Thursday, October 24, 2013

Plan to Address Student Achievement

As was posted earlier in the year, the Barron Area School District saw "State report card" scores that were lower than State average in some of our schools.  As was also shared previously, the district will focus on reading achievement in particular during this year and into the future due to the fact that reading achievement is foundational to success in many other academic areas.  With that said, I wanted to provide an update regarding our plans for this year and beyond to begin to address these concerns.

To begin, the first phase of our plan is to critically examine teacher practice in the classroom or in what we call large group instruction; this is not to say that we have teachers that are not doing what they are supposed to be doing rather, we are examining our practices to determine the amount of time we spend on reading and language arts instruction, identifying "best practices" to employ to boost reading achievement, are looking deeply into district level assessment data to determine specific areas of need for groups of students and individuals, and we are taking steps to ensure our reading and language arts curriculum are aligned with the Common Core State Standards which we will be evaluated on in the future.  In addition to the above, we have also began to examine our approach to providing interventions for students (both individually and in groups) and have developed a comprehensive system to identify issues or areas of concern, engage in problem solving teams to further identify and address the concerns, and the utilization of data to inform the decisions we make about what types of interventions we should use, the length of time we do these interventions, and best environment to accomplish these goals.  We have also discussed and intend to employ an approach to reading instruction that is across content areas and focuses on reading instruction at all levels in addition to content area instruction such as science or math.

The primary difference between the approach outlined above and what we have done in the past, is in the critical examination of classroom practices coupled with the utilization of data to inform our instruction and the delivery of targeted, research based interventions designed to address specific skill deficits.  In addition, we have communicated the expectation that we are all teachers of reading regardless of our content area specialty.  We also intend to provide staff training and support in these areas to help ensure success.

We understand that this is a complex undertaking that will require a lot of time and effort to accomplish; but we also know that we should see improvements over time if we are proceeding correctly.

On a side note- I have to admit that my personal philosophy regarding education is clearly NOT to "teach to the test" nor am I advocating for such a move; however, we do have data available to help us make informed choices about how to address skill deficits in a targeted manner which will boost achievement regardless of what test a student takes or whether or not they are tested at all.  The overarching goal of education in general is to challenge students to reach their fullest potential- not to get the best score on a test.  

Please contact me at any time with questions.

Sincerely,

Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
broerenc@barron.k12.wi.us
715-537-5612 ext. 402

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Community Meetings Planned

I have conducted meetings to gather information from our various buildings and am now proceeding with conducting meetings in the communities of Barron, Ridgeland, and Almena.  The purpose of these meetings will be to share some of the things currently going on district-wide and to answer any questions parents or community members may have.  These will be very informal meetings and will be comprised mainly of discussion prompted by those in attendance.  If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to come to ANY of these meetings.  They will be as follows:

Barron- Tuesday, November 12th at 7:30pm in the HS Commons
Ridgeland- Thursday, November 14th at 7:30pm at Ridgeland-Dallas Elementary Cafeteria
Almena- Monday, November 18th at 8:00pm at Almena Elementary following the regular board meeting 

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sincerely,
Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
715-537-5612 ext. 402

Bomb Threat Update

As you likely know, our high school experienced a bomb threat and subsequent evacuation a few weeks ago; although it was a difficult situation, the staff and students did an extraordinary job following the evacuation procedures which resulted in a calm, organized environment.  During the evacuation, law enforcement made us aware of (what turned out to be) an unrelated incident that caused us to employ precautionary lock-downs at our facilities in the city of Barron including the students at the evacuation site.  It was quickly determined by law enforcement that the incident in question had nothing to do with the bomb threat, but since we did not know at the time, we took additional precautions until this became clear.   Even though it was a difficult situation, we had the opportunity to reflect on it and learn some things as a result.  Some complications arose from parents arriving at the evacuation site to pick up their students or to drop off lunch for them.  As a parent myself, I completely understand the motivation to come to the evacuation site to ensure your child(ren) are safe (and fed) but if a situation arises where real danger is a possibility, parents would put themselves and the students at risk by coming to the school or evacuation site.  Parents can feel free to contact the district office for information and to determine whether or not all children are safe at any time as the district office will be receiving consistent updates from the site affected.  In addition, there are circumstances when it may not be possible to release students immediately to their parents or guardians due to safety, ongoing investigations, etc.  With that said, we feel that we are here to serve our students, parents, and community members and will do our best to meet your expectations whenever possible.  We appreciate your patience and understanding particularly during stressful occasions such as a bomb threat.

The investigation to find the individual responsible for the threat is ongoing; we have some possible leads based upon video evidence.  We are also working in conjunction with the Barron Police Department on conducting hand-writing analyses as more possible evidence.

Lastly, on behalf of the Barron Area School District, I would like to thank the Barron Police Department, the Barron Fire Department, and the Barron County Sherriff’s Department for their assistance with the evacuation and search of our high school facility.  In addition, I would like to thank our local Kwik Trip for donating bottled water and bananas to the high school students during the evacuation as well.

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sincerely,

Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
715-537-5612 ext. 402