Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 19, 2014

New priorities for education at Highland

Main question will be if the students learn the material
By Xiomara Levsen | Sep 26, 2013
Riverside Elementary Principal Eric Ewald discusses the goals the Riverside Elementary leadership group has set for reading proficiency this year during the Highland School Board meeting on Monday, Sept 23. Ewald said the group would like to see the reading proficiency in third and fourth grade improve 8 percent.

RIVERSIDE—At the Highland Community School Board meeting on Monday, Sept. 23, principals gave the board their goals for the upcoming year.
The district is using the book “Rigorous Curriculum” by Larry Ainsworth to use as a guide to prioritize the standards of education, said Highland Superintendent Chris Armstrong.
This isn’t new to the district and has been a five-year process to get to the point of prioritizing the standards of what every student should know, Armstrong said. The Iowa Board of Education is providing Iowa Core guides to curriculum, which the district is also using as a guide for prioritizing what material students should know, he said.
“We’re shifting from covering the material to making sure the students understand it,” Armstrong said. “The main question we will ask ourselves is ‘did the students learn it?’ ”
Both Riverside and Ainsworth Elementary schools are using four questions as a timeline through the year, said Riverside Elementary Principal Eric Ewald.
The questions are: What must all students know and be able to do, how will we know they have learned, what will we do if they don’t learn, and what will we do when they have learned or already knew it?
At Ainsworth there are two building leadership teams, academic and non-academic, which meet twice a month. They have already set goals for this school year. Ainsworth Elementary Principal Jane O’ Leary said they would like to see 85 percent of the third-through fifth-graders test as proficient on the reading section of the Iowa Assessments in 2014. They would also like to see 90 percent of their kindergarten through fifth-grade students reach benchmark levels on the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) Next Universal Screener.
Ewald said the goal for Riverside Elementary includes improving 8 percent in the reading proficiency for third-and-fourth graders from last or obtain 87 percent reading proficiency. Ewald said his school has one building leadership team, which will meet within the next week to discuss how to give students additional class time for those that need extra help.
The middle school and high school has one leadership team for each. Unlike the elementary schools, who are focusing primarily on English and Language arts, the high school and middle school will focus on all of the other subjects, such as science, history, and math, said Highland High School principal Angela Hayslett.
The prioritizing of the Common Core standards is being set right now at the middle and high school, Hayslett said. In November and December a pacing guide will be set, in January and February the assessments will be developed, in March and April unit plans will be constructed, and by May a full plan will be developed for the 2014-15 school year.
Changing to the Common Core curriculum will only benefit the students and parents in the Highland School District, Armstrong said.  
“This puts us in a great position to be more systematic about the learning process with each and every student,” Armstrong said. “We then can partner with a parent to tell them what their child’s specific learning issue is and what they can work on with their child.”
Other items covered at the school board meeting included:
approving a resolution to modify allowable growth to cover the negative balance in the special education fund. The district was $189,844.19 over budget in special education for the 2012-13 school year;
approving fundraisers for the Highland Athletic Boosters and the Riverside Elementary Support Organization.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m.

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