Friday, November 3, 2017

Choosing a High School Academic Assessment

The 2017-2018 school year has brought forth many changes in the world of standardized testing at the high school level.  The junior class will no longer take the state assessment, that test has been moved to the sophomore class.  The biggest change, however, comes with the fact that local school districts now have the power to choose which test to administer.  The language from the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (ND DPI) is as follows:

“The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, 2015) provides new flexibility for states with respect to high school assessments.  Section 1111(b)(2)(H) of ESSA allows a Local Education Agency (LEA) to administer a locally selected, nationally recognized assessment in lieu of the state test for high school if the LEA selects an assessment that has been approved by the state”

The ND DPI has approved the following assessments to measure academic progress, the North Dakota State Assessment which is given to sophomores, and the ACT which is already given to all juniors in the state of North Dakota.

On the recommendation from the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders (NDCEL) New Salem-Almont Public Schools has chosen to use the North Dakota State Assessment.  The recommendation from NDCEL was based on the following factors:

·      The inability of ACT to measure growth
·      It has never been used to measure accountability
·      Restricted accommodations; determined by ACT, not locally
·      Measures college entrance; not Choice Ready
·      Changes focus from student centered to measurement of school quality
·      Three year commitment does not allow for changing mind

This means students at New Salem-Almont High will be given the following assessments in respective grades.

            7th Grade – STAR, MAP, NDSA
            8th Grade – STAR, MAP, NDSA
            9th Grade – no standardized assessment
            10th Grade – NDSA, PSAT
            11th Grade – ACT
            12th Grade – no standardized assessment

Please feel free to contact the school office with any questions, 843-7610.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Online Presence and Responsibility

The world our students are growing up in today is vastly different from the one you and I experienced.  With the constant pressures of academics, extra curricular activities, and non-school related activities our students sometimes feel as though they are stretched to the point of breaking.  True, many of grew up being involved in many activities both in and out of school.  However, we did not have to weather the storm of SOCIAL MEDIA as young adults.

The world of social media is expanding and evolving on a daily basis.  It may seem that just when we, as adults, have one website or cellphone app figured out another one more secretive and dangerous becomes available.

It seems that almost everyday we, as school officials, are dealing with students issues relating back to the use of social media.  Many of these issues stem from the fact that most students don't understand the ramifications and consequences that can result from poor decisions made regarding the use of social media.

As students are given the responsibility of an online presence, a earlier age every year, it is absolutely necessary for parents to have discussions about what is right and responsible.  Imagine handing over the keys to a car before your child took Drivers Ed., behind the wheel, or received their permit. Obviously, anyone can see the danger in that.  However, today we hand them a device that has more computing power than all the computers combined that were used to send man to the moon and capable of accessing all of the knowledge accumulated since the beginning of time, under the idea that "now they can get a hold of me and I can get a hold of them", with little or no direction.  It is foolish to expect that children will know how to manage an online presence if they are not taught what is acceptable behavior.  Here at the school, Ms. Jacob, the counselor has done lessons on this subject and we have had people from the Morton County Sheriff's Department come and explain to students, at the high school, what can happen if poor decisions are made.

Some of the issues we have dealt with here at New Salem-Almont High School over the past few years include:
  • Cyberbulling
  • Sexting
  • Harassing Snapchat messages/stories (which can be retrieved and don't just disappear) 
  • Students admitting to doing things via Snapchat  

To help facilitate discussions please feel free to use the following information: CLICK HERE

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Multi-Teir System of Supports (MTSS); the nuts & bolts

Some students and parents have begun to hear a new acronym floating around this year, MTSS.  Any time a "new thing" comes around there is always a certain amount of wondering and questioning as to what is this and why are we doing it.

The definition of Multi-Teir System of Supports (MTSS) is a framework to provide all students with the best opportunities to succed academically and behaviorally in school (  What this frame work aims to do is provide ALL students with instruction AND interventions based on their needs.

Student success is, always, our number one goal.  The MTSS framework is an ongoing process that comes from everyone, teachers, students, and parents, working toward a common goal.  MTSS is not something that is done to a student or a place where a student goes.  MTSS, if done right, is a systematic cultural change in the way a school approaches the education of its student.  A simpler way of saying it is; as a school we do whatever it takes for every student everyday.

Click the images for more information on NDMTSS:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What is an REA and why do they matter?

As a small rural school, there is always a need to find the most efficient and cost-effective way to provide services and classes to our administrators, staff, and students.  One of those efficient and cost-effective ways is through our local Regional Education Association or REA.

The specific REA New Salem-Almont Public Schools belongs to is the Missouri River Education Cooperative (MREC) headquartered in Mandan.

To say the MREC is vital to the educational program we provide is an understatement.  The MREC has provided or currently does provide the following services for our district:

·      Administrator trainings and meetings
·      First Tech Challenge Support (Robotics & Engineering Club)
·      Instructional Coaching
·      Online and ITV courses through the MRACTC
·      Help with the AdvancEd accreditation process
·      Data analysis – MAP Test, State Assessment, & BrightBytes Survey
·      Trainings and support with Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)

During the 2015-2016 school year 53 students took classes offered through the MRACTC.  This year, 2016-2017, we have 40 students taking classes.

I wanted to inform you of the important role REA’s play in rural education because a bill has been introduced in the North Dakota state Legislature to strip funding of REA’s from the state budget.  House Bill 1318 would strike REA’s from the North Dakota Century Code leaving our staff and students without the opportunity for cost-effective professional development and expanded course offerings. 

If you would like to know more about the MREC and the programs it provides click here

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Get on the Energy Bus!

At the start of the school year Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Andrew Jordan introduced a program to help change the climate and culture of the New Salem-Almont school district for the better.  The program that was introduced was John Gordon's "The Energy Bus."

This program is one that has been used to turn around organizations, companies, and professional sports teams for almost TEN years.  The "Energy Bus is a message of choice and positivity woven through the story of a man named George who’s day starts out with one frustration after another and ultimately he is forced to take the bus to work.  It is when George gets on the bus that his life changes.  Joy, the bus driver, greets George with a loud and happy “Good day to you today, Sugar!” from that moment on George begins to understand that we may not be in control of the situations around us, but we are in control of how we respond.

Every staff member was given a copy of the book “The Energy Bus” and it is our hope that a positive attitude will start to permeate everything we do here at New Salem-Almont Public Schools.  The idea behind the book is grounded in 10 Rules that John Gordon says will “fuel your life, work, and team with positive energy.”  The rules are simple:

1)    You’re the Driver of your bus
2)    Desire, vision, and focus move your bus in the right direction
3)    Fuel your ride with positive energy
4)    Invite people on your and share your vision for the road ahead
5)    Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on the bus
6)    Post a sign that says NO ENERGY VAMPIRES ALLOWED on your bus
7)    Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride
8)    Love your passengers
9)    Drive with purpose
10) Have fun and enjoy the ride

We have tried to do these this year and it is our hope that a culture of positivity becomes a part of our identity at New Salem-Almont Public Schools.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Math is Math, Change Is Inevitable

Last spring the New Salem-Almont school district purchased and this fall implemented a new math curriculum.  The K-8 program is called “Go Math!” and is vertically aligned with the high school curriculum.  A vertically aligned curriculum is written so the information students learn in a lower grade or during previous course prepares them for more advanced grades and more challenging work.  Vertical alignment is meant to ensure students are ready and able to move forward with no gaps in their learning.

Any time a new curriculum is introduced, whether it is math, science, or reading, there is a period of adjustment.  The new curriculum, as with all new available math curriculums, is written in a way that is different to what many parents are used to.  Many parents may remember their high school math classes as “drill and kill,” where the teacher stood in front of the classroom and worked math problems on the board for an hour and then assigned 20-30 more problems for homework day in and day out.  Those days are behind us.  Today, math is commonly taught through the lens of critical thinking. This means that students are not expected to just “do the work,” but rather find and extract the information necessary to solve the problem before them.

Please keep in mind that the basic math that students are asked to do has not changed.  What has changed is the way is the way students are expected to gather and organize information needed to perform the mathematical functions necessary to find their answers.  Yes, these are new skills that parents and students are not used to practicing.  However, these are skills that are beneficial and necessary to succeed in the world today.  To help parents and students, the new curriculum comes with a wealth of resources that are accessible online.  These resources can be accessed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and include videos, games, practice problems, and quizzes.

The instructional model has also changed.  Students are now expected to work collaboratively with other students and work through the learning process together.  Yes, there is still teacher-centered delivery of material; however, students are expected to take responsibility for their learning.  Learning is hard work and can be frustrating, that is normal anytime we learning something new. 

Change can be uncomfortable, but change in everything is inevitable.  Whether our students are staying on the farm or heading to the far corners of the world, we need to prepare them for the future and that can not be done by using methods of the past.

It is my hope that over time our students will become great thinkers and doers.  That starts by having high expectations and encouraging them to take chances and fail from time to time.  It is through those failures that we learn and realize our capabilities.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Testing, Testing, Testing............

A great deal of time and effort is put into testing our students each year.  Students are given a variety of tests across all grade levels.  School testing is often a topic of discussion when it comes to education. As the parent of a second grader, I too, feel the burden of seemingly endless testing on my own child.  However, I understand the purpose of these tests is to measure his academic progress.  I find it helpful to know where my son is academically in relation to his peers, in relation to where he was last year and how he is progressing throughout the year.

Here at NSAHS we utilize several different tests to measure the academic progress of our students. The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) and the North Dakota State Assessment (NDSA) are the two testing programs that we receive data from.   Students in the junior class also take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) during the spring semester.  Beginning in the 2016-17 school year students in the senior class will have to take a state mandated citizenship test as part of their graduation requirements.

To help clear up any confusion or questions regarding these tests I offer the following information:

MAP Testing
The information gained from this test is used by the school to measure student growth, identify learning needs, and make accurate informed decisions as to what classes students should register to take.

 MAP testing is done twice each school year at NSAHS.  One test is given in the fall, usually September or October, and the other is given mid winter, usually January or February. 

The fall test serves as both an indicator of what was retained over the summer break and as a benchmark for the year ahead.  The winter test serves as an indicator of academic progress.

Across the world more than 7,400 schools with more than 10 million students use MAP Tests to help deliver the best educational opportunities possible.

MAP Test Scores, for juniors, are also tied to test exemption.  Students in the junior class must score at or above grade level to be exempt from their second semester English, Science, and Math tests.  Therefore, if no test scores exist exemptions cannot be granted.

North Dakota State Assessment
This test is given to 8th and 11th grade students at NSAHS.  This is the only test that is mandated by the state of North Dakota. 

This test is given in two parts.  The science portion is taken in the fall and the English and math portions are taken in the spring.

The scores students receive are attached to their permanent student file and serve as only one indicator of your child’s academic success.

As a state, North Dakota is part of the Smarter Balanced Consortium.  The Smarter Balanced Consortium is a group of 15 states. Smarter Balanced is an on-line assessment system aligned to the Common Core Standards.

The scores are used as a measure of student achievement and also help the school fine tune our educational approach.

As always, I am happy to visit with parents about the testing we do at NSAHS.

Mr. Gilbertson