Mar
17
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 17-03-2015

The number of new students arriving at Ellendale School is beyond anything we have ever seen before, at least in my tenure here.  Here is a comparison of actively enrolled students as of today (3/17/15) as compared to the same date last year.

 

 

 

 

As a note.. as I am crafting this post.  We just had two more 5th graders enroll.  Like I said it is beyond anything we have seen before.

 

Mar
06
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 06-03-2015

Transparency in all we do in education is even more important today than it has ever been.  I feel with the increasing scrutiny of education, political power grabs, and general sense of skepticism that we need do our best to give as much information as we can to our patrons.  I do think Ellendale School does a pretty good job of sharing information, but I know we can do better.  As we embark in a couple weeks on our AdvancEd external team review I thought it might be a good time to share with you many of the things we share with our public.  Much of this will include links to our district web site, which is the portal to almost all of this information.

AYP – Adequate Yearly Progress.  This is the district report card required by NCLB and can be found at http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/curriculum/curriculum_main.html Here you can see our student performance data and required postings for NCLB.

AdvancEd – this is our school improvement plan including our goals and actions we plan to take.  This can be found at http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/schoolboard/advanced/ In mid March an external team of educators will be visiting Ellendale School for two days reviewing our plan and our school.  This will culminate in a report which will guide us for the next few years.

Standards – the news about standards has been in the news a great deal the past few months.  We have supplied a link to information on the standards at http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/CommonCore/Parent/ This is a great place to read the specific standards and learn more about them.

School Board – this section contains present and past board meeting documents.  These will include almost all of our handouts and is being worked on monthly.  This section also has a link to school policy which is easily searchable.  There are links to employee handbooks and much more at http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/schoolboard/schoolboard_main.html

Scholarships Information and Career Guidance – this can be found on Miss Weeds page and is an outstanding resource for parents of Jr’s and Sr’s.  It can be found at http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/careers_scholarships/careers_main.html You will find information on how to apply for scholarships, career planning checklists, and NCAA eligibility regulations.

Bullying – We believe bullying is a serious issue and that by knowing we can help.  This section explains more about what is bullying and provides a form so people and share with us information about instances that may be happening outside our view.  It can be found at http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/nobullying/

Weather – Weather is a conversation every day.  Ellendale School hosts a permanent weather station on our roof and this data can be retrieved by anyone.  So if you want to see the monthly observations from this station they can be found at http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/weather/ On this page make sure to check out the Weatherbug EHS page and also the ND Winter Wx Briefing.  They are both exceptional resources.

Tradebooks – have you ever wondered what books teachers read to students.  We have supplied a list of all the tradebooks we use along with their lexile and in what class we use them.  This can be found at http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/curriculum/ElemTradeBooks.pdf

Health – need to learn more about immunzations or head lice, then go to our Health and Wellness page at http://www.ellendale.k12.nd.us/health_services/health_main.html

I hope you check out all the information we have posted on our web site.  These are in no way all of the information we have for parents, teachers, or our students.  Again, I think we do a good job of sharing a great deal about what is happening in your school.  I hope this will ensure that we have everyone using this information and learning more about their school.

 

Feb
13
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 13-02-2015

The recent news about the new state assessment “Smarter Balanced” has many asking questions.  I would like to give you some of my thoughts on the assessment and explain why my eyes are crossing.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (www.smarterbalanced.org) is a consortium of states that were funded to build a digital assessment aligned with the common core standards.  DPI selected this assessment to replace the ND State Assessment made by CTB-McGrawHill in 2009.  The previously used NDSA tests in Reading/Language Arts, Math, and Science were completed in the fall of each year, aligned to the ND State Standards based on the common core, and were completed on paper and pencil.  The results were usually received in the late spring and were used to determine if our school passed or failed per NCLB.  Starting this school year we are now directed to use the old NDSA for science and this was given in the fall of 2014.  The new Smarter Balanced Assessment, also aligned to the ND Standards based on the common core, will test Reading/Language Arts and Math starting in March.  The Smarter Balanced test is computerized and this will be the very first time that our students have taken this test.

Let me begin with what concerns me.  The Smarter Balanced test is new, aside from what teachers, administrators, and board members have seen on practice tests, this is the very first time we will see it in full use.  I believe the test is more demanding of our students.  I am not saying that is bad but I am concerned students will be fatigued by it and not persevere.  Please understand.. I know we have hard working kids, that is not the issue.  But, you and I both remember the old bubble sheet tests with a question and four answers.  If we didn’t know the answer or were just tired what were we trained to do…. Pick C.  Yes I admit I did it!  These new tests are asking more multiple step problems.  The practice questions I have taken require mastery of not just one single skill but several to complete them.  The questions I have seen are good, but demanding.  A student cannot simply pick C.  Will they have the determination to work through these types of problems?  Time will tell.

If you would like to give them a try yourself here is a link to their public practice test site - http://sbac.portal.airast.org/practice-test/

Secondly, I am concerned that once the test is done and the results are tallied we, like other states, are going to see a drop.  We are going to go from 84.21% proficient in Reading for the elementary (2013-2014 AYP report)  to immediately drop to less than 50% proficient, and honestly nothing would have changed except the test.  We will be teaching the same lessons, in the same fashion, at the same rate as we have for the past several years but the test will tell everyone we are failing.  That concerns me.

Here is why my eyes are crossing.  How can any school or business keep an eye on their performance, and improve, when the measurement device is changing.  Just think about it for a minute… if you were farming and the tool you used to measure effectiveness of your herbicide was changing.  In this example your tool would make a record of the total number of weeds you had in a 1000ft row.  Then based on that number it said (Great-Good-Poor-Awful).  Tool 1 (the old tool) said you were Great, even though you had just a few weeds, lets say 10.  Then a new tool comes along, tool 2, and it reports Poor.  However when you go out there the same 10 weeds are present.  What has changed?  Not your farming.  Not the number of weeds.  Nothing but the report from the tool.  Can you feel your eyes crossing yet?  As a school leader, I am focused on monitoring student performance and achievement.  It is the reason we are here, to teach our students and get them to learn.  So will I now watch the results from Smarter Balanced and immediately say “Oh my gosh we must be failing!”.  No.. I won’t.  I am going to encourage everyone to keep their eyes, like I am keeping mine, on our north star.  This for us is the NWEA MAP diagnostic.  We have used this examination since the spring of 2007 and it will be what I watch to see if we are successful or not.  I will not be putting my eggs in the Smarter Balanced basket for a few years.  After that test has a few years of data and we can see true trend information, I will shift my gaze toward it.  But, until that time has passed, please be patient.  Do not immediately believe that Ellendale or any school is immediately failing based on these results.  Parents, keep your eyes on your child’s MAP results.  Smarter Balanced is required to comply with NCLB and at this point, that is all it is worth to me.  I hope you can do the same.

Happy Valentines!  Thanks for loving the Cardinals and Ellendale Public School.
We really do love – the most valuable things you have in your lives – your KIDS!

 

 

Feb
03
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 03-02-2015

You are right, measles is an old disease.  It is reported to have been around since the 9th century.  In 1912 measles became a nationally notifiable disease with nearly 6,000 deaths from it being reported per year.  By the mid 60′s almost all children contracted the measles with 300-400 each year dying from the disease.  Then also in the 1960′s came the development of a vaccine for measles and the eventual path toward ridding us of measles complete, even though that did not happen.   However, in 2000 the disease was nearly no-existent in the United States.

Now measles is again making headlines.  Confirmed cases around the United States are making their way closer to North Dakota every day.  There are confirmed cases reported in South Dakota and Minnesota, affecting primarily young adults and children.  If you would like to learn more about measles you can follow this link to information on the CDC web site.  http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/signs-symptoms.html

This nation wide outbreak does affect schools in our region. Due to the proximity of confirmed cases and the mobility of our population it is something Ellendale School and Dickey County Health are monitoring.  If you child is immunized (received the MMR vaccination two times- minimum 28 days apart) already your child is for the most part safe from measles.  However, even with the vaccination it is reported your child may still have a 1% chance of contracting the disease if exposed.  On the flip side if your child is not vaccinated they have a 99% chance of contracting the disease if exposed.  If you child is not immunized I would encourage you to contact your families health care professional to discuss your options.

Many people ask what would happen if measles would make its way to Ellendale.  First and foremost don’t panic, measles will probably effect a very small portion of the population.  But, in a school things must be address quickly to help prevent the spread of this disease.  NDCC 23-07-17.1 allows schools the right to exclude students from attendance if they are not current with their vaccinations.  This is only foreseeable in a time when a contagious disease, such as measles, is present in our community.  If that were the case we would work closely with each and every family to find ways to continue a child’s education, possibly using technology or sending home assignments, until the outbreak would pass.  As a proactive response we would again encourage families to contact their health care providers if they have a child lacking the MMR immunizations.

If you have other questions about measles you can also contact Dickey County Health at 349-4348 for more information.

Credit - http://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html

Jan
16
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 16-01-2015

With the birth of a new year and the kick off of the legislative season in our great state my mind is filled with many more rambling thoughts than concentrated focused ones.  So I thought I would just share some ramblings on a wide variety of topics today.

New Year – New Students
With the start of the new year EPS gains some more students.  I am not sure how many know this but EPS has seen what might be considered a small population explosion this year.  When I compare enrollment today (1/16) to a year ago here are the differences:  High School: Today 147 – Yr Ago 140;  Elementary: Today 174 – Yr Ago 150;  Maple River: Today 31 – Yr Ago 30.  So in total student population is up 32 kids from a year ago.  That is an easily recognizable increase in the hallways.  Particularly since of the 24 new kids in the elementary 10 of them have deposited themselves in 3rd grade.

New Teacher
Due to the enrollment increase in 3rd grade we have had to adjust our instructional staff almost monthly.  Planning for 18 students in May, then 23 in Sept, 24 by Oct 1st, 26 by Nov 1, and then 27 in December had its challenges.  As of today that number has jumped again to now 28 students.   During the fall the district approved hiring an aide for the classroom but as of 2015, now 28 in the room, we are making another change.  Starting on Jan 26th a second 3rd grade teacher will be added to our faculty and we will be splitting the class to now 2 sections of 14.

Civics Legislation
Yes, I support students knowledge of civics.  The people that Jay Leno used to interview on the street…made me wonder where they went to school.  That being said I am not a fan of the proposed new legislation requiring students to pass a civics examination.  Students are already required to complete course work that has civics elements embedded into it.  You remember when you were in high school.. didn’t you have to learn the ND Representatives, who the VP was, and how many justices were on the Supreme Court.  Yes, we did.   It is still the same today.  Our students must complete 3 credits of Social Studies that must include US History and POD.  I am not a fan of requiring another test.  I believe our students are tested enough and for many of those tests we don’t have any option of giving them or not.  Many of them are simply required by some higher power.  Tests that provide teachers with valuable data to improve instruction for individual students – GREAT.  But, just another test that students only need to get a 60% on,  to make us all feel better,  I am not a huge fan.   If you want to see the test you can take it at http://goo.gl/Rl48jY

Crazy Parent
I must admit I am now one of those people.  For years I have watched parents of wrestlers jump off their seats, run around the room, and nearly be on the mat during matches.  From the outside I thought “wow crazy”.  I am now one of them, I am sorry.  You may not know my son started wrestling last year for the first time.  Lisa and I have transitioned from 100% basketball fans to now being part of the wrestling fraternity.  But being “crazy” not till this year did it happen.  I now realize how excited a parent can feel when they have watched their child struggle, by themselves, on the mat match after match.  Being so close so many times to a win but not getting there.  Till that day it happens, the win, or the PIN!  Then without even realizing it I find myself jumping up and down, off my seat.  What just happened?  I will apologize in advance, but sometimes DAD gets excited.  I have not ventured down to the side of the mat yet, I still think that is kind of crazy, but no guarantees.

Dec
15
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 15-12-2014

It is again Cowbell Game week and while preparing for the event I was thinking out the wonderful history of this great contest.  Let us put the history of this rivalry in perspective.

The UND / NDSU rivalry has been around since the late 1800’s with the actual Nickel being contested since 1938 (76 yrs).  The Little Brown Jug that has bounced between Michigan and the U of Minnesota dates back to 1892 (122 yrs). The Cowbell trophy was started in 1946 making it, 69 yrs old this season.  The NDSU/ SDSU Dakota Marker has only been around since 2004, so it is a pup in comparison to all of these.

In 1946 the first meeting of the United Nations took place in London.  The U.S. President was Mr. Harry S. Truman and first class stamp cost three cents.  The St. Louis Cardinals (picked this one on purpose) won the World Series and “It’s a Wonderful Life” came out in the movie theater.  Not listed on many of the common history web sites is the creation of the cowbell game.  But, it was an event of historical significance.  How many things do we do in our lives that have such lasting impact, aside from our children?  How many of us will ever create anything that is talked about and still treasured seventy years later, as is the cowbell?

Supt’s Quam and Ingvalson along with Coaches Cummings and Pickens must be applauded yet today for leading their men into such a long standing engagement as this.  I wonder what the captains thought so many years ago.  Do you image they were ready and eager to be part of this or did they think their leaders were kind off their rockers?  I wonder if Supt. Ingvalson was open to the idea back in 1946 or was he thinking this was just a crazy adventure?  No matter, because they all took to the idea and must have thought it was something that could stand the test of time.  If they wouldn’t have they would not have stated that the game would go on till “the world and its inhabitants have been reduced to dust”.

I want to thank all those then and now that make this contest something special.  It has changed over time from its early innocence, to the unbridled rivalry in the mid years, to now a respected tradition in both schools.  I want to wish both teams the best of luck this week.  May each of us take time to reflect upon the history of this great tradition and just soak it all in on Friday night.

Go Cards!
Mr. Jeff Fastnacht
Superintendent

 

Dec
01

Let me ask you to take this short quiz.

1.  If you were asked to identify the staring roles in “Gone with the Wind” how would you find them?

2. If you had a serious problem what would be the first thing you did?

3. There is a serial number that you need to remember, what do you do to remember it for later use?

( Answers to these questions are in the post marked with **)

Education is a human endeavor, and technology will never replace a good teacher.  In fact a good teacher is an absolutely necessary ingredient when schools use technology successfully.  Ellendale is in year two of a 1:1 initiative that has brought forth many changes to how we educate our students.  Some of the positive changes have been:
- We are asking students to take a leadership role in their learning since they can now easily access information inside and outside the walls of the school.
- Teachers that simply asked knowledge based questions are being out smarted by students with Google.  It is driving us to ask deeper questions, gaining deeper understanding.
-  Students are now given more opportunities to share their knowledge and creativity.  Students empowered with a camera, video camera, presentation tools, music, and broad resources can now compose their knowledge in dynamic ways.  Much better than simply asking for a poster or diorama.
- Accessing help on any topic is now quicker and easier.  A student is not left alone to simply dig in a text.  Now they can ask a broader group for help.  This group can be their classroom of students or it could be others from anywhere in the world.

Yet, while we are seeing some impressive changes I am still surprised to hear some comments stating, students should only be using a paper bound encyclopedia to access information.  Some have stated that having students work together to solve problems is just cheating for some in the group.  Then just recently I had someone share a concern about students taking pictures of notes… they indicated they should “write them out, just like we had to do”.  These comments surprise and amaze me.  If you were given the three tasks from the questions above, “What would you do”?

**For the questions above I am guessing most adults would answer these as follows: a. Google it   b. Text or email my friends to get their advice  and c. Take a picture of it with my phone.

THEN.. Why won’t we let our kids do it?  We are in a modern world that has given our students, and us, access to tools that not only make learning easier but also our daily lives.  In 1985 I may have been asked to memorize the lead roles in “Gone with the Wind”, but why would we do that today?  Why would we do this when they can be Googled in .60 seconds (actual time from my desk).  Google and having 1:1 for our students has made teachers better by getting them to focus less on the facts and more on the why and how.   Secondly, in our modern jobs we are asked to work extensively as teams.  We don’t ever consider this cheating.  It is the wise practice resulting in better products, better service, and more engaged employees.  Then why not at school?  The problem is that we often focus on the completely arbitrary and meaningless grade!  Yes I said it…meaningless grade.  What should matter most is what did the student learn.  Lastly, the last comment I think is pure jealousy as they only wished they could taken a picture of their teachers notes back in 1985.  I know it would have definitely saved me from having a sore wrist, if I would not have had to copy all of Mr. Fonder’s notes.  Seriously, though if you had to keep track of a special note or message, wouldn’t you just take a picture of it?

The world and education are changing.  Schools and education are still important.  Teachers are still critically important to the success of ones education.  Books will be around for centuries to come.  But, teaching and learning in the same ways we used to in 1985, some of these things do have to change.

-

Nov
17
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 17-11-2014

As I take a few moments this “Teacher Appreciation Week” 2014 I am reflecting on the impact of my teachers.  I am thinking about what they perceive as their legacy to their profession and the children that have ventured through their doors.  What impact have they had?  As I thought about this more I thought about my own career.  One of the realizations I have come to understand more as I have accumulated gray hair is that I am wiser.  I am able to reflect upon issues now that were outside of my view when I was young.  I realize that I do see the world and education differently than I did when I was 22 years old.  ”If I knew then… ”

Edutopia and SoulPancake made this video about this very topic that I wish to share with you.  I give them credit for crafting this idea and putting these teachers thoughts into a thoughtful and inspirational story.  Please watch this..

YouTube Preview Image

Letter to Self —————————————–
Welcome to your first day of teaching.  You are full of spirit and ready to tackle the world and that is wonderful, hold onto that enthusiasm.  There will be trials that erode it. Hold onto it.  As you do, realize that the relationships you will be making with your students may be some of the most important relationships in your students lives.  You won’t see it now but some of your students will become leaders, some will excel in politics and business, but some will also fail.  Some of your students will end up in jail.  Some will not make it to their 25th birthday.  Give time to each and every student and use that boundless energy to truly connect with your students.  It may be a life changing relationship for them and you.
Young self, also realize that you don’t know it all.  As much as you want to try the latest and greatest ways to teach never lose focus on the fundamentals.  You will learn later that without the fundamentals advancing ones skills is nearly impossible.  Just as you do on the basketball court, focus on the fundamentals first.
Lastly, know that this career is the right one.  You will have times that try your patience.  The nights after getting beat down by athletes parents or others will fade.  You will make a difference and your work in education will be valued.

Sincerely,
Your Older Self
——————————————————

Nov
08
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 08-11-2014

This weekend is a big weekend for ND. The deer hunting opener is always a busy weekend in every town. However, it is also a BIG day for the last 16 communities that are still alive in the football playoffs.

I want to just take a minute this morning to wish each of them the best of luck on this special day. I also want to tip my hat to each of the crews working this weekend. Enjoy the experience and I wish you the best of luck. This is a very special day!

Nov
05
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 05-11-2014

As a coach we often stress the importance of practice.  ”Practice makes perfect”, some will say.  I may contend that “Perfect practice makes perfect” as poor practice will only result in poor results.  An athlete can’t just flip the ball at the basket for hundreds of hours and just turn into a pure shooter.  To be a highly effective shooter from all parts of the court an athlete must concentrate on good form, vision, extension, hand placement, follow through, and balance.  Each of these must be done perfectly, or near perfectly, to ingrain that skill in the athletes body and mind.  Would you not agree?  This takes thousands of hours.

I do believe many adults do agree with the above characterization and let me tell you why.  I rarely see a parent complain about sport practice.  In fact most will go out of their way to ask about additional camps, out of season drills, weight lifting programs, and every means possible to get their child to perform better on the court, field, or mat.  They will make opportunities for their children to practice by buying them equipment and taking them out back to toss the ball around.  Many times this is in addition to the time the child has already spent at the practice at the club or school.  Practicing a sport is important and I would highly encourage it.  I know if you would ask any of my old athletes about my views they would tell you that Coach F always told us we have to practice shots more than just at the “official” practice at school.

But, let me turn the tables on something that is equally deserving of practice.  It is our children’s academic studies.  It does take time to become a good reader, speller, or mathematician.  It take practice!  There are hundreds of skills necessary to become a very good basketball player from shooting to playing defense.  But, there a hundreds of thousands of skills necessary to be a young person that is poised to be successful at work, college, or the military when they graduate from high school.  Each of these skills needs practice, they need to do the work, and sometimes that work needs to be done at home.  HOMEWORK – Yes I am really speaking about homework today.  Why is homework called work?  Work has such a negative connotation.  Homework should be called “Learning Practice”.

Let me preface my statements by stating a few fundamental beliefs I have about “Learning Practice”:
- All practice should be relevant & meaningful.
- All practice should be  designed to meet the needs of the individual athlete or learner.
- All practice should have a learning outcome in mind.  It is not just busy work.
- Practice can be tiresome at times.  Practice is not always fun.  That does not matter if it is shooting layups or doing math facts.
- Practice is not fair.  Not everyone will need the same amount or will it take the same amount of time or energy.
- Practice is necessary outside of the gym or classroom to become great.

I realize that family time is precious.  I have personally spent more time than I care to at the dining room table with my own children.  But, it was valuable time.  Their education is one of the most important gifts I can give to them.  Working with your child on homework is family time.  I know we all want more family time but, I do feel that some often just want more quiet TV time.  Refocus your children on the importance of practice.  I know some will work to push their children to the court to practice but then speak poorly about academic practice.  Which is more important?

Many years ago I had the privilege of  working at a school in Haiti for two weeks.  In Haiti only the students whose families can pay for tuition can attend school, so right way many are excluded.  But, I will never forget what I saw there.  Education was a treasured commodity.  Students worked during the day diligently on their studies in classrooms with 20-30-0r 40 students to one teacher.  They did not have fancy books or supplies.  They were attentive and eager to learn.  And, they had homework.  When speaking to the Principal at the school he indicated that students worked hard during and outside of school because they and their families knew education was their ticket out of poverty.  Have we lost that focus?  They knew that education was a valuable commodity that took sacrifice not only to afford the tuition, but in completing the course.

Lets begin to refocus our views of HOMEWORK within the same lens as we would PRACTICE for a sport.