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Articles from December 2019

December 21st through January 5th


There will be no classes December 21st through January 5th, as students and staff enjoy winter break. Classes will resume Monday, January 6th. 
School & District Offices will be closed 

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Equity Audit: Ames High School and Ames Middle School (2018-2019)

Equity Audit: Ames High School and Ames Middle School (2018-2019)

Equity Audit

Why this report now?

In the fall of 2016, Dr. Daniel Spikes, then a professor at Iowa State University, was asked to collaborate with the Ames Community School District (ACSD) to address racial disparities in educational outcomes. More specifically, district leadership wanted to provide professional development to its educational staff to equip them with tools to mitigate racism and racial disparities at the school. As a result, Dr. Spikes partnered with ISU professor Dr. Katy Swalwell, who also has expertise in equity-focused educator preparation. Together, they developed and implemented a three-year equity-focused professional development initiative. At the time of this equity audit, the partnership is beginning its third year. 

In the second year of the PD initiative, as part of the learning process, attendees were asked to complete a building-level equity audit for their respective schools. During this learning process, district leadership believed this would be a valuable tool and a natural progression in helping to identify and address some of the racial and other disparities that existed within the district’s schools. Thus, the district asked Katy and Daniel if they would be willing to work with them to conduct equity audits for their schools. They agreed to begin with the middle school and high school and work together with the district on plans for the other schools. Katy and Daniel asked Erin Meek to join them in conducting the audit and writing up the report. This report details our findings from the equity audit conducted at Ames High School.

What can this report tell us?

Equity audits are tools that can be utilized to evaluate the level of equity or inequity that exists within a school building. This tool allows one to audit schooling practices (e.g., school disciplinary practices, teacher placement, student placement); student programming (e.g., gifted and talented programs, special education,extracurricular activities); school demographics (e.g., diversity of staff); and student achievement and attainment (student performance on standardized tests and AP exams; student matriculation and dropout data).

As mentioned, professional development participants were asked to conduct an equity audit of their respective schools as part of the learning process during the second year of the PD initiative. They were asked to collect data in each of the areas described in the paragraph above, utilizing the equity audit template recommended by Elise M. Frattura and Colleen A. Capper in their book Leading for Social Justice: Transforming Schools for All Learners (Corwin Press, 2007). We then used their audits as a starting point to begin our own audit of the school.

From there, Erin Meek met with the current Ames principal and the district’s Data Assessment Coordinator to verify the existing data and to gain access to relevant data systems to pull the additional data needed to complete the report. Throughout this data verification and collection process, Erin frequently communicated with district personnel to ask clarifying questions and to validate the data retrieved. Once all available data were collected, we met one final time with relevant district personnel to ask any remaining questions to ensure that: 1) we had access to all available data, 2) we had properly navigated district data systems to retrieve information used to populate the equity audit template, and 3) the data were accurate.

Therefore, the data in this report are a combination of self-reported data and data retrieved from district data systems and can tell us at a foundational level, whether equity or inequity exists in terms of numbers. In other words, equity is only measured on the data made available and is mostly evaluated in terms of adequate and proportionate representation. For example, if Black students represent 10% of the student population but only 5% of those who are in gifted and talented programs, then this would be considered inequitable. Conversely, if students who are on free or reduced-price lunch represent 20% of the student population and 20% of those who are suspended from school, then that is considered equitable. This evaluation process is explained in further detail in the actual report. Of note, there are a couple of instances where we measure equity beyond proportionate representation. We clarify when that is the case.

Finally, we utilized our experiences and understanding of the research literature to interpret our findings and provide recommendations for further action. In other words, based on the findings, we offer likely causes of the inequities and possible solutions to redressing them, based on our experiences working with other schools and school districts and based on our knowledge of the published empirical evidence. These causes and solutions are written from an asset-based perspective because the literature supports that the disparities evident in many of our findings can often be attributable to inequitable structures and practices within schools and are not necessarily a result of student background, ability, or behaviors i.e., a deficit-based view. Also, an educator who holds an asset-based view does not place blame on students and families when disparities exist but instead, assumes responsibility for these inequities and explores the ways in which schools create and perpetuate inequity in an attempt to disrupt it.

What can this report not tell us?

While this report provides some valuable numeric data, as stated, the equity audit team were only able to provide data that were available. In some instances, some of the needed data were not available (i.e., not collected by school or district-level personnel and/or not captured by available systems). We highlight some of those instances in our report and provide recommendations for further action.

Additionally, this report measures equity at a fairly foundational level. Although these numbers provide a useful starting point, they do not always tell the entire story. Other qualitative data like interview or focus group data from students, staff and community members, along with observational data, could yield additional insight into the degree of inequity that exists within the school.

Ames High School Equity Audit (2018-2019 School Year)

Ames Middle School Equity Audit (2018-2019 School Year)

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PBIS at Edwards Elementary

PBIS Edwards

When students are learning how to read, add, or how to spell, we teach them. That same principle must apply to how students behave throughout the day at school. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a “philosophy intended to guide the behavioral support and social culture needed for all students in a school to achieve social, emotional, and academic success.” It is a school-wide framework that focuses on the positive things that students are doing. This is an examination of what that looks like at Edwards Elementary School. 

School discipline has traditionally responded to specific student misbehavior by implementing punishment-based strategies that may include reprimands, loss of privileges, and office referrals. This approach, especially when applied inconsistently and without other positive strategies, is proven to be ineffective. With PBIS, consequences will still occur, but are not the focus; teaching expected behavior and rewarding those behaviors consistently is the focus. PBIS looks to establish a climate in which safe and appropriate behavior is the norm. 

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All-State Music 2019

All State Music

Congratulations to the 28 Ames High musicians who were selected to participate in the 2019 Iowa All-State Music Festival. District Auditions for the 279-piece all-state band, 227-piece all-state orchestra, and 601-member all-state chorus were held on Saturday, October 26, 2019. Approximately 17% of the students who audition are selected for membership in the All-State ensembles. The 2019 Festival will celebrate the 73rd anniversary of this prestigious event and will take place on Saturday, November 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Hilton Coliseum. 

Band All-State Accepted:

Sarah Song, Clarinet (orchestra)

Kayley Helmer, 1st Clarinet

Sofyia Palasyuk, 1st Clarinet

Jerry Han, 2nd Clarinet

Kai Johnson, 3rd Clarinet

Carl Balvanz, Bass Clarinet

Lillie Kennedy, Bassoon (orchestra)

Madelyn Timmermans, 2nd Trumpet

Avery Suza, Trumpet 1st /2nd – (orchestra)

Kailyn Thompson, 1st Horn

Isabelle Anderson, 3rd Horn

Ling Bai, 4th Horn

Anna Cullinan, 5th Horn (orchestra)

Mario Napolitano, Trombone

Nitzan Friedberg, Tuba

Ava Chopskie, Percussion

Erik Paskach, Percussion (orchestra)

Orchestra All-State Accepted & Alternates:

Angelina Chen – Violin I

Amy Guan – Violin I

Daniel Lee – Violin I

David Lee – Violin II

Carter Peterson – Cello

Arianna Williams-Suarez– Cello


Madison Vandewater – Alternate Viola 2

Ellie Barry – Alternate Cello 1

Aileen Laubach – Alternate Cello 2

Choir All-State Accepted

Zoe Mamakos – Soprano

Cassidy Peterson – Alto

Adam Wolf – Tenor

Jackson Bryant – Bass

Ana Yam – Piano

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Chad Zmolek named NFHS Iowa Boys Soccer Coach of the Year

Coach Z graphic

Long-time Ames High boys soccer coach was named the National Federation of High School (NFHS) Coaches Association’s Iowa Boys Soccer Coach of the Year. This recognition honors coaches for significant achievement in their sport throughout their careers. Nominees for boys’ sports in Iowa are selected by each sport’s respective state coaches association and is approved by the Iowa High School Athletic Association.

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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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Ames High Science Teacher Mike Todd receives the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST)

Mike Todd PAEMST

Four Iowa educators including Ames High science teacher Mike Todd, have been named recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

Teachers are selected based on their distinction in the classroom and dedication to improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Todd was a state finalists in 2017. 

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Auto Repair: from DMACC to the Garage

Auto Repair: from DMACC to the Garage

Auto Repair graphic

For much of last summer, senior Matthew Blitvich’s rust damaged Mazda Miata took up the majority of his parents’ garage. With the clear coat starting to peel and fade, Blitvich was committed to fixing it up on his own. During his junior year, he enrolled in Auto Collison, a class offered to Ames High students through the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). His motivation was simple: “If I did a good job at DMACC, then I could just paint it myself.”

Blitvich enjoys working on cars but understood the complexity and art of painting an automobile. The DMACC class spent much of the first semester on body repair. Students were given fenders to fix up by taking the dents and gashes out of. “The second semester we started painting and did around 3 colors per fender, then one custom paint job as the last one.” The last project was to paint and build a child’s peddle car. This was when Matt tested out the color he wanted for his Miata.

Equipped with the knowledge and courage to take it on himself, he jacked up his car and started taking it apart. First were the tires, then the bumpers, hood, trunk, doors, and mirrors. After sanding it down to the bare metal and original primer, he filled in the dents and cuts and welded the body to fit fender flares. Next was priming and painting. To create an effective and functional paint booth, he hung sheets of plastic around his car using PVC pipes and furnace filters and an old fan for ventilation. With the knowledge gained from his DMACC class, he was able to use the correct technique for both painting and the clear coat. Once everything was dried, he reassembled the car he always desired. 

Matt funded this project on his own by working for The Cafe and detasseling throughout the summer. Proudly, his mother Helen said, “We don’t own a paint booth and we weren’t going to buy one either so Matthew built his own paint booth.” They did contribute just over $300 of the $4,100 total project bill. For both his parents, that contribution was worth the price of watching initiative and follow-through from their son. Matt sees auto repair as a hobby, but also as a back-up plan. He currently plans to pursue Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University next year. 

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Fifteen Ames High Students named Semifinalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program


National Merit Semifinalists

On September 11, 2019, officials of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced the names of approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 65th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These individuals have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth about $31 million that will be offered next spring. 

Ames High School had fifteen students achieve Semifinalists status this year. To become a Finalist according to the NMSC, the Semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT® scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test. Congratulations to these students!

Ames High School Semifinalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program:

  • Jinal Amin
  • Silvia Aydinyan
  • Lara Baker
  • Jason Chen
  • Oliver Chen
  • Hannah Huang
  • David Kim
  • Yijin Kim
  • Victoria Kyveryga
  • Erik Nelson
  • Mitchell Oh
  • Connor Schroeder
  • Jasper Shogren-Knaak
  • Sarah Song
  • Simeon Steward
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