Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 27-09-2013

I think the discussion about the new common core needs to more down to earth, or as my father used to say “where the rubber meets the road..” .  I ran across a blog post today by a teacher sharing her thoughts on how to address a 3rd gr common core standard.  It is standard CCSS.Math.Content.3.OA.B.5: Apply properties of operations as strategies to multiply and divide (for her) but for North Dakota the same standard is shown below.

*click on the picture to see it in full size.


So let me share with you where the rubber is meeting the road.  How will teachers be asked to meet this new common core standard?  Well, I think this post is an outstanding example of what we are striving to attain.  Please read this wonderful blog post from Mary Beth Hertz – Common Core Standard: Third Grade Math Strategies –

What I want to draw out of her post and a focus of my thoughts today is the depth of thought.  Think back to your days in school, were you asked a question of this nature?  Be honest!  My recollections do not recall such questions.  Back in the good old days we firmly understood that 8×6=48.  We also knew that 6×8=48 and if you divided 48 by 8 your answer was 6.  But, I don’t recall in third grade being asked to create 10 different equations that would all equate to 48, and to do this project with a working group.

This is a wonderful example of what I mentioned last week, a focus on how to create learning tasks that require deeper complexity of thought.  We are striving to turn the light of learning on in our children’s minds by asking them to use higher order thinking skills and to not simply give us 6×8=48.  Please know 6×8=48 is very important but it is not the end, it is only the foundation.  By asking students to complete an activity of this nature, we are not only reinforcing that 6×8=48 but we are having them create other equations using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to reach this outcome.  Students are being asked to check and evaluate the other groups work to determine if they are correct and to find the equation that is “high-level” or the most complex.  I think this is the type of learning environment we want for our children.  I hope you agree.




Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 23-09-2013

In June of 2010 the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers released the Language Arts and Math standards.  The standards were constructed to “define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based.”

“About the Standards.” Common Core State Standards Initiative. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2013.

Even before the common core standards were created Ellendale Public School was focusing on standards.  Before the common core standards were the North Dakota Content Standards.  These standards outlined very similar skills but not to the level of specificity as the common core do today.  To see a side by side comparison of the new Common Core Standards and the old North Dakota Content Standards you can access In addition EPS teachers year in and year would share concerns about students from other parts of the United States that would come our our classrooms and not be at the correct learning level.  Often students from other parts of the United States were behind when compared to students that had spent their entire education at EPS.  This disparity causes difficulties both for the child and the family that is moving during the years their child is in elementary or high school.  With the ever increasing mobility of families it was apparent to us and obviously the National Governor’s Association that a common set of standards was a way to ensure proper and adequate education for all students regardless of what state they grew up in or moved to.

The state of North Dakota has adopted the Smarter Balanced ( consortium’s common core standards.  Even before the state’s adoption Ellendale School and our teachers have been preparing for the additional learning complexities and rigor that are coupled with the new common core standards.  We have been training administration and teachers since the spring of 2011.  Much of the focus has been on how to build complexity, high order thinking, and rigor into the foundation we have been using for years.  The new common core standards, in our view, are more similar than different in relation to the old content standards.  The differences we are focusing on are rigor, speaking and listening, and reading informational text along with literature.  You can find out more about what we feel the keys are for the common core adoption at

I do have reservations about the common core, or maybe more accurately stated, the policies put forth by the Federal and State Governments that intertwine with the common core, but I will leave that for another post.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 18-09-2013

At the September 17th meeting of the North Dakota High School Activities Association they approved new district configurations for both basketball and volleyball effective the fall of 2014.  These maps can be found on the NDHSAA web site at but a direct link to the volleyball map is You will quick see that District 5 has changed considerably with the addition of Oakes, Carrington and Midkota.  This now stretches our district  to new lengths north to south and is the reason for the number 110, as this is now the distance  to our farthest opponent Midkota.

You should know that Mr. Herman, EHS AD, and I both shared our displeasure with the new district configuration.  We shared our concerns in writing to the NDHSAA board and Mr. Herman did attend the NDHSAA meeting in person.  In addition we working with other schools in District 5 and the southeast portion of North Dakota to voice their concerns.  However, in the end they approved the original plan and now we have to live with it.  As you can probably tell from the tone of this post I am not a huge fan.  The E-EK Thunder travel this far and even farther for football games but this is not a fair comparison from our perspective.  Football is a one night a week event and is normally on a Friday night so students can rest on Saturday.  This district configuration will cause our basketball and volleyball teams to make lengthy trips on Tuesday and Thursday nights, which concerns us greatly.  We will be asking students to leave earlier in the day which results in missed class time and also to be bright and perky the next morning at 8:30 for the their first class.  This is asking a great deal of our kids.  Secondly, due to scheduling demands to ensure we have each of the district teams are scheduled during the regular season we are forced to drop closer contests in schools such as Forman (these are not finalized yet).   Lastly, this is not a guarantee, but hosting future district tournaments in Ellendale, as we did last year, is about impossible.  Carrington and Midkota are not going to want to drive to Ellendale for 3 nights of district play just as much as we would not want to go to them.  So.. we can already see the push to move district tournaments back into Jamestown.

What can be done about it at this time, I am sorry to say very little.  Mr. Herman will be working on the schedules for both bb and vb right away to get the new teams scheduled.  We will be taking time to find ways to reduce missed instructional time and also be considering how we can afford students the ability to study better while they are traveling.  Lastly, it may be time to think about providing our students a better ride with a coach type bus.  I have not been a fan of this as many schools have moved to them over the years.  However, the hot weather this fall and these long trips may be forcing this decision upon us.  We are surely not traveling from Ellendale to Oakes or Fullerton or even Ashley any more!

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 12-09-2013

As you may know, or not, EHS season passes will not be accepted at E-EK Thunder Football games this year.  I have had many people ask me about this decision and I just want to clarify a few items.
First, the EHS School Board and Administration fully support the E-EK Thunder program.  I would advocate that we promoted the idea and we still back it 110%.  The decision to not allow passes to work is not a reflection upon our support of the program.
In short this decision is financial.  It is all about the money.  During our planning for this year we discussed the option of allowing passes from each of the schools to work at all E-EK games.  The sticking points begin when you start asking questions like:
Will gate revenue be shared equally between the schools?  Yes
How will we account for season passes used at the games to determine a sharing of that revenue?  Do we need to count the people that enter each game?  What is the value of that season pass when used for entrance?
Do all season passes in each of the schools need to be equal?  (At this time Ellendale charges Single = $85 and Couple = $150;  But Edgeley & Kulm only sell single passes = $75, or a 10 punch cards for $40).
Do we simply assess a fee for each season pass sold?  Maybe, but what is that amount when you look at the wide variety of season passes above?
Do we allow teachers to use their season pass?  Not all the schools even issued passes to their staff and teachers.
Do we allow students to use their season pass?

And the questions continued as we worked to develop a fair way to begin this new partnership and share equally the financial costs.  So in the end, we decided to simply charge at the gate.  We knew it was not going to be popular and it was a change.  But it was simple, and we felt the KISS method may be our best option this first year.  Now, we may change in the future, I am not saying we will never change.  It was simply the easiest way to be fair to the 3 respective schools.



Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 06-09-2013

I am pleased to report that the new Ellendale School app is very popular.  We launched our new iOS (iPhone) and Google Play (Android) apps on Monday of this week.  Since that time 111 downloads have taken place and we have not pushed it out to all our new student iPads yet.  We feel very pleased to see this many students, parents, and community members that want to be in the know as to what is going on at Ellendale School.

If you have not see the app yet we believe it is a wonderful way to “Be In The Know” using your mobile device.  Within the app you will find links to our news feed which includes the district and school level twitter and facebook posts.  You have easy access to the daily announcements, lunch menus, sport calendars, and the local weather.  We have also placed links to PaySchools and PowerSchool so parents can keep track of their child’s grades and pay bills right from their phone or iPad.

We are also pleased to announce the addition of a TipLine within the app.  This allows parents or students the ability to share concerns with us in a convenient and anonymous way if they so choose.  You can leave “General Questions” which we will respond back to if you leave us your contact information in the tip.  There is also the opportunity to leave tips about “Bullying”, “Safety”, or “Personal Crisis” if the need arises.  We feel this will provide our students and parents a quick and easy way to report these unfortunate instances to us so we can act promptly to investigate and remedy these situations.  In these instances the user can decide if they want to enter their personal information or remain anonymous.  Lastly, there are “ShoutOuts” within the TipLine.  If you see something that needs to be praised please send us a “ShoutOut”.  We will share it with the appropriate faculty or staff to let them know you think they are doing a wonderful job.

If you have not installed this app on your smartphone or iPad yet you can do so by going to the Apple App Store or Google Play and searching for Ellendale School.  The app is free and again works on both iOS and Android.  If you want a direct link to the app and know how to use a QR Code just scan the code inserted below.   We hope you enjoy the app and lets strive to get our downloads to 500.