Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our National Tragedy

A cross post from Mr. Alderson, Cashton Elementary School Principal
In communities across the nation, parents, teachers, and citizens are collectively and individually trying to make sense of the deplorable act of violence that occurred last week. Each of us will find a path forward in our own way as we rebuild the sense of security and tranquility so deeply valued in our community and necessary for the wellness of students.  While our schools and the students they serve continue to be as safe and secure as before, perhaps more so, it would be natural to have a heightened awareness and focus on safety.

While the tragedy occurred over a thousand miles away, the resulting sadness, fear, and concern are not softened by geography. There are local emotional impacts that need a carefully considered response, both in our home and our schools. As students become more aware of the details, it is possible they may feel scared, uncomfortable, sad, distracted, or at least curious. Fortunately, some, through their youthful innocence, are oblivious. Teachers and employees of Cashton Public Schools are committed to the support of our students and their families as they respond and react.  The topic is sensitive and is likely best addressed by parents, given the varied ages and emotional maturity of each student as well as the range of beliefs and values of their families that may influence which information is shared and that from which we hope to shield them. Teachers have been reminded of the importance of modeling calm and control, to focus their comments on helping students to feel safe in our school and classrooms, and to remind them that there is a safety plan in place that is frequently updated and practiced.

It may be even more important at this time to be aware of the emotional well-being of the young people you encounter. Should you notice changes in behavior, appetite, or sleep patterns, it may indicate an increased level of grief, anxiety, or sadness. For those who have had a past traumatic experience, or who are more prone to anxiety or depression, be particularly alert.  Should you have any concerns, please contact Mr. Stitchko,  Ms. Mass, or a health professional.

Although there is no foolproof prevention for all acts of man or nature, an emergency response plan continues to be in place to ensure that students spend their days in safe facilities with staff trained and prepared to act in the event of an emergency. Although the emergency response plan is thoroughly reviewed and updated annually, district leaders and student support personnel immediately revisited the plan after considering the available information from this tragic test of a distant district’s plan and facilities. Minor adjustments have been already enacted.  Additional safety measures including updates to the entrances of both buildings continue to be thoughtfully explored by the Board of Education and a representative committee of community members.

As always, we offer our full support to you as you help students through this challenging time.   Our teachers, guidance counselor, psychologist, and nurse will be available to assist, as will the administrative team. Please do not hesitate to contact any of us if you need support, guidance, or advice in the coming days.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Electrathon Team Prepares For Competition

Mr. Schmitz's Mechanical Systems class is busy creating a car for an Electrathon competition that will take place at the end of the year. Electrathon is an international electric vehicle competition for high school and college students. Cashton participates in competitions hosted by the Wisconsin Energy Efficient Vehicle Association. Electrathon challenges students to engineer a car from concept to completion, and it demonstrates the viability of electric vehicles. Students design and build an efficient vehicle in a hands-on and team oriented environment.  The Cashton team includes:  Nathan Schmitz, Andrew Mlsna, Alex Crick, Caleb Fernholz, Dominic Flock, Jacob Peterson, Troy Muenzenberger, Brody Hackbarth, Tanner Von Ruden, and Tim Geier.

The team is designing a wood mock up of the newly designed frame.

There are strict weight and size requirements for the car.
Team members weigh each component to assure their design will meet contest restriction.   

Friday, December 7, 2012

Machines, Work, and Rube Goldberg Machines

During a recent unit of study 6th grade students investigated simple machines by building a Rube Goldberg Device. A Rube Goldberg Device is a deliberately over-engineered machine that performs a very simple task. Students applied their understanding of levers, wheels and axles, inclined planes, wedges, and pulleys to create a machine that turned on a calculator.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Agenda 2017 Will Influence How We Do Things In Cashton!

Wisconsin is advancing education reforms to ensure every child graduates ready for further education and the workplace.  On this foundation the state is implementing new standards and high expectations for the students of Cashton High School.  In the following video State Superintendent Tony Evers outlines the reforms in the following areas:

Standards and Instruction:  What and how should kids learn?
Assessments and Data Systems:  How do we know if they learned it?
School and Educator Effectiveness:  How do we ensure kids have highly effective teachers and schools?
School Finance Reform:  How should we pay for schools?

Source:  Wisconsin DPI

Cashton Middle/High School's Report Card

The Wisconsin Department of Instruction recently issued report cards for each school in the state.  School report cards provide an accountability score on a scale of zero to 100.  Score ranges place schools in one of five rating categories, from significantly exceeds expectations to fails to meet expectations.  Cashton Middle/High school received a score of 70.5 (meets expectations).    The following is a link to the DPI  website that provides detailed information on how our score was determined (LINK). The report score was determined by taking weighted average of four priority:

  • Student Achievement in reading and mathematics on the WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam) (68.5)
    • Each November 6th, 7th, 8th, and 10th grade students take the WKCE. Based on the results of the exam students are rated as Advanced, Proficient, Basic, or Minimal Performance.  The school is awarded points based on the number of students who score in the Advanced (1.5), Proficient (1.0), and Basic (0.5).
    • Achievement was measured over the past three years (2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12)
    • Performance indicators were aligned to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) college and career readiness benchmarks.
  • Student Growth in reading and mathematics on the WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam) (60.0)
    • This measure is based on a point system that rewards our schools for students' progress toward higher performance levels.  The point system deducts points for students regressing toward performance below the proficient level. 
  • Closing Gaps (63.2)
    • The purpose of this priority area is to measure if the gap between traditionally under performing groups is getting smaller or larger.
    • For Cashton, the state selected two sub groups for comparison: students with disabilities and low-income students.
    • Our score in this area is slightly below the state average due to the fact that students in these subgrouping didn't grow the same rate as rest of the student who took the test.   They did grow, just not as fast.
    • Another confusing aspect to this scale score is that it doesn't take into account initial gap between the subgroup and all other students.  As compared to the state, Cashton has a very small achievement gaps. 
  • On-Track and Post Secondary Readiness (90.2)
    • Our score is for this priority area is very high.
    • The score was determined by calculating the 4 and 5 year cohort graduation rate,  ACT participation and performance, and 8th grade math achievement.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cashton Middle School Daily Announcements

In an effort to help students and parents keep track of current assignments and learning objectives, each middle school teacher posts daily learning objectives and current homework assignments daily on the Cashton Middle School Daily Announcements page.  Students and parents can access this site if they are unsure about when an assignment is due or to determine what was missed if they were absent from school.  For easy access parents can subscribe to posts via an RSS reader or by bookmarking the website.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New State Initiative May Require All Students To Take The ACT

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is supporting a new state initiative that would require all Cashton High School juniors to take the ACT college admissions test. Currently, the test is taken by students who are considering attending post-secondary institutions upon graduation.

Under the plan, all public school ninth-grade students would take the ACT EXPLORE assessment in spring of the 2014-2015.  The ACT PLAN would be administered in tenth grade and the ACT and WorkKeys assessments in 11th grade.  The cost for these tests would be covered by the state.  The ACT would replace the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) for math, reading, and language arts administered to tenth-graders in the fall.  The ACT assessment package will add growth measures and improve college and career readiness measures for Wisconsin's new accountability system.

ACT has decades of experience measuring academic achievement and career aspirations and is the preferred college admissions in Wisconsin.  Last year, 72% of Cashton High School students took the ACT test.  The EXPLORE assessment is designed for students to explore both high school and post-high school options, helping to identify strengths and areas where intervention may be needed. The 10th grade PLAN helps students continue coursework selection and planning for college and career readiness.  Both assessments prepare students to take the ACT.  The ACT is benchmarked for college readiness; providing a minimum score that yields a likely passing grade in credit-bearing college coursework.  The WorkKeys provides a job skill assessment that helps students prepare for the workforce whether they plan to go directly into employment, train for a trade, or pursue a technical college or university degree.

What this means for Cashton
Cashton High School has high ACT test participation rates and a formal ACT preparation curriculum .  However, requiring all students to take the test will shift require a shift in our Career and College Planning sequence.  The use of the entire ACT suite (EXPLORE, PLAN, and WorkKeys) will provide valuable data for teachers, students, and parents.  The fact that these test are taken in 8th, 10th, and 11th grades allows for students to assess their current academic progress and make informed decisions about courses of study.  In addition, the testing suite provides an opportunity to track student growth aligned to national performance indicators. Having students take the test later in their high school career also allows for an accurate assessment of each students' college and/or career readiness.  In preparation for this initiative, our school, has immediately began researching the possible implementation of these tests prior to the 2014-15 school year.

For more information:  LINK

Friday, September 7, 2012

A New Accountability System for Schools

Wisconsin is launching a new school accountability system.  The system will provide balanced, descriptive information about school performance using multiple measures.

To develop the system, the Department of Public Instruction worked closely with policy makers, parents, teachers, and the business community.  The new accountability system applies to all public schools and takes effect with new school report cards based on 2011-12 student performance.

Each year, schools will receive one of five accountability ratings based on an overall score that results from performance in these priority areas:

  • Student Achievement in reading and mathematics on state assessments
  • Student Growth, measured year-to-year improvements in achievement
  • Closing Gaps in performance between specific student groups
  • On-Track to Graduation/Postsecondary Readiness
Also, poor test participation, dropout, and absenteeism rates can reduce priority area scores.

New School Report Card
The new school report card will show at which of the five levels the school is performing.  It will provide detailed information about the priority areas and performance of student groups to help each school understand its score and carry out data informed improvements.  The following link provides a few examples of what the new school report card looks like (LINK).

Recognizing and Supporting Schools
The DPI will recognize top-performers as Rewards Schools and work to disseminate their best practices to struggling schools.  In struggling schools, interventions will be required including the development and execution of turnaround or improvement plans.  Other schools will be connected with resources that meet their specific needs as part of a new, differentiated statewide system of support.

Source: http://1.usa.gov/P2h2HZ

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cashton Public School's Facebook Page

Cashton Public School has created a Facebook page.  The page will be used to communicate with students, parents, and community members.  If you "like" our page, then announcements, reminders, and photos will go directly to your news feed.

Cashton Public Schools

Eagle Newsletter

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Analysis of the Responsibilities of a District Administrator

In conjunction with a graduate course that I am taking this summer, I took some time to analyze the responsibilities of a school district administrator.  To accomplish this task I interviewed a local superintendent and created a monthly checklist of duties.  I then compared the checklist to the The Key Work of School Boards guidebook.  The book explains the eight fundamental components of the key work of school boards.  For each component--Vision, Standards, Assessment, Accountability, Alignment, Collaboration, Climate, and Continuous Improvement--the authors delineate the duties required of a superintendent.  My analysis is linked below.  If the district administrator that I spoke specifically discussed the duty during our interview, then the roles is highlighted and the specific evidence (if applicable) is noted.  

Systems Thinking
An effective administrator understands all aspects of his/her school system.  They are informed, monitor progress, and intervene when necessary.  However, a district administrator must delegate duties in an effective manner.  If you focus too much on one specific area, the other areas will suffer from a lack of leadership.  Leaders allow others to have ownership programs.  

In the current political and economic climate, the responsibilities of district administrators have expanded, or in many situations, superintendents work part-time.  As duties expand and time contracts overall capacity to lead decreases.  In addition, district's that choose this path miss out on many quality educational leaders who do not view a part-time/split position as desirable.

Effective leaders sweat small details
Much of the district administrator's job is "big picture" planning.  However, effective superintendents are keenly aware that every discussion, meeting, conference, or public interaction is an opportunity to fulfill the vision of the school district.  Successful leaders are normally thinking a couple of steps ahead and are constantly analyzing how current practices align to best practices.

A High Degree of Complexity
From strategic planning, instructional leadership, and fiscal management to federal compliance, human resources, and building management; district administrators must handle a diverse set of tasks.   The reality of the position is that it requires the ability to prioritize and organize your time.  You must practice personal humility, but have a determined professional will.  Superintendents have to be able to handle a high degree of complexity while solving problems.  This process involves analyzing multiple streams of information, sometimes from contradictory sources, that lead to no clear solutions.  In these instances a successful administrator must consistently make principled decisions by stepping back from the immediate situation and seeing the long-term, large scale patterns and trends.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Welcome to Cashton Middle/High School!

Dear Cashton Middle School Sixth Grade Students and Parents,

It is with great excitement that I write to welcome you to the 2012-2013 school year at Cashton Middle School.  In just over a month, the faculty, staff, and I will be greeting you as you arrive for your first day of the new school year, and I look forward to welcoming you to our new school.
As sixth graders, you will find that you have many choices you can make to explore new interests, share your talents, and help our school community.  The transition from elementary school will represent a big shift in your educational career.  I can imagine that you might be feeling a little nervous about going to a new school with different teachers, lockers, passing time, and enhanced expectations; however, the middle school staff has planned events to help with this transition.

Sixth Grade Summer School
Aug.  6-10, 8:00am-Noon at Cashton MS/HS (Room 203)
The overall goal of the class is to create a more positive, less stressful experience for 6th grade students.  Academic and social skills will be developed throughout this course while also helping familiarize students with the two sixth-grade classrooms along with the rest of the middle school facility.
If you have not signed up for this class, but you are now interested in attending call me at 608-654-5131 ext.202.  There is plenty of space available for all who would like to participate.

Sixth Grade Parent and Student Orientation
Aug. 30, 7:00 pm-8:00 pm at Cashton MS/HS (Cafeteria)
An informational meeting for both parents and students.  The format for the evening will include:  An introduction to the CMS faculty; an overview of the core academic schedule, and an opportunity for parents and students to tour building, locate classes, and practice lockers.

Parents, as we approach the new school year, I am again reminded of the importance of communication between Cashton Middle School and home.  I encourage you to take a moment to think about your child’s upcoming experience at CMS, and feel free to drop me a letter or email with any information you feel that I could share with your child’s teacher that may be significant in helping to make the transition to his or her new classroom.  I will make certain that the information you share gets to the teacher or appropriate staff member before the start of school.  Additionally, school information is available at our school website:  http://www.cashton.k12.wi.us/ and school blog:  http://cashtonmshs.blogspot.com/
In closing, I speak for all faculty and staff when I say how much we are looking forward to the start of the new school year on September 4th.  Please feel free to visit the school or contact me at 608-654-5131 ext. 202 if you have any questions or concerns.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Key Work of School Boards

On June 18 I attended the regular monthly meeting of the Cashton Board of Education.  As principal I have the opportunity to attend each monthly meeting.  This month I focused on analyzing our board's adherence to a continuous improvement methodology.  As outlined in The Key Work of School Boards, continuous improvement is a way of thinking that focuses on doing things better.  While there is not a specific blueprint that must be followed, there are clear actions that are taken by boards focused on continuous improvement.  Making decisions based on data, adopting a customer focus, consistent review of new and existing programs, fostering open lines of communication, and celebrating evidence of improvement are strong indicators that a board is modeling continuous improvement.

The June meeting was a good example of how our board consistently reviews new and existing programs.   Ms. Peterson, our reading specialist, reported on the 2011-2012 middle school literacy program and set 2012-13 goals.  Ms. Sanders (Special Education teacher) and Ms. Menzynski (Title I teacher), presented the Title I and Special Education Evaluation and Needs Assessment Results.  Mr. Alderson (Elementary Teacher) and I presented the district and building evaluation of 2011-12 goals and set 2012-13 goals.  During each of these presentations multiple forms of data were used and board members asked questions to each presenter. The questions allowed the presenters to clarify their message and indicated the boards intent to foster open lines of communication.  There were several other agenda items, but the other critical topic was budget information provided by the Department of Instruction.  The superintendent reviewed the special education aid computation, the final revenue limit calculation, the state equalization aid, and membership data.  The ensuing discussion focused on the overall fiscal health of the district and the ramifications of funding adjustments from the state.  As I reflect on the meeting, it is clear our board is committed to the continuous improvement process.   The current superintendent has done a good job cultivating an attitude that is focused on quality and recognizing those who produce it.

If I were to become superintendent of a district, an initial goal would be to listen and to study school district data.  It will be important for me to understand how decisions are made and to what level continuous improvement already exists in the district.  If I felt it was needed, I would suggest that board members participate in a training to help them better understand the principles and tools of continuous improvement.  This training, perhaps in the form of a board retreat, would allow the board an opportunity to better understand the importance of developing a culture that promotes a process of improvement.  Another priority would be to complete an academic review of the district.  A superintendent should understand which systems are performing well in the district and which systems are under performing.  A systems audit would be presented the board and specific goals outlined to address areas of deficiency.  The audit would also provide an opportunity to showcase successful programs, teachers, and students.  Finally, I would take steps to establish a respectful and positive culture.  A respectful culture is built on a foundation of trust and communication.  Visiting every school; creating feedback systems for teachers, parents, and students; and following through on delivered promises would be a high priority.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Community: The Structure of Belonging

Community-The Structure of Belonging  starts with a dense summary of  prior research on leadership, community, and transformation.  While I appreciated the background information, I found it a challenge to read.  My biggest takeaway from the the first section (The Fabric of Community) was Block's diverse views on leadership.   The role of a leader is to invite people, set up a hospitable meeting space, and encourage engagement through powerful conversations.   The second section (The Alchemy of Belonging) provided specific examples of how to frame conversations.  His examples were open-ended and applicable to many leadership situations in schools.  Reading this book after our discussion about mission and vision was helpful.  Below is a summary of the parts of the book that spoke loudest to me.

Bigger isn't better  Community problems are not solved with big, top down programs  that are heavy on mandates and requirements and are so large in scope that they were developed without collaboration.  These programs do not elicit the passion and vigor required to truly impact day to day school operations.

Power in our hands  True transformation occurs when leaders create an environment in which all members of an organization feel empowered.   A symptom of an under performing school is when members of the organization have opinions and suggestions for change, but are waiting for "administration" to something about it.

Tilt the Floor  It doesn't matter how dynamic, engaging, and powerful a leader is, he/she alone can not will a district to move exactly as they want.  Smart leaders recognize that schools are always changing.  It is important to analyze if these changes are moving the district to a more desirable position and if not what conditions need to be adjusted to move the district in a positive direction.

The Transforming Community (Chapter 7).  This chapter had the most impact on me.  Block asserts that our conventional focus on large systems, better leaders, clearer goals, and more controls is ineffective and leads to over-regulated and disconnected communities.  He challenges both the belief that individual transformation leads to communal transformation and the traditional problem solving steps used in school.  Block describes developing a mission and vision as "important" and "essential".   However, the process must be followed up with continued engagement and involvement by all citizens.  Developing a vision is not the end of the process, it is the beginning (p.73-81).

Engagement is the Point   School leaders put a lot of pressure on themselves.  We feel we have to be all things to all people.  We need to have the answers for students, parents, teachers, community members, fellow administrators, and board members.  Block's simplified, big picture look at leadership is important to remember.  The essential role of a leader is to create the conditions for engagement.  Each interaction is an opportunity to move the culture of the organization toward shared ownership.  A leader must  feel comfortable not having the answers, it is more important to ask questions that spur engagement and action within the organization.  "The world does not need leaders to better define issues, or to orchestrate better planning or project managment.  What it needs is for the issues or plans for have more of an impact." (p.86-87).

Conversations that Create more than "Just-Talk"  Transformation occurs in a small group setting in which the focus is more on powerful questions and less on "solving" a problem.    We used Block's trans-formative conversations to cultivate a new approach to co-curricular activities at Cashton.  In my five years as principal I have had many conversations about improving student performance, increasing participation, and managing parent/student behavior and expectations.  There is no shortage of opinions on these matters.  However, I realized that our community was focused solely on the problems with our extra-curricular programs.  In isolation, I was attempting to "solve" these problems.  The extra curricular community engagement process didn't try identify problems and adjusting the athletic code.  The charge for the group was to develop a plan in which all members of the community had a stake in its success.  The result of the conversations was our "All-In" community plan.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Strategic Leadership: Developing a Mission and Vision

Developing a mission and vision begins with strategic leadership.  A truly shared mission and vision is co-created by community stakeholders.  If not, these documents will have little impact.  A superintendent should not impose personal philosophies on a community, but rather develop, and then trust, a process to identify common causes, beliefs, interests, goals, and aspirations (PLC, Richard DuFour).   That is not to say the school leader turns the process over to others, instead the superintendent must work to organize the meeting spaces, provide relevant background information, frame discussion points, and synthesize the data collected into a coherent collective message. It is a prominent, crucial role in which the district administrator should model the characteristics of a servant leader.  Servant leaders are not focused on the advancement of their own personal agendas, instead acting as a steward for the local educational community (Greenleaf).

Analysis of Kettle Moraine's Transformation TaskforceHudson School District’s HSD 2025, DeForest’s Future Search 2.0, and Cashton’s Cashton 2024 provide a strong blueprint for other districts to follow. However, the actions and format should be unique to the character, demographics, and climate of the district.

The revision of a mission statement must start with analysis of current educational trends and a "state of the district" review.  If you do not provide stakeholders with adequate information it limits their ability to make informed decisions.  Once relevant background is explored, strategic leaders set clear goals for the the process. The goals that I would set would look similar to the framework developed by Deforest.  1.) Provide an opportunity for citizens to participate in future planning.  2.) Identify the issues and trends that shape our community.  3.) Explore the knowledge, skills, and attributes that will be necessary to be a responsible citizen, have a good quality of life, and be successful in the future.  4.) Identify ways that our district can be effective in creating a learning environment that will enable our children to thrive in the future (DeForest).

Successful leaders create an environment in which all voices have an opportunity to participate.  To accomplish this task I would mimic the work completed by Cashton 2024.  To elicit participation in community engagement sessions, I would ask each board member to nominate one community member to be part of the Vision Element Study Team (VEST).  I would also implement a means for other interested citizens to participate on the team.  VEST team members would facilitate community engagement sessions and then meet to synthesize the feedback provided in these sessions. Web-based resources such as Wordle and Themseekr are helpful tools that expedite the analysis process.  Finally I would invite VEST team members to a board meeting to present their findings.  While playing an important role throughout the process, I would avoid the perception that I am dictating the outcomes of the process. However, the VEST team will need guidance in framing the mission and vision of the district that aligns to the the data collected.

Once the vision is established and approved the real work begins.  To honor the process leaders must "walk the walk".  Decisions must be made not out of personal interest, teacher preference, or to ease political agendas.  Resources, both human and fiscal, should be allocated in a manner the supports the achievement of the district vision. Aligned goals and specific action plans have to be implemented at the district, school, and classroom levels.  Goals must assessed for completion on a yearly basis.  While this level of accountability may be stressful, if the mission and vision of the district you work for aligns to your personal professional goals, the result is a fulfilling and valued career.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cashton Middle/High School Teacher Resources

We are fortunate to have a five new staff members starting this fall.   One challenge for a new staff member is   organizing and accessing the teacher resources available to them.  In an effort to ease this transition I created an online 3-ring binder for our new teachers.  The site that hosts the binder is LiveBinder.com.  The online-cloud based format allows access to all of these documents from any computer.  Throughout the year, I will  update, adjust, and add contributors to the binder.  Most of the documents on the site are uploaded directly from my Google Docs account.  I can control access levels to the documents and, when applicable, it allows certain teachers the ability to edit documents. I personally favor the tab format of live binder versus simply sharing a collection via Docs.  Thank you to Mrs. Julie Lundeen for helping me organize the binder.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Analysis of District and MS/HS Goals for 2011-12

District Goals 

HIGH QUALITY EDUCATIONAL AND EXTRA-CURRICULAR PROGRAMMING.  The district will offer and sustain engaging, challenging, and diverse learning opportunities for all students.  4K-12 curriculum will be reviewed and aligned to national and state guidelines.

  • Teachers and staff attend professional development workshops/conferences at the CESA, state, and national levels.

  • Planning time with curriculum director to analyze student date and set student achievement goals.  Language arts teams met bi-weekly in vertical teams to prepare common core implementation.

  • The increase of co-taught classes, the implementation of literacy planning time, and specific intervention expectations for all teachers supported the sustained commitment to the full inclusion and development of a rigorous course of study for all students.  

  • District technology initiatives and associated training have improved student engagement, increased students access to fundamental learning tools, and enhanced the quality of instructional activities.  

  • A district-wide career cluster analysis was completed.  The results of this analysis will be used in assessing current course offerings and developing career/college counseling opportunities.

  • A committee of community stakeholders researched the conditions under which students excel in co-curricular activities.  The results were compiled in to a strategic plan.  All-In: A New Era of Cashton Co-Curricular Programming empowers students, parents, coaches, administration, and community members to create the optimal conditions for student growth and achievement.

  • A new speed, strength, and conditioning coach was hired.  The primary objective of this position will be to develop and implement comprehensive weightlifting and conditioning programs for all student athletes.

  • SAFE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT.   The district will provide a safe school environment that promotes global citizenship, respect for others, and personal accountability.

  • Wellness Day 2011 promoted positive and healthy decision-making for middle/high school students.

  • Emergency response actions were reviewed.  Updates to the emergency response plan helped clarify any confusion among staff.
COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS AND PARENT INVOLVEMENT.  Create and improve communication practices between  students, staff, parents, and community that support positive partnerships that allow support the growth of our learning community.

  • District and school blogs (MS/HS and Elementary) and websites (MS/HS and Elementary) were developed to inform parents and community members of school events.  These actions supplemented the practice of distributing quarterly newsletters.

  • The district created a partnership with Scenic Bluffs Health Center and Scenic Rivers AHEC to form a Health Careers Academy.   The HCA provides opportunities for students interested in pursuing medical or health science careers.

  • The middle school conducted a parents satisfaction survey. The responses will be used to set improvement goals for the 2012-13 school year.
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY In light of declining financial support from the state, the district will closely monitor and manage finances in a manner that sustains educational priorities.

  • District staffing decisions aligned to school vision and purpose.

  • Requisitions and purchases were evaluated according to curricular and school need.

  • Community access to school resources continued to be a priority.

MS/HS Goals
ASSESSMENT AND GRADING.  Design consistent, fair, accurate, and efficient assessment and grading guidelines. Course grades will measure student achievement relative to district curricular goals and objectives.  Grades will serve to inform students, parents, teachers, and administrators of the degree to which mastery has been attained and to help teachers adjust instruction to meet the individual needs of all students. Grades help students understand their current level of performance and how to achieve the next level of performance.

  • Traditional pen/paper exams were replaced by authentic project based assessments.

  • Technology was used to improve the quality, frequency, and timeliness of student feedback.

  • The use of formative assessment was increased.  These assessment supported the adjustment and adaption of instructional techniques prior to “final” or summative assessments.

  • Remediation/retake opportunities were offered in all subject areas.

  • Adjustments have led to grades more accurately reflecting students achievement levels.  A comparison of grades from 2010-11 to 2011-12 was completed and shared with staff.

Goal 1 Action Steps for 2012-13
1.  Develop assessments that are authentic and aligned to instructional objectives.  

2.  The increase use of formative assessments has improved teachers ability to recognize areas in of student deficiencies.  The development responsive intervention instruction is still an area of need.  We must try a develop diverse instructional techniques during the remediation process.

3. Unit pacing.  Students who struggle were overwhelmed with remediation time versus learning the current instructional objectives.  Teachers were stressed with balancing a class full of students at varying levels of mastery.  

4. Alignment of common core instructional practices with district grading guidelines.

SAFE AND RESPECTFUL ENVIRONMENT.  A continued commitment to providing students equal educational opportunities within a safe and respectful learning environment that prevents incidents of bullying, allows for diverse cultures and opinions, and holds students accountable for their actions.

  • Teachers implemented proactive classroom management tactics in an effort to establish and consistently enforce rules

  • Hallways, stairwells, and other high traffic areas were supervise by faculty or covered with security cameras.

  • Incidents of negative social interactions (both face to face and virtual) were addressed and communicated to parents.  If issues were repetitive or harassing in nature, disciplinary actions were taken.

  • Emergency response actions were reviewed.  Updates to the ERP helped clarify any confusion among staff.

  • A significant increase in staff attendance at student events was observed.

  • Wellness day 2011 and the pre-prom mock crash 2012 promoted healthy, positive decisions.

Goal 2 Action Steps for 2012-13
1. Teachers have identified the need for the development of specific school-wide system for establishing positive behaviors and academic habits, rewarding students who implement these behaviors, and providing effective support students whose academic performance is being negatively affected by misalignment of their behaviors.

2.  A system to address the need for continuity of behavior expectations between classes.   The maintenance of common expectations between classes will strengthen its effectiveness and lessen students confusion over rules.

Response to Intervention.  A collaborative approach to the comprehensive implementation of a Response to Intervention program that is used to identify, monitor, and support all students meeting curricular outcomes.

  • Professional development and training was provided to help teachers increase their understanding of the RtI model.

  • Staff training to help differentiate between Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions.

  • A universal system was developed to track the interventions provided and  to monitor the progress of students at-risk for failure.  

  • Lunch-time supervised study was established for students at-risk for failing multiple classes.

Goal 3 Action Steps for 2012-13
1.  The development of more intensive Tier 3 support for students failing in a number of academic subjects.

2.  Remedial instruction and remediation training

3.  Improved use of student data  

4.  Adjust the EBLOCK schedule to make the time more academically efficient.
-Imbalance of teachers needed during EBLOCK
-Methods to address students who are failing multiple classes
-Addressing who assigns classes
-Maximize the timing the mornings.
-Improve the quality of enrichment activities offered

CURRICULUM ALIGNMENT TO STANDARDS.  Review and adjust current curricular and instructional practices to assure alignment with Common Core, state standards, and college/career readiness guidelines.

  • Teachers analyzed current course units of study and identified current practices that are misaligned to Common Core and/or state standards.

  • District-wide introduction to Curriculum Companion software that will be used to document alignment of the common core standards.

  • District-wide training on enhancing text complexity in all content areas.

  • Common planning time for language arts teachers and curriculum director to reflect on current instructional practices and prepare curricular adjustments.

  • Teachers completed a curriculum map reflection for each unit of study.

Goal 4 Action Steps for 2012-13
1. Content specific vertical planning teams must meet to improve understanding of surrounding curriculum and to identify areas of misalignment to the common core and/or state standards.

2. The use of the curriculum companion will be adopted to document course alignment to the common core math and language arts standards.

3. Additional disciplinary literacy support training must be provided to all teachers.

4. As new science and social studies standards are formally adopted training will be provided to teachers to accurately align course curriculum.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Three Regional Championships In A Week

Cashton student athletes have had an impressive spring.  Over the past week we have collected three regional championships.  On Tuesday, May 22nd the girls track and field team won their fourth consecutive regional championship.  Led by a balanced group of contributors the girls won the regional with an impressive score of 154 points.  The girls scored 58 points more than the next closest competitor.  On Thursday, May 24th the girls competed in the sectional meet.  Despite some rough weather that caused a long delay six girls qualified for the state track and field meet.  Best of luck to Sarah Gronemus (4x800, 1600 M), Amerila Korn (4x800), Betsy Schreier (Triple Jump, 4x800), Chloe Kaiser (4x800), Amber Dahl (100H, 300H, and 4x800), and Marisa Schaldach (4x800) as they travel to state competition today.  If you can not attend the meet it can be followed live on www.foxsportswisconsin.com.

The next team to raise some hardware was the baseball team.  The team completed the regular season as Scenic Bluffs Conference champions.  So far in the playoffs the team has posted wins over Royall (18-4) and Brookwood (12-2). The sectional tournament will be held on Tuesday, June 5th.  The Eagles will play Pittsville at 10 am in Wilton.  If they win, the sectional final is at 4:00 pm.

The softball team has come on very strong at the end of the season.  They finished second in the Scenic Bluffs conference and entered the regional as the third seed.  Their playoff run has included wins for Royall (10-0), Wonewoc-Center (3-1), and New Lisbon (5-2).  The win over top-seeded New Lisbon was especially sweet because it avenged two previous losses this year to the Rockets.  The sectional tournament will be held on Monday, June 4th.  The Eagles will play Cochran-Fountain City at 4:00 pm in Pepin.  If they win the sectional final is Thursday, June 7th at 4:00 pm in Boscobel.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Graduation 2012

Kelli Schmitz and Megan Flock

On May 26th the 115th class of seniors graduated from Cashton High School. This year's ceremony was filled with energy. The graduates started to arrive about an hour early. They met as a group in the cafeteria. As they helped each other get ready stories were told, jokes were made, and laughter filled the room. Ties were tied, the caps and gowns were fitted, and tassels were placed properly on the left side. As the senior class made their final preparations the gym began to fill with friends and families. I have learned the best place to stand prior to the ceremony is near the front entrance of the gym. It is a great opportunity to shake hands with former graduates, community members, grandparents, and proud parents. 

For some parents this graduation ceremony will mark the end of a busy phase in their own lives. A phase that started with PTO meetings and volunteering for field trips. A period that included practicing locker combinations; tutoring for math finals; music lessons; running up to the school to sign a permission slip; parent-teacher conferences; and countless trips throughout the Coulee region to watch athletic and extra-curricular competitions. A chapter that is likely concluding with intense discussions about future goals, reviewing job applications, attending financial aid seminars, and visits to local post-secondary institutions.

At 7:55 the graduates filed out of the cafeteria and into position to start the processional. A few final reminders were provided by class advisers and then at eight o'clock sharp the ceremony began with a loud drum roll. As the 42 graduates took their place on stage in the front of the gym, cameras, phones, and IPADS captured the moment. Almost immediately, these images were being uploaded and shared with friends and family that could not make the trip to Cashton for the ceremony.

Dillon Flock
It was noted throughout the ceremony that this is an impressive group of young adults. 26 honor graduates, 76 scholarships totaling over $175,000, regional and sectional championships, state and national appearances in extra curricular activities, and state recognition for academic performance.

Sarah Gronemus

A highlight of the ceremony was the student speeches. Sarah Gronemus, senior class president, reminded her classmates to savor the moments that high school provided. Dillon Flock, valedictorian, urged the class of 2012 to look to the future and not dwell to long on the successes or failures in high school. Sonja Cummings, salutatorian, referenced her favorite song as she congratulated the group for making their mark. Finally, Amelia Korn, senior class vice president, thanked parents, teachers, and her fellow classmates for their dedication, support, and patience.

Amelia Korn

The ceremony concluded with the distribution of the diplomas and a spirited recessional.  Families and friends lingered making sure to get pictures with various combinations of friends and families.  About an hour after the ceremony concluded the final family made their way to home.

Faculty Speaker, Mr. Fencl

Congratulations to the Class of 2012!  On behalf of the faculty, I applaud your efforts over the last four years.  Excellence in academics and extra-curricular activities is a tradition at Cashton Public Schools, and I praise your efforts in upholding and advancing this standard.  During the transition from your high school years to your adult lives, you will always remember and value your time at Cashton Public Schools.  I am proud to have been a part of it.  Best wished and best of luck in the future!