Over the course of this first year of our 1:1 iPad implementation we have experienced many ups and downs. The rollout and early meeting with students and parents were very positive. The inclusion of these new learning devices in some classrooms was successful. But, we then had bumps in the road that make you feel was this all worth it. Seeing some students use them more for a gaming console or posting to facebook more than doing work was depressing. However, after a few experiences the last couple weeks I am fortified in my belief that our students need these devices intertwined in their educational experience even more than ever.
Since December we have hosted three school teams from both North and South Dakota that wanted to meet our teachers and students to learn more on how they could implement a 1:1 program like ours. During these visits we openly shared our experiences both positive and negative. We fielded hundreds of questions from how we selected this technology, professional development of teachers, and impacts in the classroom. Each of these schools were tremendously impressed at what they saw in Ellendale and how well we are doing only after one year. They each voiced an appreciation of the hard work done by the teachers and the respect the school has for them in doing it. It was shared by a teacher from Langdon, that if she knew her school respected her time and efforts as much as Ellendale did for theirs she would work harder for them.
The stories shared by students and teachers reaffirmed to me that we are on the right track. Despite our pitfalls this year, we are making progress. For example Mrs. Irey has been piloting a program that we plan to roll out in all classrooms next year called MyBigCampus. This allows students to use their iPad to complete assignments, compose essays, and test using their device. It will also provide parents with greater information on their child’s progress in their studies. Second, we strive to provide options for students to learn all day, every day. Take a look at Mrs. Land’s web site. She posts every slide from her classwork on her site so students can review it easily with their iPad, anytime. Next, we are starting to test digital textbooks. Mrs. Herman tested a digital text earlier in the year. Why is a digital text good? A digital text is never out of date, it can be easily updated and changed as information and knowledge changes. Lastly, our students are starting to learn how to share their knowledge in ways aside from a paper and pencil test. A student, in one of these meetings, shared how their teacher is assigning tasks that ask them to produce 3-4 minute videos, or digital presentations, sharing what they know.
We have a long way to go, this is only the first year of our 3 year implementation plan. But, we are making progress. I want to conclude with some recent comments from Mr. Patrick Halley from the FCC. He contacted me a week ago to ask if I would be willing to participate in a video conference on Rural Broadband. This conference is being hosted by the FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler. He specifically requested EHS to be part of the conference due to the work being done by EHS and DRN on using broadband to improve education in rural America. When he inquired as to what EPS does to provide access to our students, he was amazed. We are the example that they are striving to move all schools in our nation toward. This conference will be taking place on March 19th.
Snapchat is an app that has been a buzz within schools and among parents a lot this year. The reason it has been a buzz is because Snapchat is a trendy service used by young people that allows them to send messages, pictures, or videos to other users in real time. These messages are quick and more personal then standard text messages. One of the initial cool features of the app was that the messages were believed to be only retained for only as long as the user viewed them the 1st time. (Not totally true) Young people were enticed to believe that they could communicate in a way that was not being recorded, retained, or able to be shared with others.
If you have not used Snapchat here is a video that may benefit you. It explains more about what Snapchat is and how it is used. http://www.kidsinthehouse.com/video/what-should-parents-know-about-snapchat
What should parents be concerned with? Here is a wonderful guide to what parents should know about Snapchat. http://www.connectsafely.org/wp-content/uploads/snapchat_guide.pdf
Snapchat and other social media apps can be wonderful tools or they can be problems for kids and their parents. Either way it is important for the adults in students lives to know more about them so we can help guide our kids as to what is acceptable behavior with these services. At Ellendale School we believe that by helping to educate you on these services we help our kids. Specifically EPS has blocked Snapchat on our student issued iPads. However, it is impossible to block it on their personal smartphones, nor would I want to do that. We must be informed and watchful. If you or we see problems stemming from its use, lets communicate and work together to educate our kids on how it could be used better.
Hope you found this article to be beneficial. Don’t lie, how many of you are installing it right now….
It is always good to hear when parents or families have concerns with some aspects of how we communicate with them as often we are unaware when technologies are not working. One of these is commonly notification of a child’s lunch balance. To help clarify here are the steps EPS will take to communicate your child’s lunch balance.
1. PowerSchool Parent – This is by far the best way for you to track your child’s lunch balance and grades. This can be accessed via the EPS web site. You will need to know your login and password to access PS Parent. If you have difficulty please contact the office as we can assist you.
2. PowerSchool Parent Emails – You can set up automatic email notifications within PS Parent in the Email Notification section. Here you can set up either grade or lunch balance emails to be sent to you daily, monthly, every 2 weeks, or weekly. This is a very easy way to keep track of both grades and fees. If you are unable to access PS Parent to set up this feature we again can help you, please call.
3. SchoolReach – When your child’s lunch balance reaches $5 or less EPS will send you an automated reminder call once a week. This commonly happens on Monday evenings and goes to your home phone. This is one of the steps that is difficult for us to monitor to see if it is working properly. PowerSchool and SchoolReach have both automated this process so it happens without any direction from us. Thus, if the technology is not working we really don’t know till someone lets us know.
4. Reminder Letters – The EPS office will send out reminder letters to families every other week to those that have a balance of $5 or less. Unfortunately, to save some postage, if your child had a balance of $6 on that date, they could be -$15 or so by the time the next notice goes out. We know this, and that is why the first notice is just a courtesy.
5. Reminder Letter with a personal message – If a balance remains unpaid after 1 reminder letter then we often send another reminder letter home a couple weeks later. However, I will personally jot a quick note at the bottom of this letter to better let you know that the balance needs to be paid.
6. Phone call – If the balance remains yet unpaid I will reach out to you personally by phone, email, or text. This varies on the family and the best way I know to communicate with you. This is the step taken before a child is put on the peanut butter/cheese sandwich option that is shared in the letter.
Thanks for your questions on this matter and I hope this helps everyone understand what steps are taken by EPS to inform you about your child’s lunch balance.
Today, I experienced two things that reaffirmed my belief in free public education and the successes being made at Ellendale Public School and education in general around the country. The first was shared with me with my elementary principal, Mrs. Sell. Below you will find a snap shot of the results of our winter interim assessment for 2nd graders at EES in both reading and math. Their performance was exceptional with every child in math scoring average or above. Even more outstanding is their performance in reading where 59% of the class is performing the HIGH category.
This shows our students are performing at exemplary levels in both subjects. But, behind the numbers it validates the exceptional work being done by teachers. Teachers that are increasingly being made out to be lazy, irresponsible, unaccountable, and not prepared to meet the needs of their students by those with a voice on TV or radio. Do you listen to the nightly national news and wonder why our schools are failing? They are not failing, we are doing exceptional things. Do you ever wonder why state and national leaders want to turn over education? The reason is simple, money and power.
I was reaffirmed today by a video defending public education that I would like to share http://riseabovethemark.com/action In a nutshell, this video tugged at my heart as it made me think of some recent teachers, at Ellendale School, that have made the decision to leave education. These EPS teachers also shed tears, and said the same exact things you will hear on this video. It makes me wonder if the profession will endure the onslaught of negativity and micromanaging, but today I have hope.
Just before the holiday ND Dept of Public Instruction release a new report showing the percentage of students from all the high schools in North Dakota that have had to take remedial course work upon entering a institution of higher learning. This data was compiled by the department as they tracked students from the class of 2009-2012 as they entered these institutions.
For many years now, higher ed institutions have been concerned about the number of students having to take remedial math or English courses before they are allowed to take the traditional entry level math or English offered to freshmen. The data shown on this report provides you with the average percentage of North Dakota high schools having to take such coursework at these institutions and also breaks it down for every high school specifically. ** Special Note – I will save my arguments on why this increase is happening for another post, we will just stick with the facts**
Below are the results of that report for Ellendale High School. At the recent January School Board meeting I have pulled a select group of regional and similarly sized districts which is what I am also providing you as well for comparison. As you browse the results remember this is the average for all 2009-2012 graduates that attended one of the institutions above. The statewide average for each category is noted at the top of the column in ( %). You will find Ellendale School is below the average in all three categories and most impressively when looking at our students enrolling in the research universities. ** Click on the image below to have it open up full screen – much easier to read**
How much snow is on the ground? How much do we expect to yet receive? What is the temperature? What is the wind doing? What are the road conditions? How much time do I have yet to decide? These are just a few of the points I ponder when making the determination to close school or not.
With the recent early blast of winter I was watching a news article on KVLY trying to characterize what their Superintendent weighs when trying to make a closure determination. After watching this article I thought it would be a good topic for my blog as well.
The decision to close school or run late is never an easy decision. No matter what decision is made, unless is absolutely horrid, there are people who question the decision to close or stay open. It is just part of the territory when it comes to being a Superintendent. But, to help you understand what I do to make this decision let me share what happens on a “normal” storm event.
My morning routine begins the night before. In most instances we know bad weather is approaching. So the evening before I am listening to the weather forecast (I like http://www.wday.com/) In addition I follow a page on the National Weather Service site that is a wonderful tool. Both of these are wonderful predictors of snow and other weather events. They are not 100% but I have found they are better than the gossip on the street.
The next morning I will wake up by 5:15 to allow some time to get ready and if needed scoop off my own driveway. After that, I will head out in my mobile office, my pickup, to evaluate the actual weather and road conditions. At this time depending on snow amounts and visibility it is usually easy to decide if it will be a tough morning or not. I will drive both highway and rural roads in an area within 6-8 miles of Ellendale. It is not feasible to drive roads from Forbes to Fullerton even though some have asked, time just does not allow for it. I will tend to drive west of town as this is usually where the harshest weather takes place. While on this drive I am looking at many variables but to help you understand my thinking here are a few principles…
- Student safety is more important than getting in a day of school
- Visibility is more important than temperature
- Slick roads are less important than snow accumulation
- Cold temperatures are less important than cold and wind together
- Cold by itself will probably not cancel school
- Slick roads by themselves will probably not cancel school
- What things are happening outside of weather including morning activities, sub bus drivers on the routes, and how are the buses running
Before a final decision is made I will pull over my mobile office and communicate with several resources in the area including Charlie Russel, Dickey County 911, Dickey County Highway Dept, and area superintendents. Each of these provides me with information about what is happening outside the Ellendale area and is vital in making a sound decision. Over the course of the last 5 years this communication has improved greatly and it is a great asset to me. Lastly, I will check the ND Highway report along with a few online resources to check incoming weather conditions.
Then I have to make the decision… Think, Think, Think. So the decision is made, school is going to be late or cancelled. At that time, usually from my pickup, I will start by sending out a SchoolReach message to all parents and employees informing them of my decision. After that is done I will update the school web site with a twitter post that also goes to the district Facebook page. Lastly, I will start calling the TV and radio stations as this can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on how busy they are. In the future we will probably be adding making an announcement via our school app but this is still in development.
Many of us awoke to the start of winter this morning, and with it concern about school and bus messages. All parents should automatically be on the list to receive voicemail messages via our SchoolReach calling system. However, many of you may not know about the others ways we communicate and how you can help to ensure the appropriate messages reach you each and every time.
SchoolReach – For those that do not know SR is an automated calling system that allows us to send voice, txt, and email messages to you and your family. This system is commonly used to share information on bad weather but may be used during emergencies or when we just want to remind you about an upcoming event. The SR system stores up to 5 phone numbers and your email. The first number is always the home phone you provide the school. The other 4 numbers are left up to you to manage and are commonly cell, work, or other family members.
*** The important part is that you can manage these numbers to ensure we reach you. You can manage your child’s numbers in a couple ways:
1. Login to PowerSchool Parent – At the bottom of the main page will be a SchoolReach icon. Click on it an you will be taken to a screen where you can review the numbers we have on file and also enter any desired changes. *Allow 24 hours for these changes to become active.
2. Use the SchoolReach App – This iPhone or Android app will give you the ability to replay any missed messages but it will also give you access to manage your contact numbers just as described before. If you have a smart phone this is a wonderful app to have. To get the app go to http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/parents/schoolreach/index.html to get it today.
3. You Missed It - If you simply missed the SR message you can dial 855-955-8500 to retrieve the last message sent to your phone.
Keep the Lines Open
When a SchoolReach message is sent out, the office will always take 10-20 calls from those that have not heard the message, or just missed it. I understand some just see the caller ID and call us back. However, I am asking that if you can first check one of the ways above it would help us out. It is not that we don’t like speaking to you. But, we have had times, an early dismissal for example, when we are trying to get calls out from students to their parents and we are inundated by calls just asking what the message was. Another example would be in the instance of an emergency. In these instances we need to keep our phone lines clear to call 911 or to even send out follow up messages to you. Again, please don’t think we hate hearing from you, we don’t. We just want you to understand you can obtain these messages in other ways that is convenient for you and also for us.
We thank you for your cooperation.
Parents we just learned that it is possible for students to change their grades (the appearance of their grades) within PowerSchool. This issue is arising when students access their grades online via PowerSchool but then they alter the image of the grade. What I mean is that their browser allows them to change the letter grade temporarily. Once changed your child can have you look at their screen or give you a print out that looks just like the real thing. This has not happened in Ellendale, at least that we have heard of yet, but just be on the look out. When the student logs off of the PowerSchool site their changes are not permanent and the grade reverts back to its original. However, if you are asking your child to give you a print out, they may be fixing the grade before it is printed.
My advise is double-check. Parents have access to your child’s grades in many various and efficient ways. First, you can request a PowerSchool Parent login from the school. This way you can go check on your child’s grades, homework, attendance, and much more yourself. If you dont have a login please contact your child’s principal. If you don’t like having to remember a login and password then contact us and we can set you up to receive a weekly, monthly, or even daily emails that gives you a snap shot of your child’s grades, lunch balance, and even daily announcements. If you are a fan of apps and mobile devices we can offer you the PowerSchool app for your iPhone or android. The app can be found here for the iPhone - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/powerschool-for-parents/id444983648 or for Android on Google Play at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=appinventor.ai_jbappleman.settingsTest&hl=en If none of these three ways tickle your fancy then always remember you can call or email your child’s teacher. It may be best to get it straight from the source.
In an official statement from EduTech, whom provides PowerSchool to all North Dakota Schools, they are stating…
“This does not change the student’s grade in the teacher’s grade book or
within PowerSchool. It changes the image on the screen within the browser
the student is using. The student then prints out the screen to present to
their parent or guardian. Once the student logs off or closes the window,
the screen display goes back to the correct grade, which is either the
stored or current grade within PowerSchool.”
During the last legislative session a couple changes in North Dakota law will be making a significant impact on how and when medications are dispensed in schools. The law in its simplest terms increased the training required to dispense medications, provided the opportunity for school employees to refuse to disseminate medications, and gave some liability to schools when they do provide them. After the creation of the law the ND School Boards Association took to the task of crafting new policy to guide schools on what they should and should not be doing when disseminating drugs to children. This policy totaled 8 pages and 11 forms.
At this time the policy and forms are still being reviewed by a committee of school administrators, a health care provider, an office secretary trained and responsible to provide medication to your children, and a school board member. However, I want to warn all parents to expect significant changes to how and when EPS will disseminate drugs, both prescription and OTC . Here is what I believe you can expect:
When this policy and new procedures are finalized you will surely receive more information from us. At this time I just want to let you know that significant changes are in the works that may impact your family.
In commemoration of American Education Week this upcoming week (Nov 18-22) I want to say THANK YOU to all the teachers at Ellendale School. I want to acknowledge their dedication to the children in our community and the hard work they put in each
week ensuring to provide opportunities for our children to learn and flourish. Take some time to say THANK YOU to an educator, in your life, that made a difference.
Often during these special weeks some well-meaning adults will say things like “It must be so wonderful to work with kids everyday” or “Isn’t it wonderful to have a job that is done each day at 3:30″. I want to tell you that a teachers day is wonderful but it surely does not end at 3:30. A report by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation foun
d that teachers work day averages 10 hours & 40 minutes or 53 hours per week. Teachers are not working from bell to bell as some would believe. In fact the study reports that on average teachers are spending 90 minutes a day beyond the school day mentoring, attending meetings, and working with peers. Teachers are then spending another 95 minutes per day preparing lessons, grading papers, and often corresponding with parents. Then, if that same teacher is a coach tack on 11 hours and 20 minutes per week. It is a demanding job and one that is scrutinized by many. Yet, they do it. They work each day with the vision that every student can and will learn. Thanks!
Many people in our community work hard. I grew up a member of a ranching family and the days of feeding, checking, and working cattle were long. The man that delivers fuel to my home I see at 7am and also at 7 at night. The woman at the Fireside taking my order I know is on her feet over 40 hours a week. My point is not that teachers work harder than everyone else. It is simply to say please appreciate the work they do both between the bells and after the last one of the day, it is TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK and again I say THANKS!