Friday, January 17, 2014

Update on Academic Programming

I thought that this would be a great time to provide our district residents with some updates over the next two months with a Superintendent’s two favorite topics: 1) Academic Programming and 2) Budget and School Finance.  This month will be devoted to the academic programming portion with next month devoted to the budget and school finance.

There are many interesting and challenging things occurring at all levels of the Barron Area School District.  To begin, the district is currently investigating options for modifications to our pre-kindergarten and Early Childhood (EC) programming for the 2014-2015 school year.  There have been no decisions or changes made at this time, but we are considering methods to better serve our EC population (3-5 year olds with special needs) by developing programming that is specifically designed to meet the needs of these students.  At this time, we incorporate them into our existing preK classes; although this partially solves how we deliver services, it does not fully address many of our students’ needs.  We are thinking about the possibility of developing a consortium of schools in Barron county who will work together to collaboratively provide services for these students at various locations.  This would include a variety of options such as play groups, home visits and/or classroom/ academic based activities.  Once we have a plan developed, the community, and parents directly involved in particular, will be contacted.

We are also looking critically at our English as a Second Language (ESL) programming and may be making some modifications there as well.  Like the Early Childhood program, we are looking at modifications that would enhance our delivery of instruction and academic support for our ESL students district-wide.  One aspect of that approach has already been initiated by the Board of Education when they approved hiring some additional ESL staff members including a teacher and a bi-lingual aide.  The district will receive some additional funding through State and Federal sources as a result of these hires, but we must also examine what our programming looks like.  To be clear, simply hiring additional staff can begin to address our concerns, but it is not a stand-alone solution to address needs; therefore, a comprehensive program evaluation is in process to determine possible changes to maximize student learning and language acquisition. 

As I have indicated before, we have also been engaged in multiple activities to enhance our instructional practices overall.  Specifically, we have focused on a move towards data-based decision making which allows our staff members to utilize data to inform their instructional practices.  What this does, is allow our staff members to identify particular areas of need (based on data) and focus on those particular areas with specific academic interventions designed to address specific deficits (or strengths) and enhance student achievement.  Perhaps the most significant aspect of this approach is the idea that it works just as well for students who are struggling as it does for students who excel.  I am also very proud to report that the teachers in all of our schools have taken this approach and run with it; they are frequently engaged in conversations regarding student achievement and problem-solving methods to address areas of concern- it is very cool to see.

Barron Area School District is a great district but we must continuously look for ways to improve to remain competitive and focused on providing our students the absolute best opportunities at success.

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

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