Elementary principals talk about new report cards

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Staff Writer
Jennifer Edwards
Principals Caryl Gordy and Tim Schochenmaier and Assistant Principals Theresa Smock-Potter and Andrew Sawatzke reported on Big Lakes’ elementary schools, Independence and Liberty, at the last board meeting.
Among the changes are new report cards which give parents more information on how their students are doing.
“A four means the students understand the work,” said Schochenmaier. “But a four is not an A. It includes a lot of assesssment data and shows areas of growth and need.”
“It gives a lot of information, said parent and School Board Member Amber Sixberry. “I like it.”
The staff at both schools are working hard to create common assessments for student growth in subject areas.
“We do need whole days for staff development,” said Director of Teaching and Learning Crystal Thorson.
The principals asked for one more day at the beginning of the year for student reading assessments.
“This is just one more step in a full-scale reading reform,” Thorson said. “We are creating a balanced literacy framework.”
The plan includes offering extended reading classes for those who are struggling and will be paid for out of funds set aside for targeted services. To date, targeted services have only included summer school. “We are just expanding on how we could be utilizing targeted services funds. We do need the right teachers who believe they can make a difference,” said Gordy.
The board approved the 2014-15 school calendar at its first presentation.
 While board members demurred over staff development days, they applauded the calendar, which has no late starts or early release days.
“We need more time to digest more data,” said principal Glenn Evans.
“This is the best calendar I have seen so far,” said Board Member Tony Scales. The extra staff development day is scheduled for Nov. 7, the day before the deer hunting opener.
“We typically have more absences that day than on any other,” said Evans. “That is why we picked it. The value of it is it makes teachers more effective in the classroom.”
Board Members Dan Nygaard and Mark Hedstrom said they did not want to lose student contact days.
“It is a matter of quality versus quantity,” said Thorson.
“It’s like a pilot with a new plane,” said Finance Director Angie Manual. “Not taking the time to look at the data is like driving in the dark with your lights off.”
“We would not have the results we do if we didn’t take the time for our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs),” said Thorson. ”We actually gained six weeks from doing the reading assessments at the beginning of the year.”

photos


Franklin F. Kemp

TYLER HUVER had fun with playdough at the Big Lake School District Early Childhood open house last month. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards.)

GRAY AREAS indicate counties that are not currently part of an RDC. (Submitted chart.)

SOLDIERS LETTERS. The Minnesota Military Veterans Family Tribute (MFT) project is seeking items of correspondence from Sherburne County veterans from the Civil War through today for possible inclusion on the Story Stone each county will have on the memorial now under construction on the State Capitol Mall in St. Paul. The photo depicts an artist's rendition of the material to be etched on the stones, one for each of the 87 counties in the state.