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Stem Fun in First Grade

3 days ago, no responses

Students in first grade classes were challenged to build a structure using 100 pieces of candy on the 100th day of school. Each group was in charge of separating their candy into ten groups of ten before beginning. Within the […]


Thank You Counselors

4 days ago, no responses

Thank you counselors! Please help us in celebrating National School Counseling Week 2016 by recognizing the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. National School Counseling Week is always celebrated […]


NICL Crowns 2 Hudson Wrestlers Champs

1 week ago, no responses

submitted by coach haskovec It has been a fantastic year for the Hudson Pirate wrestling team.  As of now, there are two undefeated wrestlers on this year’s squad.  Taylan Entriken finishes the regular season as a NICL champion at 160 […]


5th Grade Art Project Builds Momentum

2 weeks ago, no responses

submitted by christy mcneal Mrs. McNeal’s 5th grade Art students began building their forms for the long anticipated paper mache project.  Some engineering skills were employed, along with a great amount of creativity!  They are excited to head into the […]


Basketball Team Makes Gifts of Comfort and Joy for Two Families

3 weeks ago, no responses

Reprinted with the Permission of Soo Greiman of the Hudson Herald           It’s a bit surprising, really, hearing how a girls basketball team of 7th and 8th graders scored at becoming ‘secret Santas’.  But that’s what they did. What the team’s coaches, Amanda Freeland and Chad […]


Hudson to Host NICL Vocal Festival

3 weeks ago, no responses

Submitted by Mrs. Anderson The Hudson Vocal Music Department will host the NICL Vocal Festival on Monday, January 18th.   Over 300 vocal students from Hudson, Jesup, Wapsi Valley, Grundy Center, Sumner-Fredricksburg, and Columbus Catholic will participate in the festival. The […]

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Voss Blog Log

    Education in Iowa Public Schools

    Dr. Anthony D. Voss, Superintendent of Schools

    Weather related cancellations can be tricky. I suppose we should have approached this system with a bit more skepticism when they first started predicting the track of this storm. That was about a week ago and it was still forming up over Japan. If we only had the benefit of hindsight! Of course if that were the case it would be easy, and this weeks column wouldn't be necessary! I suspect some of the hype had to do with the fact that the caucuses were last night. By the way, did anyone find it odd the way the news fretted that caucus attendance would be impacted by this storm? They really went out of their way to confirm the fact that the snowstorm forecast for Tuesday probably wouldn't impact the caucus on Monday! Glad they cleared that up for us! Sorry, I digress...

    Anyway, I was recently asked how I go about deciding whether or not we are going to delay, cancel, or dismiss classes early. I think the inquisitor assumed there was some sort of secret recipe to getting it right. The truth is, we sometimes get it wrong. For starters, we superintendents like to stick together when it comes to calling off school. It should come as no surprise that these decisions are often times made collectively! No one wants to be the lone ranger--the only one that calls off school on a 'clear blue skies' kind of day. On the other hand, no one wants to be the cowboy who decides to go ahead and risk it when every other school in the state has thrown in the towel. 

    This storm was a perfect example! Last night the forecast had us in the cross hairs of 6-9 inches of snow and some models predicted up to 18! That is a definite no go for school! The phone calls among area superintendents began late in the afternoon with the inevitable 'What are you thinking for tomorrow' question. The forecast really painted a pretty dire situation so everyone was in basic agreement there would be no school on Tuesday, February 2nd. 

    Now, you all know that I am typically not the first to make this decision (your children can probably confirm this with you if you ask them). I like to be deliberate in my decision making. I surmise waiting an extra hour or two will provide clarity. Last night was the Iowa caucus, so while I was pretty sure that we would end up cancelling school, I decided to wait until after the event. While I was in the caucus it seemed every school in state ended up closing for today. When that happens the decision becomes a little easier!
    #hudsonschools will be closed on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016. #GroundhogDay
    — Dr. Anthony D. Voss (@AnthonyDVoss) February 2, 2016
    Typically I like to get out and drive the roads to see how bad it truly is, but we had all decided a preemptive announcement was the ideal solution based on the forecast. If we can give parents a heads up in advance that school is going to be closed it makes it easier for their planning purposes. Its not often we can make a cancellation decision this far in advance. When we do, it is more error prone because as we know the forecast can (and does) change.

    The consequence of this can be a day like today. When I got to the office this morning around 7:30 I thought, huh....it's not really snowing all that bad. I'll bet we could have had school today after all. It started snowing about 45 minutes later, and it really snowed hard! I was just starting to pat myself on the back for making such a great decision....when it abruptly stopped. It hasn't really snowed since. At 2:00 it looked like this outside.

    This is the view from right outside my office door. Yes, we got a fresh layer of heavy wet snow, but only about 4 inches or so. If you look off in the distance you can see that it is really quite nice outdoors about now. Then there is this view looking the other way, again right outside my office.

    Well, that's where we currently are sitting. Now the focus becomes tomorrow. While the roads in town are in great shape, I haven't had a chance to drive out in the country. That comes as soon as I finish this column up for the week. 

    Bottom line is this: all school related cancellations are made with the most accurate and up to date information that is available at the time. We always put the safety of our students first, and if we sometimes get it wrong, well I guess that is the way it goes. 

    Gotta run now. The rural roads are calling. Late start? We'll see....

    Posted: February 2, 2016, 10:20 pm
    On December 10th, 2015, President Obama signed the 'Every Student Succeeds Act' (ESSA) into law, leaving 'No Child Left Behind' (NCLB) in the rear view mirror. It is way too early too tell if this law will be the panacea it is heralded to be, but there is some positive news with this re-authorized legislation. For starters, we can celebrate that the locus of control has shifted away from the federal government and back to state and local authorities where it belongs. 

    There must be no doubt the premise behind NCLB was honorable. Designed in part to address a growing achievement gap in minority, poverty, and other subgroup populations of students; the legislation required that school districts disegregate these student achievement data and devise plans to close the gap. Prior to NCLB, differences in achievement among subgroups may not have been widely known or scrutinized because we didn't look at data that way. Consider a school where 90% of all students are meeting growth expectations year after year. At first blush, this seems like an impressive statistic. But what if we look at the 10% that didn't meet expectations and realize those 10% are in a minority subgroup or students of poverty? NCLB forced schools to shine a light on these groups and take action on what they saw. Where NCLB fell short was in the implementation of an accountability system that included a heavy reliance on standardized testing and unrealistic, unattainable goals for student achievement. Remember, NCLB set 2014 as the year in which all students in America would be proficient in math and reading. Schools who did not reach this benchmark would be faced with stiff sanctions that could include such things as loss in federal funding, termination of teaching staff, and firing of the building principal. 

    The new law still requires districts publicly report achievement data for various subgroups, but provides states and local school districts with the flexibility to develop goals and plans that make the most sense as opposed to a one size fits all system. As a practical matter, arbitrary and unrealistic goals for student learning outcomes are now a thing of the past. However, we will still continue to disegregate, report, and develop comprehensive plans designed to address the achievement gap. In Iowa, we have recently released the Iowa Report Card, (IRC) which you may recall reading about in my blog a few weeks ago. I would anticipate the Iowa Report Card will continue to be a component of our educational landscape for some time to come. The fact is, if you recall our prior conversation, this was implemented as part of the educational reform law passed by the Iowa General Assembly in 2013 known as House File 215. Since the new ESSA requires states to develop their own accountability systems, the IRC may satisfy this requirement. 

    Irregardless of how the IRC is changed, modified, or otherwise evolves in the coming years it will be important for all stakeholders to understand contextually what this and other so called report cards tell us. In its current iteration, 80% of the IRC ranking is derived from how our students perform on the Iowa Assessments. That is one test, given on one day. While we were thrilled with our results and enjoyed the accolades, that ranking does not tell the entire story of a school's success. I recall a colleague sharing recently the pride they had in their elementary school at earning a Blue Ribbon designation from the federal Department of Education. They were invited to Washington, D.C. for the ceremony and savored the attention. A mere two years later that same school, with the same staff found themselves on the federal SINA list!

    So about that testing? I can't remember a time as a student that I didn't take the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. Likewise, I can't remember a time in my career as an educator when I didn't proctor or administer the Iowa Assessments (which by the way are the same thing as the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills--but you already knew that didn't you?). The new ESSA doesn't change the testing scheme all that much. However, the test that we use to measure progress is a story that is yet to be told! After the state legislature fumbled the ball on this point, the state board of education accepted a recommendation to move away from the Iowa Assessments to the Smarter Balance. We are in the rule making process right now and it will remain to be seen if our legislature intervenes to either stop, postpone, or otherwise derail these efforts. I am not opposed to changing the assessment so long as everyone clearly understands that there will be an implementation dip (this test is much more rigorous than the Iowa Assessments) and that an appropriation will be necessary for the administration of the test (it will cost Hudson somewhere in the vicinity of $20,000 to administer). 

    Finally then, for those out there that think this new law means the end of the Common Core or any statewide set of highly rigorous standards I say--not so fast. Remember, the rise of the Common Core had nothing to do with the 2002 NCLB law. The Common Core was a state led initiative. Where we got sideways with the Common Core was when states were allowed to pursue a waiver from some sanctions in NCLB. Part of that waiver process required states to adopt the Common Core. The new legislation prohibits the federal government from requiring states to adopt any uniform set of standards, common or otherwise.

    For the time being, we are letting the clock run out on NCLB. Next school year will be a transition away from this law and the new ESSA will go into effect during the 2017-2018 school year. Let's hope this law does what it intends to, truly helps every student succeed!

    Posted: January 27, 2016, 6:15 pm
    The one cent sales tax for school infrastructure has been around since the late 1990s, and was implemented to help schools address serious deficiencies in buildings. Prior to this sales tax, the primary option available to schools for infrastructure and building was a general obligation bond issue. A general obligation bond issue is a question for voters and passage requires what is known as a super majority (60%) to pass. In many cases a bond issue vote results in an increase to property taxes, so passing bond issues is no easy task.  The one cent sales tax permits school districts to issue revenue bonds against future sales tax collections to address school infrastructure. At it's inception, it was a county-by county referendum that required only a simply majority of voters (50+1). School districts then had to take the extra step of passing what is known as a Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS). Our most recent RPS was passed with 96% voter approval in September of 2011. You can check out our Revenue Purpose statement right here. The point of the RPS is to outline for constituents exactly how the revenue will be invested. 

    Because it was a county by county issue an unseen inequity arose. Counties with large population centers likely have more (and larger) retail establishments, thus generating more in sales tax revenue for the citizens and school districts located in that particular county. Naturally, school districts in these counties were the beneficiaries of greater bonding capacity. The legislature addressed this inequity in both 2003 and in 2008. In 2003, a mechanism was designed to even out the revenue between counties, and in 2008 it was changed from a countywide sales tax to a statewide sales tax. This was met with resistance because it was believed that once it became a statewide sales tax, the legislature might at some point re-purpose this revenue away from school district infrastructure, which is contrary to the original question asked of the voters.

    This is where we find ourselves today. In 2010, Iowans voted to amend article VII of the state constitution to establish a natural resources trust fund. This fund is designed in part to improve water quality in our state. However, the fund currently doesn't have any money in it. While the amendment stated that 3/8 of one cent be allocated to the fund, it only becomes effective the next time sales tax is increased. The issue became even more prevalent this past spring when the Des Moines water works filed suit in federal court, suing three northern Iowa counties for water pollution. 

    Well, there is no appetite for an increase in sales tax, so the governor has suggested diverting a portion of the revenue growth that comes from the school infrastructure sales tax to water quality programs. Currently this sales tax is scheduled to sunset in 2029, and for the last several years we have been advocating for either an extension of the sales tax or a repeal of the sunset. What the governor has proposed is extending the sales tax until 2049 (that is the good news) and capturing a portion of the revenue growth going forward (that is the bad news). Of that growth, the first $10 Million of growth would be allocated to school infrastructure, and the remaining balance of the growth would go to water quality. Additionally and unfortunately, the proposal also begins to capture this revenue immediately, which is before the original sunset expires.

    Impact of Governor Branstad's SAVE Proposal
    (Graphic courtesy of Iowa Association of School Boards)
    As you can see from the chart, the impact of depressed revenue growth is immediate. For the current fiscal year, the per pupil allocation is around $953, which equates to approximately $621,356. If we assume a very conservative 2.83% increase in revenue, by 2029 the per pupil allocation would grow to $1,332. If enrollment remained stable, our SAVE revenue would grow to $868,484. However, under the governor's proposal, by 2029 the per pupil allocation would be $1,191. Again, assuming enrollment remains relatively stable, that would suggest the 2029 revenue stream at about $776,532. That is a difference of $91,952, but that is for that year only! This doesn't consider the compounding effect of this proposal, which tells quite a different story.

    Using the same figures from above (2.83% growth and stable enrollment) from this point forward until the expiration of the sales tax, total revenue generated by SAVE will be $9,607,872. But, under the governor's plan that would be reduced by 5% or $480,393.60. That $480,393.60 would go a long way toward the renovation costs of our elementary school.

    A special thank you to Shawn Snyder, IASB Financial Support Director for his assistance with these calculations.
    Posted: January 20, 2016, 11:16 pm