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Past Issues | August 4, 2014 |
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1. Inspiration from Teachers of the Year

Inspiration for the coming school year is easy to find in a series of DPI videos with the 2013-14 Wisconsin Teachers of the Year.

Kohlhepp being interviewed, holding flowers, in a gymnasium

“I try to make as many positive calls as I do ‘here’s what we need to work on’ calls,” says Lynne Kohlhepp, a special education teacher at Wausau West High School and the 2013-14 Wisconsin Special Services Teacher of the Year. Kohlhepp later reveals that four students she was working with were taking chemistry last year.

In the videos, shot in 2013 and released this summer, the teachers discuss projects and approaches that have made them successful.

Anne Hasse, who teaches fifth grade at Wakanda Elementary School in Menomonie, works on “empowering kids to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to their own learning. And you show them what’s possible, and you show them the path on how to get there.” Hasse co-teaches an architecture unit drawing on strong real-world connections and the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Richard Erickson, a Bayfield High School science teacher, does “as much place-based education as I can.” His students embark on high-level “potentially published” research such as “stable isotope analysis” on species in the local food web. Those projects then become the jumping off point for Erickson’s classroom lessons.

Jane McMahon, who teaches English language arts at Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo and who currently represents Wisconsin in the National Teacher of the Year program, says the most important quality for a teacher is the willingness to change and grow. “There’re always ways to improve. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned, for example, from our new staff members.”

McMahon also discusses the importance of creativity. “If you formulate your lessons in a good way I think you can ensure that you’re reaching the standards and still encouraging creativity at the same time... That’s not always easy, but it’s something we continue to work at as a team.”

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2. Common Core Statement

In a public statement, State Superintendent Tony Evers responded to recent discussions of the Common Core State Standards in the political arena.

“It’s campaign season in Wisconsin and around the country,” he noted, going on to observe the strong support for the Common Core among Wisconsin’s K-12, higher education, and business leaders.

“Wisconsin’s teachers, parents, and children have spent the past four years implementing these standards, which our educators indisputably agree are more rigorous than our previous standards and still provide districts with the ability to select a local curriculum that fits their needs,” he said.

Evers pointed out that state and federal law, among other considerations, make it impossible to backtrack from the new standards or the new assessments, due to be implemented in the coming school year.

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3. Rural Awards Deadline in September

This year, the deadline for nominating schools for the Standing Up for Rural Wisconsin Awards is Friday, September 12, 2014.

The earlier deadline is to allow the award ceremony to be held in conjunction with the 6th Annual Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WiRSA) Fall Conference (November 12 in Stevens Point).

Cardell and Wallin being interviewed on camera in a technology classroom

 Previous Standing Up for Rural Wisconsin winners include “One Community — Two Libraries,” a family and literacy partnership between the library and elementary school in St. Croix Falls.

As always, the awards honor outstanding partnerships between and among schools, libraries, and communities that have resulted in programs or projects that demonstrate the great potential and collaborative spirit of rural Wisconsin.

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4. Sparsity Aid Distributions

Sparsity aid was awarded to 133 school districts for 2014-15 to help address needs of rural schools.

The total number of districts set to receive funding is identical to 2013-14, but four districts gained eligibility (Crivitz, Lakeland UHS, Necedah, and Spring Valley) and four districts lost eligibility (Algoma, Oakfield, Stockbridge, and Union Grove UHS).

Sparsity aid, originally created in the 2007-09 budget, was a recommendation of the State Superintendent’s Rural Schools Advisory Council.

“Public schools form the backbone of Wisconsin communities and that is especially true for our rural areas,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “Yet, rural schools face financial pressure from issues like declining enrollment, high numbers of economically disadvantaged students, and unstable property values that disproportionally affect their school funding.”

Districts receive the aid — $236 per student this year — if they have fewer than 725 students, less than 10 students per square mile, and more than 20 percent eligibility for free or reduced-price meals.

“Sparsity aid is one of many efforts being made to assist our rural schools,” said Evers. “I will continue to work with my Rural Schools Advisory Council and interested partners throughout Wisconsin to pursue ways in which we can help support our rural schools and the communities they serve.”

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5. Free Tech, Resources through Federal Program

Many free technological teaching and learning resources are already available to teachers, students, and schools, especially low-income schools, through the federal ConnectED Initiative.

ConnectED (which has no direct relation to the newsletter you are currently reading!) is designed to equip schools “with the technology and tools they need to prepare students for the future.” This year, a number of companies committed to provide more than $2 billion worth of resources to schools and students across the country.

The companies include big names such as Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, and Prezi.

Among the applications being offered free to many schools are Photoshop, Premiere Elements (video editing), Captivate (e-learning), Design the Future (3D design program), and ArcGIS Online (Geographic Information Systems technology widely used by government and business).

Major telecommunications carriers are pledging support for free wireless access for schools.

Many of those resources are available now, by going to http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/k-12/connected and clicking on “For schools,” “For teachers,” or “For students.”

More details can be found on the White House ConnectED website linked above.

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6. Flexible Grants for Small Amounts

Grants of up to $500 to help schools and teachers pay for “innovative programs, events, or projects” are available from the Meemic Foundation. The application process is entirely online and easy to manage, with a fill-in-the-blank application that should take about 25 minutes to complete.

The Foundation has awarded 106 grants worth $87,300 to the Wisconsin education community since 2012.

Grants are accepted year round, but the third quarter cycle ($500 max per grant) ends September 30. Funds will be available in mid-November.

The foundation says it supports “basically anything that supports teachers and enhances the student’s educational experience” — from field trips to books to behavior modification programs; science, music, or art equipment to professional development.

Any employee of a K-12 public or private school as well as colleges and universities may apply for the grant.

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State Superintendent Tony Evers


1. Inspiration from Teachers of the Year

2. Common Core Statement

3. Rural Awards Deadline in September 

4. Sparsity Aid Distributions 

5. Free Tech, Resources through Federal Program

6. Flexible Grants for Small Amounts

DPI-ConnectEd comes from the office of State Superintendent Tony Evers
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For questions about this information, contact Benson Gardner (608) 266-3374
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