Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville (SDJ) is a forum to recognize outstanding performances and achievements by SDJ employees, students and schools.
Recognition of Maintenance Personnel
Ron Conaway and Roy Smith: Several of Ron and Roy's co-workers have stated through rounding with Maintenance Supervisor Dave Leeder) how pleased they are with their willingness to provide assistance when needed, which ultimately reflects upon the overall effort to provide comfort and safety of our buildings and grounds for students and staff.
Greg Brunhoefer: Greg took over the responsibilities of our recently retired athletic field grounds keeper John Fiedler. Greg has taken it upon himself to complete a pesticide applicators course to obtain a pesticide applicators license. Greg has also completed several courses regarding athletic field maintenance which include aeration, fertilizing and weed control to provide our student-athletes with exceptional athletic fields. 
Scott Richardson: Scott provided the installation of several smart boards throughout the District this past summer. This saved the District thousands of dollars by completing this task by utilizing the talent we have in our maintenance department.
Craig High School Presents “Little Shop of Horrors”
Presented by
Janesville Craig High School

Thursday, November 1, 2012 - 7:30 p.m.
Friday, November 2, 2012 - 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 3, 2012 - 2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m
Ticket Information: $6.00 for students and senior citizens ~ $10.00 for adults
Tickets are available in the Craig High School main office, from cast members or by calling 743-5193
Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Internet Safety - The Password Dilemma

Parents want their children to be safe at all times – especially on the Internet.  What it means to be safe in our globally connected world changes as children mature and grow older. It’s absolutely vital that children participate with Technology – their future and their jobs will depend on it as a foundation.  However, they need to know how to be safe and how to be responsible for their own safety and security.   Below are a few tips to help keep your children’s electronic information safe.   Have a conversation with your children today: 

  • Teaching children at an early age how to make a strong password is vital.  Teach your children not to pick: birthdates, graduation years, last four digits of phone number, last four digits of SSN, and especially no home addresses.
  • Instead, teach your children how to pick random passwords, and how important it is to keep it private.  Most importantly, do not use the same codes for other systems. If someone hacks one code, or if your child tells someone the code, they then don’t have access to all of your other systems.  Children are notorious for sharing secret codes with their closest friends. If they share one code, what else are they getting access to?
  • Model for them from an early age:  Turn on your password protected screen saver.  It can be bothersome when trying to get work done but it is one of the most important parts of security.
  • Middle school age children are very impressionable from peer pressure.  It’s important that you continue to talk with them regularly about their Internet safety and password management as they mature and as the technology continues to change and develop. 
  • Although you may not allow your child to be on social media, you have no way of knowing or controlling their usage at a friend's home. Therefore, talking with your children about their safety is important whether your child is on Facebook at home or not.  Children should not accept unknown friend requests on Facebook even if they have mutual friends or go to the same school. Teach your children not to give out numbers, addresses or other personal information through social websites. This may not be news to you, but many parents forget to have this discussion with their children.
  • Turn your “location” settings off. It is extremely important that our children are not displaying to the world their location. A lot of times apps will even display the location of your home every time your child Tweets or uses Facebook. Also, there are apps that will automatically update your location even if you aren’t currently using that app. 

Although the younger generations seem to be more up-to-date with technology these days, one area they are very naive with is their personal safety and their digital footprint.  Talk with your children and help their future be bright with technology as a pivotal foundation.

Monday, October 29, 2012

When Trick-or-Treating…

A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds. Here are some other things to keep in mind and tell trick-or-treaters so that they can have a safe Halloween:

Reminders Before Trick-or-Treating…

  • Use a flashlight. By doing so, you can see and be seen by others.
  • Stay in a group, and communicate where you will be going.
  • Go only to homes with a porch light on.
  • Remain on well-lit streets and use the sidewalk.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the farthest edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Never enter a stranger’s home or car for a treat.
  • Obey all traffic and pedestrian regulations.
  • Always walk. Never run across a street.
  • Cross the street as a group and only in established cross-walks.
  • Remove any mask or item that will limit eyesight before crossing a street, driveway, or alley.
  • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters. Just because one car stops, it doesn’t mean others will.
  • Never consume unwrapped food items or open beverages that may be offered.
  • No treats are to be eaten until they are thoroughly checked by an adult at home.
  • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

After Trick-or-Treating…

  • Wait until you are at home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Try to apportion treats for the days following Halloween.
  • Although sharing is encouraged, make sure items that can cause choking, such as hard candies, are given only to those of an appropriate age.
 We hope these tips will help you and your family have a safe and happy Halloween.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Breaking Barriers and Building Relationships

Opportunities with China

Our students are trapped in a kind of educational isolationism, which may have suited the Industrial Age but leaves students desperately underprepared for the demands of the 21st-century global economy. Every student will need a solid grounding of knowledge about the history of the U.S. and our vital democratic institutions. But we must also integrate knowledge of world history, geography, science and technology, world languages, literature, and international affairs into the school day.
    Former North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt, Jr.

What many know intuitively, but may not be ready to admit, is that the escalating importance of a knowledge of other countries, cultures and languages has not been matched by the education American students are receiving. While educators in our country understand the growing importance of global competency, many are unprepared to equip students with the skills and understanding necessary to thrive in our increasingly interconnected world.

The School District of Janesville strives to provide an excellent education for all students. Earlier this year, we were able to celebrate one of our successes, as the School District of Janesville was selected as one of 100 schools and districts in the nation to be members of the Confucius Classrooms Network in recognition of our commitment to a globally focused education for all students and our potential to serve as a national model of excellence in the field of Chinese language teaching and learning. This award along with our commitment to developing globally competent graduates has spurred the exploration of opportunities that "make global real" to our students and staff.

Initially, plans of growth included a trip to China to create a sister-school partnership that would enable our students to interact with Chinese students via Internet video chats, online classroom exposure and pen pals. While the SDJ was open to integrating technology into the classroom, initial plans have blossomed through an opportunity presented by professional connections that are being made with Beijing Normal University 北京师范大学 and East China Normal University 华东师范大学. 

This opportunity proposes to build a student teacher/intern exchange with a school (or schools) in China.  The School District of Janesville would host six student teachers/interns from China during the spring and summer of 2013, beginning near the end of February and extending into mid-July.  Of the six student teachers/interns, two would be assigned to Craig, two to Parker, and two to the Janesville Academy of International Studies.
The student teachers/interns visiting Janesville would be identified through a screening process as high performers in the areas of math and science.  Other requirements would include English proficiency, prior classroom experience, and an age of 21 or older.  Preference would be given to individuals possessing additional skills in the arts.

The School District of Janesville would support the visiting student teachers in a variety of ways including host families, meals, local transportation, cooperating teachers, a professional learning community group focused on cultural norms in American classrooms, and technology connections to home and university of origin. It is the intent of this proposal that opportunities would then be available for School District of Janesville teachers to participate in similar experiences in China.

Having student teachers/interns from China will provide Janesvillle students with real experience interacting and communicating with student teachers coming from a country known for their rigor in math and science. This takes our efforts in the area of global competency from the level of study to the level of experience. Through opening these relationships, the School District of Janesville will be able to better meet the needs of our students, building a strong experiential foundation of global competency and achieve our mission to provide an excellent education to each student.

Please read the following link for a look at Chinese Mathematics Pedagogy and Practices: What Can We Learn?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Open Enrollment for Vision Insurance Begins November 1

By:  Tonya Williams, Employee Relations Specialist
School District of Janesville

November 1, 2012 marks the first day of open enrollment for the District’s vision insurance that is available to staff who work 20 hours or more per week.

Ameritas, the District’s vision carrier, continues to provide excellent vision benefits to our members and their families.  In fact, they continue to provide several network providers in the Janesville, Milton, Beloit, Edgerton and Evansville areas, which allows flexibility for our members.

District staff should look for an email on November 1 with the enrollment packet attached.  The packet will include information about the vision plan itself, the premiums, and the enrollment form.

If you have questions regarding open enrollment for vision or the Ameritas vision plan, please contact me at 743-5021.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville (SDJ) is a forum to recognize outstanding performances and achievements by SDJ employees, students and schools.  The following blog was submitted by one of the School District of Janesville's Elementary Teachers of the Year ~ Shelley Block.  Shelley is a Innovation Specialist at Adams and Washington Elementary Schools.
What is black and white, delicious to eat, and an awesome learning tool?

Students at Adams and Washington Elementary Schools learned that it is the Oreo cookie!
All second grade students participated in an integrative world-wide Oreo stacking project with over 1,000 other classrooms.  As students stacked towers of Oreo cookies they collected data that was used the remainder of the week in math class as they analyzed their results.  Students also went on to complete a taste test which provided them with an additional set of data to be analyzed.  This data was then displayed in a variety of student-generated graphs both hand-made and computerized.
In addition to collecting and analyzing data, second grade students also learned that the Oreo cookie can used across the curriculum in a variety of meaningful and engaging ways.  Here are some of the activities the students participated in over the course of the week:
  • In writing, the Oreo cookie was used as a model for good paragraph writing.  The top and bottom cookie represented the main idea and closing sentences, as the white inside represented the creamy details. Students demonstrated their writing as they wrote an expository piece on how they eat an Oreo cookie. 
  • In Art, students got creative and messy making Oreo sculptures with nothing but the cookie wafers and cream.  They used an iPad to take a picture of their cookie sculpture and recorded their voices explaining the process.  
  • Students challenged their imaginations as they turned an Oreo cookie into an ordinary everyday object creating a digital book titled: “It’s not an Oreo…” 
  • In Physical Education class students learned about calories.  They determined the number of calories in one Oreo cookie and how many steps they would need to burn it off.  Once determined, students were allowed to eat one Oreo cookie and use a pedometer to record their steps. 
The following videos show just some of the learning fun we had!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The End of .com As We Know It?

We have all seen and heard how the Internet is constantly changing.  In the not too distant future, the Internet may change again.

Remember the days of .com, .net, .gov and .org?  These "top-level domains” (TLDs) may soon have a makeover. Top-level domains are managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which is run by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

In the early days, these names were reserved for specific purposes:
.com: Commercial (for-profit) websites
.net: Network-related domains
.gov:  Government
.org: Non-profit organizations

Given the growth of the Internet, the number of TLDs has become a confusing and conflicting space.  This is in no small part because these names are open for registration and can be used by anyone who can purchase the naming structure.  In the not too distant past, other names have been added (i.e. .biz, .info) to help alleviate the problem of limited domain names. The .com TLD is by far the most popular top-level domain, with nearly 50 percent of the websites Google visits hitting a website with the .com extension.  This has presented a serious challenge for those companies and organizations wanting to use .com.

From January to May 2012, ICANN allowed corporations to apply for new top-level domains. Companies took advantage of this and chose to apply for many different naming structures that would help their business model and the customers they serve.  For example, Google applied for domains such as .google, .lol, .youtube, and .docs. Many companies like McDonalds and Apple applied for domains matching their company name, such as .mcdonalds and .apple. Many companies also grabbed generic names such as .pizza, .security, and .download.

As these changes are approved, their implementation will begin as early as 2013. This will help companies and consumers alike as they rely on the web for information and sales. For example, instead of entering to find information on iPod touches, it might be possible to type iPod.Apple to get the same information.  It boggles the imagination to think how companies and consumers will be able to target new information and navigation with these changes.

This does not mean the days of .com are over because other companies will keep their .com presence on the web. Whatever comes about, the Internet remains the most robust and vibrant environment for companies and consumers to provide and access information.

For those interested, just ctrl+click below to see a list of the applications applied for.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The School District of Janesville ~ School Report Cards Are In!

Wisconsin has a new school accountability system and school report cards.  The school report cards signal a new era of school accountability that honors the complex work of schools and focuses on making sure students graduate ready for college and career. The average accountability score (from each of the school report cards) places the School District of Janesville in the “Exceeds Expectations” standing with an average score of 74.5.
Overall Accountability Scores for schools in the School District of Janesville were positive.  Sixteen out of 17 schools met, exceeded or significantly exceeded expectations.  Harrison, Roosevelt and Kennedy significantly exceeded expectations, the highest distinction available.  

Each year, schools will receive report cards that will give them one of five accountability ratings.  These ratings will be based on a score from these four priority areas: 

1.      Student Achievement in reading and mathematics on state assessments
o   All three Janesville middle schools, eight elementary schools and one high school met or exceeded expectations in this priority area.  Roosevelt, Harrison and Kennedy scored more than 10 points higher than the state average.

2.      Student Growth measured by year-to-year improvements in achievement
o   Eleven out of twelve Janesville elementary schools and two middle schools were above the state average in this priority area.  Roosevelt, Harrison, Kennedy, Lincoln and Jefferson scores were 17 to 20 points above the state average, placing them in the significantly exceeds expectations rating category. 

3.   Closing Gaps in performance between specific students groups (comparing English Language learners, low-income students, students with disabilities and members of racial or ethnic groups with their peers).
o   All three middle schools, ten elementary schools and one high school met or exceeded expectations in the priority area Closing Gaps. Harrison scored 21.2 points above the state, and Kennedy scored 12.9 points above the state. Both schools narrowed the achievement gap in reading and math with all subgroups that met cell size. Harrison was given the rating category of significantly exceeds expectations. 

4.     On-Track to Graduation and Postsecondary Readiness using reliable predictors of high school graduation and postsecondary success.
o   All Janesville schools exceeded expectations in this priority area.  Fourteen schools scored in the significantly exceeds expectations rating category. 

The report cards, that will be made public on Monday, October 22, 2012, place an important value on integrating information used to tell the public the progress schools are making and gives direction to schools about ways they can improve student learning.  In short, the new system is designed to be both informative and useful.

Based on how well schools perform in the priority areas, schools will receive an accountability score on a 0-100 scale and its associated accountability rating.  The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will recognize high performing schools as “Rewards Schools” and work to disseminate their best practices to struggling schools across the state of Wisconsin.

The School District of Janesville’s overall strongest area of strength was “On-Track and Postsecondary Readiness.”  Part of the calculation for this area includes student attendance rates.  Student learning is enhanced when they have positive school attendance.  High School graduation rate and ACT participation/performance are used in the calculation for this priority area.

Another area of strength was the “Student Growth” category.  Student growth has been an important goal for the School District of Janesville, especially in reading and math.  During the 2011-12 school year, Common Curriculum Based Assessments (CBAs) were used in reading and math to monitor student progress. These are classroom and teacher designed assessments that align with the Common Core State Standards, which Wisconsin adopted in 2010.  The CBAs are also common throughout all schools for each grade level.  By continuously monitoring student achievement, teachers are able to teach to mastery as well as re-teach concepts that students are struggling with sooner.  CBAs also measure student performance of district written curriculum. 

To increase focus on improving reading achievement, teachers participated in a summer Reading Institute, where the new “Reading Blueprint” was shared.  By following the blueprint for reading instruction, schools ensure a guaranteed and viable curriculum for students.  In addition, all subject areas were introduced to a reading blueprint that focuses on disciplinary literacy, ensuring that students are applying reading skills across the curriculum.

In order to improve feedback and parent communication, elementary schools are launching the new Standards-Based Report Card this year.  The standards in reading, math, and language are aligned with the Common Core State Standards.  Assessing each student throughout a range of standards creates a more specific system for communicating student progress and growth.  The grading scale for elementary has been updated to align with the more rigorous standards put forth by the state.  These projects have been on the forefront of the focus on student growth in Janesville.

School staff in Janesville are working on creating culturally responsive classrooms.  Culturally responsive education recognizes, respects and uses students' identities and backgrounds as meaningful sources (Nieto, 2000) for creating optimal learning environments.  Another effort in closing achievement gaps has been made through the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS).  PBIS applies evidence-based research, practices, and strategies for all students to increase academic performance, improve safety, decrease problem behavior and establish a positive school culture (WI Department of Education, 2012).

The new school report card is the face of Wisconsin’s new accountability system.  The accountability index (total score) and the report card itself are designed not only to provide the public with vital information about their schools but also to give schools practical, constructive direction for investigating performance issues and designing effective school improvement strategies.  The School District of Janesville requires each school to build a School Improvement Plan that details efforts to make sure all students achieve.  The current results validate the success of those efforts and help schools to better pinpoint areas for improvement. 

We believe that the first round of new accountability scores for the district are very positive.  Traditionally, the district scores have hovered at or slightly below the state average.  Recent scores during the past three years have generated improved results where the district is performing at or above the state average.  We are proud of our efforts to date and look forward to for each school to improve their school score next year. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

What is Your What?

Keith Pennington, Chief Financial Officer for the School District of Janesville, shares his “whats” to help School District of Janesville employees better understand his leadership style.  What drives Keith?

1.      Accuracy- He strives for accuracy in all that he does. With financial information, it is essential that it is accurate at all times. If inaccurate information is given out, then the business office will lose credibility. Because of this, accuracy regarding all information is absolutely critical.
2.      Customer Service- The primary customers for the School District of Janesville business office are school district employees. Because of the internal nature of his work, Keith strives for the best customer service. It is top priority for employees to receive accurate information in a timely manner.
3.      Team Work- In his eyes, it is imperative in a work environment that coworkers work together towards fixing problems. If someone identifies a problem, they should also be able to present potential solutions. The focus of any department should be working to resolve problems, not placing the blame. When people work together, there is more power than when they work apart.

Keith hardwires a culture where his staff understand his “whats” through supervision, communication and consistency. By maintaining consistent communication, he is able to ensure his staff know and understand his what’s. The more that they hear his “whats” the more likely they are to retain and respond to them.