Welcome to my annual address to the school board, staff and community regarding the state of affairs in our organization. I will use this opportunity to share my thoughts on the challenges we face as a school district.
In preparation for tonight’s presentation, I reviewed my comments from last year. You may recall I was a bit harsh in my criticism of state and federal involvement in local education. It troubles me to report my cynicism was well founded. If interested, you can find last year’s comments on the Waupaca School District’s website.
Battles over what we teach and how our efforts will be measured continue to dominate the political scene, leaving school boards, teachers and administrators in a quandary as to how to proceed and whether our efforts and hard work will be valued enough to allow us to maintain our course.
At the same time, the local property taxpayer in Waupaca is being asked to contribute a greater portion of our per student cost while other school districts in Wisconsin, spending much more per student than we do in Waupaca, see local property tax relief in the form of additional state aid.
I will repeat my call for Wisconsin to develop a better funding formula for schools. Property value should become less of a factor and poverty should become more of a factor in a new funding formula. This ongoing trend will be explored further as we get closer to setting a budget for the 2014-15 school year in October.
Two years ago I shared information relative to Wisconsin’s education reform package and how higher expectations will be set for students, educators and schools in the following areas:
• Standards and Instruction – what and how students learn.
• Assessment and Data Systems – how progress will be measured and recorded.
• School and Educator Effectiveness – how the performance of teachers and administrators will be measured.
We are now seeing these expectations manifested in our schools. These initiatives are coming together to create confusion, concern, time management issues, and in some cases, fear. You will recognize some of the program names as I highlight how these expectations are being implemented in our schools.
Under the Standards and Instruction heading – Conversion to Common Core in Math and Reading continues as we add Next Generation Science and Social Studies to the mix. We are using a software package called Build Your Own Curriculum to transition each curriculum.
Under the Assessment and Data Systems heading – Our students, and ultimately our teachers and administrators, will be measured using the Smarter Balanced Assessment instead of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams. It should be pointed out that Bill Gates, the driver behind the Common Core, is urging states to delay testing until the curricula have had a chance to be fully implemented and taught. However, his recommendations fall on deaf ears as we are scheduled to begin testing this year.
To gather the student information necessary to comply with state and federal reporting, it became necessary to shelve our previous student information system – PowerSchool – and implement a new system called Infinite Campus.
Moving student information, along with as much archived data as we can, to the new system has been time consuming and difficult. The learning curve for teachers to be able to use the new system effectively is huge while the time is short.
Under the School and Educator Effectiveness heading – Our administrators and teachers are already immersed in the Educator Effectiveness model using Teachscape software to document their goals, progress and evaluation data. This is a time-consuming model having the potential to improve instruction and student learning. Time will tell.
Challenges continue to dominate our agenda. I believe we have the right personnel and support in place to be successful – no matter how we are measured. I am proud to report our staff continue to do what they do best – improve student learning.
When we monitor academic achievement next month, you will hear how our students have improved their performance and participation rate on the ACT Composite measure on the tests administered in 2014. You will also hear how our school district continues to meet expectations on the School Report Card issued by the Department of Public Instruction.
As we educate every child who walks through our doors, I am convinced our staff will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of the more than 2,200 students who entered our schools this fall.