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Articles in Teaching and Learning Updates

Iowa Department of Education releases new school performance results

Iowa School Performance Profiles

On December 18, 2018, the Iowa Department of Education released new online reports showing how public schools performed in a new accountability system that meets the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a federal education law that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act.

The new reports, called the Iowa School Performance Profiles, include each school’s scores on a set of accountability measures. The reports display scores based on a school’s overall performance, as well as the performance of subgroups of students, such as children from low-income backgrounds. The scores reflect how public schools performed on a set of core accountability measures, such as results on the statewide assessment. The tool displays a school’s score based on overall performance, as well as scores based on the performance of subgroups of students. These subgroups include students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, students receiving special education services, English learners, and students from racial/ethnic minority groups.

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Critical Consciousness: Year Two

Critical Consciousness

Understanding and developing tools to address oppression, implicit bias, and deficit thinking are at the heart of what Drs. Daniel Spikes and Katy Swalwell are hoping to accomplish as they enter their second of three years of critical consciousness training with Ames CSD staff. This year, the work is expanding beyond principals and including instructional coaches and other staff in each building. Next year, administrators, under the guidance of Spikes and Swalwell, will roll out the training to all staff.

In the training, Spikes and Swalwell define a critically conscious person as one who is able to reflect on and take action in the world in order to make it more equitable and just. To make that academic definition more applicable to everyday life, it’s being able to recognize when inequity exists and knowing what steps to take that help address the issue.

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Mental Health Conference 2018

Mental Health Conference

On November 15, the Ames CSD hosted a mental health conference at Ames High that was free to families, students, and educators in the Ames community and surrounding areas. The conference served as a great way to help educate the community on a variety of issues and to connect them with available resources.

The conference was a partnership with District schools, Story County Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, and The Cameron Carico +10 Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “Promote happy and healthy students and families in central Iowa through suicide prevention and mental health education.”

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Collaborative Proactive Solutions

Collaborative Proactive Solutions

If a student is having difficulties in the area of math, no teacher would ever attribute that to the student not wanting to understand the subject. They would simply need additional resources to help them learn the concepts and to practice it. Principal Steve Flynn and his staff at Meeker Elementary are applying that principle to behavior as well based on the book Lost and Found: Helping Behaviorally Challenging Students (and, While You’re At It, All the Others) by Ross W. Greene.

“It really is a paradigm shift to how we address behavior within our school. It goes away from the traditional notion that students will do well if they want to do well, and instead suggests that students will do well if they can,” says Flynn. Last year, Flynn saw that traditional discipline was having a limited impact on students because they were being punished without a gameplan on how to equip students to manage their behavior. “We often assume that behavior is a student choice, so we think we need to come up with a bigger punishment.” Without educating students, the behavior and frustration only continues.

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Reading Portraits

Reading Portraits

Genya Coffey and her 1st grade colleagues at Sawyer Elementary are taking time to teach students how to read portraits. “Reading portraits is a great introduction to several important first grade skills such as making careful observations and drawing inferences based on evidence. Using visual literacy makes these skills accessible to every student regardless of their current reading level.”

After comparing and contrasting dozens of portraits with partners and reflecting as a whole group, students constructed a working definition of portrait, then began considering where portraits can be found. Students discovered that they can be found just about anywhere. Next, students dug into identifying common elements that can be observed in portraits to help describe them.  

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Ames High Career Fair 2018

AHS Career Fair

On Wednesday, October 10, the entire student body at Ames High participated in a full day career fair. This year’s event came on the heels of one held last academic school year in February 2018. Prior to that, it had been nearly 15 years since Ames High hosted a career fair.

This year’s event expanded on the efforts from last year, which only served the freshman class. The organizational team led by Ames High Business Teacher Vicki Hales, quickly realized that all students at Ames High would benefit from career exposure. “There are more and more students leaving Ames High without having a clear idea of what they want to do. Getting them more exposure to potential career opportunities that they can further explore is valuable as we better prepare them for what lies ahead.” Recent Iowa legislation also emphasizes the importance of providing all students with ongoing and meaningful experiences to explore career options and help them navigate these choices for their future.

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Paul Gorski Talks Equity with Teachers

Paul Gorski Talks Equity with Teachers

On August 20, the Ames CSD held its annual “Kick-Off Breakfast” for all teachers and staff at Ames Middle School, with Paul Gorski serving as the keynote speaker. Gorski is the founder of Equity Literacy Institute and EdChange. He has 20 years of experience helping educators strengthen their equity efforts in classrooms, schools, and districts. He has published more than 70 articles and has written, co-written, or co-edited twelve books on various aspects of educational equity including Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap and Case Studies on Diversity and Social Justice Education.

Gorski was selected to keynote as a way to further deepen the District’s equity work that started last year with Dr. Katy Swalwell from Iowa State University, and Dr. Daniel Spikes. Their professional development with teachers will continue this year in the area of cultural competency. Talking about equity, or lack thereof, is a difficult topic for many people. “Equity is the process of wrestling with cognitive dissonance,” he said during his keynote, meaning that each individual must challenge what they hold as facts. According to Gorski, only then can we address equity.

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Little Cyclone Teacher Academy 2018

Little Cyclone Teacher Academy

The second annual Little Cyclone Teacher Academy (LCTA) took place from August 6-10 at Ames High School. Teacher on Special Assignment Lisa Clayberg, who is also the Teacher Leader Coordinator, said, “The idea originated last year from being able to provide in-house professional learning for our teacher leaders outside of contract time. However, we quickly realized that any educator could benefit from multiple learning opportunities.”

The LCTA quickly opened to all staff across the district, including administrators and Educational Assistants. This year, 30 different courses were offered to staff, up from 21 a year ago. The courses covered a range of topics that include understanding behaviors in the classroom, work based learning, dyslexia, assessing students with disabilities, and professional learning committees, among many others.

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Summit on School Climate and Culture

Summit on School Climate and Culture

On August 13 -14, over 50 Ames CSD staff attended the 3rd Annual Summit on School Climate and Culture. The event is put on by Des Moines Public Schools and “is designed help educators improve school climate and culture through professional development, skill building and application of best practices and research.” The event allows educators to “engage with leading experts in education and school improvement on how a positive school climate and culture is key to student, school and district improvements.”

Director of Student Services Dr. Anthony Jones, said, “The Summit is important for us because I believe the topics (Climate, Culture, Inclusion, and Equity) discussed there address a missing piece of professional learning for our district’s success.”

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Ames CSD Ranked Best District in the State for 6th Consecutive Year by Niche

Niche Graphic for Blog

Niche recently released their 2019 K-12 Rankings of the best schools in the country. For the sixth consecutive year, the Ames Community School District has been ranked as the #1 district in the State of Iowa, with Ames High School also receiving the #1 ranking for the fourth year in a row.

The Ames CSD earned this ranking through key factors such as strength of academics, quality of teachers, school resources, as well as student and parent reviews. The statistical data used in this ranking was obtained from the U.S. Department of Education and then analyzed by Niche’s team of data scientists to create the 2019 rankings.

The Niche 2019 K-12 Rankings are based on rigorous analysis of academics and student life data along with test scores, college data, and ratings collected from millions of Niche users. Their wide-ranging data allows them to provide a comprehensive suite of rankings across all school types.

Thank you to our students and staff for continuing to make the Ames Community School District the best in the state. We’re very proud of our long tradition of excellence, and we’re confident that the upcoming school year will continue that tradition.

Learn more about the methodology of the Niche rankings on their website.

https://www.niche.com/k12/rankings/methodology/

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