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Articles in Curriculum Updates

Social Emotional Learning (SEL): Curriculum Adoption / Feedback

SEL Curriculum Adoption

Over the past year, the Ames Community School District has been exploring different options for a social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum for K-12 adoption. A team made up of staff from across the district was assembled to develop core values that were then assigned to the different curriculum options to determine the most viable option. After narrowing down the SEL curriculum options, the SEL team met with two different providers and have determined the one that aligns best with the district’s mission, priorities, and task force core values. 

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Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action (February 1-5, 2021)

Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action

During the week of February 1-5, classrooms across the District will engage in the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, a 5-day guide to expand student understanding of the Black Lives Matter at School Principles.  

Why is the Ames CSD participating in the Black Lives Matter at School national week of action?

The Black Lives Matter at School movement, which is not formally affiliated with the Black Lives Matter Global Network or any other organization in the Movement for Black Lives, is a push to improve schools for Black students, teachers, and families. The movement is a call to schools across the nation to say and show that Black lives matter within the school walls and in the policies and practices that impact the lives and futures of Black students. The Week of Action is a time set aside to affirm all Black identities by centering Black voices, empowering students, and teaching about Black experiences beyond slavery. 

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Better Together at Ames Middle School

Better Together

In January 2019, Yonas Michael began his current role as the head principal of Ames Middle School, a position that allowed him to return to Ames after spending time in Maryland to be with his family. Superintendent Risner entrusted him with the mission of strengthening the culture and achievement at Ames Middle School at a time of great transition in the building.

As a school leader, a top commitment is to improve student learning. But before jumping into student achievement data, examining the current culture of the building is paramount. “You can have all of the great structures in place. You can hire the best teachers, you can have the best materials and best programs, but if the culture isn’t right or healthy in the building, then none of those things are going to be successful,” said Michael. 

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Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) 2019

ISASP

The Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) is the new state-wide assessment that replaced the former Iowa Assessments. Developed by Iowa Testing Programs at the University of Iowa for the state of Iowa, students in grades 3-11 took the new tests for the first time in spring 2019. School-level results were released by the Department of Education to schools, parents and other stakeholders in November 2019. 

According to the Department of Education, the “assessments are aligned with the Iowa Core standards and provide a clear and accurate assessment of student learning outcomes.” ISASP better reflects what is being taught in Iowa classrooms and how students are progressing toward grade-level expectations outlined in Iowa’s academic standards. 

Because this is a new and different test for students, results reset the baseline for student performance and should not be compared to previous years. The Department of Education also notes that because the new state test is more aligned to Iowa’s academic standards, it is more challenging. 

Student performance on the ISASP is scored in three ways: Advanced, Proficient, and Not Yet Proficient. A committee of 185 Iowa educators met for five days in July 2019 to determine recommended performance levels or cut scores, which define the range of scores for each of the three categories. English language arts and math tests were given to students in grades 3 through 11, while science tests were given in grades 5, 8 and 10. 

Results will be used to report to parents and communities, to help guide instruction, and to assist us in our school improvement planning. The test results also will be applied to Iowa’s school accountability system required under federal law. 

In Ames, 75.23% of students scored in the proficient and advanced ranges on the English language arts assessment, 75.9% in mathematics, and 65.22% in science. On the English test, the percentage of proficient students increases as students enter middle and high school. Wide disparities exist across all grade levels in the three test areas when those scores are broken down by race or students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. 

We have provided a breakdown of the data in all three tests in the PDF files below. For more information about ISASP, visit: http://iowa.pearsonaccessnext.com/

ISASP English Language Arts 2018-2019 Results

ISASP Math 2018-2019 Results

ISASP Science 2018-2019 Results

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Elementary Reading: FUNdations and Reading Units of Study

10 Elementary Reading

After an extensive review process including feedback and input from staff, students, and community members, Ames CSD purchased the research-based Reading Units of Study for all EK-5th grade classrooms. Reading Units of Study utilizes a reading workshop model where students spend significant time reading books of their choice and writing about those books. Students also learn with teachers in one on one conferences as well as in small group instructional teams. Finally, collaborative and sharing opportunities are built into the reading workshop.  

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Executive Directors of Curriculum Announced

Executive Directors

The Ames Community School District is excited to announce Dr. Jeff Hawkins as the new Executive Director of Secondary Education, and Dr. Chad Dumas as Executive Director of Elementary Education. Both are new positions as part of a district office reorganization that will provide a more focused approach to aligning curriculum efforts across the District.

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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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