small part of all the things she will do to make school important for her students, yet it is the part that distinguishes our best and most experienced teachers.  The best teachers make school a welcoming place where kids can learn the skills to satisfy their curiosity.  It makes me smile thinking about what Jeanette has in store for those wide-eyed five year olds.

      And for those who await the arrival of different grades and ages, I hope you will remember those teachers from your past who motivated you to be someone you didn’t think you could be.  You know better than anyone else how critical it is for kids to find support and success in school.  For their sake, do what you know is best.

     In a book I’m reading, a character says of his job, “This job requires physical and mental skills, but more soul than anything else.”  In our zeal to determine quality by counting only those things easily measured, I hope you will continue to nurture the “soul” of our schools.

Have a good year,

Trygve Danielson 

Mr. Danielson is a retired English Teacher from Parker High School

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Preschool 4 Janesville (P4J)-
 Truly a Community Collaboration
by: Angela Lynch, P4J Coordinator

P4J is the School District of Janesville’s 4-year-old Kindergarten program. It is a collaboration of 16 sites in the community and 5 school district classrooms. P4J began in 2008-09 school year and has grown to over 600 students
that enroll every year.

ENROLLING NOW! Many open spots for P4J students.
Please come to the School District of Janesville Educational Services Center (527 S Franklin Street) to enroll.

P4J Mission statement is: To partner with families and the community ensuring quality learning and social foundations for all four-year-old children.

P4J Goal is to prepare students for Kindergarten and beyond.

Our P4J site partners include:
Cargill Christian Preschool and Daycare, Community Kids Learning Center, Creative Children’s Learning Center, Faith’s Little Friends, Goelzer’s First Step Nursery School, Hand in Hand Learning Center, Head Start @ St. Peter’s Church, Janesville Community Day Care Center, Janesville’s Montessori Children’s House, KinderCare, LSS Child’s First Child Care and Preschool, St. Mary’s School, St. Patrick’s School Early Learning Center, St. Paul’s Lutheran Early Childhood Center, YMCA, YWCA Discovery Center, Adams Elementary School, Jackson Elementary School, Jefferson Elementary School, Madison Elementary School, and Wilson Elementary School. 

P4J had a booth at the National Night Out sponsored by the Janesville Police Department on August 4th. Over 20 staff members volunteered to help recruit families to sign their 4-year-olds up for P4J. We gave out pencils, tattoos, and prizes to all families that filled out an information form. We wanted to spread the word to the entire community about our outstanding P4J program and the 21 options families have to choose from. Enrollment is open now.