The Merrill Minute

October 21, 2019

Merrill Indicators of Progress Towards DMPS Board Goals

Greetings, Merrill Families,

I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to be at Merrill Middle School. Our students are kind, funny, smart, creative, and curious. And you, the Merrill Community, have supported our work in a myriad of ways – with your resources, with your support at home and at school, and with your trust in what we do. Thank you!

Our mission for Des Moines Public Schools reminds us that we exist so that graduates possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be successful at the next stage of their lives. Click here to read more about the DMPS Board Goals and how they were set. Below are our Merrill indicators of progress towards the DMPS Board Goals:

  • Indicator 1. The percent of black male 6th – 8th grade students on track in reading (exceeding at-risk cut point of 30th percentile) will increase from 53% to 75% by Spring 2023, as measured by NWEA MAP.
  • Indicator 2. The percent of black male 6th – 8th grade students on track for college & career readiness in math will increase from 12% to 29% by Spring 2023, as measured by NWEA MAP.
  • Indicator 3. The percent of 6th – 8th students with positive results will increase from 34% to 75% by spring 2023, as measured by the Conditions for Learning Survey.

In order to reach our goals, our improvement efforts this year at Merrill will continue to focus on strengthening literacy and learning in an inquiry-based, IB learning environment. Inquiry based learning asks that - along with regularly gaining new skills, processes, and information - we foster students’ curiosity and understanding of the world. Through inquiry we aim to empower student voice, support students in critical thinking, and embrace our students as active members of our community.

At the middle school level, one measure of learning is the MAP assessment, referenced in Indicators 1 and 2. Students complete this assessment in August/September, in December/January, and then again in April/May. While it is not our only measure of learning, it serves as a gauge for how we are doing as we progress through the school year. We will keep a keen eye on the MAP data to see if our improvement efforts help us to close gaps by elevating the learning of all students.

The Conditions for Learning Survey, referenced in Indicator 3, is completed annually in the spring and focuses on issues ranging from student safety, to positive student relationships, to school rules and how they are enforced. The information from the survey does not provide student-level results (all data are anonymous and aggregated), but does provide aggregated information that may be used by a school building to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and serves as a foundation on which to build an action plan for improving the learning environment for all students.

This is a quick overview of quite complex work, but I'm looking forward to our continued partnership on this journey. Thank you for the role that you play in supporting each one of our students as they become courageous, caring, and knowledgeable young adults who will no doubt make our neighborhoods, communities, and the world better and more peaceful places.

Yours in partnering to strengthen our community,


Kathryn Panek


Merrill Middle School

Merrill Fall MAP Data

Not At-Risk = Students score above the 30th percentile

CCR (College and Career Ready) = Students score around the 65th percentile or higher

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Physical Plant and Equipment Levy - On the Ballot on Nov. 5

Improving Our Schools. Supporting Our Students.

The Physical Plant and Equipment Levy, or the PPEL, is a voter approved levy used to improve school buildings and grounds, purchase technology and safety equipment, implement energy conservation measures, and buy items such as school buses and musical instruments. While voters in every neighboring school district have approved the maximum PPEL levy, Des Moines has not, which means that we are receiving 40% less revenue when compared to our neighbors.

Our school board has proposed a solution that lowers the district’s cash reserve and management levy and increases the PPEL levy for the next 10 years. The proposed change will be before voters on the November 5 and impacts us in the following ways...

  • More resources to maintain and improve our school buildings
  • More technology to support our students’ education
  • Avoids another $6.5 million in budget cuts
  • No tax increase for Des Moines property owners

Click here to learn more about PPEL.

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Greetings, Merrill Families,

We would like to invite you to the Merrill Fall Conferences on...

  • Thursday, October 31 from 8:15-3:15
  • Monday, November 4 from 4:00-7:30

Teachers will be available in the gym and cafeteria to partner with you as we work together to ensure student success.

With students being served by 7-8 teachers, conferences can be a huge time commitment. In order to get the most out of conferences and still balance your time with the other obligations that you have, we encourage you to visit with your student and decide which teachers are a must see. If you don’t make it around to all of the teachers that you want to see, we are putting a few alternative communication options in place.

  • We will have “mailboxes” stationed throughout the gym and cafeteria for you to fill out a slip of paper that indicates that you would like a teacher to contact you.
  • On our website, there is an e-mail link to all of the teachers in the building. Just click “Contact”, then “Teachers” to send the teacher an e-mail that indicates you would like to visit with him or her.
  • Reach out to us via phone at (515) 242-8448 at any time.

While conferences are scheduled for October 31 and November 4, please know that we want to partner with families at ALL times throughout the year to be sure that we are working together to meet the needs of our students. Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out, and we promise to do the same.

We look forward to seeing you next week!

On Thursday, teachers will be eating lunch at the following times....

11:30 - 8th Grade Teachers, Performing Arts Teachers

12:00 - 7th Grade Teachers, PE, Art Teachers

12:30 - 6th Grade Teachers, FACS, Business

PTA Meeting - Monday, Oct. 21 a 6:30

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Upcoming Dates

Monday, October 21 - PTA Meeting in Media Center 6:30

Friday, October 25 - Dance, Games, and Movie 3:25-4:45 (Sponsored by Sisters 4 Success)

Tuesday, October 29 - PTA Sponsored DMPS District 1 Conversation at Merrill at 6:30

Thursday, October 31 - No School, Conferences 8:15-3:15

Friday, November 1 - No School, Professional Development

Monday, November 4 - No School, Professional Development, Conferences 4:00-7:30

Tuesday, November 5 - No School, Election Day