The Board of Directors recently adopted the following funding resolution that was forwarded to our legislators…
Now, therefore, be it resolved:
Over recent years, the failure of the Legislature to provide sufficient and increased annual funding to Iowa’s school districts has a cumulative effect and significantly threatens the ability of Iowa schools to meet the current needs and demands of improved student achievement.
Be it further resolved:
To ensure appropriate annual educational funding and fiscal solvency the Maquoketa Community School District Board of Education resolves that to prepare for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 years, the legislature should, as statute dictates, approve allowable growth in the first thirty days of the 2013 Legislative Session.
Therefore; the Maquoketa Community School District Board of Education requests that the Iowa Legislature set a 4% allowable growth rate for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years prior to consideration of educational reform measures. This request is based on:
• Recent years allowable growth has not kept pace with the educational needs of the district to support student learning. Iowa wants – and needs – to be a world leader, which will require a stronger educational program and funding to support that program. Iowa is failing to annually invest sufficient resources into this system.
• If education is truly the state’s priority, then allowable growth funding should be prioritized and passed in compliance with Iowa law – within 30 days of the presentation of the governor’s budget.
• The allowable growth figure has a direct impact on the number of districts on the “budget guarantee.” Adequate allowable growth of 4% reduces the number of districts on the guarantee from 223 to 62. Consequently, the additional statewide property tax asking for the budget guarantee could be reduced from $33,637,871 to $3,982,365.
• Improving student achievement is not just about changing policy. It is about providing the necessary resources to strengthen our educational system. Recent across-the-board cuts, low-to-no allowable growth rates and an increase in expectations have left school districts with little capacity to fund programs.
• Budgets must be passed and certified by April 15; collective bargaining agreements have to be approved; curriculum needs to be purchased; and staffing decisions need to be made. Districts must have funding information in order to plan for next school year.
• There are funds available to support 4% allowable growth. As of February 4, budget experts project the state treasury will end fiscal year 2013 with an $822 million surplus after cash reserves and emergency accounts are full. That ending balance will likely grow because it is based on a 3.3% growth projection, which is now projected to be at least 4%.
With 4% allowable growth established for 2013-14 and 2014-15, we believe the funding would support the Educational Reform Proposal. We support:
• Opportunities for teacher instructional leadership with full funding provided and prescription for implementation determined at the local level for flexibility in staffing.
• A reconciliation of the Legislative Services Agency estimate versus the Department of Education funding estimate. There must be a clear understanding of the cost to districts and appropriate funding provided to support these costs.
• Funding established to ensure the sustainability of the Education Reform Proposal.
• Continued review and improvement of the current teacher evaluation system based on the Iowa Teaching Standards to include measures of student achievement.
• This positive move in Educational Reform that must include the development of a world-class curriculum with scope and sequence alignment to the statewide assessment.
This resolution is approved by the Maquoketa Community School District Board of Education in support of providing adequate current funding for Iowa schools requests 4% allowable growth is approved by the Iowa Legislature for 2013-14 and 2014-15 and conceptual implications of the Education Reform Proposal.
Board President – Brian Tabor
Superintendent - Kim P. Huckstadt
District Newsletter – 8/12
From the Superintendent…
A new year is always filled with anticipation and the promise of many good things to come. As I look ahead to the start of another school year, the following words come to mind: focus, flexibility and collaboration. In light of the fiscal challenges and declining enrollment in rural areas many school districts have been pressed to find ways to meet the needs of students in a more efficient manner. This means reducing expenditures and controlling costs whenever possible but it also means school districts finding creative ways to share resources for the benefit of all students.
This is not a new concept in Maquoketa as we have had one of the longest-standing whole-grade sharing agreements in the state of Iowa with the Delwood School District. However, this year we will add to this successful partnership when Maquoketa enters a whole-grade sharing agreement with the Andrew Community School District for grades 9 through 12 and a course sharing agreement with the Preston Community School District. The primary purpose of establishing sharing agreements should always be focused on maintaining or expanding educational opportunities for all students. It is also important to view sharing agreements as “genuine partnerships” and not mere business transactions. After all, we are working together to serve our most valuable asset, the young people in our communities. Thus, partnerships must be structured in a way that is mutually beneficial… In other words, all parties must be thinking: “win – win – win”. A win for communities, a win for school districts and most importantly, a big WIN for students!! This will always be our focus and our goal.
In July, I had an opportunity to attend the Iowa Education Summit along with six other members of our teaching staff. I was genuinely pleased with the overall tone of the summit. There was obviously a deliberate attempt to create a sense of urgency to address concerns and improve student performance in Iowa. At the same time, I believe there was an attempt to include all stakeholders in that conversation. Moving forward, we will need everyone working together in order to focus our resources and improve educational opportunities for all students. This is not to say that, because of the two-day summit, agreement abounds moving forward. There are still a variety of perspectives and there will no-doubt be significant disagreements in some areas. However, for the sake of our students, families and communities, it is critical that this conversation be elevated above the political fray so that we can get on with the business of preparing students for success in a global market place.
The theme for the summit was “A World-Class Education = A World-Class Workforce”. In one way or another, each nationally recognized speaker emphasized that, within a globally competitive job market, we must have a vision that extends learning opportunities and job-skill development beyond the 12th grade. Statistics show that the better paying jobs of the future will likely require students to acquire additional education and on-going training. In other words, the learning never ends! This seems to affirm what we in the Maquoketa Community School District have been working toward for the past several years… which is our theme of “College Readiness for All”.
If a “College Readiness” theme was appropriate five years ago… it is even more critical today. There is no question that we have expanded opportunities for job-skill development and college (concurrent) credit classes for students in Maquoketa. It is very affirming to hear many of our students and families talk about the doors that have opened as a result of this program. This is largely due to our aggressive pursuit of these new opportunities and our strong partnership with Clinton Community College. These opportunities not only benefit students looking to go on to two-year and four-year programs but also students who are seeking the skills needed to enter the work force.
When discussing “College Readiness”, I have often shared the following six steps that were highlighted in an article written by Donald Phillips and Kevin Skelly in the The School Administrator Magazine. We utilized this framework in planning, implementing and assessing the effectiveness of our staff development initiatives. If our vision is College Readiness for All…
1. We must get very clear in identifying the knowledge, skills and attributes that comprise “college readiness”.
- Being ready for college is different than having all students go to college.
2. We must move from a K-12 concept to a Grade 14 to Pre-K concept.
- We must design backwards… each teacher must know their work contributes to this overall vision of college readiness.
3. We must be willing to redirect resources (human, capital, organizational) to support a college readiness initiative.
- It is critical that we ensure differentiated learning experiences (Multiple Pathways) to engage students who are sitting in seats but fail to see the relevance between school and the real world.
- Instead of having students “opt in” to a rigorous curriculum, we must create a system that forces them to “opt out”. (Examples: Concurrent Credit, Iowa On-Line and Vocational Academies)
4. We must engage parents and our community in helping to realize this goal of college readiness for all students.
- In spite of all the other influences, parents are still the most important determinant regarding whether a student decides to attend college.
5. We must set interim (and multiple) measures to assess student progress.
- This requires setting exit targets (esp. in reading & math) at the elementary / middle school level.
6. There must be a system-wide commitment to this vision.
- Without commitment from all stakeholders including; administrators, board members, parents, students, and teachers… there will be no significant or sustainable changes.
From the onset it has been recognized that all six of the elements identified above are critical to achieving this vision. As I have looked back to assess our progress, it seems that some categories have advanced at a different pace and to different levels than others. While this was not necessarily by design, from my perspective, this has been the reality. Much time has been invested in recent years developing and expanding the course offerings in both academic and vocational programs at the secondary level. It has taken a considerable amount of time and effort on behalf of a lot of people inside and outside of the school environment. One thing is certain; we have no stronger ally in this effort than Clinton Community College. Clearly, there are more educational opportunities available to the students at Maquoketa High School than in any previous time in our school’s history. I am pleased to report that more and more students and families are taking advantage of these opportunities! However, we cannot become complacent in this endeavor. We must continue to explore new options and opportunities to provide multiple pathways for success for all of the students we serve.
Systemic improvement is the key to sustainability. While we continue to expand opportunities for high school students, this cannot be at the expense of or to the detriment of other parts of the system. From a systemic perspective, we cannot lose site of the importance of providing a sound educational foundation at the elementary and middle level. After all, what good does it do to open doors of opportunity at the secondary level if many students fail to acquire the necessary academic skills and work habits to walk through these doors?
According the American College Testing (developers of the well-known ACT Test), “academic achievement is typically defined as the cognitive knowledge, skills, and abilities that are measured by achievement tests”. Recent studies show that the level of academic achievement students have attained by the eighth grade plays a substantial role in determining whether or not a student is ready for college and/or career success. This indicates that the academic progress made throughout the elementary and middle school years is indeed the strongest predictor of success (or lack of success) at the high school level and achieving our goal of college and career readiness.
Ability matters but not as much as academic behaviors… The ACT study indicated that cognitive ability does play a role in academic achievement but it has also been well established that “academic behaviors” such as orderly conduct, planning, organization, follow-through and putting forth a sustained effort also have a significant impact on student achievement and developing the skills needed for college and career readiness. To summarize a fairly complex research project, behavior, effort, attitude and perseverance really do matter! While it is good to have the supporting research, most of us really kind of knew this already! But, just how important is this critical developmental crossroad we call middle school? According to “The Forgotten Middle” study conducted in 2008:
“Eighth-grade students who are not on target for college and career readiness face severe academic obstacles in high school and are substantially more likely to be unprepared for college and career when they graduate than students who are on target to become ready for college and career in the eighth grade. ACT data suggest that students who enter high school lacking foundational reading and mathematics skills rarely ever catch up…
“Students who are academically ready for the challenges of high school are more likely to finish high school academically ready for college and career. At a time when fewer than two in ten eighth graders are on target to be ready for college-level coursework by the time they graduate from high school, it is crucial that we intervene with the students in the Forgotten Middle—the upper elementary grades and middle school—to ensure that they enter high school ready to benefit from high school coursework” (p. 40).
This sobering conclusion serves to reinforce the importance of utilizing a systemic approach to educational improvement. Helping students develop and improve their “academic behaviors” will help put students on a path toward college and career readiness.
Because the stakes for our students have never been higher, we must be up to this challenge throughout our entire educational program. This includes having a rigorous and well-articulated curriculum filled with opportunities to learn, practice and apply knowledge in a relevant context. This relevant context requires having access to 21st Century tools that can be applied across both the academic and vocational spectrum. It also means continuing to develop the “whole child” by providing opportunities for students to express themselves and learn life’s lessons through participation in various arts programs, clubs and activities. But all of these areas must have one common thread… they must be focused on helping each student develop to their full potential.
By working together, we can provide a safe and supportive learning environment for every student. We are looking forward to a great year of growth and learning. If I can be of service to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Kim P. Huckstadt