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Articles in Teaching and Learning Updates

Department of Education officials talk Iowa Core in Ames

Representatives from the Iowa Department of Education stopped in Ames Tuesday night to deliver a presentation and answer questions regarding the Iowa Core, the state’s academic standards that educators work to help all students achieve.

Erika Cook, chief of the Bureau of Standards and Curriculum in the Division of Learning and Results, offered a presentation that you can see here. 

Iowa Academic Standards Presentation 

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Elementary ESL Pilot Update (December 2017)

For the past two years, Ames Community School District elementary English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers have been learning about the newly-adopted ESL Standards from the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA 21) consortium (more details about ELPA 21 available at

As teachers studied the standards and talked about how to instruct students to meet them, it became clear that the instructional materials that teachers had in their classrooms to teach students were not consistent or aligned with the standards.

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Fundations Professional Development, November 29, 2017

On Wednesday, November 29th, the K-2 teachers met with Wendy Robinson, Heartland Area Education Agency’s literacy consultant, to continue Fundations training at the District Office Boardroom from 2:30pm – 4:00pm. The work began with a quick check across the entire grade level team to share where teachers were in the sequence of lessons, things that were going well, and areas they needed more support to improve their implementation. After this initial sharing, teachers engaged in learning around accurate letter sound pronunciation, improving fidelity in the dictation routines, and sharing effective strategies for using the parent support pack provided in the teacher’s kits. Teachers shared that they appreciated time to share ideas and see a model of the dictation routine in action.

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Fundations Update (November 2017)

Fundations Logo

In June 2017, the Ames Community School District adopted Fundations for phonics instruction in grades K-2. The purpose of this communication is to clarify recent questions about our Fundations implementation.

District staff worked to get Fundations materials ordered and in the hands of classroom teachers as quickly as possible over the summer. During teacher workshop week, K-2 teachers were provided Fundations training with Wendy Robinson from Heartland AEA. Ms. Robinson has received training in Orton-Gillingham instructional programs in addition to her extensive training in linguistics and literacy. Training with Ms. Robinson continues monthly for each grade level to provide ongoing support to our teachers as they learn to use the new program.

Initially, we had planned to have the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC) serve as an external evaluator during Year 1 implementation. Our staff worked with the IRRC to develop a walkthrough plan for building and District administrators to collect implementation data through classroom observation to help make data-driven adjustments in professional development.

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Abilities Assessment Pilot

Abilities Assessment

Abilities Assessment Pilot The week of November 27- December 1, students in the 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades participated in an abilities assessment pilot. The purpose of the pilot is to strengthen the identification process for the Extended Learning Program (ELP) by adding an ability assessment as a piece of culturally-sensitive convergent data.

The purpose of an abilities assessment is to gain an understanding of a student’s thinking and reasoning skills without assessing prior knowledge. The assessments selected were the NNAT3 and the CogAT7, which have been shown to be more culturally sensitive. Students participated in both to more accurately analyze which assessment provides the most valuable information in order to best serve our students.

The Ames CSD is looking to adopt one of these assessments for the 2018-2019 school year. Once implemented next year, the multiple data points obtained will allow schools to gain a more well- rounded picture of student abilities.

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New Fountas & Pinnell Reading Benchmarks

Fountas & Pinnell Graphic

What is the benchmarking assessment that my child takes?

Fountas & Pinnell have developed a Benchmarking Assessment System (BAS) in order to help teachers determine what reading skills your child has mastered and which she/he still needs to learn. In Ames, all K-5 students read aloud all or portions of a text and then engage in a comprehension conversation with the teacher to allow the teacher to better understand how to help the student in a variety of areas, including reading with accuracy and expression, and understanding the meaning of the text. This assessment is administered to all students twice per year.

Fountas & Pinnell have created a 3rd edition of the benchmarking materials which include revised rubrics, texts, teacher prompts, and online capabilities. ACSD purchased this 3rd edition for all elementary buildings as these improvements will allow teachers to more clearly target instruction with each student. Your child’s level may be lower than in the past as the 3rd edition materials are much more rigorous. This drop in levels has been predicted by the publisher and does not indicate that your child’s skills in reading have decreased.   

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Literacy Pilot results will be shared June 12

UPDATED JUNE 12, 2017: The Word Study Team presented its findings to the Teaching and Learning Committee on June 12. Based on the WST recommendations, the Teaching and Learning Committee at a special board meeting June 12 will recommend that the Board approve using Fundations.

The Ames Community School District has concluded a pilot of program materials for kindergarten through second grade teachers to use when providing instruction around foundational skills in reading. The pilot was established after K-2 teacher representatives met in the spring of 2016 and recommended that all K-2 teachers have common materials for Tier 1 instruction across schools in phonics and phonemic awareness.

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Links to video presentations from pilot materials representatives

Thanks to everyone who came to view our video presentations from the representatives for each of our K-2 foundational skills materials pilot programs.

For those who couldn’t attend, we want to share the links to the Fountas & Pinnell Phonics Lessons presentation and the Reach into Phonics presentation. Unfortunately, due to corporate policy, we weren’t allowed to record the Fundations presentation. However, we have included a link to the Fundations website if you want to learn more about these materials.

Fountas & Pinnell Phonics Lessons presentation

Reach into Phonics presentation

Fundations website

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Program representatives will give live video presentations of Literacy Pilot materials

Watch live video presentations 5:15 – 6:15 p.m, Monday, May 8

Representatives from Fountas & Pinnell, Fundations, and Reach into Phonics will provide live video presentations of the Literacy Pilot materials from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m, Monday, May 8. They will give a brief overview of each program and address questions. 

Submit question in advance

To allow the representatives to tailor their presentations to our needs, all questions must be submitted in advance through this survey:

Watch for the video link

We will provide the link to the live video presentation in advance. The video will be archived for future viewing.

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