Friday, September 28, 2012

So What Exactly Is “Academic Rigor?”


By Dr. Kim Ehrhardt, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
The School District of Janesville

Over the past several years, The School District of Janesville Administration has talked about focusing more explicit efforts toward increasing academic rigor.  We want more students taking advanced placement courses, adhering to college prep curricula, enrolling in more math and science classes and being career and college ready.  Moreover, students, their teachers and school leaders have their collective feet held to the fire of high stakes accountability.
For the foreseeable future, the academic bar will only be raised higher as we implement the new Wisconsin Waiver for Education—a comprehensive state plan for improving teaching and student learning.  Couple the waiver with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in English, Math and Next Generation Science (which will determine the content of the new assessments that will arrive in the spring of 2015); our district vision appears to mirror the state and national agenda for K-12 education.
The title of this article asks the question, so what do we mean by academic rigor anyway?  For those of you who know me, I am always asking folks to clearly define what their intent is before we get into the detail of a program or initiative.  Therefore, I believe that at its core the notion of teaching academic rigor is about helping kids to learn how to think for themselves.  Academic rigor has four main components:  first, teaching students how to create their own meaning out of what they are learning; next, teaching students how to organize information so they can create their own mental picture (schema) of what this information means; third, teaching students how to integrate the skills and information into a whole set of processes; and then finally (and perhaps the most important), teaching students how to apply what they’ve learned to new or novel situations.  Those “ah-ha” moments are where kids think critically, create and innovate! 
I believe this is the same kind of intellectual discipline that educational, industrial and political leaders are calling absolutely necessary if the United States is to compete economically with the rest of the world. 
The next statement/question I often get from educators when the topic of rigor comes up goes something like, “All of this is well and fine,  Dr. Ehrhardt, but many of our students already struggle academically to meet minimal or basic expectations, so how do you expect them to reach these high standards?”    I know that the make-up of our student population has changed; some are English language learners; others may have cognitive, social or emotional disabilities that inhibit learning; others may come from families where the parents have little time or desire to monitor their children’s learning.  Also, resources are more scarce than before and class sizes are higher.  All of this is true and represents our current status, but we “do know” what to do to level the playing field and to reach the goal of supporting struggling students with academic rigor and raising standards for all of our students.
The district focus on Evidence-Based Leadership or what educational research has defined as “best practice,” high-yield strategies creates a road map or formula to help us reach the target.  The first response (that the literature tells us must occur) is that every classroom teacher must know each of his or her students well and know how to analyze the relevant student learning data available to better meet the needs of all students and especially struggling students.  The data retreats at our elementary schools, middle school grade level data meetings, and the collaborative efforts with Project Redesign at the high school are positive initiatives toward making sure we know what makes each of our students “tick.”

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Healthcare Consumerism


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

Every decade seems to have produced a transformation in how healthcare is administered in the United States.  In the late 1940s and ‘50s it was the expansion of employer-sponsored healthcare.  In the ‘60s it was the creation of Medicare and Medicaid and their impact of employer-based fee-for-service plans.  In the ‘70s it was the passage of ERISA and the movement of large employers toward self-insured arrangements.  In the ‘80s it was the expansion of managed care and the birth of the HMO.  And in the 1990s it was the shift of risk to providers.  The new millennium has seen another new transformation-healthcare consumerism.

Healthcare consumerism can be defined as transforming employer-based health benefits into a model that puts economic purchasing power and decision making in the hands of participants.  Employers supply the information and decision support tools employees need to make informed choices, along with financial incentives, rewards, and other benefits that encourage participants to positively alter their health and healthcare purchasing behaviors.

Why is this important?  According to the centers for Disease Control and Prevention 50 percent of Americans’ health status can be attributed directly to their behavior or lifestyle.  Only ten percent of overall health status is influenced by the healthcare system, yet that’s where most of the efforts are focused.

Today’s consumerism model is not limited to plan design changes.  Instead, it encompasses the broad spectrum of tools, incentives and plan design that have the potential to positively impact health, healthcare purchasing and treatment decisions.  In fact, the School District of Janesville’s healthcare plan has moved toward healthcare consumerism in a number of ways.

In September 2008, the District introduced a Wellness Plan that rewards employees a decreased insurance premium share by participating. The Wellness Plan promotes healthy lifestyles by encouraging staff to participate in wellness activities throughout the year.  Employees also have the ability to compare their own health profile from year to year with the online tools offered by the provider that administers the District’s Health Risk Assessments.  Currently the District’s participation rate is 98 percent.

In January 2008, the District implemented Navitus, our prescription benefit manager.  Navitus has some drug programs that save you and the District money in drug costs.  For example, tablet splitting is a program that allows a member to extend drug supplies by splitting certain tablets.  Another program in place is the generic prescription program.  If a member is on a more expensive drug, and he/she tries a generic drug versus the more expensive drug under this program, the first co-pay for the generic drug will be waived.  Mail order through Welldyne is the most cost-effective and proactive consumer choice you can make regarding your prescriptions.  If you currently take a maintenance drug, mail order will provide you a 90-day (3 months) supply for the amount of two co-pays versus paying three co-pays at the pharmacy.

In November 2011, the District implemented Coordinated Health Care to help employees navigate through a complex medical system.  Coordinated Health Care is also used to have specific tests and services pre-certified such as outpatient surgeries, MRIs, MRAs, PET scans, oncology care, home health care, Hospice care, organ and bone marrow transplants, speech therapy, physical and occupational therapies, and dialysis.  This eliminates redundant testing and services that cost you, the consumer, and the District more money in claims.

The idea of making informed and cost-effective healthcare decisions is a new concept for most consumers.  District employees, however, have some tools in place to save out-of-pocket costs.  Co-pays for office visits can be lower by using the referral service from Coordinated Health Care and drug costs can be decreased by using mail order or some drug programs mentioned earlier by Navitus.  Participation in the District’s wellness plan helps employees maintain good health, reduces health risks, and enhances productivity.  In order to contain healthcare costs, the District will continue to educate employees on healthcare and how their decisions can promote positive healthcare consumerism.
 

Wednesday, September 26, 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.


Parker High School Staff purchased over $3200 worth of Kwik Trip gift cards for the “Bags of Hope” Food Drive Fundraiser.
The School District of Janesville purchased over $26,000 worth of gift cards raising $2619 for the food drive!
Thank you Bob Getka for helping make this an entire SDJ Fundraiser!

The staff at Rock River Charter School has identified as a high priority increasing the Staff Satisfaction score for “all members of the high school community working together to accomplish the mission of the school.

Tina Inman, Adams Kindergarten Teacher, wrote a grant through donorschoose.org and it was fully funded for $835!  Adams Kindergarten classrooms will receive Scholastic News for students and two sets of recorded books for the listening centers.

The Chinese National Water Ski Team was in Janesville the week of 9/10/12 for an international water ski competition.  They visited a Harrison and Roosevelt Elementary Schools!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

District to Start Using Mozilla Firefox

Technology continues to change rapidly - and now it’s moving even faster with the proliferation of mobile devices, including smartphones, iPads, and Tablets.  In response to the need for change, Google (Gmail) announced recently that as of November 15th it would no longer support Internet Explorer (ver. 8) on older WindowsXP workstations.  Complicating this, an upgrade to Internet Explorer version 9 on older workstations is not possible. 

In response to Google’s announcement, the School District of Janesville will begin deploying a new Internet browser on all District computers.  To head off any problems, staff and students will have access Mozilla Firefox.  Already, some staff and students are experiencing problems with Gmail locking up, displaying random, meaningless error messages.  Using Firefox will correct this.

WindowsXP users who have IE8 on their home or personal computers are encouraged to upgrade before the deadline as well. It is reported that users who attempt to use Google Mail or Google Apps on IE8 after November 15 will see a message recommending that they upgrade their browser. Some staff and students have already reported trouble with certain features in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs, and Google Sites, and eventually they apps will stop working entirely.

If you're interested in reading more about Firefox, you can see current news and information from their official blog at: http://blog.mozilla.org/

Monday, September 24, 2012

Talented and Gifted Services in the School District of Janesville

The mission of Pre-K – Grade 12 Talented and Gifted Education in the School District of Janesville is to recognize and meet the unique needs of talented and gifted students.  Students can be identified in one or more of the following areas:

Artistic
Artistic students show high potential for significant contributions in the performing arts and/or visual arts.  The performing arts include acting, singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument and composing.  The visual arts include drawing, painting, sculpting, and graphics.

Creative
Creative students tend to think in different ways.  They ask many questions and often challenge the teacher or the information in the textbook.  These students frequently offer a new and unique way to look at the information.

Leadership
Students with leadership potential are excellent at organizing and influencing others to do things.  They tend to be independent and not afraid to take risks.

Academic
These students are extremely strong in one or two subjects, but may be average or even below average in the other subjects.  They have a "passion" for their strong areas beyond other students their age.

Intellectual
These students are extremely strong in all subjects.  They have advanced vocabularies and tend to be avid readers.  They tend to know a lot of information on a variety of topics.  Intellectually talented students tend to feel comfortable working alone and can work on projects for long periods of time.  They discuss complex topics well beyond other students their age. 

The nomination process can begin with a teacher, parent, or student by contacting the TAG Advocate at the school.  Multiple criteria are used to determine if identification is appropriate.  Services are then provided through individualized services, opportunities beyond the classroom, or regular classroom differentiation. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Handbook Focus Group Discussion III

Here is a portion of the transcripts from the handbook focus groups last spring. I met with
six different groups for 1-2 hours. The information I gathered was very informative and
I appreciated the time people spent telling me what was most important to them as we
considered the Handbook. The following comments are regarding the topic of The School
Calendar.

This represents information from all focus groups:

  • Only the JEA is involved in setting the calendar. We weren’t allowed to participate. Our group would like to be involved in this process.
  • I would like to see some way that ERT time could have additional opportunities. There isn’t enough days that it can be used.
  • I like that a committee reviews the calendar. It seems democratic. Everyone has a chance to give input.
  • I don’t see the harm in the other groups having the same input or vote on the calendar.
  • I think there is a concern about year round school.
  • Yearlong school was beneficial in the inner city where I worked. It gave students something year round to be a part of. It needs to be the best fit for the community and parents. I think we do a good job with summer school and august academies.
  • There are opportunities for students year round.
  • People like the built in snow day make up.
  • We would still have the 180 contact days with additional days for work (185 contract days).
  • I do think it helps employees to feel they have control over their work time with ERT and optional work days.
  • If there is a chance of year round school, we will have to figure out how to clean the schools during break times.
  • Built in snow day make up is helpful for custodians too. Not having to make it up on Saturdays.
  • I think the calendar works, the only day that is weird is the non-paid non-work day, although the day is placed well in the calendar. Some people would like a voice into setting the calendar.
  • Knowing the calendar ahead of time, can we find a way to do it longer than a year at a time?
  • Give everyone a voice.
  • Optional work days in place the last couple years have been very helpful.
  • Works great now.
  • Maybe all employees have a voice instead of just JEA.
  • I like how it is, I think it works.
  • Consideration needs to be made for people of other religions, make compensation for them through personal days.
  • October conferences are during PE conference. This is a conflict.
  • I think it works well. We collaborate. I like the process.
  • I like the process.
  • Is there administrative thought to needing a longer school year?
  • The last contract negotiations…190 days was the longest in the big 8. If we are going to work more and we want to attract and retain the best we should be paid more.
  • We would need a strong purpose to extend beyond the current 190 days.
  • I like the ERT and the optional work days.
  • It acknowledges that we have unique needs and allows for that (ERT and optional work days)
  • I think that classroom aids should have a vote on when breaks are (Christmas, spring, etc.)
  • I think people are more knowledgeable. We can share correct information, not misguided information. I think that there should be representation from everyone.
  • It would be nice to have a voice in setting the calendar.
  • Has been a JEA thing in the past. Get everyone's input. Would be more equitable.
  • To have a complete calendar in November for the next school year due to requests. Major things should be looked at and built in. Look at major conferences so staff can attend. Ask representatives from each area to represent those areas.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA)



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

The past few years have been turbulent for both the economy and the healthcare industry.  In fact, health insurance costs for both employers and employees costs have risen faster than the cost of living.  To control costs for everyone, many employers are now offering a consumer-driven health plan that includes a pre-tax vehicle to help employees with their out-of-pocket costs.  In the District there have been discussions regarding a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) option for the employees who have the District’s health insurance plan. 

An HRA is an employer-funded benefit plan, without any salary reduction, that reimburses employees for qualified medical expenses.  There are three important features:  (1) It can be rolled over year-to-year if the employer chooses to do so, (2) funds deposited and dispersed are tax deductible to the business and tax free for the employee, and (3) the employer can set whatever reimbursement limit is best for everyone as there is no state or federal law on limits at this point.

An HRA may be a financially attractive option for many of our employees because the employer contributes the funds to pay for qualified health insurance premiums and medical expenses.  The HRA option plan the District is currently exploring would use an HRA to reimburse deductibles.

An employee may ask how would an HRA option benefit me?  Deciding on the HRA is a personal preference.  Under this option, an employee would not pay a premium, but the deductible is an annual $2,000 for an individual plan or $4,000 for a family plan.  The District would reimburse the second $1,000 of the individual $2,000 deductible or reimburse the second $2,000 on the annual $4,000 family deductible.   If you are on a single plan, you would save $444.36 ($37.03 per month) per year in premiums.  If you are on a family plan, you would save $1,390.08 ($115.85 per month) per year in premiums.  If you are healthy, and don’t incur many health insurance claims, you may want to explore this option to save costs in premiums.  This option also incorporates a $25 office visit co-pay and $25 urgent care co-pay; therefore, you still have access to preventative care and cost-effective care for office visits.

As the District explores new health care options, offering employees plan options and flexibility to go to the doctor of their choice is a priority.  An HRA option allows flexibility for our employees and their families as well as encourages our employees to have more awareness on how they are spending their health care dollars.  Remember you are your best health insurance consumer!


**Disclaimer:  The District is currently exploring the use of an HRA.  A HRA has not been recommended at this time.  This blog is an informational piece regarding HRAs and intended to educate members on healthcare insurance.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Monroe Elementary School is in 4th Place!

Today’s Guest Writer is Monroe Elementary School Principal Lori Burns
Each year, a Janesville school will be selected to participate in the Calling All Communities Campaign through US Cellular for a chance to win up to $150,000.   The community support gained this year for Monroe Elementary School will carry forward in the years to come. This is a joint effort by the community and the School District of Janesville to support just ONE SCHOOL each year.   
As of yesterday, Monroe Elementary School was in 4th place overall in the entire United States.  We need to keep the momentum building and gain further support!  To do this, we are asking you to simply share this information.  When we win, the staff at Monroe Elementary School will aim to enhance our classrooms with 21st century technology, including SmartBoards, iPads and mobile computer labs. 

Many local businesses have already displayed posters and many are passing out flyers in their business to show their support. Local restaurants are sending our brochures out with their deliveries and companies are displaying VOTE MONROE or HELP MONROE WIN $150,000 on their outdoor marquis signs.  Channel 3 News is visiting Monroe School to do a story on our efforts.  Local Vision TV has been a huge supporter.  The Janesville Gazette is helping to spread the word. We appreciate all of the support we have already received from the community.
To VOTE MONROE, please visit US Cellular store and grab a voting card, register online and vote for Monroe Elementary School in Janesville, WI 53545.  Find Monroe school by searching the zip code 53545, click on Monroe, then click "vote for us".  You will be prompted to register at this time.  I know you will see other area schools as well, however please remember that this is a joint effort by the community and the School District of Janesville to support just ONE SCHOOL each year. This year is the year for MONROE!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SDJ and Parker High School Awarded Elsie Brumback Scholarship

The School District Janesville and Parker High School have been awarded the Elsie Brumback Scholarship, for two faculty and three students for an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to present at the national SETDA (School Educational Technology Director’s Association) conference on Monday, October 15, 2012 at the Student Voices Luncheon.
The School District of Janesville was chosen from among hundreds of entries across the United States.  The faculty and students will be presenting at the Leadership Summit on their use of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and assistive technology.  Their demonstration will show how teaching and learning have been transformed to better meet the needs of each student through the power of technology.
This opportunity gives our staff and students a chance to share with other state and national education leaders the positive impact technology has on teaching and learning. The SETDA conference is expected to have representatives from more than 40 states, event sponsors, and leaders from the Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of State Boards of Education, and the US Department of Education.
The event agenda is: http://www.setda.org/web/guest/2012leadershipsummit,
and the 2011 Summit presentations are available at:  http://www.setda.org/web/guest/2011leadershipsummitgallery.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Special Board of Education Meeting Survey Results

Last Thursday 9/6/12 the Board held a special meeting on Health Insurance Benefits at the ESC.  At the end of the meeting a survey was given to all invited members and the Board. Our insurance consultants, the Boyds, presented two options.  The questions on the survey, the mean score for each question and the overall mean are listed in the table below. 

The following list of people attended:
Bill Sodemann                                   
Karen Schulte
Kevin Murray                         
Keith Pennington
Peter Severson                                   
Carol Brunner
Karl Dommershausen             
Donna Stenner
David DiStefano                    
Jim Reif
Deb Schilling                         
Tom Buckman
Kristen Hesselbacher             
Angela Lynch
Scott Feldt                             
Robert Smiley
Mary Ann Kahl                      
Kim Ehrhardt
Tonya Williams                      
Barb Kelley
Steve Sperry                           
Yolanda Cargile
Audrey Fiore                          
Terri Rauscher
Jim Dulin                                
Charlie Brown
Mike Kuehne                         
Alison Bjoin
Synthia Taylor                        
Dave Parr
Brett Berg

The next meeting will be held on Sept 20, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. 


Friday, September 14, 2012

Handbook Focus Group Discussion II


Here is a portion of the transcripts from the handbook focus groups last spring.  I met with six different groups for 1-2 hours.  The information I gathered was very informative and I appreciated the time people spent telling me what was most important to them as we considered the Handbook. Since our next meeting on the Handbook will revolve around Health Insurance benefits, I wanted to post comments on this topic.

This represents information from three focus groups:

  •  Offer options. Pay more if you want a more flexible plan.
  • Option for a health savings account.
  • If we go to HMO, I would appreciate a PPO option for those who don’t go to Mercy or Dean.  Keep dental insurance and counseling insurance current.  Keep volunteer benefits the same.
  • I have to stick up for those who don’t have insurance…part time employees.  Everyone deserves to have that coverage.  Employees shouldn’t be sacrificing their health because they don’t have insurance.
  • CHC does help, both the client and the district.
  • I am concerned about raising the premium share.  In our group our wages are much lower.   The 12%... I am concerned about the hit that my take home pay will take.  WRS contribution is the same for everyone, but the 12% of the premium will be a bigger percentage of my income as compared to a higher wage earner.  Then add in a high deductible plan and that would be an ever harder hit.  We aren’t state employees, we have a different health insurance…why does it have to be 12%?  We can set it where we need to.
  • Dental should be looked at.  The coverage needs to be increased to cover more.  I like the idea of having the options of health care insurance so we can go to the providers we want to go to.  That is a huge benefit.  Long term and short term disabilities should be kept as well.
  • As a district we have good coverage.  The quality is very good.
  • We have paid for the health insurance with our wages…holding down raises for better benefits.
  • Two workings spouses, can one spouse opt out?  Could cost go toward retirement or other benefits?
  • Preventative medicine pays off in the long run, so it would save the district in the long run.
  • Making sure that we keep prescription drug coverage is important.
  • Holistic health care.
  • Retirees should be able to go to different providers when they move away.  Keep premiums where it’s at and deductibles the same.  If we go HMO, don’t have 20% responsibility.
  • I’m very afraid of the deductible of $4000.  I am scared of a large deductible.  I’m a person who is hoping to have kids.  I always want to have the opportunity to take them to the best doctors and not be tied to a specific HMO.
  • I really like the option of a base insurance, if you want to go to another hospital you pay the difference.  I would like to have the opportunity to select.
  • I like any type of option.  I would like the option of a higher deductible for lower premiums.  Everyone’s situation is completely different.
  • When people don’t spend money on health care they get sicker and develop bigger health care issues.
  • People who have severe medical issues need the flexibility to go to their own specialist.
  • Is there any incentive if you choose not to take health care?
  • You don’t want to penalize someone for a health issue.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Coverage for Dependent Children to Age 26


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


Young adults age 19 through 29 are the largest age group in the United States at risk for being uninsured.  This age group accounts for about 13 million of the 47 million Americans living without health insurance.  Young adults often lose their health insurance if covered under their parent’s or guardian’s policy at age 19 or upon graduation from high school or college.  The ability for young adults to attain and secure health insurance coverage for themselves is often difficult.  Their ordinary transitions in and out of school and jobs during their early 20s typically affect their ability to remain on their parents’ or guardian’s policy or become eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance. 

The Dependent Insurance Coverage provision in the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was designed to address the millions of young adults who are uninsured.  Specifically, the PPACA requires plans and issuers that offer dependent coverage for children to continue such coverage until they reach age 26. 

Effective September 1, 2012, the School District of Janesville will cover dependents to age 26 regardless if they are a full-time student or not.  If you are interested in enrolling your eligible dependent under the Dependent Insurance Coverage provision, please contact Tonya Williams at 743-5021.

Wednesday, September 12, 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.
Craig and Parker High Schools Focus on “REDESIGN”


Eighty-nine staff members, representing all departments/disciplines, serve on our Project Redesign Structure Team. The group met three times this summer to discuss what changes should be made to the high school schedule, graduation requirements, and the advisory program as part of our Project Redesign initiative. The group has also made tentative plans for educating all stakeholders about the proposed changes.
The academic arm of Project Redesign was also underway during the summer months. Curriculum for Algebra 1, Physical Science, English 9, and Physical Education/Health has been rewritten and renewed, aligned with the Common Core Standards and the College and Career Readiness Standards. Initial curriculum work has also begun in Biology.
Kennedy Elementary School Chosen as a Pilot School
The Kennedy Staff is excited to be a part of a pilot program during the 2012-13 school year with UW Whitewater and Arts in Education.  Kennedy will have a group of 5 staff members that will receive professional development on integrating the arts into science, math and writing programs. The professional development will involve 2 different 4 hour trainings in the evenings and then 3 on site professional development times with the trainers in the classrooms supporting teachers.  The pilot program through UW Whitewater partners with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and is designed to assist arts organizations throughout the nation to develop or expand educational partnerships with their local school systems. 

The purpose of the pilot and partnership is to work with schools to integrate art form (music, drama, dance, and visual art) with another subject area such as math, reading and science.  The goal of the pilot is to best meet the needs of all learners by engaging multiple learning modalities and providing opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know in different ways. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

iPads for the Classroom

We are proud to announce that the School District of Janesville is moving ahead with iPads for both student and staff use.  A recent survey of Technology Directors across the U.S. found that all of them are testing or deploying iPads in schools, and these school leaders expect iPads to outnumber computers in the next five years.  While the iPad does not replace the need for a traditional computer, it addresses many of the normal day-to-day classroom needs for students and does it in a smaller and far more portable way. 
With more and more educational applications being made for the iPad everyday, what started as a tool for college-age adults, has become one of the most versatile technologies for students of any age.   
Not only can children read textbooks on an iPad, teachers can use an iPad in combination with SmartBoards for group instruction. Teachers can work with students on a 1:1 basis, leveraging the power of technology in ways not possible before the iPad. This is especially true for iPads used in the special education classroom.  Using the iPad as an assistive technology tool allows learning to become possible for those for whom education is most challenging. 
This technology is very new, being available since April 3, 2010 – which makes it a very young innovation.  However, a year-long study using iPads had some promising preliminary results.  More studies will be needed to more clearly understand the achievement gains, but early indications are positive.
The iPad is an investment into our children’s future with the hope and promise of moving the achievement needle forward.  With an iPad in a child’s hands, the potential is limitless.  With its simple touch interface, a vast catalog of applications, and its overall simplistic design, the iPad is a signal of what is to come as technology and K-12 education combine.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Teaching Children How to Maintain Self-Esteem When Times Are Tough

Some of the most important lessons our children learn come from watching how we respond to difficult situations.  If we are cool and collected when times are tough, they will learn to respond in the same way.  
Manage stressful situations the way you would like your students/children to handle them.  This teaches them important strategies that they can apply in their own lives and also helps them build self-esteem.
1.      When facing an angry or negative person, remember that this person is probably facing other issues as well.  Chances are his/her actions have no bearing on you.
2.      If you caused the anger, take immediate steps to set things right.
3.      Teach your students/children that people often strike out those least able to defend themselves. 
A key component for success within relationships is to take total responsibility for what happens to us as individuals. Maintaining a child’s self esteem is one of the most important aspects of promoting health and happiness.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What's Your What?

Under the inspiration and model of Dr. Sperry, and other Directors sharing their “What’s” at a Leadership Development Institute (LDI) and being encouraged by Craig Principal, Alison Bjoin, and Franklin Assistant Principal, Lisa Peterson, to “show the picture, tell the story,” Harrison Principal, Jessica Grandt prepared her welcome back speech for the 2012-2013 school year. Entering her first year as principal at Harrison, Grandt thought it imperative that her staff get to know her “what’s,” so that they would have an understanding of her leadership style and vision for Harrison Elementary School. The Harrison staff were able to better know her as she shared her “what’s”—the things that she stands for, believes in, that drive and motivate her.
Staff members were inspired as she shared her heart and passion, and they were encouraged to do the same by taking time to share their “what’s” with other staff members. What are Principal Grandt’s “what’s?”

1.      Education is passion, the key to a child’s future. Principal Grandt is driven by and passionate about educating future generations because each child deserves a quality education. In fact, she stated, “It is our obligation to educate children; we are responsible for providing a quality education for each child here.”

  
2.      Relationships are important. It is crucial to develop strong, positive relationships with co-workers, parents and students. We cannot do this alone, and it is only through relationships that we are able to successfully educate each child. “We need the staff, parents and students to know that we are all in this together.”

 

3.      Principal Grandt wanted her staff to know that she is not only an educator, but also a mom. “It was important that my staff know that I have kids, and that I am a mom because that is the lens that I see things through. In each situation, I ask ‘Is this okay if my son were here? Would I want a situation handled this way if it involved my daughter?’ I’m not going to settle on treating these children differently than I would treat my own children.” 

 
4.      Using her son’s summer to do list, Ms. Grandt shared that she is organized. “If there are piles on my desk, I am probably stressed out.” This gave staff members a nonverbal cue to look for when approaching her during the day. 

 


5.      A positive attitude is key! “I wouldn’t want negative, crabby people working with my kids, and I want to provide the same care for other people’s children. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be days where someone needs to vent, but it is a about having a general positive attitude.”



What are your “What’s?” What drives you as an educator inspires and motivates you every day? Why did you decide to invest in the lives of children in the Janesville community? I want to encourage you to share your “what’s” here on this blog, but also, share with your coworkers, encourage one another and remind one another why we are each doing what we do everyday.