Hope for the Future
In a world marred by the stark realities of war, unrest, and relentless exposure to mean-spirited interactions, the need to safeguard and nurture the innocence of our children becomes an urgent call to action.
The words of the late actor Angela Lansbury, spoken just after 9/11, echo the collective responsibility we all share in creating a haven for the youngest members of our society. "All of us, grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles, we all have to try to do everything that we possibly can to show them that they are safe and loved and that good will triumph over evil and right will prevail."
As we witness the disheartening events unfolding around the globe in real-time, it becomes increasingly clear that the impact on our children is profound. Their tender minds absorb the images and narratives of conflict, shaping their perceptions of the world and influencing their understanding of right and wrong.
In this tumultuous landscape, it is crucial for each one of us to actively engage in the emotional and psychological well-being of our children. We are all custodians of their future, charged with the responsibility of instilling hope, resilience, and compassion in the face of adversity.
By fostering a sense of safety, we enable them to navigate the challenges that arise in their lives with greater confidence and emotional stability. Engage in open conversations, actively listen to their concerns, and reassure them that, no matter the circumstances, they are loved.
In a world where hatred can permeate even the most sacred spaces, we must teach children about empathy and the value of differences. Help them understand that, despite the darkness, there is always the potential for goodness to prevail.
Empower children by modeling the transformative power of kindness. Encourage them to engage in acts of compassion, no matter how small. Whether it's helping a friend in need, participating in community service, or simply spreading joy through kind words, these actions contribute to building a better world.
In a world where darkness tries to overshadow the light, let us unite in our commitment to nurture a generation that believes in the triumph of good over evil. May the joys of the holiday season strengthen our resolve to protect childhood innocence and sow seeds of hope for their bright futures.
Student Proficiency Then and Now - Is it Really Different, or Did We Just Not Know?
It's been said that in order to know where you're going, you need to understand where you've been. In education, understanding where we've been is crucial to improving the educational experience for our students.
One area where we've seen significant changes over the years is in the way we report student proficiency. This evolution has prompted us to reflect on how far we've come and whether these changes are truly transformative or if they've simply shone a light on information that was previously hidden.
If you're like me, you may have fond memories of your school days. You might recall your classmates, teachers, and the unique experiences that shaped your education. But how much do you remember about standardized test scores and proficiency levels? Chances are, not much. In fact, many of us never had those scores reported publicly, and it makes you wonder: Has anything changed, or is it just that we now know about it thanks to the changes that began with the No Child Left Behind Act?
The No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2001, was a significant turning point in education policy. It required schools to report student achievement data, disaggregated by various subgroups, including race and socioeconomic status. This marked a shift in transparency and accountability in our education system, but it also raised questions about whether the emphasis on standardized test scores was fair to both students and schools.
Before this era of transparency, we had a vague understanding of who the top performers were in our graduating class, and we had little information about those who were struggling. We might have known the valedictorian, the star athlete, or the class president, but we had little insight into the individual strengths and challenges of our peers. The idea of proficiency, in terms of standardized test scores, was rarely discussed openly.
I think about my own class of 26 graduates from our small Nebraska community. Here’s the breakdown of what could be determined as proficiency based on our post-high school enrollments and who received special education services:
- 8 students received special services and did not go to a program after high school - 31%
- 3 students went to a vocational school - 12%
- 6 students completed a four-year degree - 23%
- 9 students completed a post-baccalaureate degree program - 35%
All of them are gainfully employed, some of them were big surprises as successful adults, and nobody vilified my school district because a quarter of my class was struggling readers.
Fast forward to the present day, and the landscape of education looks quite different. Our focus on reporting student proficiency and holding schools accountable for their performance has increased significantly. We have embraced data-driven decision-making, which has both benefits and challenges. While this increased transparency has shed light on achievement gaps and prompted schools to address disparities, it has also raised concerns about the narrowing of curriculum and excessive testing.
In asking whether these changes have truly transformed education, it's important to consider the trade-offs. Are we now more aware of student proficiency because it's being measured more rigorously, or are we simply more attuned to it due to policy changes and headlines? Moreover, are we striking the right balance between a focus on accountability versus the holistic development of our students?
As we continue to navigate the evolving landscape of education, it's crucial to remember that proficiency scores are just one piece of the puzzle. We must also recognize and value the diverse talents, passions, and aspirations of our students. The well-rounded development of young minds is a complex endeavor, and standardized testing, while valuable for assessment benchmarking, should never be the sole measure of a student's potential or success.
The changes in reporting student proficiency have undoubtedly transformed our educational landscape for good and for bad, and the true impact lies in how we use this information to support our students and schools.
Let's continue to focus on a well-rounded education for all while valuing the talents and potential of each of our students. Some of them may surprise us along the way!
Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to the Sioux Falls School District.
As a public school district, we frequently highlight our strong collaborations with local businesses and non-profit organizations, which contribute significantly to enriching the educational experiences of our students.
Sioux Falls consistently supports various initiatives, from essential school supply drives to vital winter gear collections and providing internship experiences and on-the-job training. These invaluable partnerships underscore the collective strength of our community.
However, the most profound and influential partnership we cherish is the one more intimately connected to each of the 25,000 students we proudly serve - the partnership with you, the parents or guardians.
The impact is transformative when schools and parents/guardians/caregivers align their efforts, working in tandem to invest in a child's life. This collaborative spirit boosts a child's confidence in their academic pursuits and nurtures essential life skills. The supportive synergy between school and home environments effectively alleviates stress and anxiety, creating a positive atmosphere for students to engage wholeheartedly in their educational journey.
Fall and spring school conferences offer a prime opportunity to invest in your child's education. By actively participating in parent-teacher conferences, you send a compelling message to your child, demonstrating your unwavering commitment to their education.
Your attendance serves as an inspiration for your child to prioritize their own educational goals. This simple act enables you to engage with teachers, gain a deeper understanding of your child's learning journey, and reinforce the expectation that your child shows up and participates actively in their education.
Conferences are an ideal time for schools and parents to foster and reinforce lines of communication crucial for helping students set meaningful goals, address concerns, and track progress throughout the academic year.
Establishing these connections early in the year allows everyone to promptly and effectively address academic or emotional challenges, giving students the necessary support and time to regain their footing. If the designated conference date and time pose any inconvenience, please feel free to contact your child’s school to schedule an alternative meeting. Your partnership holds great importance, not only to us but, most importantly, to your child.
Parent and school partnerships serve as a powerful testament to the intrinsic value of education. Your child's teacher looks forward to the opportunity to meet with you. I hope you will take advantage of their invitation to visit the school and explore how you can actively support your child's learning journey. If the designated conference date and time pose any inconvenience, please feel free to contact your child’s school to schedule an alternative meeting. Your partnership holds great importance, not only to us but, most importantly, to your child.
Attendance: Our Yield Depends On It
As autumn paints South Dakota with stunning hues of gold, green, and red, we find ourselves at the threshold of a new school year—a season of growth and learning. Just as farmers nurture their crops to reap a bountiful harvest, we, too, are focusing on the essential elements that cultivate success for your child.
This school year, our schools are focusing on the little things that matter when planting, cultivating, and harvesting. Our “yield” depends on it. One of the most critical factors in a student’s academic success is daily attendance, which is something all stakeholders in the Sioux Falls School District must agree to work on together this year.
We understand the importance of attendance and the impact it has on your child's academic journey. Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing two or more school days in a month or 18 days in a year, can hinder your child's progress. It's disheartening to see even a handful of students missing more than half of the school year, which amounts to approximately 100 out of the 179 required school days in Sioux Falls.
Attendance is so concerning that recently, we secured a substantial $1.5 Million grant to tackle chronic absenteeism over the next three years. To support our students, we are implementing intensive interventions in four elementary schools and two middle schools.
The bulk of this grant will enable us to employ six dedicated Attendance Liaisons. These professionals will go the extra mile—making phone calls, knocking on doors, offering rides, and eliminating any barriers that may hinder a student's ability to attend school. In just their first month, these liaisons have already made numerous meaningful connections and found solutions to assist students and their families.
In education, we are reminded to “Remember our why.” Our “why” is your child’s future. Your student deserves every opportunity to be successful, and lost learning time significantly increases the risk of students dropping out. And, like you, we do not want any child to consider that as an option.
Establishing solid and trusting relationships takes time so students feel like they belong in school. We are committed to taking the time to get to know your child and their needs. Instruction, assignments, and experiments must be engaging, interesting, and relevant to the real world. Every day is a new opportunity to show up and grow their knowledge.
Together as a community, we must make daily school attendance a non-negotiable priority. We invite parents, staff, civic and elected leaders, and business owners to collectively embrace the responsibility of ensuring consistent attendance. The education of our future workforce depends on it, and together, we will reap a bountiful harvest of knowledge and a high yield of success.
Cultivating Our Future Together
Summer is coming to a close and another fall is upon us. While students, staff, and parents settle in for the new school year, cooler temperatures and earlier sunsets remind us harvest is also right around the corner.
Each year, we select a theme to keep us grounded in our work. This year we are focusing on the word “Cultivate.” In so many ways, “cultivating” describes what happens in our classrooms every day. Like a seed ready for planting, students enter our classrooms with so much potential to grow. Staff nurture curiosity and introduce various tools to help students succeed on their educational journey.
One new tool students and families will become accustomed to using this fall is our Learning Management System called Canvas. The online platform helps students and staff organize homework and class expectations. Another technology tool you may be hearing about in the news is Chat GPT and artificial intelligence (AI). Ready or not, these online resources are here to stay. We believe it is better for students to learn how these innovative tools can be used to proactively sharpen their critical thinking skills and develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.
While tools are important, sometimes the greatest harvest is reaped just by cultivating consistency. This year more than ever, we are focusing on the need for students to attend school regularly. It is essential to recognize that good attendance is a shared responsibility. As parents and caregivers, you play a vital role in fostering a culture of regular attendance. Just like watering and fertilizing plants regularly, students also need this consistency. By prioritizing and emphasizing the value of attending school every day, you set the foundation for your child's commitment to their education.
Additionally, we are excited to open our Community Learning Centers (CLC) in elementary schools to encourage stronger connections and community engagement. With support from local organizations, businesses, and community members our after-school programs will offer tutoring, mentoring, and various enrichment activities. Parents and caregivers will have many opportunities to come alongside us in this endeavor. Your partnership is important to its success.
By attending school events, volunteering, voting for educational initiatives, or providing resources, we can cultivate a thriving educational community where our students can flourish and reach their full potential. We stand ready to support you and nurture your child every step of the way.
Sioux Falls School District
Location: 201 East 38th Street, Sioux Falls, SD, USA
Phone: (605) 367-7900