Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 23-05-2014

Several weeks ago administration at Ellendale School were notified that we were not going to make the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) requirements set forth by No Child Left Behind.  In fact that same message was going out to hundreds of schools across ND as we all come to grips with the full implementation of NCLB.  NCLB had set 2014 as the year when all students had to show proficiency on their grade level examination.  If that goal of 100% was not met then your school is labeled as failing.   Ellendale did not meet that goal and had to attend a meeting with Supt Baesler in April.  We were not alone, it was a large and crowed room.  378 schools were represented at this meeting and it was a very somber day.  Here you can see how the incremental increases in that goal have been eating up more and more ND schools.

At the earliest inception of NCLB very few ND schools did not make the low threshold required for student proficiency.  But as time as gone on that hurdle has increased till 2014 when 100% of student had to meet the testing requirement.  Now you will see in the table that 77 schools did meet AYP.  Honestly, I am glad for them but I want you to know that this does not necessarily mean that 100% of their kids passed the test.  All along this process particularly small districts have escaped some of the consequences of this law.  Even in Ellendale we had had our scores exempted because the group size did not meet the minimum requirement to be statistically valid.  So in some of the instances of the 77 I am positive some are making it due to small school size.

None the less, you need to be aware that soon DPI will be sending out a press release indicating that 378 schools in North Dakota are failing as judged by NCLB.  I personally don’t think the vast majority of schools in our state are failing.  In Ellendale we will soon release our official results (once allowed) but as glimpse here are some of our preliminary numbers.   Please remember that students the vast majority of students (unless severely disabled) are measured against their grade.  So in some cases we have students that are receiving special services through an IEP that are working 1 yr behind grade level, but they are measured against their grades proficiency mark.

EHS High School – Reading 84.21% proficient;  Math 86.11% proficient.
EES Elementary – Reading  87.27% proficient; Math 93.67% proficient.
MR Colony – Reading  58.82% proficient; Math 66.67% proficient.  ** This is one of those weird statistical issues as the colony made AYP in Reading.  That is not 100%.

Please know that any child not making proficiency is a concern.  I am not excusing our work and that we shall always strive to reach 100%.  However, I don’t believe the markers used by NCLB are right and I surely don’t believe that over 83% of ND are failing.

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 13-05-2014

In a few recent articles I have presented my views on what standards are and how they effect our school and children.  As I indicated before I have not found anything in the standards, adopted by North Dakota, that I am opposed to.  However here are some things I don’t like:

  • The Federal Govt did a good job when they implemented laws to protect special ed. and disadvantaged students in the 60’s and 70’s.  However with NCLB (enacted in 2001) the Federal Govt has become more and more overreaching in what is a state activity.
  • Standards are needed to ensure students that move from state to state receive equitable education.  However the Federal Govt should not have hog tied these standards to their Race to the Top program.
  • I do believe we need to test students to ensure they are learning and that schools are teaching.  However, the high-stakes aspects of these tests must go.  No single test will ever measure the totality of a person’s knowledge, a teacher’s skills, or the quality of a school.
  • The idea that if we test students and tie those scores to a teachers evaluation is completely unfounded.  Their is no scientific data to support that when testing is used to evaluate a teacher, that it leads to improved student performance.
  • I don’t like being told by those in congress how to teacher, when they have never taught a group a children a day in their life.  Let educators regain more control over education policy.
  • I am frustrated by the repeated rhetoric that our schools are failing, I don’t believe the statistics agree with that thought.
  • I am upset that shortly nearly ever school in ND will be labeled as failing under NCLB.  When most schools in ND, including Ellendale, will be getting +85% of their students (all students) to reach proficiency at grade level.
  • I am disheartened when I hear about instances in schools where the Holocaust is downplayed, or history is rewritten, or just plain non-sense is being taught.  This is not a sign that education in general is failing, but an instance of bad teaching by a single teacher.
  • Lastly, don’t judge your neighbors crop by the work done by a stranger down the road.  Don’t judge the meal at your local restaurant by the service you get in a far away town.  Please don’t judge our school by the work done by others in schools in California or wherever.   Come in and judge our work for yourself.

That concludes my rant for the day.  Thanks for listening.



Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 07-05-2014

The buzz about Common Core Standards is heating up again.  After fielding a couple exceptional questions from Ellendale citizens I thought it a valuable topic to discuss again.  There questions asked simply “What are standards and how does it affect what kids learn in school?”.


Standards have been around for almost as long as I have been in education (over 20 years).  A standard is an endpoint, or a target.  It is the point in which we strive to get our students to at the end of any given grade or course.  Ellendale has been using ND State Standards for these targets again since I started my career here.   The Common Core standards are simply the new and improved version of the older standards.   Here is an example of a 4th Gr Standard in Writing.  This one deals with writing an opinion piece.  As you can see the standard tells the teacher, student, and parent what is going to be expected of the student to do at the end of 4th grade.  Again, is is the target behavior.

As I shared this response with those that asked me the question, I believe that most of the uncertainty about the Common Core is not the idea of the target but how we get to the target, the pathway.  In a school the pathway is called our curriculum, it is the tools and resources we use to reach the standard.   An example might be your child’s math textbook, or Read180.  Again, using the idea of a pathway, each school picks their own path just as if we were all driving to Fargo we would pick our own route.  The target is the same, but the routes are different.  Each of these curriculum choices is made here in Ellendale by educators, reviewed by administration, and finally reviewed by the School Board.  They are not dictated from the state or federal level.  So when you hear the horror stories (and I am appalled by some myself) of schools in some far off place using a certain reading book or science program that is not the same here.  We have and will continue to select curriculum that does push our children to reach the target.  However, that will be grounded in common sense, classical reading selections, and respect to the community values that we believe reside in our community.

I hope this helps some better grasp the concepts of standards versus curriculum.