Merrill Minute

September 18, 2020

Thank you!

Greetings, Mustangs,

Thank you for your feedback and partnership again this week as we continued to learn more and improve upon our instructional practices in the virtual world. Great ideas from students, teachers, families, and support staff continue to surface and we appreciate the all hands on deck approach to making this adventure the best possible experience for Merrill students. We will continue to develop mini-lessons around technology skills and provide opportunities for students to practice navigating the virtual classroom.

Thank you, Students! We are so impressed with your ideas, resilience, and your determination. Continue to settle into the learning, share your ideas, and ask questions.

Thank you, Teachers and Staff! I was able to Team into a few virtual classrooms this week and want to thank the Merrill teachers and support staff for your ingenuity, creativity, and hard work in ensuring that Merrill students are served at the highest possible level and that questions are answered in a timely fashion.

Thank you, PTA! A huge thank you to the Merrill PTA for advocating for safety and high quality instruction, communicating via Facebook, volunteering at technology and material distribution, supplying clear masks for all the teachers, and purchasing new banners that will be hung soon from the rooftop at Merrill. Thank you!

Thank you, Merrill Families! And finally, thank you to all of you for your grace, your ideas, your voice, your sharing of resources, and your positive approach to each day. You are juggling a lot right now and we know that this is not an ideal situation for any of you. Thank you for pressing on and reaching out to us for support.

As a reminder, here are a few of your "go to" staff at Merrill:

Student Last Name A-L:

Student Last Name M-Z:

Yours in appreciation of our remarkable learning community,


Kathryn Panek, Principal

Merrill Middle School

Merrill School Counseling Department

Time to Organize the Computer!


Participation and Non-Participation

DMPS has made a change to our attendance/participation system in which the default for attendance is to non-participation when attendance isn't submitted by the teacher by 5:00 each evening. Typically, this would not be an issue. This wasn't a typical week.

While teachers work hard to take attendance period-by-period, this was difficult this first week as we navigated new systems and helped students find their way to their virtual classrooms. As a result teachers may have gone back to record attendance later in the day, but not soon enough. Many of you had already received a notification that your student was marked as "non-participation", when your student actually "participated".

Thank you for your patience as we learn what this all looks like and as we settle into routines that allow us take attendance efficiently in the virtual world. We will get attendance records cleaned up and hopefully avoid this issue next week.

Infinite Campus Update at 5:00 PM

Another change is that last year Infinite Campus updated immediately, so you knew if your student was absent or tardy period-by-period. This year Infinite Campus will update at 5:00 each evening.

Appointments, Internet Issues, Etc.

Please let us know if your student will not be able to participate in live instruction by emailing or calling the school at (515) 242-8448. Students who are unable to join synchronously are encouraged to make other plans with the teacher to participate via video recording, Canvas materials, or a 1:1 meeting with the teacher.

Music Requests

We have received many requests to change music classes - from band to orchestra, or orchestra to vocal music, etc. At this time we are unable to accommodate these requests. We were charged with building a comprehensive schedule that can pivot from a virtual return to learn model to a hybrid return to learn model. Each schedule change that we make has a domino effect on class rosters across the day and impacts the balance of each cohort of students - Monday/Tuesday, Thursday/Friday, and Virtual.

As a reminder, all students have been rostered into a course titled Music Appreciation. DAILY, during that period, students check in for a 5-10-minute, musical learning engagement with the teacher listed on the student’s schedule. An example of this short, musical learning engagement is “What are you listening to Wednesday?”, during which time students may share popular music, what is on their playlists, or a beat or pattern that they’ve noticed across musical genres.

Students are also rostered into small group sectionals/performing ensembles/lesson groups for band, orchestra, or vocal music on a WEEKLY basis according to the student’s performing arts request.

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Merrill IB Grading Updates

What is the International Baccalaureate?

The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end, the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programs of international education and rigorous assessment. These programs encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

How is the grading system changing?

This year, Merrill's PE, Visual Arts and Spanish departments are piloting an IB Middle Years Program gradebook that blends standards-referenced grading (SRG) with the IB criteria. Instead of grading on a four-point SRG scale, students will be graded on an eight-point IB rubric in these specific courses. Teachers and curriculum leaders worked throughout the summer to blend the SRG district scales and IB criterion into a singular format that will articulate student learning goals and achievement. While IB rubrics are not new to Merrill teachers or students, they have traditionally only been used to measure achievement on individual assessments and then converted into an SRG score, using a standard conversion scale. In these classes, teachers and students will use IB rubrics exclusively to track their progress toward their understanding of the content (SRG) and application of that understanding (IB).

The Two Systems:

1. IB MYP Criteria

Each subject area uses four criteria to describe the learning expectations (qualitative measurement of achievement) for students as they move through the IB Middle Years Program. The four criteria are evaluated using age appropriate rubrics provided by the IB, with "8" as the highest achievement level.

2. SRG: Standards-Referenced Grading

Iowa state/national standards and benchmarks (quantitative measurement of achievement) are aligned with all written, taught and assessed curriculum through the district curriculum office. These have been organized into units and topics that are measured with "4" as the highest achievement level.

MYP/SRG Integration

Teachers have worked collaboratively to design rigorous assessments that align the knowledge and skills of the Core Standards with the IB MYP criteria for each of the subject areas. Together, these objectives and standards set the instructional outcomes for each course. Teachers have integrated all of the SRG learning goals into the four IB criterion for each of these subject groups, allowing for assessment that covers both DMPS and IB achievement expectations.

What will I see on the grade report?

Students will be graded in PE, Visual Arts and Spanish, exclusively on the 8-point rubrics and these scores are what will appear in their grade report on Infinite Campus. Both individual pieces of evidence as well as topic scores will be reported on a scale of 0-8. Infinite Campus will then convert the final achievement to a letter grade.

For more information please contact Danielle Taylor, Merrill International Baccalaureate Coordinator.

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Canvas Parent/Family Access

Directions for Internet Access (Computer):

First, go to (You might want to bookmark this URL on your web browser). Then follow the steps in the video below:

To find a student pairing code:

  1. The student should log into their Canvas account.
  2. Click “Account” then “Settings”
  3. On the right hand side of the screen they will see “Pair with Observer”
  4. The Pairing code will appear.

Directions for App Access (Phone or Tablet):

  1. Install the Canvas Parent app on your phone or tablet.
  2. Once you open the app, you will click “Find my school.”
  3. Under the search bar “Find your school or district” enter “Des Moines Independent Schools – Parent”
    • Canvas automatically filters results as you begin typing
    • Choose “Des Moines Independent Schools -Parent”

Then complete the following steps:

  1. Login or click “Create Account”
  2. Fill in your name, email, and create your own password.
  3. Canvas will require a pairing code, which your student should look up inside of their Canvas account (directions above).
  4. Once you retrieve the pairing code, type the pairing code into your phone/tablet to gain access. (After your account is created, you can link additional students to your account in the Parent app.)
  5. To complete your registration, agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.
  6. Tap the Start Participating button to view student information.

Canvas: Parent/Family Observer Video Directions

Canvas LMS for Parents
501 - Observer Account Registration and Student Pairing
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Virtual Learning Support - Boys & Girls Club

The Boys & Girls Club (Drake University location) is offering 6-12 on-site virtual learning support from 7:30 AM - 2:30 PM beginning on September 8. There is additional wrap around care until 6:00 PM each evening. For more information, please click here and scroll to the bottom to the button "Gregory & Suzie Glazer Burt Club, Drake University" or contact:

Kristina Cox

Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa

Gregory & Suzie Glazer Burt Club

2500 Forest Ave I Des Moines, IA 50310

o. 515-271-4608 l c. 515-577-7160 l l find us on Facebook