The Oskaloosa "Syllabus"

May 2015 ~ "News YOU CAN USE!"

Literacy Resources Chosen for 2015-2016

After digging into two resources for reading, K-6 teachers made a recommendation to purchase Reading Wonders from McGraw Hill. The other choice was Journey's by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Both quality products, but in the end Wonders had the necessary alignment and qualities of the Iowa Core and its rigorous expectations.

After much negotiation and conversations, we are able to take a proposal to the Board of Education for approval in May. The only element we will not purchase, after the initial purchase of this consumable, are the student practice books. The materials will be able to be printed from the web-based site in subsequent years. This resulted in a measurable cost saving which allowed us to purchase addition product.

After two presentations of two resources, we have decided to make a recommendation to the Board of Education to purchase "Traits of Writing" from Scholastic for K-8 - with implementation next year 6-8 and into the high school.

The writing process will be used across content areas and through the high school to ensure consistency of writing and common language. The only element we will not purchase, after the initial purchase of this consumable, are the student practice books. This too, allowed us substantial savings.

I feel having these two resources will assist in closing the gap we currently have in both reading and writing - both so connected and critical to our students' success.

Professional Development for both is being coordinated for the beginning of next school year.

Balanced Literacy

Learning About Literacy

The Administrative Team has been doing some learning related to Balanced Literacy. We defined Literacy and had some very good conversations about what Literacy looks like and sounds like in classrooms. We also identified what it should NOT look like.

We looked at several articles and chapters of a book, along with some graphics which help provide a nice visual representation of Balanced Literacy. The one below we also saw at the Standards Based Grading conference last week in Des Moines. Ankeny Schools shared this same graphic with us as part of what they call "Standards-Based Instruction".

The Administrative Team will be communicating some expectations for ALL classrooms as it relates to quality literacy (reading and writing) instruction. Take a look at this brief article for some introductory reading on this concept.

The graphic below will be adapted to our district and communicated to all staff regarding literacy instruction across content areas.

Standards-Based Grading Conference Highlights

Ken O'Connor was the keynote speaker on the first day of the conference hosted by Iowa ASCD (Association for the Supervision of Curriculum Development) in Des Moines on April 23rd. They second day were break-out sessions where Oskaloosa proudly presented our journey with those across the state.

O'Connor's book A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades was the topic of his day long presentation. Here are his 15 fixes - reflect on where we are as a district, building, and your own classroom practices.

Fix 1: Don't include student behaviors (effort, participation, adherence to class rules, etc.) in grades; include only achievement.
Fix 2: Don't reduce marks on "work" submitted late; provide support for the learner
Fix 3: Don't give points for extra credit or use bonus points; seek only evidence that work has resulted in a higher level of achievement.
Fix 4: Don't punish academic dishonesty with reduced grades; apply other consequences and reassess to determine actual level of achievement.
Fix 5: Don't consider attendance in grade determination; report absences separately.
Fix 6: Don't include group scores in grades; use only individual achievement evidence.
Fix 7: Don't organize information in grading records by assessment methods or simply summarize into a single grade; organize and report evidence by standards/learning goals.
Fix 8: Don't assign grades using inappropriate or unclear performance standards; provide clear descriptions of achievement expectations.
Fix 9: Don't assign grades based on a student's achievement compared to other students; compare each student's performance to preset standards.
Fix 10: Don't rely on evidence gathered using assessments that fail to meet standards of quality; rely only on quality assessments.
Fix 11: Don't rely only on the mean; consider other measures of central tendency and use professional judgment.
Fix 12: Don't include zeros in grade determination when evidence is missing or as punishment; use alternatives, such as reassessing to determine real achievement, or use "I" for Incomplete or Insufficient Evidence.
Fix 13: Don't use information from formative assessments and practice to determine grades; use only summative evidence.
Fix 14: Don't summarize evidence accumulated over time when learning is developmental and will grow with time and repeated opportunities; in those instances, emphasize more recent achievement.
Fix 15: Don't leave students out of the grading process. Involve students; they can - and should - play key roles in assessment and grading that promote achievement.

Iowa ASCD Leadership Academy Resource for Standards Based Grading

The Iowa ASCD Curriculum Leadership Academy was a huge success - and a sell out. Whether you were able to join us at the conference or not, we want to share additional resources with you.
  • Summer Institute - June 22-23: Ensuring Learning for Each and All - Building Our Expertise

    This two-day workshop features 5 strands, one of which focuses on Standards-Based Learning and Grading. The national presenters are Bob Marzano and Tim Westerberg. There will also be presentations by several districts in Iowa. Register now at

  • Fall Academy - November 16-17: Standards-Based Grading for Schools Leaders This two-day workshop features Tammy Heflebower of the Marzano Research Center. All participants will receive Marzano's book, A School Leader's Guide to Standards-Based Grading.
  • The Source: Be sure to check out our digital newsletter the first and third Friday of each month except July. Reviews of books as well as additional information on conferences and learning opportunities will be included.
  • Resources provided by Ken O'Connor at the Iowa ASCD Curriculum Leadership Academy on April 23.
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Standards Based Grading Invitation

Oskaloosa has been invited to the Standards-Based Grading Conference held annually in Cedar Rapids. We will present our journey and tools created next March.

Congratulations to all who presented in Des Moines!!!
Angie Grubb, Denise Morris, Danielle Francois, Jayme Braida, Tim Veiseth, Kirsten Stek, Jeanne Clark!!!

Updating Grade Book

Reminder - parents are checking Parent Portal for grades to be updated.

If you haven't updated, please do so at your earliest convenience. Here are the dates parents were given as benchmarks to check the portal. The next date is coming up on May 8th!

  • Friday, March 27th
  • Friday, April 10th
  • Friday, April 24th
  • Friday, May 8th
  • Friday, May 22nd

Tool for Improvement - Instructional Techniques

An Instructional Technique is various ways an instructor facilitates the learning of their students

On the Tool for Improvement, a "4" would be described as:

  • A variety of “best practice” instructional techniques were observed


  • Multiple opportunities were observed where students practiced and rehearsed a concept or skill in an in-depth way

What does "IN DEPTH" Mean?

High levels and deep conceptual knowledge of students.

Deep understanding then means that the concepts are well represented and well connected. As such, deep understanding of a subject involves the ability to recall many connected concepts at once, where every single concept has a deep meaning in itself. Deep thinking then involves being able to make further connections between the webs of concepts. Deep thinking involves the construction of new concepts and is almost always based on what the student already knows. Said differently then, high levels and deep knowledge goes beyond just recall or simple understanding of content or a skill.

What are some best-practice (shown results in the classroom) techniques used to help students make the connections we need them to make to have deeper understanding of a concept/skill?

*Jigsaw *Turn and Talk *Graphic Organizers *Cooperative Learning *Carousel Brainstorming *Whole Brain Teaching *Pair-Share *Quick Writes *Power Writing *Songs and Rhyme *Workshop Model *Inquiry-Based Learning *Project-Based Learning *Close Reading *Guided Reading *Strategy Groups *Modeling *Similarities/Differences *Small Group Instruction *Stations *Partners *Presentations *Interactive Lecture*Student Choice Based *Role Playing *”Pictionary” *Gallery Walk *Double Entry Journal*Debates *Web Quests *Question/Discussion *Note taking *Visualization*Simulations *Project Design *Experiment *Creating models *Authentic Writing

This list is not exhaustive and there are other best practice techniques that can get students to that higher level of thinking - with anything, the teacher is the most important attribute to student learning at the desired levels.

Spring Registration is up and going! ALL students must be registered by May 7th!

Parents/Guardians in order to register, you must have a Parent Portal account to register.

To request an account for the Parent Portal:

A link to the Parent Portal to complete registration:

Please contact your student's building secretary with questions.

Do you need help completing Spring Registration?


When: Monday - May 4th

Time: 4:00 - 6:00 PM

Where: Oskaloosa Middle School Commons

For: ALL families in the district

Services Available

  • If you do NOT have a Parent Portal Account
  • If you need your Parent Portal Account reset
  • If you do not have a computer or Internet access at home
  • Assistance in registering your student(s)

PLC To Watch in May - KinderPrep!

KinderPrep SMART Goal for 2014-2015
All students will show growth on number identification, to help build the foundation of math skills for Kindergarten.

Action Plan for this year:
  • All student can participate in activities.
  • Have assigned times for Math activities.
  • All students will receive small and large group instruction in number identification.
  • Math stations in each room.
  • Individual goals related to number recognition.

KinderPrep will present to the Board of Education on May 11th - join us if you want to hear about their work this year!!

DLT Update for April

DLT met on April 6th. Here are the decisions made and/or discussions.

  1. Encore areas at the Elementary proposed new Work Habits and they were approved for the 2015-2016 school year
  2. Tool for Improvement areas: Instructional Techniques and Bloom's Taxonomy - a kiosk activity helped to provide deeper understanding of the connectedness of the two concepts.
  3. Began to have a conversation around Standards-Based Grading at 6th grade for the 2016-2017 school year. We generated ideas related to reasons it would be a good idea and areas of concern. We will continue these conversations next year and get input from stakeholders.

Assessment Data Available

Iowa Assessment and MAP results are available - PLC's should take time to analyze the data to find gaps in student learning. Consult with your building principal on where you will find the individual student reports and/or building reports.

PLC's will have the Iowa Assessment district trend line data available next week for analysis.

I sent out the MAP results to each building - if you have not seen them, check your e-mail!

PLC Teacher Leaders Named for 2015-2016

PLC Facilitators for 2015-2016

Kindergarten - Dawn Anderson
1st Grade - Megan Vande Voort
2nd Grade - Angie Grubb
3rd Grade - Liz Roe
4th Grade - Katie Taylor
5th Grade - Mindy Archer
6th Grade - Brett Doud
7th/8th Grade Math and Science - Paige Pierson
7th/8th Grade SS and LA - Vacant as of today
MS Industrial Technology, Family Consumer Sciences, and Technology - Josh Bandstra
MS Special Education - Jen Stout
HS Math - Mike Comfort
HS Science - Mauree Haage
HS Social Studies - Amanda Reynolds
HS Language Arts - Anna Gritters
HS Special Education - Autumn Reisetter
HS Foreign Language - Laura Brehm
HS Career and Technical Education - Carrie VanMersbergen
K-12 Music - Kyle Braundmeier
K-12 Art - Vacant as of today
K-12 Guidance - Dana Hols
K-12 Physical Education - Jen Peterson
K-12 TAG - Dawn Deffenbaugh

Vertical Team Teacher Leaders Names for 2015-2016

Elementary Vertical Team Leaders:
Technology: Kendra Roquet
Literacy: Julie Loeding
PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports) Planning: Carolyn Pederson
PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports) Data: Corey Trainer
SWAT (School Wide Assessment Team): Val VanMaanen
Wellness: Jen Peterson
Special Education: Wyleen Johnston
SGI (Small Group Instruction): Mary Hersom

Middle School Vertical Team Leaders:
Technology (1:1): Deb DeJong
Special Education: Jen Stout
PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports): Dana Hols
PBL (Project-Based Learning): Sandi Fribley
SWAT (School Wide Assessment Team): Marian Raum

High School Vertical Team Leaders:
Technology (1:1): Vacant at this time
Special Education: Kathy Akers
Homeroom/Academic Recognition: Vacant at this time
PBL (Project-Based Learning): Kristen Bandy
SWAT (School Wide Assessment Team): Todd Warnecke
Scheduling: Mike Goudy

Teacher Leader Orientation

PLC Facilitators - August 3rd - AM
Mentors - August 3rd - PM (Those in the Mentor pool will be notified yet this Spring if they will be assigned a New Professional)
Vertical Facilitators - August 7th - AM
Instructional Coaches - August 12, 13, 14 - All day

Jump Start at the MS

Applications are now being accepted for interested people wanting to teach Summer Jump Start at the MS to incoming 6th graders who need a "jump start" on their academic success and transition to the MS.

Dates are: July 6-31 at the MS

Send your intent of interest to Dr. Cooksley by May 5th.

Summer Reading Program at the Elementary

The Elementary has a new program this summer for struggling learners in grades K-3. June 1st through 27th, students will have support with literacy.

As part of Early Literacy Initiative (ELI), students who are not reading at grade level by the 3rd grade will have to be placed in summer school or be retained. We want to close the achievement gap to limit the number of students who might be retained.

Grade Level Benchmark Changes?

If you have any Grade Level Benchmark (GLB) updates for next year - send them to Dr. Cooksley before the end of the year. This includes component changes of any kind as well.

Learning Targets and Assessments

Reminder - quality assessment practices include the following elements:
  1. Learning Target - either at the top of the assessment or chunked by question topics
  2. Clear and understandable directions
  3. Is this part of one assessment or multiple assessments to show evidence of learning? Communication!
  4. How do students know if they score a 4, 3, 2, or 1 (This might be a separate rubric given to students)
  5. How will you involve students in the assessment process? Track grades, self-assessment, reflection?

Needs Assessment Results

The Annual Needs Assessment Survey results have been compiled. The District Advisory Committee (DAC) has reviewed and discussed the findings. Here are some of the results. If you want to review the entire document, you can find it on the district website.

  1. Report Cards Communicate what students know/demonstrate: Parents said: 80.6% this year compared to 58.6% last year
  2. Teachers post and explain Learning Targets each day: Students said: 85.6% this year compared to 75.3% last year
  3. Teachers give work that is challenging: Parents said: 78.3% this year compared to 77.6% last year

Again - if you want to see the entire document, go to the district website.

Iowa Core Learning