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Articles from December 2015

Student says move to Ames High School changed his life

Ames High School senior Jacob Hess says he went to a pretty good high school in Minnesota before he moved to Ames in 2013 as a sophomore.

“My school had a good variety of AP classes and a chance to take some classes at the community college,” he said.

So the prospect of packing up and moving to central Iowa did not appeal to him, he said.

“I wasn’t thrilled about moving to Ames, but academically it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Hess said.

By the time Hess graduates from Ames High School in the spring, he will have earned more than 18 college credits and completed more than a year of internships, he said.

“It all started when I talked to Dr. (Mike) Avise,” Hess said.

When Hess was placed in a freshman study hall upon arrival at Ames High School because the sophomore study halls were full, he looked for ways to avoid becoming even further disgruntled.

Avise recommended that Hess look into the school’s Extended Learning Program.

With the help of the ELP staff, support from Industrial Technology teacher Kent Jahn and the encouragement of some upperclassmen, Hess learned he could enroll in classes at Iowa State University to pursue his interest in computer programming while gaining college credits.

“I’ve been interested in computer programming since seventh grade,” he said, recalling the time he was home from school sick for several days and became so bored he started looking at “how-to” YouTube videos about Python, a widely used general-purpose programming language.

“I guess I was Inspired by my dad, who always tells me to put time to a good use, and my uncle, who’s a professional computer programmer who uses Python from time to time,” he said.

While taking Computer Science 227 at ISU, Hess applied for and was chosen for an internship with ISU’s Institute for Transportation, or InTrans. His work focused on writing a computer program to visualize traffic data.

“With a hobby-level background in coding and what I learned in  Comps Sci 227, I wrote a program to convert thousands of lines of data into 3D graphics,” he said.

The program got noticed not just by leaders at InTrans, but also by a lead software engineer at the Iowa Department of Transportation, Hess said.

Hess, who has decided to pursue a mechanical engineering major at ISU, says Ames HIgh School does a good job preparing students for higher education.

“Open campus and free periods, and taking classes at a major university has really helped me in managing time and being responsible and self-motivated,” he said. “If you want to push yourself academically, there are countless numbers of opportunities.”

Read about Jacob Hess in The Ames Tribune

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Blanket drive helps Edwards students learn about giving

Second grade students at Edwards Elementary School collected 53 new and gently used blankets to help keep Ames citizens warm this winter.

Teacher Terri Boeding said the project, now in its second year, helps students learn the value of giving to others.

“We want students to learn to be compassionate and to care for people in need,” she said.

Boeding said since classrooms are full of students from all backgrounds who celebrate various holidays, teachers and students looked for a way to promote generosity while still being sensitive to a differing customs and beliefs.

“A basic human need of keeping warm during cold weather led us to this cause,” she said.

Teachers also wanted to respect the wide range of students’ families’ financial situations, Boeding said.

“So we welcomed new or used blankets,” she said. “Many students brought in clean comforters, baby blankets or throws from home, while others purchased new ones”.image002

Students say the blanket drive gave their families a chance to work together in the spirit of giving.

Brayden Crosser, for example, said he helped his grandmother make a blanket for the project.

“I wanted to make a blanket to give to the homeless people of Ames and do a project with my grandma,” he said.

Ian Helgersen said when he told his family about the blanket drive and how he wanted to help people who didn’t have warm homes, his family responded generously.

“I went to Target with my family and we bought three blankets,” he said.

Sophia Kyveryga said, “I told my mom that I wanted to get a blanket to give to the homeless people of Ames.  We bought one from TJ Max.”

Sophia’s mother, Natalia Rogovska, was so grateful, she sent an email to Boeding thanking her for “teaching our kids to be compassionate.”

Edwards second grade teachers are Boeding, Kelly Hansen and Heather Werner.

Boeding said the blankets were delivered to Youth and Shelter Services.

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Iowa releases new school report card

A new web-based tool that gives a snapshot of every Iowa public school’s performance on certain educational measures became available to the public, Wednesday, Dec. 16.

The Iowa School Report Card scores schools on up to eight educational measures that include student attendance and Iowa Assessment performance, and then assigns an overall rating to each school. The Iowa School Report Card website explains the measures, methodology and rankings in more detail.

While this information can add to conversations in the Ames community about how we’re preparing our students for success, these measures are based on limited data, Associate Superintendent Mandy Ross said.

“As we know from other accountability initiatives such as the federal No Child Left Behind Act, labels and ratings do not tell the whole story about our schools,” Ross said.

Each school in the District uses a variety of data to track how students are progressing and to adjust instruction and professional development for better results, Ross said.

“These data show our students consistently score above the local, state and national averages,” Ross said.

Compared to global peers, Ames students also score well, Ross said. Last year, randomly selected 15-year-old Ames High School students who took the OECD test—an international test of science, mathematics and reading skills—out-scored all the other high-performing Iowa high schools that participated, and scored toe-to-toe with global powerhouses like Singapore, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. Among international peers, only Shanghai’s scores surpassed Ames’ scores.

Superintendent Tim Taylor said Ames students also benefit from the District’s “depth and diversity in all the areas that help students succeed.”

“We have the right balance of expertise, strategies and community support to provide individualized instructional strategies for our students, supported by an array of fine arts and extracurricular programming and athletic opportunities set in the rich culture of our community,” Taylor said.

Earlier this month, the national school ranking organization Niche selected Ames Community School District as the number one district in the state of Iowa for the second year in a row, based on student demographics, teacher/staff qualifications, and student test scores.

Ross said principals are sending messages to their families to tell more about success stories and school improvement efforts in their schools.

“We  invite you to ask questions about our improvement efforts, and find out what you can do to support our district, its teachers and its students,” she said.

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NICHE.com ranks Ames the best school district in Iowa again

For the second year in a row, NICHE.com has ranked Ames Community School District the best school district in Iowa.

The composite ranking includes No. 1 rankings for

Ames High School

Ames Middle School

Our elementary schools are ranked Number 1-4 and 7.

The 2016 Best School Districts ranking provides a comprehensive assessment of the overall experience of a school district. This grade takes into account key factors such as the strength of academics, quality of teachers, school resources, the quality of student life, as well as student and parent reviews, in an attempt to measure the overall excellence of the district.

At the time of calculation, NICHE’s database contained records for 12,153 school districts. School districts were not included in the ranking process if they did not have sufficient data. The final ranking results in 10,563 school districts receiving a grade, with 10,488 of those also receiving a numerical ranking.

Read more on NICHE’s methodology.

Read more in The Ames Tribune

 

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