Past Issues | September 22, 2014 |
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1. Report Cards for Schools, Districts Released
Report cards for Wisconsin schools and school districts show that the majority meet or exceed expectations for student achievement and academic engagement in the 2013-14 school year.
Overall, 88.3 percent of schools and 98.1 percent of districts with accountability scores had ratings of meets expectations or better.
Major media outlets such as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Wisconsin Public Radio picked up on State Superintendent Tony Evers’ cautionary remarks (delivered via video and news release) regarding the report cards — that they are for helping schools continuously improve, not for punishing schools, and that they “measure a narrow band of what makes a school a vibrant place to learn.”
He reminded the state that “the science, art, music, career and technical education, and extracurricular activities that schools offer are truly important to helping students get a well-rounded education that prepares them for college and careers.”
Evers also said, “We are absolutely dedicated to evaluating and improving school and district report cards; making sensible adjustments and adding new measures of accountability when they are available. Next year will bring new assessments, which will open the door for bigger changes.”
Finally, he emphasized the importance of student attendance.
“Ninety of our schools had deductions because too many students were absent for too many days. If our kids aren’t in class, it’s pretty tough to stay caught up on what the other students are learning.”
2. Green Ribbon Awards — Wisconsin Tops Nation
Wisconsin beat out the rest of the nation in 2014 Green Ribbon Schools winners, announced earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Education. The state had five winners in the federal program which honors schools and districts for efforts in sustainability, student/staff health, and effective environmental education.
A document which highlights the winning programs includes the examples below.
The “Stars” program for energy conservation at Park Elementary School (Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District) rewards classes that follow energy saving practices such as “the 30-second rule (picking up chairs and trash from the floor so the custodians spend less time at the end of each day cleaning with the lights on).” In addition, a student inquiry approach weaves outdoor and sustainability education throughout the curriculum.
“In every class from kindergarten to grade twelve” at the Hurley K-12 School (Hurley School District), students engage in projects around sustainability and stewardship. Younger students plant vegetables for the lunch program and to sell at a farmer’s market. An annual service-learning project scientifically examines the nesting success of area loons. Outdoor skills like ice fishing, snowshoeing, and orienteering are also woven into various learning opportunities.
In the Tomorrow River Community Charter School (Tomorrow River School District), old-fashioned slate boards and chalkboards take the place of paper-wasting notebooks and energy-consuming Smart Boards, while governance board members reduce paper use with Chromebooks at their meetings. Students spend an average of two hours a day exploring nearby forests.
Full scholarships are provided to every student during their time at Conserve School (Land O’ Lakes), a private “semester school” built around sustainability and outdoor education. Most students attend public schools for the rest of their education.
The Greendale School District reduced its energy bills by $200,000 and its copying costs by $20,000 through efficiency initiatives. Greendale offers a free school-based health clinic and a confidential assistance program to not only students and staff, but also community members such as families and retirees. The district now has three registered Wisconsin Community Forests — paving the way for state support of school forestry and allowing for an expanded outdoor classroom presence.
Wisconsin schools and districts enter the Green Ribbon competition by participating in the state's Green and Healthy Schools program.
3. Special Education Publications
Some new DPI publications are available in the area of special education. Spanish versions of the popular Opening Doors series are now available. The series helps students in special education plan for a productive adulthood after high school.
Different entries in the series focus on post-secondary education, employment, self-determination, and adult services. The Spanish-language guides are sold in packets of 50 each, costing between $35 and $55 per packet. Bundle all four titles in the series together (50 copies of each publication) for $160.
Another new guide, Community-based Transition Options (CBTO) for 18- to 21-year-old Students with Disabilities: A Framework for Discovery shares a framework for planning community-based transition options for 18- to 21-year-old students with disabilities. This tool will assist local districts in assessing needs and developing transition-focused options within a community-based environment. In addition, the guide assists districts to create a step-by-step process using practical activities and user-friendly forms which have been created to identify student needs, analyze in-school and community resources, set priorities, develop meaningful action plans, and establish the process for evaluation. This publication costs $12.
4. Mock Trial Benefits Students
This past spring, Madison hosted the National High School Mock Trial Championship for the second time in the event’s 30-year history. Run by the State Bar of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin High School Mock Trial Tournament allows students to argue fake cases in real courtrooms.
In addition to becoming more familiar with the legal system, students gain critical thinking, public speaking, advocacy, teamwork, and character skills.
The finalists (Washington and Sourth Carolina) are announced at the Wisconsin State Capitol during the 2014 national chamionship. Photo: National High School Mock Trial Championship.
Wisconsin was one of the competition’s five founding states in 1984.
Schools that want to join the tradition can form a team of six high school students, up to six alternates, a teacher coach, and an attorney coach, and register their schools for the 2015 competition. Although final entries aren’t due until December 1, 2014, there is a Coaches Conference on October 20.
While the hard work of schools like Rhinelander High School may make them hard to beat (as alluded to in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), the final results are, of course, anything but certain — and as the organizers point out, the real purpose is learning and participation.
5. Counseling Grant for Oshkosh
The district will utilize three evidence-based approaches in a comprehensive counseling services model. A goal is to adopt a more pro-social, developmental approach to classroom management and trauma response, thereby reducing counselor time spent on reactive interventions. The project will serve more than 4,300 students in grades K-5 in 14 schools.
Oshkosh was the only district in Wisconsin, and one of only 40 nationwide, to receive funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Programs grant program.
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