The "Oskaloosa Syllabus"

March, 2013 "News You Can Use"

Characteristics of Effective Instruction and the "Tool for Success"

Remember the "Tool for Improvement" provided by the DLT back in November? Each of the walk through categories listed on the tool are aligned with, and have overlap with, the Characteristics of Effective Instruction (CEI)!

How So you ask?
Look at each category and the description of each. Defining Quality Instruction is the purpose of the rubric and the CEI describe the elements present if quality instruction is observed. The tool even has the CEI you would be implementing listed! :-)

A Little Test - AND a Challenge!
Can you list the Characteristics of Effective Instruction WITHOUT looking them up? Can you give an example/define what each might look like in the classroom? IF NOT - your PLC should review them as a team and have a discussion about what Quality Instruction looks like and how you will learn and shape your lessons to integrate these elements.

PLC Work Around the CEI
  • Is your team having conversations about what Quality Instruction looks like as described in the "Tool"?
  • Does your team observe one-another and provide feedback for improvment?

DLT Update from February

The DLT met on February 5th. The following is a summary of that meeting.

  1. DLT reviewed and assessed progress toward the SMART Goals written at the beginning of the year. We discussed what we need to be doing in each building to help reach our goals
  2. We watched a couple videos about aimsweb - the Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring Tool we will use next school year in the RtI process
  3. We watched a video to review the Characteristics of Effective Instruction (CEI) and talked about what we observed that would be "quality instruction" as defined by the Characteristics.
  4. Grading - 1-4 coding. We began a conversation about the current code used on the report card. This conversation will continue at the next meeting in March.
  5. The 3rd Grade needs to determine how to communicate to parents they will not be using grades next year. A survey was sent out to the parents of the current 2nd graders to gauge their opinion and concerns, but only 34 responded. They will present to the board in March.
  6. Mary is creating a quick-guide to RtI in Oskaloosa. The AEA will print these and everyone in the district will receive one and parents will have them made available as well.
  7. Mike Goudy updated the BOE in February

Universal Screener and Progress Monitoring Tool

The district will be using aimsweb for grades K-12 next school year. Training for 30 train-the-trainers will occur on April 8th and 9th at Central Office. This will provide consistency and a common language we will be able to use K-12. We will use the reading assessment at the Elementary, MS, and HS, while the Math assessment will only be used at the MS and HS levels next year. The Elementary will transition into the use of Math the following year.

The transfer of data to determine interventions beginning in the fall will be a tremendous assistance to students who struggle! The RtI processes in place in each building will also benefit with a tool to monitor the progress of students being provided additional assistance. We will begin administering the screener this fall. In the meantime we will use the current data points to identify students for targeted interventions.

Iowa Professional Development Model

I thought I would sneak this graphic in as a reminder of why our Professional Development has changed and grown over the last several years. Our PLC structure and SMART goal process is perfectly aligned to the ideas related to the graphic. How is your PLC's SMART Goal and Action Plan aligned? Discuss

Learning Targets Examples

I CAN....

Learning Target Expectations

Learning Targets should be in a prominent place where STUDENTS can access them. The Targets are more for students than they are for us as teachers. It is critical you communicate to students what they will be learning and WHY they are learning it.

So... if you are working on comparing and contrasting that day, for example, WHY are they working on that skill? They are learning to do that because readers of non-fiction must be able to determine the similarities and differences in author's purpose and point of view.

It is very important to revisit the Learning Target at the end of the lesson as well. Have students self-assess how they did on the lesson. Can they say.. I CAN....

  • Do your Learning Targets begin with I CAN?
  • Do you verbalize what and WHY you are learning that day and your GLB?
  • Do you have students interact with the Learning Target? Do they write it down, turn to their neighbor, etc.?
  • Do you revisit the Learning Target at the end of the lesson?
  • Do you use motivating and positive language when you talk about the Learning Target with students?
  • Did you mention why we have Learning Targets?
  • Do you have students monitor their success on Learning Targets?

LETRS 5-Year Plan

LETRS Training has been planned for this summer and next school year for all K-12 Special Education teachers and Title I teachers in Oskaloosa. June 10-13 in Ottumwa at the AEA OR June 24th-27th in Oskaloosa are the training dates for the first three modules (Foundation). K-12 SPED teachers and Title teachers will be asked to attend one of these training sessions.

2013-2014 School Year Training

September 16th (Full day of PD) will be training for Module 8 (Assessment). In addition to these full days, the AEA will meet with this group on November 15th and February 21st in the P.M (opposite work days). Coaching will take place during PLC collaboration in each building where data will be analyzed and interventions planned.

Additional specific details will follow

Teaching Channel and Edutopia - Both are FULL of A PLETHORA of teaching videos!!!

Text Complexity

Want to know more? Ask me about a great book that would be a great resource for ALL Content areas related to the use of complex texts! This book will be investigated next year by all content areas as we think about how to help students understand complex informational text. You can click HERE to see the book.

PLC To Watch for March!

PLC to Watch is 3rd Grade - The 3rd Grade Thrivers

The 3rd Grade Thrivers are working on the following SMART Goal:

100% of Third Grade Students will attain level T of the Reading A-Z Assessments as measured documented progress of the A-Z program for comprehension and will improve 50 words per minute from initial reading September 2012 as measured by fluency probes through April 2012.

Action Plan

  • Small Group Reading Instruction implementation of guided reading practice and application will be an area of focus for literacy improvement.

  • The use of varied resources implementing reading instruction, practice, and probes.

  • RTI Tier Instruction implementation to meet the needs of all students.

The 3rd Grade PLC has committed not only to the PLC time allotted during early release days, but they are part of an extended Learning Team on student management as well. After PLC time is over, they get together to focus on their other goal. Each are earning credit or renewal to be part of this collaborative Learning Team through the AEA. If your PLC is interested in this opportunity, see Dana Sereg (Facilitator) to see how you can take advantage of this collaborative work.


  • Be Respectful by Listening
  • Be Responsible by Starting on Time
  • Be Caring by Honoring Diverse Perspectives
  • Be Safe by Agreeing to Disagree

Pictured below are the 3rd Grade Thrivers: De Thostensen, Nicole Bunnell, Jennifer Arnold, Carol Knoot, Allison Stout, Alexis Shipman, Dana Sereg, and Hillary Gingerich. Not pictured are Marcia Hadden (Instructional Specialist) and Krista Schilb (SPED)

Professional Development Opportunities Coming Up!

1:1 Institute in April

April 4th will be the 1:1 Institute in Des Moines. Representatives from both the Middle School and High School will be attending this year. If you want to attend, be sure you speak to your building principal!!!!

Standards-Based Grading Workshop

All full - several teachers and administrators will travel to Cedar Rapids on April 24th to learn from Cedar Rapids AEA and Solon CSD about SBG. There currently is a waiting list to attend. ATTENDEES: If you have not completed your pre-workshop suvey, be sure to do so!

Iowa ASCD RtI Workshop/Conference

April 10th and 11th is an opportunity to learn more about RtI implementation. Called "Creating the Culture for Implementing RtI: Meeting the Needs of All Learners" this is a conference to hear how other school districts have a process in place to identify and provide assistance to struggling learners.

If you are interested in attending, please see your building principal.

What Level of Thinking are Your Questions?

As part of the Administrative Professional Development, we are collecting data around the "Tool for Improvement". We are continually honing our own practice by discussing what "quality instruction" should look and sound like.

This month we looked at the use of Questioning to move students to higher levels of thinking on Bloom's. Questioning is a skill requiring practice and planning. These are the type of questions we are analyzing. The Iowa Core wants students to provide evidence of their thinking - leading us to create conditions/questions for them to do this on a regular basis....

At what level of Bloom's do you think these questions are written? When would it be appropriate to ask that question? Are students capable of answering these questions? If not, do you ask enough higher order thinking questions to provide practice?

  • What happened first in the story?
  • Who are the main characters in the story?
  • Why do you feel s/he made the decision they did?
  • What do you think the message of the paragraph/story/article was?
  • Which details or passages helps others to see your point the best?
  • Who is narrating the story and how do we know?
  • Is the behavior of the character right or wrong? Why/Not?

DAC Update

The District Advisory Team was scheduled to meet on February 26th from 3:45 - 5:00 but was snowed out.....

  1. DAC will meet again in May to analyze the survey results and identify next year's Annual Improvement Goals.


If you check out ATLAS Curriculum Mapper you will notice a new template category - Characteristics of Effective Instruction. It is simply a checklist so when we are planning instruction for a GLB, we are consciously thinking about Quality Instruction

Characteristics of Effective Instruction

  • Student Centered Classroom
  • Teaching for Understanding
  • Assessment FOR Learning
  • Rigorous and Relevant Curriculum
  • Teaching for Learner Differences

Angela Maiers Works With the Elementary!

The Elementary is immersing themselves in learning as much as they can about the workshop model of teaching this year with expert teacher and author Angela Maiers. She is providing an overview of philosophy and theory this year as Jen Groenenboom works with Demonstration Classrooms on implementation. She is stretching our minds and beliefs as she speaks about the intent of the Common Core when teaching literacy. Pictured below she is with the Kindergarten Team and the 3rd Grade Team.

Her main message: 2-5-2 structured block of instruction. Her main message is about PASSION - passion for learning transferred to our students to increase love and motivation for learning. It is about not "the act of doing" but "the act of becoming" a champion reader, champion writer, champion scientist, champion WHATEVER. We must model, model, model to students how proficient learners problem solve, think critically, etc. Rather than teaching skills in isolation, practice needs to be authentic and based on the experiences of those who practice reading, writing, science, etc. on a daily basis.

Participants in her work so far this year know she is passionate about her work. In Oskaloosa, we must use our filter to determine what aligns with the work we are doing. The Workshop Method of Instruction aligns with Angela's 2-5-2 structure and we feel this model should be followed. Learning Targets establish the foundation for what we want our students to become, but we are still writing them as I CAN statements. One thing we have recognized is what we model as instructors is critical - from what we want students to know and be able to do - to the passion for learning. Angela will return again this spring to work with the 1st and 4th grade team.

Angela Maiers works with the Kindergarten team (above)

Angela works with the 3rd Grade team (above)

2013-2014 Calendar is Approved

The calendar for next school year has been approved by the Board of Education. Below are the major differences from last year or things to notice!
  1. There are 4 PD days prior to school starting
  2. New teachers will start on August 13th and all teachers on August 14th
  3. There will be 2 early release days the 1st 2 days of school - we will use them for PLC goal setting and Action Planning
  4. September 16th is a full day of professional development - topic TBD
  5. We will still have 1-hour early releases on Wednesday's with PLC and extended PLC's, Vertical Teams and building meetings
  6. The last day of school is currently on May 23rd
  7. Spring Break has been divided up into two longer weekend breaks rather than a full week
  8. There are 3 snow make up days built into the calendar in Jan, April and May
  9. The 2 work days after each trimester will be 1/2 day work day and 1/2 PD next year (not stated on calendar)

Standards-Based Grading - Challenge

The purpose of grading is to provide formative feedback to students so they can improve. Most of us agree on this as a guide when grading. HOWEVER, do we really use grading to do this? The two areas I am asking you to reflect on are the use of the 1-4 instead of a letter grade/points at the top of the page AND the use of specific feedback for improvement.

  • 1-4 instead of points or a letter grade
Why not let students know whether they have met your expectations and WHY they either have or have not. Do you need to tell them they got 10/15 on a task? What, in the long term, will help them to adjust their learning? On the next task you plan to put in the grade book as evidence of learning - put a 1-4 on top of the paper instead of the points possible ALONG with feedback. Talk to your students WHY you are doing this. It will not make a difference unless you do this on-going - I challenge you to begin grading in this fashion!

  • Specific Feedback for Improvement
As a learner what do you feel is the most useful to your improvement? If your principal would tell you 80% of the walk through was "correct" or if they gave you specific feedback to help you improve? Most of our assessments, if authentic, might not have a points possible, rather they require anecdotal observations and critique by the "expert" - the teacher. Think about how you might improve the comments you are making to students. Verbal is the best feedback, but if you don't have time to speak with every student, written feedback is next best - but it must be specific to improvement. Make a goal of making sure all students get feedback for improvement!

What Is Your Grading Type?

ASCD (Association for Curriculum and Development outline learning criteria those using Standards-Based Grading take when assigning grades. Which criteria do you use? Are you one or a combination of them? Reflect and Discuss....

Product Criteria?
Those using this believe the primary purpose of grading is to communicate on a summative level - students' achievement and performance. Focus on WHAT students kn ow and are able to do at a certain point in time. Teachers who use product criteria based grades on final exams or final products or an overall assessment - showing a culmination in an overall grade. Is this you?

Process Criteria?
Those using this believe that product criteria do not provide a complete picture of student learning. Grades should not just reflect the summative, but also HOW students go there. Teachers consider responsibility, effort, work habits, etc. when assigning grades. Teachers also count quizzes, formative assessments, homework, punctuality of assignments, participation, or attendance. Is this you?

Progress Criteria?
Those using this believe the most important aspect of grading is how much students gain from their learning experiences. Teachers who use progress criteria look at how much improvement students have made over a period of time, rather than where they where at a given point in time. As a result, scoring is very individualized. Grades may be based on the standards or skills students have mastered on a level of progress for each student. This also promotes more differentiated or individualized instruction. Is this you?

PLC Dates for March

  • No PLC on March 6th - No extended planned (check with building)
  • March 11-15 - NO PLC - SPRING BREAK
  • March 7th and 8th - Parent Teacher Conferences
  • March 20th - PLC with extended PLC
  • March 27th - PLC with extended Building

A Different Puzzle to Ponder

Though this puzzle has a Science "spin" the ideas are transferable to ANY content area. How does your content area employ these ideas in your instruction??

Technology Goals for Next Year

The District Technology Committee met on February 19th to plan for next year and beyond. Each Vertical Team will formulate their building technology professional development needs and bring them back to the next meeting in April. Each building will create an action plan around the following district long-range goals.

  1. 100% of teachers and students will utilize technology at the highest levels of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.
  2. 100% of teachers will integrate the Technology and Information Literacy Grade Level Benchmarks into instruction

3 Steps to 21st Century Learning!

3 Steps to 21st Century Learning and Student Success. GIving children a VOICE!!!

Meetings in March!

Music and Tech Curriculum Team Meeting

Friday, March 1st, 8am

1800 N 3rd St # 2

Oskaloosa, IA


Tuesday, March 5th, 4pm

1800 N 3rd St # 2

Oskaloosa, IA

SINA Team Meeting

Wednesday, March 6th, 9am

Great Prarie AEA

Spring Break

Monday, March 11th, 8am to Friday, March 15th, 4pm

Where are you going this year?

District SPED Meeting

Monday, March 25th, 12:30pm

1800 N 3rd St # 2

Oskaloosa, IA

Music and Tech Curriculum Team Meeting

Friday, March 29th, 8am

1800 N 3rd St # 2

Oskaloosa, IA