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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Personnal Agendas and start dates

By now I imagine you've heard that the Governor has directed the Department of Education to stop automatically approving requests for early start dates to our school calendars.  The essence of the directive from the DE Director Buck is this;
Moving forward, the director or director’s designee will only consider a school or school district’s request for a waiver of the school start date if the school or school district has adequately demonstrated that starting on or after the earliest start date specified would have a significant negative educational impact. Each request will be individually reviewed and approved or denied by the director or the director’s designee. 
This action by Director Buck was at the request of Governor Brandstad.   It as been pushed for several years now by business interests at the Iowa State Fair and in the tourism industry.  That lobbying group is interested in attendance at State Fair events,  losing teenage employees at school start and profits.   Only 2 districts in the state chose to open at the mandated start time last year.  Many start as early as the second week in August.  Each district has its own reasons for its calendar dates.  I've always assumed as educators we should have the right to run our school calendar as we see fit for the education process.  Apparently thats not as important so we will abide by the law if we need to, even though it may not be in the best interest of education.

Basically the 1983 law that this is based on sets the mandatory start date as "the Monday of the week in which September 1 falls."  For 2015-16 school year that would be August 31.  I'll be talking about calendar proposals at the January board meetings.  My original plans was to propose calendars with a start date of either Monday Aug. 24 or Wednesday Aug. 20.  I still plan on having those proposals on the table and requesting a waiver if necessary, but will also have the same proposals moved back a week to fit the mandated start date.   If we start on August 31 we will not be done before Memorial day, quite likely we will be in school until Friday June 3.

As always any calendar proposal is subject to a public hearing before a waiver is sought.  In past years we have had very few people comment on our calendars.  I will be including an innovative calendar at the meeting that is designed to provide for more teacher collaboration and student intervention time, but it also lengthens the year by approximately one week.  If you are interested in calendar development for the district you are encouraged to attend this meeting.  A decision on the final calendar won't be made at this meeting, but board and community feedback is expected.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Attendance Matters

I have a subscription to the ISFIS data service that allows comparisons between all kinds of Iowa school data.  Was very interested in the comparison of school districts reading scores compared to their average daily attendance:


The upward slope of that trend line indicates a predictable and significant correlation between higher attendance rates and better reading scores.  This shows 8th grade, but its is consistent across all grades, getting more significant as the years go on.  Getting your kids to school does matter to their success.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Iowa Common Core Resources

Many people have questions and concerns about what is in the Iowa Core.  The Iowa Department of Education has a very good resource for teachers and parents alike to get better acquainted with Iowa Core.  Here is their message:

Parents and the community are key components to students’ academic success. And to that end, there’s a section at IowaCore.gov directed at parents and the community.
Under the Parents and Community tab, there is a parents’ guide providing an overview of what students will learn by the end of each grade as directed by the Iowa Core. The guide not only provides an explanation, but also gives parents an understanding of what is being taught, enabling them to reinforce lessons at home. 
There also is a collection of resources provided by the Iowa Reading Research Center designed to help parents support their children’s educational needs.
In addition to Community Resources there are Educator Resources and the actual standards and essential skills are listed for easy searching.  With these resources, I encourage everyone to check out Iowa Core for yourself.  I think you'll find it a very good resource.