Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ACT Scores




The School District of Janesville began redesigning high school curriculum during the 2012-2013 school year in response to lackluster student achievement results on the ACT and advanced placement (AP) test results.  The effort known as Project Redesign is ongoing, and is a complete overhaul of the curriculum beginning with 9th grade and rolling up to subsequent grades.  This effort has the ultimate goal of aligning curriculum with the Common Core State Standards and the ACT College and Career Readiness Standards.  “The School District of Janesville cannot settle for being average,” stated Superintendent Karen Schulte, “we must do better for our children and we will.”

To increase the College and Career Readiness of our students, the School District of Janesville has begun annually monitoring our students’ growth with the ACT’s Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) from 7th through 10th grade.  Additionally, all 11th grade students participated in a practice ACT in the spring of 2014.  As part of Project Redesign, these results, along with our annual ACT data, are being used to identify students’ learning needs and align the curriculum with the College and Career Readiness and Common Core State Standards.  This system will also help schools monitor student progress toward the desired outcome of College and Career Readiness, as well as improved ACT scores. 

A review of the 2014 district ACT scores shows an increase from 21.5 (2013) to 21.7 (2014).  District scores this year trail the state composite score by 0.5 compared with 0.6 in 2013. The state composite ACT score increased by 0.1 from 2013. District scores are above the national average by 0.7 points.


Graduation Year
District Composite Score
State Composite Score
2012
21.4
22.1
2013
21.5
22.1
2014
21.7
22.2




          Craig High School:                Scores increased from 21.9 to 22.1 at CHS.  The composite score at Craig trailed below the state by 0.1, but was above the national average by 1.1.

          Parker High School:               Scores improved from 20.9 to 21.1 points from the previous year.  Parker trails the state by 1.1, and is above the national average by 0.1. 


                   Sub-Tests:                      As a district, scores increased in English, Math and Science; scores stayed the same in Reading. Scores at Parker High School improved in English, Math, and Reading, and declined by 0.1 in Science. Scores at Craig High School improved in all for sub-tests.   

A substantial change will take place next year when all Wisconsin public high school students enrolled in eleventh grade take the ACT in the spring of 2015.  In addition, due to state mandate, the progress of all 9th and 10th grade students will be monitored using the Aspire test designed by ACT.  As part of Project Redesign, these results, along with other student achievement data, are being used to identify students' learning needs and to align the curriculum more closely with the College and Career Readiness and Common Core State Standards. These systems will also help schools monitor student progress toward the desired outcome of College and Career Readiness, as well as improved ACT scores. 

The results from this year’s testing are reflective of the 2014 graduating class, which means the majority took the ACT in the spring of 2013. 

Dr. Ehrhardt states that an  “analysis of this year’s ACT data indicates work still needs to continue with enhancing student achievement in our high schools especially with ensuring students are ready for college-level coursework in Algebra.    The ACT data reveals that our high schools are ten percent behind the state benchmark for college Algebra.”    In response, starting this school year, all students enrolled in grade eight will now take Algebra.  ACT trend data indicates the average math score on the ACT increased by two points when students take Algebra in the eighth grade.  The middle schools have been planning for this change for the past three years.  Also, a series of secondary math “Boot Camps” have been taking place throughout the summer to assist math teachers with the professional development needed to improve student performance in high school math.  Dr. Ehrhardt acknowledges that “challenges continue, however, the goals of Project Redesign (to create student learning experiences that are more rigorous, relevant and engaging) is starting to pay dividends.  Central to that success story is the diligent efforts of the staff at both Parker and Craig high school to refine curriculum, focus instruction and motivate positive student performance on the various data markers that measure results.”



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Congratulations Stephanie



Dr. Karen Schulte
Superintendent of Janesville Schools
Educational Service Center
527 S. Franklin St.
Janesville, WI 53548-4779

June 6, 2014

Dear Dr. Schulte,

It is with great pleasure that we write a letter praising Mrs. Stephanie Pajerski as an outstanding Elementary School Principal within the Janesville School District.  We both received teaching positions at the Wisconsin School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and thus, moved our young family to Janesville in August of 2013.  We are very pleased with Van Buren Elementary School and with Mrs. Pajerski for many reasons.

In the summer of 2013, we prepared our 4 children for a move to a new, and bigger, city.  We did not have family or friend connections within Janesville and were nervous for the change.  Our prior home was located in a small town, called New Holstein, which has a small population of 2,900 people.  The change, we feared, may be difficult for our children.  However, our 3 youngest children were fortunate enough to attend school at Van Buren Elementary School under the supervision of Mrs. Pajerski.  We could not have been luckier as this school feels much like the “small town” elementary school in which our children had been learning.  The care and attention to detail provided by Mrs. Pajerski is felt throughout the halls of Van Buren.  Mrs. Pajerski takes the time to get to know our children and is involved with fun activities from a “get ready for testing song” to long hours spent greeting her students at “Scoopie Nights at Culvers”.  This is the kind of principal that we are use to in a small town and we are so fortunate that Mrs. Pajerski is the principal at Van Buren.  We currently moved to a home on the east side of Janesville and, while I am sure that Adams Elementary School is fantastic also, our children demanded to stay at Van Buren.  Knowing that our children feel safe and happy at their school each day is our main objective as parents and Mrs. Pajerski is largely responsible for this phenomena.

In this climate today, many individuals are negative about education and place added pressure upon those who will provide the education for our children.  However, we wanted to take the time to personally thank you for the wonderful principal who leads our children’s school each day.  Our children’s teachers are fortunate to have Mrs. Pajerski as a teacher leader.  Please place this letter in Mrs. Pajerski’s personal file so that there may be one additional artifact demonstrating how the Van Buren parents feel about her and her leadership.  Thank you for your time and consideration in this very important matter.

(This is an actual letter submitted by Van Buren Elementary School parents)





Tuesday, August 12, 2014

IMPORTANT TOPIC FOR EMPLOYEES TO BE FOLLOWING





On the Board agenda tonight is an item that was also discussed at the Benefits Committee Meeting last week.

Discussion of and Consider Approval of 2014-2015 Health, Drug, and Dental Employee Premium Share (90/10) with the Adjusted 6.8% Increase.

Our insurance consultants are advising an increase to premiums of 6.8%  The Board will be discussing this increase this evening.  The increase to employees is anywhere from around $2.00 to $9.00 depending on your insurance plan.  The estimated total increase to the health insurance premiums to cover claims, stop loss fees, and administrative fees based on the recommended 6.8% increase is about $860,000.   10% of the increase would be shared by the participating employees for an estimated total shared contribution increase of about $86,000. The additional cost to the District would be about $775,000.  I am recommending that your premium share remain at 10%.


These are important Board discussions.  I hope you will listen in.  The rising cost of healthcare is an ongoing concern to us all.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Making the Grade




The Janesville Noon Rotary Club will once again hold their annual Corn Roast and Mud Volleyball Tournament on Saturday, August 16, 2014, at Traxler Park in Janesville.  The gates open at 8:00 a.m. Tickets are $1 in advance or $2 the day of the event.

Each year the Rotarians provide free sweet corn, showcase live entertainment, and host a mud volleyball tournament.

Their “Making the Grade” Recognition Ceremony takes place at 11:00 a.m. Students from Craig High School, Milton High School and Parker High School, who achieved a GPA of 3.0 and above, are presented with a medallion.

This is the 28th year for this event. We encourage everyone to come out and share in the fun!

Contact Dr. Schulte or Dr. Sperry for free tickets.

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.”