Monday, December 14, 2015

Beaver Dam School District Makes College Board Honor Roll

The College Board has announced the 6th Annual Advanced Placement (AP) School District Honor Roll.  The College Board honors less than 5% of school districts across the United States and Canada for increasing access to and success in college level Advanced-Placement courses at the high-school level.  

Helping more students learn at a higher level and earn high Advanced-Placement scores is a goal the College Board and the Beaver Dam School District share.  Inclusion on the 6th annual AP School District Honor Roll is based on the examination of three years of school achievement data from 2013-2015, looking specifically at the following criteria:

  • Increased participation and access to AP courses
  • Increased academic achievement in the area of college bound course work

The Beaver Dam Unified School District is excited to receive this recognition on behalf of its hardworking and dedicated students, families, and staff.  

“Our school district is excited to offer a robust list of Advanced-Placement courses in all areas of study at our high school.  An expanding number of students are taking advantage of these rigorous opportunities and are achieving at unprecedented levels,”  stated Steve Vessey, Superintendent of Beaver Dam Schools.

This past year, 197 high school students took 342 Advanced-Placement courses, with a pass rate of 80%.  This pass rate was substantially above the State and National benchmarks and a 14% increase from the previous year.

“The commitment of staff across all grades in our school district to expand advanced-learning opportunities for a growing number of students is to be commended.  Our students and staff are performing at a very high level, and we could not be more proud of them,” said Vessey.

Mark DiStefano, Principal of Beaver Dam High School stated; “Our students and families understand and appreciate the benefit that rigorous opportunities have on the educational experience as a whole.  Whether it be AP courses in core curricular areas or capstone courses in Career and Technical Education, our students are working hard to stretch themselves and our performance as a school reflects that.”

Beaver Dam School District’s inclusion on the College Board’s AP School District Honor Roll joins a growing list of accomplishments for Beaver Dam Schools.  Earlier this year, Beaver Dam High School was recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best high schools in the nation, in 2014, Beaver Dam High School was identified as an AP Pacesetter School in the State of Wisconsin, and most recently, Beaver Dam students scored the highest recorded average ACT score the school has seen in recent history at 23.4.

Beaver Dam Schools will continue to strive every day to guide students and  empower their futures by leading the way in student growth and achievement.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Beaver Dam High School Students Giving Back

In a joint effort among Beaver Dam elementary schools, the middle school, and the high school, a donation of 5,255 pounds of food was delivered to three local food pantries on November 20, 2015.  At Beaver Dam High School, the food collection was coordinated by the members of the girls’ basketball team and the Key Club.  “This was a great demonstration of what the Beaver Dam Unified School district can accomplish together; we collected approximately 1,000 pounds more food than last year, and the basketball team and Key Club are still collecting,” said Peter Duesterbeck, Key Club advisor and social studies teacher at Beaver Dam High School.  

This is an example of one of the many community outreach and service projects completed by our high-school athletics and activities groups every year. While some groups, like Key Club, National Honor Society, Charity Knits, have their primary focus on serving the community, other groups, like athletic teams, are now focusing on outreach efforts as well.  As a 2014 Key-Performance Objective of the Beaver Dam Unified School District, community-service projects are now part of the annual calendar of events for virtually all groups at the high school. The far-reaching impact of these events increases with time. In the first nine weeks of school, coordinated efforts of Beaver Dam High School students have directly impacted the World Orphan Fund, Melissa Mai Charity Golf Outing, Beaver Dam Community Hospital Breast Health, and the American Red Cross. Our students are also seen at nursing homes playing bingo with residents, and assisting at the YMCA.   Moreover, the benefit of these efforts has been reciprocated back to our students. The National Honor Society organized a breakfast, social, and an assembly for local veterans on November 11, 2015.  Savannah Pederson, National Honor Society advisor, said, “We had 68 veterans participate this year, which is approximately 40 more vets than the year before.   Our students did a great job from start to finish. Spending the morning with the veterans really showed our students the importance and meaning of Veteran’s Day.”

Future outreach projects are planned throughout the year with Special Olympics, Relay for Life, the Elk’s Lodge Food Drive, the Family Center, etc.  If you have an idea for a project for one of the many Beaver Dam High School organizations, please contact Associate Principal for Activities and Athletics Melissa Gehring at (920)885-7520.

Friday, November 20, 2015

When Technology Is Central in the Learning Process, What Does the Teacher Do?

Most aspects of our personal and professional lives have become inextricably intertwined with technological advancements.  Whether it's our smartphones, laptops, personal computers, smartwatches or smart televisions, technology has permeated our daily work.  The teaching-and-learning process has not been immune to the revolution technology has created.

Innovative teachers have quickly seen their roles transform. Technology has enhanced and shifted our teaching-and-learning environments in the following ways:

  • Instruction is more seamlessly differentiated based on the pace of the learner.
  • Immediate feedback is provided to a larger number of students.
  • Assessment can be immediate and responsive to student progress.
  • Data dashboards provide an instant visualization of progress.
  • Student screen time increases while face-to-face teacher time decreases.
  • Student questions are answered immediately by a network of experts or other learners.
All of this begs the question, what is the role of the teacher in a technology rich learning environment?

  • Relationship Building: When technology provides the lecture, feedback, and assessment, teachers have more time to develop relationships with students.  Students want to be seen, heard, and known. Technology enables teachers to better know their students for who they are as a whole as well as their talents, interests, and areas where they desire growth.
  • Guidance: Young people need and want guidance. Teachers can spend more time guiding and supporting a personalized learning experience for each student.
  • Tutoring: When whole-class instruction is done utilizing technology, teachers have more time to provide small group and one-on-one instruction.
  • Digital Literacy: Teachers can play an important role in helping students become responsible and respectful digital citizens.
  • Learning Network Development: Connections are key, and with technology, we can help students safely make local and global connections.
  • Goal Setting and Celebrating: Students love knowing you know their accomplishments. Technology provides more possibilities to expose what students have accomplished, to discuss what those accomplishments mean, and to give students support to set new rigorous goals.
This list is not all encompassing, but it does provide a starting point for understanding how the role of our teachers is evolving as technology becomes central to the teaching-and-learning process.

The specific examples and wording above have been taken from Tech and Learning, November 19 web entry:  Ms. Lisa Nielsen is the author.  Ms. Nielsen maintains the award winning blog, The Innovative Educator.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Facilities, Safety and Security Needs

In 2011, the district completed a comprehensive district-wide facility study.  The study identified facility needs across our district.  From 2011 to 2015, the district completed $10 million in facility and technology work, addressing the major needs identified in the district-facility study and leaving only large-scale mechanical and remodeling needs at the high school.

With the aforementioned work completed, the district turned its attention to the educational-facility needs of the high-school campus and safety-and-securing needs across the school district.  During the 2014-2015 school year, the district completed a comprehensive educational-needs assessment of the high-school campus and a district-wide safety-and-security assessment of all district buildings.  Both assessments were completed and significant needs were identified.

The high-school campus has significant mechanical, safety, security, and heating-and-cooling needs.  The 1958 campus was not designed for the modern teaching-and-learning demands of today’s students and teachers and does not reflect 2015 safety-and-security requirements for schools.  The other eight schools in our district do not reflect post Columbine and Sandy Hook safety-and-security structural requirements either. Specifically, the entrances to all nine buildings need to be remodeled to meet 2015 safety requirements.  

The facility needs we are focusing on are not routine-maintenance needs.  Meeting the maintenance needs of our buildings has been and will continue to be a  budget priority  for the school district.  Our buildings-and-grounds team has done an exceptional job maintaining building infrastructures and mechanical systems that are well past their life expectancy.

So where is the school district headed regarding our current facility-and-safety needs?  We will spend the next eight months sharing specific information about our needs with staff and community members and listening to feedback regarding what actions we should or should not take.  We will distribute a community survey in late April asking specific questions regarding our facility-and-safety needs.  The school board will make a decision in August 2016 regarding what path we will take to address the needs we have.  The feedback the school board receives from our staff and community will drive the school board’s decision.  

There are two web links at the bottom of this post.  The first link will direct you to a summary of our facilities journey from 2011 to the present.  The second link will navigate to a communication calendar articulating opportunities for staff and community to give input prior to the board making a decision in August 2016.

How can you stay informed and share thoughts and ideas?  We will meet with staff and community representatives to discuss these topics throughout the next eight months.  Representatives from the school board and administration will talk with staff from all buildings at faculty meetings in late winter and early spring.  By December 1, our website will hold all facility information in one place and will provide an area for written feedback. Our communication calendar articulates the current opportunities we have planned for sharing information and gathering feedback from the community.  
As always, please contact me anytime you have any questions or ideas.
Web Link to Facilities, Safety and Security Work Summary

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

PTOs...Partnering Makes Our Schools Stronger

Washington School PTO recently held their annual Bulldog Fun Run.  What started as a school-fundraising project three years ago has grown into a community-building event for the students, staff, and parents. It all begins with students setting a goal for the number of laps they will run and seeking family and friends to promise the students pledges for completing the run.  While the students set goals and pursue pledges, PTO members pair up with local businesses that provide financial support to carry out the event.  Then the day of the run: a huge number of parents and family members come to help and watch as every student and every teacher participate in the run.  “It’s like a big sporting event; everyone is so supportive and so proud to be a Bulldog,” declares Principal Laura Maron.

Why are events like these successful in our schools?  It’s due to the tremendous support of our families and our community.  Children thrive on the opportunity to do an activity like this alongside their teachers, and they love to have their parents participate at school as well.  The partnership that PTOs have developed in our schools provides opportunities students otherwise may not have. Parent involvement is a key contributor to the success of our students.  Researchers have been studying the effects that parent attitudes and actions have on their children’s academic success for many years, and they have consistently reported that children with parents involved in their education and schools earn better grades, score higher on tests, and much more.  

We recognize the value of our PTOs and the opportunities they bring to our school communities.  Jesse Peters, Prairie View Principal, states, “The PTO is a great way to bridge school-parent communication and relationships.”  Christine Ziemann, Wilson and South Beaver Dam Principal, agrees.  Mrs. Ziemann proclaims, “The support and the funding that the PTO provides help to make our school family stronger. They are a very important part of our school, and we are grateful for them.”  Thank you PTOs, and thank you parents for your commitment and involvement in your child’s education and our schools.

Something to Brag About

Everyone loves praise and recognition for the hard work they do, kids included.  Best practice is to provide students with at least 5 positive comments to every one negative comment.  This 5:1 ratio helps students understand what is expected of them, builds self-esteem, and reinforces the positive behaviors students are exhibiting.
“Brag Tags” are a new way for students at Prairie View to receive this positive recognition and to show others the positives as well.  Brag Tags are necklaces that each student at Prairie View has that are filled with colored beads and plastic tags that represent positive behaviors.  The idea of Brag Tags was brought to Prairie View by Heidi Graff, a Prairie View fourth-grade teacher.  She had seen Brag Tags promoted elsewhere and thought it would be a wonderful way to acknowledge great student behaviors.  Ms. Graff commented, “Brag Tags are a fun, cool way to recognize students for all the wonderful things they do each day at school!  The kids are really excited about the tags and motivated to earn as many tags and homework beads as possible!  By the end of the year, I expect the necklaces filled with lots of tags and beads, all of which represent the many accomplishments of a successful school year!”  The Prairie View Parent Teacher Organization quickly jumped on board, supported the idea of Brag Tags, and purchased the Brag-Tag materials for the school.  Kelly Kuenzi, Prairie View PTO co-president shared, “I think Brag Tags are a great school-wide incentive that will help promote and reward positive behavior and hard work.  They will motivate students to have responsible, respectful, and safe behaviors at school.”

Each classroom at Prairie View has an area where all the Brag Tags are displayed.  On Fridays and during special occasions, such as positive behavior assemblies, students wear their Brag-Tag necklaces at school.  Right now the necklaces are rather bare, but throughout the school year, students will earn colored beads for behaviors such as turning in homework or completing reading activities.  Each month students also have the opportunity to earn a special school-wide tag for a specific behavior such as respect, responsibility, or trustworthiness.  Even within art, music, and physical education classes, students earn special tags for their behavior, performance, or effort.  So as the year progresses, students’ necklaces will become increasingly colorful and abundantly filled with acknowledgements of their successes.