May 8, 2013
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Please follow the link on the right hand side for my Teacher Appreciation 2013 Letter.
James P. Heiden, PhD
Follow me on Twitter: @jamespheiden
February 12, 2013
Dear Parents and Guardians,
As you may be aware the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has begun working toward a new balanced assessment system. Wisconsin has joined the multi-state Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), being charged with the creation of assessments aligned to the rigor of the Common Core State Standards.
Additionally DPI has realigned the ‘cut scores’ to mirror the cut scores on the NAEP. NAEP, or the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuous assessment of what America’s students know and can do. Since 1969, NAEP has measured the academic progress of students nationwide. NAEP assesses fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade students in subjects such as reading, mathematics, science, writing, and U.S. history. The results of NAEP are published as The Nation’s Report Card and include information on student performance for the nation, states, and in some cases, urban districts.
When you receive your student’s results of this year’s WKCE test you will notice that you student may not be rated as high in the content areas of reading and mathematics as they were in previous years. Rest assured that your student has not lost any ground educationally. It is simply that the State of Wisconsin is using a different measure. A good analogy of this would be that of a Celsius thermometer verses a Fahrenheit thermometer. They both measure the same thing – they just use a different scale.
The School District is taking a multi-faceted approach of examining our curriculum, instruction and assessment practices in an effort to meet the needs of our students and thus the state’s increased expectations for student achievement.
Curriculum: We are aligning our current curriculum to the Common Core State Standards in the content areas of reading and mathematics. Our teachers have identified priority standards for each grade level in the area of Reading and Language Arts, and are currently working to ensure that our instructional resources support these new standards. We have also begun this same work in the area of mathematics.
Instruction: In the area of instruction, we are working at each level to ensure our teachers are prepared to meet the needs of all learners by implementing best instructional practices.
- At the elementary level, we are providing staff development for all teachers in both reading and mathematics. The focus of this staff development provides teachers with the understanding of the students’ developmental readiness for new learning, along with strategies to meet the needs of students who are demonstrating deficiencies in their developmental readiness.
- At the middle school level we are focusing on disciplinary literacy as we prepare all teachers to be teachers of reading and writing in order to prepare our students for college and careers. The teachers of mathematics are taking an in-depth look at the math practices that are embedded within the Common Core State Standards.
- At the high school level our focus is on training and coaching all teachers to differentiate instruction for all learners within their classrooms, ensuring that students are provided the individual supports needed to be successful with their learning.
Assessment: We continue to develop our assessment literacy across all grade levels and among all stakeholders within the district. Our teachers have been matching assessments to instruction, and continue to grow in the areas of providing students specific feedback in relation to the standards and learning targets, engaging students in understanding what standards they have secured and what areas they continue to need development in, and collecting data to make instructional decisions at the classroom, school, and district level.
As always, please feel free to contact me for more information.
James P. Heiden, PhD
November 15, 2012
It is hard to believe but next week Thursday is Thanksgiving. I am left wondering where the time has gone. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to pause, reflect and give thanks for all of the great things that happen here in the District.
First and foremost, let me thank you the taxpayer. Your belief in us was recently demonstrated by successfully passing a $5.9 Million referendum that will help us keep our kids safe, warm and dry. The referendum passed with a 65%-35% margin. It was one of the highest in the state. It caught the attention of State Superintendent Tony Evers as he called to congratulate us. In his remarks to me he indicated that it was great to see that our community values their schools. I would agree.
The referendum will allow us to do a multitude of projects throughout the district. We will be adding security cameras inside and outside of all our elementary schools allowing us to monitor activities around our schools 24/7. We are remodeling our high school administration area to provide better support to our families. We will also be adding a new secure daytime entrance to the high school allowing us to better monitor visitors to our buildings. We will also complete the standardized key system in all district buildings.
We will be replacing the roof at Lincoln Elementary, repairing a section of the roof at Cudahy Middle School and several sections at Cudahy High School. Cudahy Middle School will get new windows and the high school will get new windows on the east side of the original building.
And the list goes on. For a complete list visit our website and look for the Referendum 2012 tab for more information.
I am also thankful for our staff. We have some of the best administrators, teachers, para-professionals, custodians, cleaners, food service staff around. Their combined efforts make this a great place to be. Their hard work is also starting to pay off. Recently a fellow superintendent told me that he thought Cudahy was “back on the map”. (I have never thought we were off the map.) But he may be correct.
Last week I was informed that we had been named to the 3rd Annual Advanced Placement Honor Roll. Cudahy is one of 539 high schools across the nation to achieve this distinction; twenty six other Wisconsin high schools received the same distinction. Quoting Principal Chris Haeger, “Achieving both of these goals is the ideal scenario for a district’s AP program because it indicates that the district is successfully identifying motivated, academically prepared students who are likely to benefit most from rigorous AP course work. Since 2010, the School District of Cudahy has increased the number of students participating in AP from 40 to 69 while improving the percentage of students earning AP Exam scores of 3 or higher, the score typically needed to earn college credit, from 63% in 2010 to 68% in 2012. More than 90 percent of colleges and universities across the U.S. offer college credit, advanced placement or both for a score of 3 or above on an AP Exam – which can potentially save students and their families thousands of dollars in college tuition.
Inclusion on the 3rd Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on the examination of three years of AP data, from 2010 to 2012 for the following criteria:
- Increase participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts and at least 11 percent in small districts;
- Ensure that the percentage of African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students taking AP Exams did not decrease by more than 5 percent for large and medium districts or by more than 10 percent for small districts;
- Improve performance levels when comparing the percentage of students in 2012 scoring a 3 or higher to those in 2010, unless the district has already attained a performance level in which more than 70 percent of the AP students are scoring a 3 or higher.”
Congratulations to Principal Haeger and the staff at Cudahy High School. Your efforts of continuous improvement are paying off!
I wish you and your family the best this holiday season!
Dr. Jim Heiden
September 18, 2012
The 2012-2013 school year is off to a great start!
This past summer Wisconsin was granted a waiver from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) portions of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The waiver application submitted by the Department of Public Instruction outlines several significant changes to Wisconsin’s education policies. Wisconsin is one of 26 states that have been granted waivers from NCLB.
When applying for waivers from NCLB states had to agree to:
• Create or adopt college and career-ready standards in reading and math
• Develop an accountability system to replace the system required under NCLB
• Develop a support system for effective instruction and leadership
• Reduce duplication of services and unnecessary burden from schools
Wisconsin will be changing state education policy in significant ways, including: adopting the Common Core State Standards and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment; increasing the number of math, science, and elective credits required for graduation; creating a school accountability index and issuing annual school report cards; creating a teacher evaluation system; and identifying “Focus” and “Priority” schools to receive greater resources and/or state intervention.
What do these changes mean for us? We have been focused on aligning our curriculum to the Common Core Standards. To date we have the English Language Arts completed and we are in the process of aligning math.
The SMARTER Balanced Assessment will replace the Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Exam (WKCE) in 2014. This assessment will be more robust and a better predictor of student success than the WKCE was. The exam will be online allowing for accelerated return of results which will allow staff members to plan instruction to better meet student learning targets.
Discussion is already underway on re-evaluating the number of credits students will need to graduate. This discussion has included an increase in both math and science credits. The Board of Education will receive a proposed timeline for implementing an increase in credits for graduation. There are a number of logistical issues to work out so I would expect a “stepped approach” to the increased number of credits students will need to earn.
Later this fall the State will be releasing a school report card for each school in Wisconsin. The report card will rate school performance on a new accountability index, scoring each school on a scale of 0-100 across two modules: 1) a composite score of four priority areas; and 2) three student engagement indicators. Priority area scores will measure student achievement, student growth, school progress in closing achievement gaps, and whether students are on track to graduate or are preparing for postsecondary options. The three student engagement categories will measure test participation, absenteeism, and dropout rates against statewide standards.
Cudahy has been a leader in the Southeast Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness Consortium. This group has been meeting for the past eighteen months to help the DPI conceptualize the successful implementation of the Educator Effectiveness model across the state. In 2014 each school district will be expected to participate in a pilot program which focuses on improving the effectiveness of all educators in the state. This system will evaluate teacher performance through a process that uses measures in two main areas: educator practice and student outcomes.
In closing there are a lot of changes that will be occurring in how we do business. Cudahy is well prepared to meet the challenges and help shape the future of education in Wisconsin.
Dr. Jim Heiden
June 25, 2012
The Cudahy School Board has approved a resolution to go to referendum this November for facility projects at an amount not to exceed $5.9 million.
The referendum facility projects will include taking a prudent, prioritized approach towards repairs and upgrades at all district schools, focusing on academics and keeping students safe, warm and dry. Major projects include: renovating high school science labs, creating a secure entrance at the high school, window replacement at the high school and middle school, new roof at Lincoln Elementary, upgrading security in the elementary buildings, and renovations to restrooms and locker rooms. The referendum will support the district’s three strategic planning goals including vision for learning, leadership for learning and financial planning for learning.
In addition to the referendum, the board is considering other energy upgrades to the building using separate funding without raising the tax levy.
The District is currently exploring financing options that allow these projects to have little or no additional tax rate impact to property owners. Given the district’s current debt structure we believe this is possible. The board has been diligent through the planning process and has taken time to weigh all possible options. We wanted to take a proactive approach towards these capital needs items before they turn into larger, more costly issues. We have prioritized what is most prudent and necessary at this time to advance learning, keep kids safe warm and dry and take into account the District’s strategic planning goals.
Soon our website will have a tab in the left-hand column that will have important updates and a complete list of all projects. The administration and the Board will host a number of informational sessions this fall.
Friday, February 17, 2012
It is hard to believe that this school year is over half way completed! I don’t know where the time seems to go but it does.
These past several months have been busy working on how to move the District forward after Act 10. Prior to Act 10 we had Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA’s) that governed how we operated with our employees. Now we have a handbook system that we operate under. We have opted to develop our handbook in cooperation with the key stakeholders in the District. While not totally complete, the process has resulted in a quality product so far. If you are interested in our work it can be found on the staff page of the District’s website at the bottom of the page. Here is the link: http://www.cudahy.k12.wi.us/staff/.
There is more work to do. We will be working on other employment related topics in the future. The goal of the Board and the Administration has been to make this District the District of choice for our staff, students and our parents.
Another major emphasis for us has been the realignment of our K-12 curriculum to ensure that it meets the needs of the next generation learners. Our staff has spent significant time studying student data, educational trends and best practices to ensure that we continue to move forward. I am hoping that the latest WKCE data will reflect the progress that we see internally.
This past year we started working on developing the Cudahy Virtual Academy (CVA). The vision for the CVA will be to have a series of courses that are online for our current students to access. To date we have developed courses in AP Honors English, Personal Finance and Algebra/Trigonometry. These courses can either be used to supplant existing courses or allow students to take these courses online freeing up their schedule to take additional elective courses.
We have had a number of teachers that have been trained to be online course facilitators. We intend to train more of our teachers in the coming year. Eventually we hope to offer these and other online classes to home schooled students. I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Bill Kujawa, Greg Molzahn, Kevin Jones, Gerrie Cesarz, Chris Haeger, Mike Carolan and Mike Moore for helping us to get this up and running. Their willingness to run with this is much appreciated.
There is no doubt that technology is changing the way we educate our students. The trend in the education world is that our next generation teachers will be facilitators instead of content experts. The Internet will no longer be seen as a tool for the consumption of information, rather a tool for the creation of new information. If you think about it, if you want to know who signed the Declaration of Independence, you would Google it. This example could be transferred to millions other items of information that exist on the web. We need to teach our students how to verify the information they find, how to transform it into something useful and how to create something new with it. It is our goal to have our students ready for this transformation to ensure that our students have the skills necessary to compete in this new world.
We are also continuing to explore how we can use social media to better inform our staff, parents and community about the great things that occur here every day. We have developed a significant following on Facebook and now we are starting to explore how we can use Twitter to share information. My personal goal is to get my Twitter account reactivated and become proficient in using it. Now if I can find the time….
As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 31, 2011
It is the eve of opening the 2011-2012 school year for the students of the School District of Cudahy. It has been a busy summer as we prepare for what will be another great year here in Cudahy. Staff members have been working on a number of projects including a K-12 curriculum alignment, updating our school safety procedures, solidifying our assessment practices as well as updating our teacher evaluation system.
We have undertaken several small remodeling projects over the summer that will help us provide better service to kids. Two of the projects were at Cudahy High School. We took down the back wall of the Cafeteria which will allow us to set up a variety of food stations that will offer a number of alternatives to the students. The second major remodeling at the high school involves the South Science Area. This area had a number of trees and plants in an earthen circle in the center of the room. The room had lost its functionality over time. The trees were removed, the hole filled in and the entire room carpeted and repainted. The new room will serve as a student lounge in connection with the Library Media Center. Students will be able to check out a laptop from the LMC and go and work in this new area. It will also be an area where students can work collaboratively in small groups.
The final remodeling project was to re-carpet and paint the Little Theatre at Cudahy Middle School. The project was completed with new curtains for the stage. All of the projects turned out well and will help add new life to our existing great buildings.
This year we will continue to focus on completing our Employee Handbook which replaced the contracts with our various bargaining groups. The contracts expired on June 30th. The new Handbook will be a work in progress while we review and revamp our personnel policies and benefit structures. We will continue to keep a mindful eye on the finances of the District while still offering competitive wages and working conditions for all employees.
Finally I hope to complete the last part of our strategic planning process. Last fall we held a ‘World Café’ to garner community input into our programming and operations of the District. With the help of the Board of Education and the Administration team we developed a series of strategic areas of growth and a set of beliefs that will drive our final plan. They are as follows:
- We believe that curriculum and instructional practices will be designed to meet the diverse needs of all students in an atmosphere of respect.
- We believe that “best instructional practices” are necessary to maximize student achievement.
- We are committed to high standards, expectations, and goals so that all students will become life-long learners.
- We believe that each student will be provided a curriculum that is innovative and relevant based on the Common Core Standards.
- Community Engagement
- We believe that to maximize student achievement the District will actively build family, school and community partnerships.
- Facilities and Technology
- We believe it is important to update and maintain our building and technology infrastructures to meet the needs of the future.
- We believe that all students need to have access to current technology and instruction to prepare them for the future.
- Public Relations
- Increase public knowledge of events and activities of community schools in Cudahy.
Our intent is to complete the strategic plan for approval by the Board of Education later this fall.
Finally, on behalf of all the administrators, teachers and support staff we want to welcome you back. We are excited about the upcoming year and wish each and every student the best as they achieve educational excellence.
Monday, May 30, 2011
It seems impossible but another year of school is almost done. Graduation is less than two weeks away. We will say goodbye to another terrific bunch of students. (Every year I think this is the best class ever – when I sit back and reflect on the current senior class then it changes; they become the best class ever.) This senior class is particularly special because we have two Valedictorians; Zach Plachinski and Emily Junger. Congratulations to both of them.
As I pause and reflect on another school year gone bye I can’t help to think that we may be living in one of the most historic times in the world of education. As we wait to hear the outcome of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to hear the court case surrounding Act 10, one thing is certain – education as we know it will change. It has to. I view change as a good thing. An old friend of mine once told me to look at change as another opportunity to reinvent how you do business. For Cudahy Schools that means that we will restructure our contracts to better align with the needs of our students if we still have contracts. If we don’t we work with our stakeholders to ensure that we retain the best and brightest teachers.
Next year will bring new opportunities to find ways to keep improving. We will start the year with a slightly smaller staff due to retirements and several staff layoff’s (due to over staffing). We will move forward on establishing a virtual academy for Cudahy High School students as well as solidifying our traditional curriculum in order to provide the best possible education for our students. I look forward to changing for the better.
Thank you for your continued support of the school district. Have a great summer!
Recently the school district administration hosted a “World Café” at Cudahy High School. The purpose of the World Café was to gather information from a group of people in a short amount of time. This information will be compiled and presented to the Board of Education as part of our strategic planning process later this year or in early 2011.
I am pleased to say that the World Café was a success. We received many useful pieces of information that will help us create a dynamic strategic plan that will lead us in to 2015 and beyond.
If you would like to give your input, please go to the website, follow the link and you will be able to provide answers to the five questions. The entire process should take less than 15 minutes.
I look forward to reading your responses.
James P. Heiden