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Qualitative and Quantitative Research

2 weeks ago, no responses

Submitted by Mr. Paulson The sophomore class went on an afternoon field trip August 27 to Katoski Park and the Black Hawk Creek greenbelt.  While at the prairie the student’s preformed quantitative and qualitative observations on sections of the restored [...]

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Year Long Student Teaching Comes to Hudson

3 weeks ago, no responses

The Hudson Community School District is honored to be partnering with the University of Northern Iowa this year for the implementation of a year-long student teaching pilot. This distinction is only being provided to a very few select school districts [...]

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Confidence High Among New Faculty

4 weeks ago, no responses

Hudson Community School District is proud to announce the addition of several key teaching faculty for the 2014-2015 school year. Filling vacancies left by retiring teachers or those who have taken on new leadership positions in the district, we are [...]

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What’s New at Hudson Schools This Year?

4 weeks ago, no responses

Welcome to the 2014-2015 school year! We have had a very busy summer, completing a ton of projects and improvements to our facilities. This summer can be characterized as one of the busiest summers at Hudson in some time. It [...]

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2014 Yearbooks Available

1 month ago, no responses

Students who pre-ordered a 2014 yearbook (of the 2013-2014 school year) will be able to pick up their yearbook during the open house scheduled for Tuesday, August 12, 5-7 p.m. Yearbooks will be available at a table by the elementary, [...]

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Connected Learning Info: Deposit, Roll-out, etc

1 month ago, no responses

We apologize for the confusion surrounding the application of technology fees and deposits. A few phone calls have prompted the necessity of providing this addition guidance. After a discussion with our auditors, it was determined that it would be more [...]

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Voss Blog Log

    Superintendent Voss

    Educational Issues in Iowa Public Schools.

    Many schools across Iowa are preparing their teacher leadership grants for submission to the Iowa Department of Education later in October. They are hoping to be included in wave two of the teacher leadership and compensation system for the 2015-2016 school year. As a wave one school, we have a duty to help these school districts by acting as a resource and sharing the wisdom we gained from our own planning process. Now as our implementation is unfolding, we are honored to share what we are learning about teacher leadership. I have visited with numerous schools in our own conference and around the state who want to learn from us. We are happy to oblige. 

    Just the other day we were joined by a school district in Northeast Iowa that is of similar size and preparing their grant. They wanted to come to Hudson and visit with us about our system of teacher leadership. In addition to that, the Department of Education along with representatives from the Governor's Office and state Board of Education have scheduled a visit for early October to see how our implementation is going.

    When I first started taking these phone calls, my initial thought was, really? I mean we are happy to help out and talk with folks about planning, but we are just getting started. The implementation is early, and we are still figuring it out ourselves. What could we possible report at this point?

    As it turns out, we have quite a bit to report. 

    For starters, our teacher leadership system began on August 4th, a full week before the remainder of the faculty arrived. It began with a completely redesigned teacher induction program. Any teacher that was brand new to the profession had this full week of additional in-service. Our intention was to provide these new teachers with the skills and training that they needed in order to be successful at Hudson. Our university and college teacher preparation programs do an outstanding job of preparing practitioners for the field, but the turnover rate of teachers in Iowa schools remains high with many leaving the profession within five years. This plan is designed to improve those rates. We were given the chance to work with our new teachers at length, discussing numerous topics with them ranging from the initiatives that are currently underway in our schools to the managerial processes that we have in place in the district. In addition to that, our new teachers had time built into their schedule to work exclusively with a mentor teacher that was assigned to them. At the conclusion of the week, we all felt that this was a vast improvement over the process that we previously had in place at Hudson. 

    Three instructional coaches serve as the anchor role in our leadership system in the areas of math, literacy, and technology. When first appointed, they had many questions about the mechanics of how they were to organize their work. We fielded such questions as, "What will my day look like", and "What am I supposed to do"? My response was probably a bit nebulous, "You will go where the work takes you". Understand how new this is to our teacher leaders! As classroom practitioners they were used to having their entire day scripted--down to the minute. The schedule that they have operated under for years has been designed in a way to maximize student learning time and work in tandem with the needs of 400+ students. Suddenly, these teacher leaders are finding a bit more freedom in movement. They are going where the work takes them, and every day leads to a new challenge. That is the excitement of leadership! 

    But the question then becomes, well what are they doing? There are really two categories of tasks that our teacher leaders are performing, supportive and developmental. Supportive tasks are those generally designed to support the work of the teacher in the classroom, This includes managing curriculum materials, coordinating assessments, and piloting resources. With the recent adoption of major curriculum (Envision Math and Wonders ELA), our practitioners are finding the help they need when questions arise about curriculum material. In addition to this, with the new emphasis on literacy and a change in assessment, there has been a lot of time spent getting our systems set up to administer this new screening tool.

    Developmental tasks are those designed to develop the effectiveness of educators. It is from this type of task that we can draw a straight line to our overriding vision of teacher leadership: strengthening instruction through embedded professional development. Essentially, our teacher leaders are doing things that are designed to make teachers better. This might include designing activities and lessons, answering content questions, modeling team teaching, and facilitating professional development. To see this being played out in real time, we can look no further than the connected learning initiative. A huge paradigm shift for our educators, this type of learning is designed to put students in the drivers seat by giving them access to powerful tools. With this type of learning, professional development for our teachers is critical! That is where the technology coach is able to demonstrate and facilitate teacher learning that enables them to leverage and maximize these learning devices for our students.

    We have just recently identified the next level of teacher leadership positions in our district, those being model teachers. In the coming weeks they are sure to have a huge impact on student learning. It will be exciting to see how our teacher leadership system develops this school year. Only a month in and we are already seeing these teacher leaders make such a positive impact!

    Posted: September 10, 2014, 7:37 pm
    For the past several weeks, we have been discussing the various legislative priorities that the Board has identified for the next General Assembly which is set to begin in January of 2014. To recap where we have been, I would encourage you to read the posts related to the importance of the legislature setting supplemental state aid in a timely manner, support for the continued development of rigorous content standards, early intervention in reading literacy (specific to the block grant), quality professional development, and last week we discussed the idea that socioeconomic status should be used as an identifier for At Risk funding. Today we finally come to the end of this series explaining the legislative platform for the next general session with a discussion surrounding the uses of PPEL funding. 

    PPEL is an acronym for the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy and was re-authorized by the voters of the Hudson Community School District during the September 2013 school board election. It is also a categorical funding stream, which means that it can only be used for specified purposes. School district budgets are comprised of many different types of categorical funding, some categorical funding is part of the general fund and becomes part of spending authority, while others are funds unto themselves, like the PPEL. The good thing about categorical funds is that they are limited in their function, and are done so in an effort to protect the integrity of what the funds are designed for. One great example of this can be found in a categorical fund known as the Teacher Salary Supplement. As the name implies, this fund can only be used for teacher salaries. 

    The bad thing about categorical funds are that they are often times inflexible. One such example are appropriate uses of the PPEL fund. Generally speaking, this fund is designed to pay for the replacement and emergency repair of equipment. It can also be used to purchase equipment such as automobiles, school buses, desks and chairs for classrooms, computers, new roofs for school buildings, remodeling classrooms, and a whole host of other things. You might be scratching your head right now thinking, categorical? That is quite a list of items that certainly doesn't sound inflexible. 

    Here is where it gets a little interesting. Last winter one of our school buses blew an engine on the way to a middle school athletic event. To replace the engine would have cost somewhere in the vicinity of $20,000. Sounds like an emergency repair that would be PPEL eligible wouldn't it? Well, its not. In this case, the new engine for a bus does not qualify as a PPEL expenditure. Now, we could have paid for the engine out of the General Fund-but Iowa School Finance 101 tells us it is foolhardy to pay for these types of expenditures from this fund because of our commitment to protecting spending authority. 

    What could we have done with our PPEL fund in this case? Well, we could have bought a new bus. A new bus of that design would have cost roughly $65,000. So the question really asks us what makes more economic sense. To replace an engine at $20,000 (the rest of the bus was in perfectly good shape), or buy a new bus at $65,000. If we could have purchased the engine from the PPEL fund, it would have been an easy decision. I'll let you guess what that decision would have been!

    For that reason, we support legislation that permits the use of PPEL funds for the maintenance and repair of transportation equipment.


    Posted: September 3, 2014, 12:49 pm
    There is no mistaking the fact that Hudson has an At-Risk program that is the envy of school districts all across the state. We are constantly fielding requests from districts that would like to replicate the programming that we have in place. In fact, our At-Risk program has recently gotten the attention of a national audience, and we are making plans right now for the National Dropout Prevention Conference this November in Louisville, Kentucky.

    So, At-Risk of what? Glad you asked. Essentially we are talking about students that are at risk of failure in school that will ultimately lead to dropping out of school. I have written extensively about the importance of a high school diploma and the fact that this piece of paper is a gateway to higher lifetime earnings. Research and statistics show that individuals without a high school diploma will earn much less than those with a high school degree. Without a high school diploma, a dropout is significantly limited to the type of jobs they will be able (and qualified) to hold, and most of those jobs aren't going to pay real well. This leads to poverty, health issues, an inability to 'make ends meet', and frankly, a very hard life. Want to live the American Dream? You can start by finishing high school. It is for these reasons that we work so hard to ensure that students graduate from high school. This is also why you sometimes hear about school districts in big cities embarking on door knocking campaigns to get young people who have previously dropped out back in the school building.

    At Hudson, we have a very robust system of interventions and programming available to meet the needs of these students. Some, are like the homework policy most of you have heard of (and may have experienced) at some point. The idea behind this policy is simple: you must do your homework no mater what. If you don't get it done, plan on staying after school until it is done. We are interested in the learning that occurs through the completion of the homework rather than the punitive measures that we can hand out for not completing an assignment. While the policy has its detractors from time to time, you certainly can't argue with the results. The after school program goes hand in hand with the homework policy, as does the 2.0 rule. In addition to those services, we boast a counseling staff that is trained and certified in mental health and family counseling.

    Funding for At-Risk programming is tied directly to the number of students that meet at least two markers identifying them as such. At Hudson, those markers include students with a poor attendance record (either chronic absenteeism or tardiness). This is pretty obvious isn't it? If students aren't in school, then they are going to miss out on valuable instruction, that can lead to the next marker: credit accrual and progress in school. Specific to this marker, we pay close attention to students who are failing any class or were retained in school. If students have failed a course, then obviously they will not earn the credit toward graduation, which will put them behind their peers when it comes to meeting graduation requirements. The next item of consideration when determining a students' at-risk status is their connection to school. Students who do not participate in extra-curricular activities, express feelings of not belonging (limited number of friends), or have a  history of disciplinary sanctions are are certainly at-risk! Finally, we look at those who have low achievement scores in reading or math. These two content areas are among the most important skills that young people need not only to graduate from high school, but to function in society!

    What is missing from our list of potential markers for at-risk students is poverty. This is because the state doesn't recognize the inclusion of socio-economic status as a factor in determining a student's at-risk status. The interesting point to be made here is that of all the factors listed, the effect size of poverty is far greater than all of the others. When we desegregate our student achievement data, this becomes very obvious. That is the primary reason that we support the inclusion of socio-economic status as a factor in determining the funding algorithm for dropout prevention programming in the next legislative session.




    Posted: August 27, 2014, 9:45 pm