Monday, July 21, 2014

The West Branch Community School District continues to look focus on transformation teaching and learning changes as we attempt to meet 21st Century student learning needs and 21st Century challenges.  Part of our strategic planning process is to provide students with more project-based, authentic intellectual and problem-solving situations that stem from their interests as part of their day-to-day school experiences. Our facilities must meet this demand.

High Tech High School's solution is just one way to try and address the application, real-world gaps that occur from time-to-time in traditional "sit and get" settings.  Their work to provide their students with authentic, project-based learning environments is not the only solution, but it is, in my eyes, a very important one to consider. They do not have technology for the sake of having technology, but it is available in multiple platforms to allow for the integration of collaborative teaming, arts (creativity), science, technology, engineering and math...A.S.T.E.M!

Please enjoy this video link as led the CEO, Founder and Creator of High Tech High.
Mr. Hatfield

Thursday, May 29, 2014

S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and P.L.T.W. (Project Lead the Way) programming and curriculum are the talk of the country. The West Branch Community School District is considered to be one of Iowa's lead schools in the implementation of these exciting, project-based, multiple-disciplined curriculum experiences!

How have we become one of Iowa's leading implementers of STEM?
  1. During the 2013 - 2014 school year, all 7th grade students took a Gateways to Technology (GTT) courses.
  2. All 7th and 8th grade students will be taking additional GTT course during the 2014 - 2015 school year.
  3. Two year ago we implemented Lego Robotics experiences for our middle school students. For the past two years we've had a Legos Robotics team successfully complete at the Lego Robotics Championships, held in Ames, Iowa.
  4. Over the past two years, we have implemented two foundation STEM / PLTW courses at West Branch High School: Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) and Principals of Engineering (POE).
  5. During the 2014 - 2015 we will be offering a Biomedical Engineering course at WBHS.
  6. We are one of only a handful of high schools in Iowa to have a fully operational and competing First Robotics Challenge (FRC) robotics team at our high school.The First Robotics Challenge (FRC) program provides students the opportunity to design, build, market and compete with a "made from scratch" robot. W.B.H.S.'s Systems Overlord Robotics Team qualified and competed at this year's FRC World Championships held in St. Louis! Only two other high schools in Iowa qualified! Did you know that 400 teams from around the World were at this amazing robotics competition? The event is so big it is held in the Edward R. Jones Dome.
Did you know that the West Branch Community School District has applied and received over $20,000 in grants from the State of Iowa’s STEM Scale-Up Grant program? The money has been used to support the purchasing of needed supplies, top-end technologies, as well as pay for the rigorous, mandatory training of the teachers who must deliver these curriculums.

Even with our successful Scale-Up grants we could not offer these experiences without the gracious donations of time and resources from our families, local businesses and community groups. Did you know that Proctor & Gamble gave a gift of $10,000 to the West Branch Community School District in support our STEM efforts? Amazing!

By the way, there are nearly as many females as males taking STEM courses in high schools across this country! We want our families to encourage their daughters to look into STEM courses. Don't let the “E for Engineering" scare off your students.

These courses emphasize the development of not only math and scientific thinking, but also what employers call the"soft skills." Soft skills are the skill sets that include the ability to collaborate, be on a team, lead, present, think critically and problem solve. STEM/PLTW courses offer students the opportunity to use top-end-technology, while simultaneously incorporating creative designing, marketing and the application of learning.

For students to be successful in the 21st Century they must have highly developed science, technology, math, communication and thinking skills. The development of our students' "soft skills" is of equal importance. STEM and PLTW courses provide both.

Thank you!
Mr. Hatfield, Superintendent of Schools

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Corning, the glass company famous for making kitchen products, as well much of the glass used on smart phones, iPads and laptops has developed videos to promote "Corning's Vision for the Future."

The attached video is a few years old now, but Corning has produced or contributed to the development of every single technology you will see. The technology you will see is currently available and will begin to be marketed and sold to consumers in the near future.

It is fascinating! Enjoy!

Mr. Hatfield

Monday, February 17, 2014

Standards-Based Grading:

This video was part of the ActiveGrade assessment system the District has implemented to improve our reporting of student work on standards. I find it to be an excellent review of the basic tenets of standards-based grading, teaching and learning practices.

Rick Wormeli is an expert on the best practices in grading, assessment and learning.  In these two video links below, he discusses the appropriate ways to handle redo, retakes and re-evals for students' to deepen their learning around essential conceptual understandings.

The videos deal with the essential concepts that the West Branch Community School District has been engaged in regarding the implementation of Standards-Based Grading (SBG) and quality feedback practices.
The District's staff will continue their professional work of attempting to help more students  learn more deeply as an effort to fulfill the District's Vision: A Future Focused Community of Learners, Mission: Preparing Students to Live and Learn with Passion and Purpose and Destination: All Students are Career and College Ready statements and commitments.

Mr. Hatfield

Part I:

Part II

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Article from the Iowa Department of Education
The content contained in this article aligns to the work the W.B.C.S.D.'s staff has been focused on.

What high-growth schools are doing

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

We talk a lot about academic proficiencies, and extol high-performing schools. That’s natural, of course, because it’s important to study our high-performing peers. But just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, topnotch systems didn’t get there over night. They did, however, get there through sustained and committed growth.
And growth was the focus of a recent study by the Iowa Department of Education in conjunction with Grant Wood Area Education Agency. The question fueling the study: Why are students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) not achieving at high levels?

“The reason we ask is that it is estimated that 80 percent of students on IEPs have mild disabilities,” said Ellen McGinnis-Smith, a consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. “Is it possible for these students to learn strategies to work with their disability and achieve high levels? We should be able to expect that.”

The study examined five schools in the AEA with the highest growth and compared them to four schools with some of the lowest growth. “We collected two years of data focusing on rate of growth, rather than proficiency, with the goal being to close the achievement gap,” McGinnis-Smith said. “We found many characteristics that were present in the high-growth schools, and absent or in the development stage at the low-growth schools.”

Common practices at high-growth schools include:
  1. Students receive formative assessments regularly, and direct instruction geared toward their academic needs. This comes down to quality instruction.
  2. Ownership of all students by all staff. Just because a student receives special education doesn’t mean the general education teacher should not have as much ownership of that student.
  3. Having high expectations. What this really means is teachers and administrators know that a disability does not define expectations for that student.
  4. Relationships with students. A positive relationship conveys to students that the teachers believe in their potential and their capacity to learn. In a strong relationship, a teacher also sees the students’ strengths, and they genuinely like the students. “This is not coddling, but developing a healthy relationship with the student,” McGinnis-Smith said. “You have confidence that the student can master skills, you help them know that they belong in school, and when they sink into learned helplessness, you don’t allow it. You treat that individual as you would anyone else – know their strengths, their potential, their interest and their human foibles.”
  5. Students on IEPs receive the core and more. They get more instruction than a non-IEP student would. Specifically, they receive the core plus additional direct systemic instruction in the area of their need. Students also will receive pre-teaching and concepts that they will need to know to benefit from core instruction.
  6. Use structured evidence-based strategies and materials.
  7. Clear direction of what needs to be done (instruction, materials, use of data) by either the district or principal.
  8. Most have a Response to Intervention (also known as Multi-tier Systems of Support) in place and students on IEPs are included in the full range of interventions.
  9. High level of communication between special education and general education teachers.
  10. Teachers feel empowered.
Conversely, some common characteristics cited in low-growth schools are:
  1. Pieced together materials from here and there; it is not structured, and not necessarily evidence based.
  2. Some or all tutoring during special education time rather than working to develop core skills.
  3. Lack of district or principal direction of what to do (special education teachers feel they are on their own to figure out what to do with students).
  4. Teachers sometimes seem more frustrated or helpless.
  5. Teachers expressed more concerns about student behaviors and mental health issues.
“One of the overall challenges for these schools was finding time for special education teachers to participate with general education teachers in professional learning communities,” McGinnis-Smith said. “In any successful school, collaboration between special ed. and gen. ed. is crucial.”
In all high-growth schools, there was a top-down commitment.

“Leadership is important in all districts, but it is especially important in smaller districts in which they may have fewer resources,” McGinnis-Smith said. “Without strong instruction leadership, a clear vision and a commitment, you cannot expect to have system-wide top-notch outcomes.”

Thursday, February 6, 2014

February 5, 2014

Dear Staff and District Stakeholders:

Thank you for all that you do in continuing to help our students grow and learn, as well as advancing our goal of becoming one of the premier places to learn in Iowa. As part of our preparation for the upcoming District Accreditation and Equity Visit scheduled for February 11th, 12th and 13th, we thought it would be helpful to highlight some of the great school improvement work that so many of you have contributed to and helped to accomplish.  We are certainly striving to add clarity and purpose regarding the important work we have been called to accomplish on behalf of our students, parents and the community.

First, the School Improvement Advisory Committee (S.I.A.C.) has contributed to the development of the District’s new Vision, Mission and Destination statements:

Vision: A Future Focused Community of Learners
Mission: Preparing Students to Live and Learn with Passion and Purpose
Destination: All Students will be Career and College Ready

In the spring of 2012, the S.I.A.C. helped to develop the District’s Strategic Plan. Our strategic plan and direction is comprised of six (6) school improvement themes and goals that are being monitored and worked on for accountability and continuous improvement. The six strategic themes are:

Goal #1:   Effective Teaching and Learning Practices: Focus on best practices for meeting 21st Century Teaching and Learning Needs. (To improve student learning / achievement)
Goal #2:   Invest in Human Capital and Leadership
Goal #3:   (A) Enhance and Maintain Current Facilities & (B) Development Short and Long- Term Facilities Vision and Priorities (The Development of a 15-Year Master Facilities Plan)
Goal #4:   Enhance and Meet District Financial Goals
Goal #5:   Improve Academic and Social-Emotional Learning Environments
Goal #6:   Expand Community, Business and Regional Education Partnerships

Through the dedication of our Facilities Advisory Committee (F.A.C.) members, acting as a sub-committee of the S.I.A.C., a new “facilities vision and 15-year plan” has emerged as well.

Student Learning:  While we know we have ongoing work to do in all academic areas, the West Branch School District’s achievement data continues to demonstrate performance slightly above State of Iowa assessment averages; however, stagnant proficiency scores for reading over the past few years' must be addressed. 

Our staff's efforts to implement Response-to-Intervention (R.T.I.) and Professional Learning Community (PLC) regarding student work analysis protocols are the right drivers to make this happen.  We also recognize the achievement gaps we see (at times) between our low socio-economic students (students’ family meeting federal poverty guidelines) and our student entitled to special education services when compared to the performance of all students. This will require continuous attention and resource support.  Our staff is committed to helping all students at all levels.

C.S.I.P: The District completes a Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (C.S.I.P.) document that establishes annual student achievement goals. Here are a few examples of the District’s 

C.S.I.P. goals:
  • The Class of 2018 will increase the percent proficient in Reading on the Iowa Assessment. As 8th grade students, they were 73.1% proficient in the fall of 2012.
  • The fourth grade class of 2013 – 2014 will increase the percent proficient in math as measured by Iowa Assessment. They were 64.3% proficient as third graders in 2012 – 2013.
  • We have a School In Need of Assistance (SINA) plan for improvement in place due to No Child Left Behind sanctions stating that all students (100%) will be proficient in reading, math and science in 2014.  For the record, it is estimated that 90-95% of all the schools in Iowa will need S.I.N.A. plans in the next few years.
Bullying and Harassment Information:  (The Iowa Youth Survey and District Behavior Data) 
The District has implemented several programs and protocols for students and staff to use for addressing this serious issue impacting all schools and organizations.  We are working proactively through the implementation of our PK - 12 Olweus (Anti-Bullying) program, staff training and professional guidance counselors' work and a new program titled The Leader in Me, at Hoover Elementary School. This program uses the Covey institute's approach for teaching students goal-setting and supports the ethical, fair treatment of others.

A few areas that the Iowa Youth Survey and District data have identified as areas that need additional teaching and education regarding bullying and harassment would be:

  • Spreading of rumors
  • (Exclusion) students feeling left out or not included at times
  • Naturally, schools across the country are seeing increase in the use of cyber-bullying; mainly through the use of cell phones.
2008 – 2009 Comprehensive Site Visit Findings:  Here are a few of the recommendations from the District’s 2008 – 2009 accreditation visit:

  • Improve the graduation rate when compared to AEA schools and the State average. (Improved and now equal to or above now)
  • Improve reading and math proficiencies when compared to AEA schools and the State average. (Improved, but the gap has not been closed. This is not acceptable to us.)
  • Improve the overall ACT performance with regards to the number of students taking the ACT test and the follow-up on students who do not. (Much improved. The District is planning to help all high school juniors take the ACT that year, as well as continue to encourage all students to take standardized tests twice during their H.S. years.
  • Add guidance staff and support.  (Accomplished)
  • Implement Olweus anti-bullying program K-12. (Accomplished)

Finally, over the past few years, the Board has supported the administration's leadership to add Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programming at the high school and middle school levels.  They have also supported band instruction at 5th grade, additional foreign language support at the high school, and robotics experiences for 6 - 12th grade students.  They have supported our goal of getting the majority of our students to take Algebra by the end of 8th grade.

There is so much to celebrate!  We know we have areas for ongoing improvement, but I am continually impressed with our staff's efforts to embrace change while simultaneously delivering on the fundamental skills and experiences our students need to be successful in the 21st Century.


Mr. Hatfield, Superintendent of Schools

West Branch Community School District