Friday, March 22, 2013

Foreign Language Policies Around the World

This contribution was posted in Education Week on March 7, 2013.
Heather Singmaster grew up in Ripon, Wisconsin, and is a graduate of Ripon High School.

By Heather Singmaster

It is no secret that Americans lag behind in learning foreign languages despite urgent calls from the business and national security sectors. Yet it is barely a part of our policy discussion here—much to our detriment.

In other countries, this conversation is not only happening, it is a prominent part of the national discourse. Why? They see foreign language as key to economic development, even if their first language is English. They don't feel they can rely on their native tongue alone—nor should we.

A Continuing Discourse
Australia has had an ongoing conversation about the need for students to study Asian languages. The latest development happened last November, when Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard released the Asian Century white paper, listing key goals to allow the country to take advantage of nearby Asian markets. The paper calls for students to be given the opportunity to study one of four languages throughout their entire school career: Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian, and Japanese.

A flurry of articles met this call, with most experts agreeing with the reasoning, but citing huge obstacles, including the US$1billion price tag for implementing such a requirement for just half of Australia.

Adelaide University Asian studies expert Kent Anderson says this would be a tall order, but a crucial one: ''what is really important about learning a language is learning empathy for someone else, and learning empathy for another culture. You are able to understand, which will make you a better business person and makes it easier to have longer-term relationships.''
Meanwhile, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called on businesses to set quotas on the number of employees they hire who can speak an Asian language, reasoning that this would encourage students to learn them. (Incidentally, he announced this idea in a speech in China, delivered in fluent Mandarin.)

In Scotland, a recent study by the British Council showed a decline in foreign language study as well as a tendency of Scottish companies to only export to English speaking countries. Not wanting to miss out on economic opportunities, the Scottish government is responding with an examination of their foreign language requirements. Currently study of a second language is required beginning in grade six, but a new proposal would change this to grade one—allowing students to start a third language in grade five.

When examining the change to the policy, two issues are being considered: capacity of the curriculum and the role of languages in supporting the economy. Minister for Learning Alasdair Allan said: "This government has set an ambitious target to increase the value of our international exports by 50% by 2017, and ensuring our workforce has the right skills to compete internationally will play an important role in achieving this." He continues, "This is why we are committed to reinvigorating language learning and helping more Scottish pupils learn a second language such as French, German, Spanish or Chinese in primary school."

Language Required
Neighboring England, in response to a study showing their students are less likely to study a second language to a decent level compared to their European peers, will require all English primary students to learn a second language starting in 2014. Schools have the choice of offering one of seven languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, Latin, and ancient Greek. Elizabeth Truss, the Education Minister, said: "We must give young people the opportunities they need to compete in a global jobs market—fluency in a foreign language will now be another asset our school leavers and graduates will be able to boast."
Similarly, in Czechoslovakia, students are currently required to take a second language beginning in third grade (most take English). A third language used to be optional, however the government announced in January that it is now mandatory, beginning in eighth grade or earlier.

Expanding the Conversation
In most Asian countries, children begin learning a second language, usually English, in the primary grades. That doesn't necessarily mean that parents are satisfied. In Japan, a recent study showed that 90% of parents just aren't happy with their children's English language classes. Parents feel their children aren't gaining enough practical language knowledge and they lack the opportunity to actually speak in class. The study showed that parents are highly supportive of learning a second language and producing globally competent students: "93.6 of parents want their children to have a global viewpoint and 83.3% want their children to be globally competitive."

Similarly in China, students may be learning English in school starting in grade three, but many parents feel this isn't enough. Students are sent to expensive centers for learning English after school and increasingly, students in middle and high school are being sent to the United States to study. According to China Daily, 65 middle school aged children studied in the U.S. in 2005, that number increased to 6,725 in 2010. Parents feel their students will need to be able to compete internationally when they grow up and therefore need a global outlook.

With all of these conversations happening around the world, can Americans afford to continue to turn a deaf ear?

Follow Heather Singmaster and Asia Society PGL on Twitter.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Don’t Give Up on the One-Yard Line

There’s a good reason that there are four downs in football. Even if a player gets tackled on the one-yard line, there are still three chances to get across the goal line and score a touchdown. Players must be persistent and keep trying, and a good team often makes it.

It’s the same way in life. As long as you try hard, and as long as you are persistent, you can almost always find a way to be successful. Persistence in life – as in football – is not just about being stubborn and refusing to quit. While those are necessary elements, persistence is more than that.

Persistence is not always running headlong into a brick wall and expecting to go through.  It is sometimes pausing and calling a time out, so you can refocus your thinking and come up with a new plan. Maybe you can go around that brick wall. Maybe you can jump over it. Or maybe you can just throw something over the wall and catch it on the other side.

Persistence is about keeping your eye on the ball, on the goal that you want to achieve, at all times. It is about focus and determination, and sometimes trying something new, just before time runs out. Just when you think you may never succeed, you break through the line and score.

Persistence is not just about being strong and not giving up. It is also about using the gifts you have been given to reach your own goals. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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. Each week, between now and the end of the school year, SDJ will focus on positive achievements from a specific school.

Wisconsin Title I High Progress Award

Jackson Elementary School students’ performance demonstrates significant improvement over the past year.  To be eligible for this award, a school must be receiving Title I and must: earn a rating of Meeting Expectations, Exceeding Expectations, or Significantly Exceeding Expectations on the WI School Report Card, fall within the top 10% of schools experiencing student growth in reading and mathematics, have a minimal achievement gap or show evidence of reducing gaps between student subgroups and meet test participation, absenteeism and dropout goals.

Great Job Jackson Elementary Students and Staff!

Jackson 3rd grade students in Mrs. MacFarlane’s classroom just completed a poetry unit.  The culminating event featured all third grade students presenting their poetry in front of an audience.  Students did a fantastic job!

4th grade students working with Mrs. Kerrie Tisdale have been working very diligently on a Shakespeare Readers Theatre play!

Hedberg Public Library and Jackson Elementary Team Up!
On February 26th, fifth grade students and Miss Forst teamed up with Mrs. Sharon Grover of the Hedberg Public Library to begin a new journey with books.  Students were invited to join Mrs. Grover and Miss Forst for lunch and to talk about books.  Initially, 8 students expressed an interest in joining this new book club.  When the day came, 16 students showed up and openly discussed what they would like to see in the club.  Jackson’s first book was Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pew Internet Report: A National Study on How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms

A survey of teachers who instruct American middle and secondary school students finds that digital technologies have become central to their teaching and professionalization. At the same time, the internet, mobile phones, and social media have brought new challenges to teachers, and they report striking differences in access to the latest digital technologies between lower and higher income students and school districts.

Asked about the impact of the internet and digital tools in their role as middle and high school educators, these teachers say the following about the overall impact on their teaching and their classroom work:

·    92% of these teachers say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching
·    69% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to share ideas with other teachers
·    67% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to interact with parents and 57% say it has had such an impact on enabling their interaction with students

The survey finds that digital tools are widely used in classrooms and assignments, and a majority of these teachers are satisfied with the support and resources they receive from their school in this area. However, it also indicates that teachers of the lowest income students face more challenges in bringing these tools to their classrooms:

·    Mobile technology has become central to the learning process, with 73% of AP and NWP teachers saying that they and/or their students use their cell phones in the classroom or to complete assignments
·    More than four in ten teachers report the use of e-readers (45%) and tablet computers (43%) in their classrooms or to complete assignments
·    62% say their school does a “good job” supporting teachers’ efforts to bring digital tools into the learning process, and 68% say their school provides formal training in this area
·    Teachers of low income students, however, are much less likely than teachers of the highest income students to use tablet computers (37% v. 56%) or e-readers (41% v. 55%) in their classrooms and assignments
·    Similarly, just over half (52%) of teachers of upper and upper-middle income students say their students use cell phones to look up information in class, compared with 35% of teachers of the lowest income students
·    Just 15% of AP and NWP teachers whose students are from upper income households say their school is “behind the curve” in effectively using digital tools in the learning process; 39% who teach students from low income households describe their school as “behind the curve”
·    70% of teachers of the highest income students say their school does a “good job” providing the resources needed to bring digital tools into the classroom; the same is true of 50% of teachers working in low income areas
·    Teachers of the lowest income students are more than twice as likely as teachers of the highest income students (56% v. 21%) to say that students’ lack of access to digital technologies is a “major challenge” to incorporating more digital tools into their teaching

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Superintendent Chronicle: A Week in Review

To stay consistent with our focus on transparency, I believe that it is important to keep district staff and the community up-to-date on the decisions that are being made. I will be reporting each Monday, through this blog, on the important events that occurred the previous week in a series titled “The Superintendent Chronicle: A Week in Review”. This blog reviews what was a high priority for me the week before and explains the “why” behind important district decisions.

  1. Staffing plan and staffing levels – (Challenge program, Rock River Expansion, JVA Expansion). Looking for ways to increase revenue in the District.
  2. Planning for Kennedy Teachers Heidi Ochoa and Leah Hildebrandt to set up demonstration classrooms internationally.
  3. Continued facilitating Strategic Alliances: met with UW Whitewater Dean and Assistant Dean of Education.
  4. Attended “Monroe Madness” at Craig High School. 

Check out the “Monroe Madness” video produced by Local Vision.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Janesville Alumni Association

Janesville Alumni Association

Logo Contest


The Janesville Alumni Association works to strengthen and maintain the connection between the School District of Janesville and its graduates by informing them of District accomplishments and goals and offering a medium to plan special events/reunions and encourage alumni interaction and communication.  
The purpose of an alumni committee is to foster a spirit of loyalty and to promote the general welfare of the organization.  Alumni associations exist to support the parent organization’s goals, and to strengthen the ties between alumni, the community, and the parent organization.
The Janesville Alumni Association will conduct a contest to create a logo that depicts the purpose of the organization.
Contest Rules:
·      The logo should be easily reproducible
·      Should represent the purpose of the Janesville Alumni Association
·      Color or black and white
·      No bigger than 3” by 3” 
·      Saved in a digital picture format (jpeg, gif, etc.)

The winning logo will be chosen by  committee members of the Janesville Alumni Association.  The creator of the winning logo will be awarded a new iPad!

All entries and questions should be submitted to:
All entries need to be received
by April 12, 2013

The Logo Contest is open to the community as well as
district staff, students and parents.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

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. Each week, between now and the end of the school year, SDJ will focus on positive achievements from a specific school.

Washington PTA Collects for FRC Program!
The Washington PTA held an annual Family Fun Night and collected 3 large boxes of toiletry items to support the FRC program to provide these items to needy families. 

Washington Singers Perform at JPAC!
The Washington Singers and Director Brian Knutson performed during the intermission of a professional performance at JPAC on February 9th. This is a very big honor and the students did so well that they were asked to perform in Whitewater later this year!

Washington Staff Attends CREATE Classes!
The Washington PBIS team is researching culturally responsible classroom management strategies to add to their tool kits, using information they learned at a CREATE class they attended in Sun Prairie.

Students Learning in Fun and Interactive Ways!
Washington teachers are reinforcing learning through interactive, fun lessons. Two recent examples: Mrs. Stengel’s students used fishing poles to “fish for words,” and Mrs. Hintz’s students performed “heart surgery” in physical education classes. 

Donation Allows Harrison Principal to Attend Conference!
A donation was made to sponsor Jessica Grandt’s attendance at the National Chinese Language Conference in April. She had given up her spot so that a teacher could attend in her place. The donor felt it was critical for Jessica to attend as well, so they paid to allow that to happen. 

Fifth Grade Students Reach Impressive Milestones!
100% of fifth grade students increased reading stamina during the second trimester based on reading conferences.

100% of fifth grade students engaged in meaningful discussions relating to stories, art, and history at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Harrison PTO Sponsors Fifth Grade Trip to Chicago
The Harrison PTO sponsored Tamie Burke’s and Eric Wahl’s fifth grade class trip to Chicago on February 5thThe students went on a docent-guided tour of the Chicago Art Institute and then saw a production of Peter Pan at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

Harrison Celebrates the Chinese New Year!
On February 12, Harrison School celebrated the Chinese New Year with a school-wide parade. This is the year of the snake, but students carried signs with all twelve symbols of the Zodiac. There was a dragon and students played traditional Chinese instruments. The students also handed out red envelopes and candy to those watching the parade. In China, it is customary that these envelopes contain money from the older generation.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Superintendent Chronicle: A Week in Review

To stay consistent with our focus on transparency, I believe that it is important to keep district staff and the community up-to-date on the decisions that are being made. I will be reporting each Monday, through this blog, on the important events that occurred the previous week in a series titled “The Superintendent Chronicle: A Week in Review”. This blog reviews what was a high priority for me the week before and explains the “why” behind important district decisions.

  1. Superintendent Schulte and CIO Smiley picked up our visiting teachers from China last week and spent time helping them acclimate to our country.
  2. Superintendent Schulte spoke at Forward Wisconsin on Evidence-based Leadership

Our first meeting with our visiting Chinese teachers got off to a positive start.  Julie De Cook, Shawn Galvin, Steven Long, Jesse Hou, and Steve Pease met at the Helen Jeffris museum.  The partnership holds much promise.  Here are the Expectations and Questions generated from our first meeting.

Expectations expressed by the Chinese and Janesville Teams

  • Learn from each other, human to human.
  • Learn how education works in our two cultures.
  • Communication and improving our knowledge of respective cultures to bring down barriers.
  • Gain understanding to help in construction of the model classroom to be built in China, modeling Kennedy Elementary School.
  • Learn what one American classroom looks like, with the understanding that both the American and Chinese teams represent one school district, not a nation.
  • Observe and learn ways to include disabled students and differentiate for gifted students, including insights into curriculum creation.
  • Gain fluency in English, while feeling free to converse in Chinese with each other.
  • Gather ideas for educating students in the Arts

Questions asked by the Chinese and Janesville Teams       

  • May we observe students’ opportunities to work in and use school libraries?
  • How do Americans promote leisure time reading?
  • What does the School District of Janesville need to build stronger connections with our Chinese partners?
  • How can we build stronger teacher-to-teacher and student-to-student connections?
  • How can Chinese insights into Math instruction help Janesville educators and students?
  • What can be learned and done to aid in preparation of Chinese students visiting here in summer, knowing that travel here involves 2 months of advance planning
  • May the Chinese visiting teachers visit high school and Universities?  (YES)


Friday, March 8, 2013

Monroe Madness!

Craig High School
March 15, 2013 ~ 5:30 p.m


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Need help handling stress?

Consider our Employee Assistance Program!

What is an Employee Assistance Program?
An Employee Assistance Program (also called an EAP) is an employersponsored program designed to assist employees with jobrelated stress, personal problems or family issues.

How does the District’s EAP work?
Janesville Psychiatric Clinic is our EAP provider. They are a counseling center that provides a wide range of services for all ages. The school district’s plan will pay for up to three sessions with a certified counselor from Janesville Psychiatric Clinic. The goal of these sessions is to determine if a mental health issue is present and to assist the client in obtaining treatment.

Will my supervisor know I have used the EAP?
Absolutely not. Use of the EAP is completely confidential. Janesville Psychiatric Clinic does not release any information about participants to the district.

Who can use the EAP?
All employees of the school district as well as their spouses and children. You do not have to be a fulltime employee or carry our health insurance to use the EAP.

How do I access the Employee Assistance Program?
You can make an appointment for a consultation with Janesville Psychiatric Clinic by calling them. Their phone number is 7551475. Tell them you work for the School District of Janesville and would like to use our Employee Assistance Program.

Does this affect my health insurance benefits with the District?
Taking advantage of the EAP program does not access health insurance benefits whatsoever. This service is provided by the district and offered to everyone regardless of insurance coverage.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

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 Engineering Club and Advisor/Teacher Jeff Leider

The Craig Engineering Club took first place at the Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) Rube Goldberg Machine Regional Contest, registering the best showing they have ever had.  They also received the "Most Rube-like Award" and $925 in winnings!  The prize money will pay their entry fee and bussing for future contests.  In addition, the club will donate a portion of their winnings.

According to Mr. Leider, the group had great, experienced, senior leadership this year.  Many students helped design and build the machine, in particular, Drew Overly and Keegan Leekey.  Lorin Cox and Lee Ping Ong did an excellent job presenting the machine to the judges. 

The Craig Engineering Club will compete at the National Competition on March 16th at WCTC. 

Craig High School Spotlighters Show Choir Compete at “Extravaganza Show Choir Invitational”

On Saturday March 2nd, the Craig Spotlighters competed in the Emmetsburg (IA) Extravaganza Show Choir Invitational. The Spotlighters won the following awards:

1st Runners-up: Craig "Spotlighters"

Best Vocals: Craig "Spotlighters"

Best Choreography: Craig "Spotlighters"

Best Band: Craig "Spotlighters"

Best Female Soloist: Chandler Cook, Craig "Spotlighters"

The Spotlighters will travel to Cedar Rapids Washington High School on Saturday, March 9 for the MO Show - Show Choir Invitational. The Cedar Rapids trip will mark the end of the competition season for the Spotlighters. The final Spotlighter performance of the year will be held on Tuesday, March 12 at 7:30 in the Craig Large Auditorium.

 Parker Girls’ Basketball WIAA Sectional Ticket Pre-Sale Information

The Parker High School girls’ basketball team will host a WIAA sectional semifinal game versus Mukwonago at Parker High School on Thursday, March 7 at 7 p.m.

Pre-sale tickets for this sectional semifinal are being sold through the Parker athletic office from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6 and from 7:30 a.m. to noon on Thursday, March 7 or until the tickets sell out. All tickets are $4. The Parker gymnasium will open at 6 p.m. on Thursday.  The winner of the Thursday sectional game will play in the Middleton sectional championship on Saturday, March 9, 2013.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


To e-reader or book read, that is the question.

E-readers are amazing.  They are like personal electronic libraries, because they can hold so much reading material. Vacations use to be times when people packed a separate bag just for their reading materials.  Now a Kindle, Sony Book Reader or Nook, can carry your whole library – no bag required.

Most e-readers are small, about the size and weight of a paperback book (6 inches of reading space).  While traditional paper books can be bought or borrowed from libraries and or friends, e-books arrive on e-readers through an internet connection or cellular connection.

So why should educators be interested in e-readers? First of all it is one small device that can contain so many books! Students would not have to worry about making sure they grabbed a correct book, or carrying around a ten pound science book. Second, because the text is electronic, it can be searched, bookmarked, notes can be taken, words can be defined, some e-readers allow the text to be read out loud, comments to be shared and many have a new feature called X-ray.

Most people equate the term X-ray as medical method for “seeing” inside the body; to see beyond what it on the surface. The same principle is true of X-ray in an electronic book. X-ray highlights where the characters appear, important terms and reference information. X-ray allows the users to look for specific information on a page, chapter or the book as a whole. The X-ray feature assists the reader in making connections, such as correlations of events.

Educators assist students not only in learning content but also in learning how to make connects in terms of vocabulary, plot, historical perceptive and so on. With tools such as e-readers, students can have a host of reference materials at their fingers tips to lead them down a variety of paths. Making connections between history, science, the economy and other disciplines are essential in our global society. Our world is full of information, and e-readers can help students and educators sift through these enormous libraries, learning quicker and more efficiently.