Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Voucher Program

Wisconsin’s school voucher program is the subject of much discussion and legislative action. As the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance amends Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal, changes are being proposed to current law. It’s likely the program will be expanded, but the funding remains in doubt.

JCF action is not the final word on the budget and school vouchers. Both houses of the Legislature must approve, and the governor must sign it before it becomes law.

As vouchers travel through the legislative process, public school board members, teachers, staff, students, parents, taxpayers and administrators should all be concerned about the effect the voucher program will have on public education.

Funding for vouchers provided to parents to enroll their children in private schools has traditionally come from state aid to public schools. While the state aid formula for distributing state aid hasn’t changed, the overall fund has been reduced resulting in less state aid for each district, including ours.

Views of the voucher program are varied for several reasons. Some question academic accountability standards, others have concerns about oversight. There are doubts about the claimed success of voucher schools in terms of student achievement.

All of these concerns can be debated, but one result of the voucher program is undeniable – expanding voucher schools will result in a financial liability for Wisconsin’s public schools.

My concern is not so much with standards and oversight. If parents believe their children can get a better education at a private school, there should be no obstacles to enrollment in them. I am convinced parents are sincere in doing what they believe is best for their children.

My objections are not so much with private schools as they are with reducing funding for public education to support vouchers. Not only is funding for public schools reduced to support vouchers, public schools also see per pupil state aid reduced when enrollment drops as a result of students transferring to a private school.

We won’t know the exact financial effect vouchers will have on public education until the budget now being considered is signed into law. But, we must start planning for a likely reduction in funding. Any reductions may not have an effect until the 2015-16 school year, but we are already deep into next school year’s budget planning.

A local private school could have a dramatic effect on our budget. Rock County Christian School in Beloit received authorization for 58 new voucher students in addition to the 49 already enrolled. It’s not likely that 107 voucher students at Rock County Christian School would all come from the Janesville district, but many might. For every Janesville district student enrolling in a voucher school, we lose between $7,200 and $7,800 depending on if the student is elementary or high school.  On the high end the loss could be as much as $834,600. (107 students x $7,800)

There is no question a private school education is appropriate for some students. We trust that parents will make the right decisions.

But, those students should not be funded at the expense of other students enrolled in public schools. We ask lawmakers in Madison to not only recognize the benefits of a private school education, but also validate the value of a great public school system created in the state constitution that has been dedicated to providing every Wisconsin student with a great education.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

National Physical Education Month

Guest Blogger-Carol Tyriver
Physical Education Teacher

In recognition of National Physical Education Month, the Elementary Physical Education teachers are proud to share a few of the amazing opportunities that our students participated in during the 2014-15 school year:
     1.  Technology use continues to grow in our Physical Education classrooms.  The students have been busy using pedometers, heart rate monitors, and iPad apps to learn more about their health and fitness. 

Heart Rate Monitors, Pedometers, iPad Apps


    2.   A number of elementary schools held a Jump Rope for Heart or Hoops for Heart event to help raise awareness for heart health. This year, K-5th grade students in 8 schools raised more than $38,840 to help support the American Heart Association with its fight against heart disease and stroke.

Hoops for Heart, Jump Rope for Heart

    3.  With our focus on lifetime physical activity, elementary Physical Education teachers gained new training in implementing tennis and golf programs at the elementary level.  Thank you to the United States Tennis Association and First Tee School Golf Program for their awesome training and equipment. 

The First Tee School Golf Program



    4.  Many of our students experience skating for the first time in their Physical Education classes.  To help with the procedures of getting safety gear on, older students are “skating buddies”.  Both older and younger students benefit from this, as many students can be seen giving their “buddies” high fives or hugs in the halls after working together in Physical Education class!

Inline Skating Buddies

    5.  In the Heart Adventure Course, students act as blood cells picking up and delivering oxygen as they travel through the circulatory system.  The Heart Course is a culminating activity for our units on heart health.

Heart Adventure Course

    6.   Collaboration is the name of the game during many of our activities!  A great deal of time is spent learning the importance of working together as a team and supporting our teammates through good sportsmanship skills.  The picture below shows students working in teams to creatively build obstacle courses for the rest of the class to travel through.

Cooperative Obstacle Course Building


   7.  The Elementary All-City Track Meet is in its 88th year!  This time honored tradition is a favorite among students, teachers, parents, and even grandparents.  The track meets promote perseverance, teamwork, and sportsmanship in a non-threatening environment where all students can experience being a part of a team.

Elementary All-City Track Meet

Friday, May 15, 2015

School District of Janesville and Parker High School Win Tommy Awards

The Parker High School Productions of Ghost and South Pacific, along with the School District of Janesville’s Summer School Production of All Shook Up, have received Tommy Awards.  The Tommy Awards encourage, recognize, and honor excellence in high school musical theater. Schools and individuals receive awards at a ceremony held at Overture Center.

Parker High School earned the following Tommy Awards for South Pacific:

Outstanding Musical – This category recognizes all areas of the production as outstanding, so the following will receive certificates in addition to the trophy: Jim Tropp, director; Jan Knutson, musical director; Michael Stanek, choreographer; Andrew Brackett, technical director; Alison August, stage manager; Larry Schultz, scenic designer; Sharon White, costume designer; Andrew Brackett, lighting designer; and Mike Schuler, sound designer.
Outstanding Lead Performer - Sydney McDonald (Bloody Mary);
Outstanding Lead Performer - Jacob Schmidt (Emil De Becque).

Parker also received three awards for Ghost:

Outstanding Choreograpeher - Michael Stanek
Outstanding Lead Performer - Nathan Traynor (Sam)
Outstanding Lighting Designer - Rob Mentele

The School District of Janesville’s Summer School Program earned the following Tommy Award for its production of ALL SHOOK UP:

 Outstanding Scenic Design - Tucker Topel

The Tommy Awards will be held on Sunday, June 7, at 6 pm in the Overture Hall,  Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State Street, Madison.  Members of Parker's South Pacific cast will perform a medley from the show.  Jacob Schmidt, Sydney McDonald, and Nathan Traynor from Ghost will each perform as winners of Outstanding Performer awards.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day

Guest Blogger-Laura Griswold

Public Information Secretary

One of the things I remember most about my mother was her hands.  I remember how soft they felt when she would cover my forehead with a damp cloth when I was sick.  I remember how strong they were when she held my hand to cross the street (or walk through the candy aisle) as a child.  I remember every wrinkle as she aged.  Every age spot gained from her afternoon lunches on the patio in the summer.  Her perfectly manicured (done herself) coral or red nails.  Her wedding band and engagement ring – the most beautiful jewelry I had ever seen – and how they became loose over the years.  Everything about my mother’s hands told me who she was and what I could learn from her.  She worked hard; was strong; was faithful in her marriage; loved us tenderly, shared her life willingly with my father; didn’t have to spend a lot of money to be beautiful; and would always be there with a hug when we needed it.

Mothers make that indelible mark on our life because of the time we spend with them and their unconditional optimism of what their children can do and become.  My mother was also a teacher and I saw later in life that she cared for all of her students with those same “mother hands”.

For some, the “mother hands” came from another relative, a teacher, even a close neighbor.  But the feeling of love was the same.  This person was there when no others were.  This person saw in us the potential to become educated, caring and productive global citizens and did much to help us along the way.

As we look forward to another great May weekend, we celebrate the mothers in our lives.  Take some time to visit, call or hug yours.  Make sure you let all of them – mother, grandmother, teacher, mentor – know how much you appreciate what they’ve done for you.

Some of us can no longer share the day with our mom, but we can honor her in remembering all that she sacrificed and all the love she showed.  She is still with you!

“A mother holds your hand for a while, but holds your heart forever.”
                                                                                                  Author Unknown

Teacher Appreciation Week

“Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”
Rita Pierson

During the week of May 4 - 8 2015, many observe “Teacher Appreciation Week.”  In recognition of teachers, I am reminded of a very popular song entitled, “The Greatest Love of All.” I am sure you are familiar with the words, “I believe the children are our future; TEACH them well and let them lead the way; SHOW them all the beauty they possess inside; GIVE them a sense of pride.” As a teacher this is exactly what you do each and every day. So, we pause for a moment this week to say, “Thank You.”

I applaud you for your dedication to the students in the School District of Janesville. Our students are achieving at great levels because of you. Take a moment to reflect on some of your successes: one Presidential Scholar and another student who has been nominated, two National Blue Ribbon Schools, four Wisconsin Schools of Recognition, and two students with perfect ACT scores. There are many more accomplishments that our students have experienced as a result of the professional educators we have in the district. These successes were achieved even though the district, as a whole, was facing some challenges.

The challenges will continue to come.  Continue to stay focused on our students and never give up on them. Teach them well and let them lead the way.  Show them the beauty they possess inside.  Educate them so that they are successful.

Our recognition and appreciation for your service extends beyond this one week -- it continues throughout the year. On behalf of my entire cabinet and me, we thank you for your service to the students of the School District of Janesville.


 Dr. Karen Z. Schulte

Thursday, May 7, 2015

National Recognition for Parker High School French Program

Parker High School’s French Program Among Best in the United States

The American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) notified Andrea Behn, World Language-French Teacher (PHS), that Parker High School’s French Program was awarded a national honor, making it among the best in the United States.  Ms. Behn is the State of Wisconsin AATF Chapter President.

Mary Helen Kashuba, President of the AATF stated, “The committee unanimously chose Parker High School to receive the Exemplary French Program with Distinction Award”.  According to Kashuba, “The committee was impressed with the following accomplishments the program has experienced: ability to grow the program despite many odds; amount of student activities; application of the five C’s (Communication, Cultures, Connections, Communities, and Comparisons) to teaching along with “can do” statements; field trips with the students; the many letters of recommendation; collaboration within and outside the school; and professional involvement.” 

The Association of Teachers of French was founded in 1927 and is the largest National Association of French Teachers in the world with nearly 10,000 members. Their members are made up of French teachers from all levels.  As a professional association they seek to address the concerns of their members which include: promoting the study of languages in general and French; facilitating the implementation of national and state standards in the classroom; improving the training of French teachers by encouraging minimum levels of language and cultural proficiency, and exposure to the French-speaking world through study abroad opportunities; creating opportunities and finding resources for practicing teachers to update their skills and improve their teaching; and encouraging the use of new technologies in the teaching of French and actively developing materials to support this use.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Real World Connections


By: Rita Gipp and Travis Duffy

What is the most frequent question asked in the Algebra classroom?  It very well might be, "When are we ever going to use this?"  Making connections between the classroom and the outside world prove to be beneficial in motivating students to an elevated level of performance.

The Need to Make Connections

While the question might seem to ring in the air of defiance, a quality educator realizes that a student's need to make connections between classroom concepts and the world in which they live ias actually a desirable quest.  It demonstrates higher level thinking -- a desire to give reason and purpose to the task at hand.  By providing answers to the question, and making worthwhile connections, the teacher has the ability to turn the question into a highly valuable inquisition.

A Teacher's Point of View

The task, then, is to answer the question in a manner in which students find purpose.  I pondered.  In making connections between what is being taught and the real-world around them, a valuable tool to use is role-modeling.  There are many examples in the community in which surely career-minded individuals would be able to relate how Algebra is used in the working world.  I could bring in a guest speaker to relay personalized examples.  I began my search on, a site our school district uses to make connections between volunteers in the community and teachers who could use their role-modeling resources.

In the midst of my search, trying to decide which careers to pull in that would provide the most connections between my student population and adults working in the community, I had a revelation.  What I really needed was someone with whom my transescent students could most closely relate, and for this age group, the one most important influence in their lives lie within the values of their own peer groups.  Who among them might be able to talk with authority on the value of Algebra?

It took me two seconds for the name Travis Duffy to enter my mind.  Travis had been s student of mine two years earlier  I had continued connection with my former student, keeping in frequent connection with what was happening in his life in terms of his ongoing quest for technology and development of his skills.

There were an abundance of examples I could think of immediately with which Travis would be able to relate real application of Algebra to his everyday world.  Even better, I knew the examples Travis would be able to provide were in areas of high interest to my students.  Travis had been (and still was) a member of our county's Rock N'Robots club.  Through communication with the leaders of the club, I knew that raw coding was used to program the robots.  Any programming language can easily be connected to the application of Algebra with its systematic lines of code.

While still in middle school, Travis has intermittently shown me his progress with his ongoing quest to create his own operating system.  He even created a business name, "Galaxy Programming."  Since middle school, Travis had published at least one app on the Windows Store that I was a ware of.  That would surely impress my students!

I talked to Travis.  He was all for helping to make connections for my students and we scheduled a time for him to share his view of how Algebra is used in his daily life.  I gave Travis a little outline of my ideas of how I knew him to use Algebra in his world and left it up to him to put together a quality presentation.  That he did!

The Presentation

Our plan was to have Travis speak to us via a Cisco Telepresence machine, a video conferencing tool that allows physically distant participants feel as though they are in the same room with one another.  As luck would have it, we had a glitch with that plan on the day of the presentation, but in a perfect example of quick problem solving, Travis took out his phone and connected us via Google Hangouts.  I attached a webcam and microphone to the classroom desktop, and we had Travis projected up on our Smartboard.  For subsequent presentations that day, Travis was able to connect to us from a computer in the high school library for a clearer view of his presentation.

The following is in the words of the classroom guest speaker, Travis Duffy:


I am a member of the "Rock N' Robots" robotics club.  Participating in that gropu requires a lot of skills, including engineering and math.  Because we have members that are really good at math, we won the 2014 Lake Superior Regional competition in Duluth, MN.  Additionally, our team competed in a copmetition at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where we finished fourth in the nation.  The MIT competition featured code from Rock N'Robots being sent to the International Space Station where it was used to control robots.

We use math in many ways in our robotics group.  Programming the robots requires application of math in many ways, most notably with the use of mathematical formulas within lines of code.  Additionally, analyzing lines of code is similar to working step-by-step through lines of solutions in algebraic equations.  The process of locating an error in code replicats the process of finding an error in lines of algebraic solutions.  Building the robots also requires math as it applies to the engineering of the design.

During competitions, we had to use math in order to help the robot make decisions that would ultimately get us points.  Our team also used math while building the robot by planning dimensions and angles for different apparatus on the robot.  Calculations were made to determine correct speeds and angles when throwing things like balls and Frisbees to make goals during competitions.

Shape Helper

I also made a program that helps people solve equations for shapes called Shape Helper.  Shape Helper can find the area, width, surface area, and volume of any shape that has 3-9 sides.  All you would need to do is enter the height and width of the shape to get the area and perimeter,  If you wanted the volume and surface area, you would type the length, width, and height.  I used math while developing this program by converting equations to simplified versions a computer would understand.  All of the code I made to solve problems for the user was written step-by-step.  When I developed this program, I separated every part of the fraction in order to easily find errors that could occur during the debugging process.  If I had crammed everything together in one line, it would have been hard to figure out where I made my error.  It is the same in Algebra; if you make a mistake without writing everything out and showing your steps, it will be very difficult to find where you made you mistake and fix it.


There are so many careers out there that require math, even if you are a chef or fashion designer!  Chefs have to be good are measuring and adding fractions, while fashion designers have to be good at algebra and measuring.  Below is a list of careers that require a strong math background:

Fashion Designer
Jewelry Artist
Science Journalist
Special Effects Director
Environmental Consultant
Computer Scientist
Stock Broker
Game Designer
Interior Designer
Car Designer
Petroleum Engineer
Aeronautical Engineer
And many, many more

Unexpected Takeaways

While speaking with Travis during the presentation, there were a number of valuable takeaways that took the initial desire to simply provide examples of math in use to a level beyond application of course content.

Travis now works part-time for our school's IT department.  I brought this up during the presentation so that students might witness the potential monetary value of hard work and development of skills.  Most of these fourteen-year-olds can't wait until they have a job and their own spending money.  I remembered a conversation I had with Travis over the summer about how he had spent the day ticking and un-ticking check boxes within a new program the district had installed.  Surely this was a mundane, yet necessary, task and provided a wonderful example of how all jobs come with some less than desirable duties.

Travis was able to reiterate that he loves his job with IT, and that yes, it does at times come with responsibilities of providing service wherever service is needed, not just what he wants to do. I included in discussion some of the tasks that come along with my job as a teacher that I don’t enjoy doing, and summarized by making a connection to their role as students. Some classes naturally interest them more, but in proper preparation for future success, it’s important to complete the daunting tasks along with those that excite them.

Another valuable point of reference came on the tails of talking about the application Travis had published at the Windows Store. According to the Stanford University Marshmallow Experiment (1970), it is innate to prefer immediate gratification of lesser value than to delay the gratification, even when the delay is short term and the reward is doubled in value. This is a concept that needs to be taught and experienced to be understood and valued.  Travis was able to discuss his purpose for making his Shape Helper app available to download for free, drawing attention to the end reward once a newer, more robust version of the tool was made available for purchase.

A final connection I found necessary to make was in respect to Travis being an average, but hard working student. I wanted to eliminate the possibility of my students viewing Travis as someone who must be skilled beyond their own potential; a born genius, if you will. Travis is a good student, and as I remembered, he was part of the Algebra class.  That year, 8th graders participated in either 8th grade Math, Algebra, or Geometry, with a large majority assigned to 8th grade Math, the class targeted for average achievers of their grade level.  A few mathematically gifted students participated in the 9th grade Geometry class while students showing promise were advanced more subtly, to Algebra.  Travis was an Algebra student, the same as those in his audience the day of the presentation.  The desired message was that Travis was simply a dedicated student, reaping the successes of his own hard work.

Summary and Closing

An experienced teacher is able to tell when students are engaged in a presentation or lesson, or when they are simply participating idly as polite audience members. There was no doubt at presentation end each hour that students were completely engaged. In fact, Travis sent me a copy of a message he received from a student the evening of the presentation. It read, Do you REALLY use Algebra every day?” In response, Im compelled to pose a follow-up question. Do you think this student would have felt comfortable sending the same message to an adult speaker who was brought in to share how he uses Algebra in his career?

In making ongoing connections with students, it is most valuable when those connections relate not only to the world they see around them, but the values they exhibit withinRole modeling is proven to be an effective tool in helping students to develop an intrinsic idea of what is possible for their own futures. If the opportunity exists to provide role-modeling from within their own most valued and influential group their peers the lasting effects of the messages conveyed are multiplied. In the experience shared herein, mission accomplished!