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Hudson Students Help Recycle Old Technology

2 weeks ago, no responses

Vintage Tech, a certified electronics recycler from Chicago, is shown picking up a load of computers, televisions, and other miscellaneous equipment Friday, March 28. Received material gets dismantled and/or recycled, and all data and software is erased and destroyed following [...]

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Spring Break Projects

4 weeks ago, no responses

While students and staff were away during this week, it has not meant a break for everyone. This week many district staff were still at school, completing a variety of tasks to prepare for the final quarter of the school [...]

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Wayne Haskovec- NHD 2013 Behring Award recipient from Iowa

1 month ago, no responses

Wayne Haskovec is a 2013 Behring winner from Iowa.  He has been selected  and featured on the National History Day website for the month of March.  You can read the profile below or click this link: NHD-Haskovec Why are you [...]

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Pirates Advance To Semi-Finals

1 month ago, no responses

Congratulations to the Hudson Pirates girls basketball team!  With their win 84-75 win over Woodbury Central, they advance to the 2A semi-final game on Thursday, March 6 at 11:45 am at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.   Tickets are $8 [...]

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Art it Forward!

1 month ago, no responses

The 5th/6th grade Art It Forward club participated in “An Artistic Afternoon,” an art show presented by St. Tim’s Church in Hudson on March 3.  The students spent a few club hours preparing art work which they happily gave away [...]

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Luke Huber Crowned State Champion

1 month ago, no responses

Luke Huber became the 11th state champion in Hudson wrestling history.  His 153 wins, puts him in second place all-time.  Luke finished the season with a 46-1 mark, also putting him one win behind his brother Ben as the all-time [...]

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Voss Blog Log

    Superintendent Voss

    Educational Issues in Iowa Public Schools.

    This may sound a bit peculiar, but I can actually remember learning to read. Not so much the entire reading process mind you, but the mechanics of how letters fit together to form words. I was in first grade, which would have been about 1978. I know what many of you may be thinking--don't we teach kids to read in kindergarten? Yes, but you have to remember in 1978 kindergarten was to first grade what preschool now is to kindergarten. Now that I think about it, I am not even sure I attended kindergarten? It wasn't that widespread, and most of the programs were half days or some other part time configuration. In fact, kindergarten was only every other day at the first school I worked at as a teacher (that was the mid 1990s) and the big debate at the time was whether or not they should begin offering an all day every day program. Anyway, I digress...

    It's 1978, I'm in first grade at Sacred Heart School in Boone and we have spent the entire school year learning all the different sounds that the letters make (you know the drill--long 'e', short 'e', 'a', 'ah', 'ch', can I please buy a vowel?). Obviously I didn't realize it at the time but there was a pretty heavy emphasis on phonics in my young elementary school curriculum. I can say that I didn't really see the point in all of this and would have much rather being doing other things, but maybe that is a story for another day. Finally one day the Good Sister writes the letter 'w' and the letter 'e' on the chalkboard (no whiteboards, remember this is 1978). She tells us to think about the sound the 'w' makes and the sound the 'e' makes, and put them together (wwuheeeeeee). Of course, I am just kind of sitting there squirming around in my seat like most six or seven year olds thinking about recess, or lunch, or something not related to what the Good Sister is explaining on the chalkboard when all of a sudden the pieces start falling into place--click---click----click-----BOOM! Now I get it! I can read!

    Of course it wasn't really that simple, but there is no doubt that was a watershed moment in my journey  of learning how to read. There were certainly more phonics, context clues, comprehension, site words, and a plethora of other reading instruction that I can't even remember. The fact is in school I wasn't all that good of a reader and always dreamed of the day that I would be 'promoted' to the top reading group. (Didn't they call them the Goldfinches or something like that?) Anyway, I never reached that mountaintop, but I eventually became a pretty good reader. I don't remember much more about my early educational experiences (except being an occasional 'client' of the principal--again a story for another day), but I think the fact that this is something that I can remember so vividly is indicative of the importance of reading in our society and the amount of time we invest making sure our young people are able to read.

    If I had to rank by importance the 'things' that we have to teach in elementary school, reading would be at the very top. If you were to look at the amount of time a typical elementary classroom instructional schedule spends on reading you would see clearly the value that we place on reading. An inability to read puts students at a disadvantage as they progress in school, and will  have life long implications. Not only will it impact life time earning potential, but it will impact quality of life.

    Around the third grade a transformation begins to take place in a student's learning. It is somewhere at that point where the student switches form learning how to read to reading to learn. It certainly doesn't happen all at once, but the student learning  materials begin to have more text and content that the students actually read to learn the material. 

    That is one of the primary reasons for a little known change in law that was included in the education reform legislation passed during the 2013 General Assembly. The law states that by 2016-2017 all student must be proficient readers by the time they complete the third grade. If they are not, then the student is to be retained. There are some exceptions to this law, for example students that are receiving services under special education may be exempt, or students who show adequate progress in a district sponsored summer school program might be exempt.

    As we discovered with the No Child Left Behind law, setting arbitrary deadlines for proficiency levels has not been all that successful. Recall the goal of "All children proficient in math, science, and reading by 2014"? Another law that has been implemented with disastrous consequences. The 'so-called' list continues to become increasingly lengthy year after year with 869 of 1,361 schools being designated as Schools in Need of Assistance (SINA) this year alone. I predict the list to be even larger next year.

    We agree that all children should be proficient readers at the conclusion of third grade. However, an arbitrary deadline fails to consider that not all children progress at the same time, in the same fashion, and need the same type of instruction. Some children may be proficient readers by the time they finish second grade, while it may take others until they finish 4th grade (or even longer). Plus, there is plenty of scholarly research that suggests retaining students is just not a very good option!

    Schools are not widget factories. Each of the children that we work with daily is a unique individual with needs that may not be the same as every 5 year old!

    Next week I will share with you how I believe Hudson is well positioned to meet the needs of a variety of young and emerging readers! I want to make sure that every kid that comes through our school can say, Now I get it! I can read!

    Posted: April 9, 2014, 8:47 pm
    I think it is well established that the schools you and I went to are very different from those our own children attend. The infusion of connected learning, high stakes testing, Iowa Core Standards, and punitive accountability measures are proof of that! Every once in a while someone will share with me that we should present material in a certain way because, "When I was in school, we didn't do it like that, and I turned out just fine!" Believe me, I get it-and may even agree with you (the part about you and I turning out alright, that is). There are many things that we did a certain way when I was in school that we just simply don't anymore because times have changed. I have already shared with you my early experiences with computers, and that we had one computer in the school and it was viewed as a novelty item. I never would have guessed (and my teachers from that time period probably wouldn't have either) that we would see the day where the ratio of computers was measured not by School:Computer, but Student:Computer, and that it would lead to an environment where every student had their own computer!

    We are also much more data driven now. Prior to 2001, the data that we collected on student achievement was summative in nature, and typically not used to form instruction. These days, we are constantly measuring student outcomes and designing instruction to address those areas where we see deficits. When implementing new programs or initiatives in our district we frequently ask how the strategy will impact student learning. Student achievement has become the super-ordinate of everything we do in our system--and student achievement is defined by how much our students are growing in their learning and meeting the standards that are part of the Iowa Core (of which the Common Core is a part). Our instructional program requires that teachers be responsible for taking the Iowa Core and boiling it down to what is referred to as Essential Learning Outcomes. Why do we do this? The main reason is that these documents simply articulate too much content! A study conducted by researchers at Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel), found that schools and teachers would need 71% more instructional time to address all of this content. 

    This year the elementary faculty has been completing research on curriculum material for the English/Language Arts (ELA) suite of content. Obviously, we have a paramount desire to ensure material is based in a sound research methodology, it is aligned to the Iowa Core Curriculum, and that it provides resources that enable our teachers to meet the range of a diverse population of student learners. Additionally, since we know that this is such a deep content area, the curriculum must be a good fit for our school. After all, we still have to teach math, social studies, science, art, music, and PE. At this time, we have narrowed it down to two options. That comes after months of study that included testing and piloting different lessons and curriculum, visiting with companies that have developed the material we are testing, and finally visiting other schools that have implemented the material that we are considering. 
    Posted: April 2, 2014, 2:30 am
    Forty-five states including Iowa have adopted the Common Core standards. Strike that, I mean forty-four states have adopted the Common Core. Earlier last week, Indiana became the first state to back out of the Common Core. There seems to be quite a bit of confusion about what the Common Core is and what the Common Core is not. The first myth that needs to be addressed is this idea that the Common Core is a curriculum movement designed to eliminate local control of school boards and to limit the selection of curriculum material for schools. The Common Core is not a curriculum and does no such thing.

    The Common Core is an internationally benchmarked set of standards that articulate what students should be able to do at each grade level. Is a 4th grader in Seattle for example, exposed to the same standards as a 4th grader in Des Moines? Is a Senior in high school from Hudson as prepared for college as a Senior in a high school in Peoria? I know these are questions that we want answers to, because we are constantly comparing our students to students in other states and in other countries using tools like the NAEP and PISA! I have written about those very comparisons right here in this article! The trouble is, unless we identify what it means to be a 4th grader or Senior in high school, we can't really answer those underlying questions can we?

    Furthermore, teachers expect that students will enter their classrooms with a certain amount of background knowledge. Standards ensure that background knowledge and material has been covered, and an assessment was administered to the pupils that demonstrates their level of mastery. If no one has an idea of what that background knowledge is or it is different from school to school or state to state, how can the teacher be expected to craft instruction to meet the needs of students in an efficient manner?

    Assume the 4th grade student in Iowa learns how to multiple fractions whereas the 4th grade student in Seattle isn't exposed to that skill until the 5th grade. Then assume we test both groups of students using the NAEP and the 4th graders from Iowa outscore their counterparts in Seattle. The reason? The students in Seattle haven't been exposed to that content yet! That most certainly does not suggest one group of students are more intelligent than the other. You can apply that same logic and scenario to any grade level in any state in the country or even internationally.

    So the point should be very clear that the Common Core is not a curriculum, but is a set of standards with an assessment component which accurately measures the learning of students based on those standards. Curriculum decisions remain under the purview and decision making ability of the local school board. We can drive this point home with two very clear examples. Last spring the Hudson Board adopted a new math curriculum, and the faculty is currently in the process of studying an ELA curriculum that will be recommended for adoption by the Board of Education yet this spring.

    For the sake of argument, we could say that school districts can go ahead and set their own standards and benchmarks--which would be the antithesis of the Common Core. But that would make it impossible to compare how our 4th graders were doing compared to students in Waterloo or Cedar Falls, let alone Seattle! It is also important to note that is how we kind of got into this mess to begin with. Before the Iowa Core (of which the Common Core is a part of), each school district did just that. While similar in nature, they were not standardized, which caused a patchwork of inequity in our education system that made it impossible to provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum to the students of Iowa. To further compound this very unclear picture of student learning in Iowa, the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills were selected as the assessment instrument to measure student progress. This assessment was not aligned to the standards--but how could it be if every district is doing something different in terms of standards?

    The other myth about the Common Core is this idea that it is a Federal intrusion into a local issue. This is not true! The Common Core was not conceptualized by the U.S. Department of Education. It came from the National Governor's Association along with the Council of Chief State School Officers:
    "The state-led effort to develop the Common Core State Standards was launched in 2009 by state leaders, including governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia, through their membership in the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State school Officers (CCSSO). State school chiefs and governors recognized the value of consistent, real world learning goals and launched this effort to ensure all students, regardless of where they live, are graduating high school prepared for college, career, and life." (www.corestandards.org)



    So in closing, let's just say that if we think it is important to measure how our students stack up against students in other states or countries--let's at lease make sure we are measuring them all on the same thing!
    Posted: March 26, 2014, 12:50 pm