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Articles from December 2016

Update on pilot of literacy materials

Finishing first round of piloting materials

We are finishing our first wave of the K-2 Word Study Team Foundational Skills Materials Pilot. As pilot teachers finish their first round of piloting materials, their students will have been given a short assessment to check for learning growth. In January, teams of teachers, administrators, coaches, and TOSAs will collaboratively score their assigned materials using the rubric adapted from the Florida Center for Reading Research. Teachers, administrators, coaches, and TOSAs will also complete a survey to reflect on their experiences with their first set of materials.

The next round of materials will be distributed after winter break. Teachers will have a short training with someone from the company that publishes each of the pilot materials. Then, as was the case during the first round, Curriculum Department staff will provide weekly support opportunities for all pilot teachers.

Clarifying the pilot recommitment process

The Curriculum Department staff, along with Dr. Deborah Reed, as well as board members Tim Rasmussen and Alisa Frandsen who serve on the Board’s Teaching & Learning Committee, met with Fellows parents at the request of their PTO co-presidents. One of the questions raised was whether there was a way for students or teachers to opt-out of the pilot. At the time of the meeting, there was not a plan for opting out.

After hearing questions and concerns from those in attendance, Curriculum Department staff met to generate ideas based on what they heard. Teaching & Learning Committee members were also included in this meeting since they were at the Fellows parent meeting. The question about opting out was discussed at length. The group discussed having each building recommit to the pilot process; if the building chose not to recommit, their data would be excluded and they opted out of the decision-making process.

The recommendation was that this discussion be moved to the elementary principals’ meeting on December 1 for further discussion. At that meeting, the four elementary principals who attended agreed to recommit to the pilot by 4 p.m. on Monday, December 5. The timeline was necessary to be able to communicate with the Iowa Reading Research Center as collaborators in the data collection process. A member of the Curriculum Department reached out to the principal who was absent from the meeting, to ensure all buildings had accurate information about the recommitment.

Four out of the five elementary buildings recommitted to the pilot process. However, late morning on December 5, Fellows elected not to recommit to the pilot. While this is unfortunate in terms of a District-wide pilot that engages the voices of teachers from each of our schools, we are confident that the extensive data collection being done with the support of the Iowa Reading Research Center will help the District make a student-centered decision based on the experiences of the pilot teachers and the rest of the team involved in this pilot.

The Ames Community School District has routinely used pilots when choosing curriculum materials for nearly 30 years. The pilot process allows teachers to use instructional materials to determine whether or not they are the best choice for Ames students. Piloting of instructional materials is common practice in the educational landscape. However, this particular pilot has had unprecedented attention. For that reason, we sought the assistance and expertise of the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC) at the request of a small group of parents. The IRRC has been an amazing partner in helping us refine our pilot design and collecting data to make well-informed decisions at the pilot’s conclusions.

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Student leads effort to collect coins for Blank Children’s Hospital

girl holding coin collectionRaising $10,000 for Blank Children’s Hospital on her own got 11-year-old Grace McCunn thinking about what the experience taught her.

“I learned a dollar helps more than you think, and every little bit really does help,” she said. McCunn said she also learned that most people want to help if they know an actual need exists.

Now the sixth grade student at Ames Middle School hopes to get her peers involved so they can learn, too.

McCunn said when she was a patient at Blank Children’s Hospital, she discovered the need for books, games and toys for children her age.

“The variety of things available was limited, and they were more for much younger children,” she said.

Over the past couple of years, Grace has sold hot chocolate in winter and lemonade in summer, catching the attention of adults who sponsored her efforts with sizable sums to donate to the cause.

Although McCunn was told that a $10,000 donation is enough to get her name on a plaque at the hospital, she hopes to raise at least $2,000 more.

“I want so see how much students can raise just by collecting coins in homeroom,” she said.

Students at Ames Middle School are collecting coins in homeroom December 5 through 16.

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Sawyer students honor local veterans

Veterans at Sawyer School

Barry Romitti, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, speaks to Sawyer Elementary students on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

Local veterans say they were deeply honored by a ceremony fifth grade students at Sawyer Elementary School organized to honor them for their service.  

The school treated veterans to a breakfast followed by a ceremony and choral presentation of patriotic music, Wednesday, Nov. 9.

Veteran Richard Maurer said, “This is awesome. Because the kids are interested. We like sharing what we did. I think it will help them grow.”

Maurer said the veterans, who each shared their service record, experience, and philosophy of life, tried to “get across that  students need to get a good education.”

“The future just doesn’t hand you stuff,” he said. “You have to work hard and earn it.”

Students said they realized “Veterans are cool. “They do different jobs.” “They had to work and study hard to learn to serve our country.”

Fifth grade teacher Brett Fuller worked with American Legion Post 37 to organize the event, with the aim of engaging students with history, social studies and intergenerational learning.

“This event serves as an excellent learning opportunity for our students to develop a deeper understanding of why we celebrate Veterans Day,” Fuller said. “It will also help them to recognize that we have many veterans who live right here in our community.”

After the ceremony, veterans joined the students in their classrooms to answer questions. The guests toured the newly renovated Sawyer building.

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Girls swim and dive team state champions again

The Little Cyclones’ girls swim and dive team’s sixth state swimming championship in seven years came together Nov. 4 and 5 when the team won four events and broke state records at the YMCA in Marshalltown.

Ames was favored to win its second title in a row and sixth since 2010, despite being forced to train in an alternate facility for a period of time when its pool was out of commission requiring repairs.

Coach Dan Flannery told the Ames Tribune the team could have lost its edge, but is too solid as a unit to make excuses.

“We just took advantage of our opportunities and scored more points than anybody else,” he said.

The team became just the seventh team ever to score more than 350 points in a state meet, shattering an old record in the medley relay and  setting another record in the 400 freestyle relay.  

Read the full story in the Ames Tribune.


AHS Girls Swim team

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Congratulations to student musicians accepted to All-State

Hours of practice, lessons, support from parents and instructors, and a love of music have put 34 Ames High School students in the spotlight for next month’s All-State Music Festival. Chris Ewan, director of bands at Ames High School, said the results of All State auditions held this month represent an “extremely high number for any 4A high school in Iowa to achieve.”

“We are honored to have 23 band students, six orchestra students and five vocalists representing the hard work of our students,” Ewan said.

Ewan said about 17 students are selected for every 100 students who audition for the All-State Music Festival, under the auspices of the Iowa High School Music Association and the Iowa Music Educators Association.

The 70th Annual Iowa All-State Festival Concert is 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 in Hilton Coliseum.

Band All-State Accepted & Alternates:

  • Eileen Murray – Flute (orchestra)
  • Maya Chen – 1st Flute
  • Maria Werner Anderson – 2nd  Flute
  • Caleb Kong – 2nd Flute
  • Tianxin Xu – 2nd Flute
  • Kevin Park  – Clarinet (orchestra)
  • Benjamin Moats – 1st Clarinet
  • Grace Lee – 1st Clarinet
  • Ana DiSpirito – 1st  Clarinet
  • Hayden Pritchard – 1st Clarinet
  • Lauren Cassaidy – 2nd Clarinet
  • Lillian Montabon – 2nd Clarinet
  • Neta Friedberg – 2nd Clarinet
  • David Kim – 3rd Clarinet
  • Joshua Zhao –  2st Alto Saxophone
  • David Vigil – 1st Trumpet
  • Nathan Paskach – 1st Cornet
  • David Tarte – 1st Horn
  • Isak Anderson –3rd Horn (orchestra)
  • Adam Eichhorn – 2nd Trombone
  • Channing Che – 3rd Trombone
  • Peter Jaynes – Tuba
  • Dominick McDonald – Percussion
  • Alyssa Romp – Clarinet –1st Alternate
  • Julia White – Alto Saxophone – 2nd Alternate
  • Sam Packard –Tenor Saxophone – 1st Alternate

Orchestra All-State Accepted:

  • Ryan Jeong – Violin I
  • Jana Kim – Violin 1
  • Maddie Tuggle – Violin I
  • Olivia Wong – Violin I
  • Kira Davis – Violin II
  • Grace Kim – Cello

Choir All-State Accepted:

  • Julie Michelle Manohar – Soprano
  • Eily Mickelson – Soprano
  • Natalie Bretey – Alto 
  • Josh Gartin – Bass
  • Andrew Bryant – Bass
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Drama Department presents “The Trouble with Cats”


The Ames High School Drama Department presents Gary Ray Stapp’s, The Trouble With Cats,  a comedy about the generational clash between a conservative middle-aged couple and a pair of millennial vegans double-booked to house sit a Minnesota lakefront home for an entire month. Intrusive neighbors and an all-women construction crew remodeling the master suite for the duration of the house sitters’ stay add to the comedic tension, and all the while, everyone is looking for PJ, the elusive cat.

Showtime is 7:30 p.m.,  Nov. 11 and 12,  in the Ames High School Auditorium.

Tickets are $5 for adults and students ninth grade and over, and $4 for students eighth grade and under.  The show runs a little more than two hours and is rated PG for mature humor.

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Nine students named National Merit Semi-finalists

Nine Ames High School students have been named National Merit Semi-finalists as a result of their scores on the Preliminary SAT / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). These students now have an opportunity to continue in the competition from some 8000 Merit Scholarship awards worth more than $32 million. Semi-finalists are the highest scoring entrants in each state and represent less than one percent of the state’s seniors.

Congratulations to: Marlene Dorneich-Hayes, Morgen Feeley, Neta Friedberg, Jana Kim, Divyesh Kumar, Elanna Neppel, Bailey Sterk, Eric Steyer, and Maria Werner Anderson.

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Students earn perfect scores on college readiness subtests

Congratulate these students who earned perfect scores on one or more college readiness tests.

Fifteen students earned a perfect score of 36 on one or more ACT subtests during the 2015-16 school year. Congratulations to Morgen Feeley, Neta Friedberg, Cameron Madson, Evangeline Scheibe, Samuel Weninger, Eric Steyer, Tifany Chu, Jana Kim, Nathan Chen, Angela Fei, Caroline Paxton, Laurel Tiedeman, Joanna Held, Isabel Mcleod, and Anthony Tang.

Twelve students earned an 800 on one or more SAT subject area tests or SAT subtests during the 2015-16 school year. Congratulations to the following who earned SAT scores of 800.  Tifany Chu, Woo-Young Joo, Jana Kim, Nathan Chen, Hannah Hartmann, Xinyuan Hu, Mattie Kupfer, Aaron Mann, Emily Rehmann, Shaochong Wei, Farouq Ghandour, and Isabel Mcleod.

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“Walk This Way” Campaign to relieve traffic congestion

The City of Ames and students at Ames High School are working to relieve traffic congestion near the high school while 13th Street between the Furman Aquatic Center and Northwestern Avenue is closed for construction.

With no through traffic in the construction zone from September 6th to 27th, with Crescent Street and Ridgewood Avenue closed at 13th Street for both vehicle and pedestrian safety, and with parking and pick-up and drop off lanes at nearby Fellows Elementary School not scheduled to be complete until later in September, the City of Ames offered to open the parking lot at Furman Aquatic Center for remote parking.

Ames High School Student Council leaders launched the “Walk This Way” campaign to encourage students and parents to use the remote parking option. Students will use the shared-use path to walk to the high school from the Furman parking lot. City of Ames staff will turn out for the first week of the “Walk This Way” campaign to cheer students on and provide healthy breakfast snacks like granola bars and fresh fruit.

Use these social media hashtags to help us spread the word #walkthiswayAHS #BringYourAGame #YouthEnergyStrength

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L-R, City of Ames Public Relations Officer Susan Gwiasda, Assistant City Manager Bob Kindred and Civil Engineer Rudy Koester set up healthy breakfast treats on the shared use path leading from Furman Aquatic Center to Ames High School for the “Walk This Way” campaign.

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