Friday, December 21, 2012



«  Nancy Speer on a wonderful elementary school Christmas concert

«  Michael Albarracin and Monica Boogerd on excellent Christmas instrumental concerts

«  The high school students for their service projects today

Monday, December 17, 2012

Connecticut Shootings

We are all very saddened by the terrible events of the school shootings in Connecticut on December 14th.  I want you to know that in the past five years the Sioux Center Community School District has taken steps to ensure the safety of our children.
· Security systems have been installed
· Security cameras have been installed
· Through construction, moving the offices in Kinsey Elementary School and the high school from the interior of each building to the exterior so that visitor must physically go through the office to enter the building.
The problem is that Sandy Hook Elementary School did everything right. The shooter shot his way into the building.  The doors were locked, they had practiced lock down drills, and the staff followed the procedures.  The shooter was determined to get in the building. 
In my opinion, the way to prevent these tragedies is for each child to have a meaningful relationship with school personnel. This validates their dignity and worth, not because of academics, athletics, or fine arts, but because they are a child of God. If these children have mental health issues then we need to get them assistance.
In the Sioux Center Community School District we treat the safety of our children as our number one priority. I believe that we are naive if we think that we are immune to tragedy and evil but we do not want to have to ask the question, "Could we have done more?" should we have a terrible situation.
As we move forward through the Christmas season please pray for the people that are dealing with this tragedy. There is so much damage may never be repaired. The children that survived and now bear the mental scars, the Emergency Responders and police that witnessed and dealt with the horrible scene, and the parents and victim's siblings whose lives without their beautiful little child must go on without them. This time of the season, which should be joyous celebration of our Savior's birth, will now be a painful reminder of this day.
There is staff of the school that must live with the loss of young lives under their watch and the loss of colleagues who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their students. Their acts of bravery and unselfishness demonstrate the love that teachers have for their students. They did what we all hope we would have the courage to do when faced with a life or death situation.
The news shows have had many interviews with church personnel and the question arises, "Why would a loving God allow this to happen?" I do not know the answer as I do not know God's master plan but I do know this, I trust in God and his grand design for his people. We live in a broken world where evil exits for evil's sake and I believe that the goodness of God will triumph.
Here is an article I shared with the Sioux Center Community Schools staff this morning.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Standards-based grading brings sweet success to Sioux City West teachers

Students in some Algebra and Geometry classes at Sioux City West High School were asked to bring M&Ms, Skittles and Tootsie Rolls to class last year. Students thought that "homework" assignment was really sweet, to say the least. Little did they know that their skillful teachers were using these manipulatives as a differentiated instruction strategy. Actually, as transparent as these teachers are, the students likely did know.

Welcome to standards-based grading and instruction. While this may not seem like your classroom experiences of the past, take note because the results Jamie Bratvold (pictured left) and Arynn Rasmussen (pictured right) found teaching this way are worth sharing.

Bratvold and Rasmussen, who recently relocated to Texas, explained the difference between their past practice of norm-based grading versus standards-based grading this way: The standards-based method equalizes the grading process in that only a student's summative assessments are used for his or her grade. Homework assignments, participation, attendance and attitude have a weight of zero in grading. However, those formative assessments provide guidance for day-to-day differentiated instruction.

Bratvold and Rasmussen like to use this analogy to further clarify, "With any sport, an athlete has to practice their skill. There are scrimmages and there are games. Homework is their practice, quizzes are the scrimmages and summative tests are the games—the only things that really 'count.' If you don't practice and do well in the scrimmages, you won't make it in the real games."

Because the areas of student progress can be easily identified, conversations become richer among peers and teachers, and engaged learning happens through differentiated instruction. These are added benefits to standards-based teaching, according to Bratvold.

The West High teachers established their teaching methods on the work of Rick Wormeli and Robert J. Marzano. These education gurus believe in testing and re-testing. However, a student will only have an opportunity to re-test if he or she has put in the practice, or, in other words, the students have submitted all of their homework assignments.

When asked why they switched from norm- to standards-based grading, Bratvold said they noticed that students weren't remembering what they learned in the first quarter later in the fourth quarter.

"In our norm-based grading, students typically received higher grades on their report cards than the results from state standard testing," Bratvold explained. "We knew something needed to change."

In the summer of 2011, a professional development cadre at West High got together to "unwrap the standards." By defining what it meant to "employ the properties of equality," for example, the cadre listed a comprehensive list of properties they felt needed to be mastered for that standard. The standards also had to fit within the Iowa Core expectations. Once they knew how to define each standard, grading for each one became more balanced and explicit.

"As opposed to looking at norm-based grades that can factor in attendance, attitudes, participation and other intangibles, standards-based grading identifies what a student does or does not struggle with," said Bratvold.

Knowing which concepts a student hasn't yet mastered is half the battle. The flip-side for teachers is how to change, or differentiate, their teaching so that kids can engage with concepts in a way that makes learning easier.

Enter M&Ms, Skittles and Tootsie Rolls. Students were able to create and solve their own math problems by using these yummy manipulatives.

Critics may say, "That's great to incorporate chocolate into classrooms, but are they learning anything?"

Bratvold and Rasmussen can tell you that not only are students more engaged in the classroom, but that, yes, test scores in one class increased from 55 percent passing in 2010 with norm-based grading to 74 percent in 2011 with standards-based grading.

Millie Olsen, an instructional coach at Northwest Area Education Agency (AEA), provided resources for the West High pair two years ago, as they began their standards-based journey.

"I am excited for them and their trailblazing efforts," exclaimed Olsen. "I believe the power of this works in their formative assessment framework that, in turn, guides the instruction."

One of Bratvold's favorite testimonies came from a student who was asked if standards-based grading was working for her. The student admitted, "You never let me forget what I've learned!"

Standards-based grading isn't for the faint-of-heart. It takes extra effort to differentiate. It means a teacher has to be flexible and willing to change. And the teaching is very transparent because students know each day, week and semester what will be taught and what they will be responsible to learn—making them more accountable.

But are the results worth it? Absolutely say these two teachers, who recently earned their master's degrees from Southwest Minnesota State University.

As Bratvold summed up with one of her favorite quotes, "Growth happens outside of your comfort zone."

It sounds as though these teachers grew professionally just as much as their students did academically. In the "game" of teaching, that would be called a win-win.


«  Kirk Kinrade achieving the rank of Eagle Scout

Friday, November 30, 2012

Elements of Effective Feedback

Recently the staff of the Sioux Center Schools has been reflecting upon feedback and the current grading practices.  Here is a Q and A regarding feedback.

What is feedback?

“Feedback is an objective description of a student’s performance intended to guide future performance.  Unlike evaluation, which judges performance, feedback is the process of helping our students assess their performance, identify areas where they are right on target and provide them tips on what they can do in the future to improve in areas that need correcting.”
W. Fred Miser
“Research has shown that effective feedback is not a discrete practice, but an integral part of an instructional dialogue between teacher and student, (or between students, or between the student and him/herself).”
From “Providing Students with Effective Feedback
“Feedback is not about praise or blame, approval or disapproval.  That’s what evaluation is – placing value.  Feedback is value-neutral.  It describes what you did and did not do.”
Grant Wiggins
What is the Criteria for Effective Feedback?
  • Fairness
  • Accuracy
  • Specificity
  • Timeliness
What does the Criteria for Effective Feedback mean?
  • Teacher evaluates the student’s work compared to a standard
  • Grade is objective and directly related to the standard, not to subjective considerations or to matters unrelated to the standard.
  • Evaluation of the same work is not distorted by the gender, ethnicity, home language, or economic status of the student.
  • The same work by the same student should receive the same grade, even if the teachers are different
  • Students and parents understand exactly how grades are earned
  • They see a clear relationship between student actions and the grades on the report card
  • Students receive the feedback in a timely enough manner
  • Students can associate the feedback with the work that generated the feedback



    «  The high school dance team who received a 1 rating at the state dance competition.  This is our first 1 rating in 4 years.

    «  To the following varsity football players who received All District honors

    Spencer Fritz

    Andrew O’Donnell

    Christian Rozeboom

    Dylan Vant Hof

    Nick Van Roekel


    Wednesday, November 21, 2012


    «  To JoAnn Gotto on an excellent District Audit report

    «  To Joe'l VanderWaal and Kelli Langel who facilitated a project based learning experience for the 8th graders by putting "Christopher Columbus on trial". After visiting the Sioux County courthouse last week, the 8th graders put that knowledge to work as well as information gathered from primary sources to analyze whether or not Christopher Columbus really deserves his own holiday.

    «  To the following volleyball players who received post season honors

    All State
    Amber Bakker- 1st Team

    Jillian Estes- 3rd Team

    All District
    Amber Bakker

    Jillian Estes

    All Conference
    First Team- Amber Bakker (unanimous), Jillian Estes

    2nd Team- Jenn Buyert, Malyn Hulstein

    Honorable Mention- Carrigan Cleveringa

    Academic All Conference
    Anna Den Herder

    Jillian Estes

    Carrigan Cleveringa

    Des Moines Register All-State
    Amber Bakker- 2nd team

    All Northwest Iowa Review Team
    1st Team- Amber Bakker

    2nd Team- Jillian Estes

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Parenting A Young Innovator

    This blog was first published April 18, 2012 on

    My View: Creating innovators

    By Tony Wagner, Special to CNN

    Policymakers and educators alike talk about all students having to be “college-ready,” and many business leaders believe that America’s economic future depends on more students taking courses in science, technology, engineering and math. However, it is clear to me that the more important goal is for all students to graduate from high school or college “innovation-ready,” and merely requiring students to take more of the same kinds of classes will not be adequate preparation. To meet this ambitious goal, both parents and teachers must work to develop children’s curiosity and imagination, teaching them the skills and dispositions that matter most.

    For my latest book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, I interviewed scores of highly creative and entrepreneurial young people to understand the most important influences that enable someone to become an innovator. I also talked with their parents and the teachers and mentors whom they told me had made the greatest difference in their lives. Finally, I interviewed younger children’s parents who also had successful careers as innovators and entrepreneurs. Shifting through all of this data, I discovered some fascinating patterns of parenting and teaching associated with “creating” a young innovator.

    Traditional “helicopter parents” indulge their children’s every whim, while hovering and protecting them from adversity. By contrast, “tiger moms” – derived from the title of Amy Chua’s 2011 best-seller – demand perfection and threaten to give away their children’s most precious toys when they cannot play a piano piece perfectly. These two seemingly different approaches to parenting have a common goal: Both are trying to manage their children for “success”– conventionally defined.

    Yet merely sending your child to the “right” schools and ensuring that they get good grades are no longer guarantees of success. More than a third of all recent college graduates are living at home today – either unemployed or underemployed. It is increasingly clear that young people who have developed a capacity to be innovative and entrepreneurial – who have the interest in and capability to create their own jobs – will have the most satisfying lives and rewarding careers in the future. Innovation is the skill in greatest demand in the workplace today and is the one least likely to be outsourced or automated.

    For the innovation-minded parents whom I interviewed, developing their children’s intrinsic motivation was their most important goal. And they did so by encouraging their children’s play, passion and purpose.

    The kinds of childhood play that these parents encouraged was often unstructured and self-initiated. They brought their children fewer toys – and only ones that encouraged more creative play, such as Legos, versus video games and took them to fewer after-school lessons. These parents also limited screen time – often watching only a few hours a week of TV together as a family and keeping a close eye on computers that were strategically placed in a family area rather than in their children’s rooms.

    While not overly structuring their time, nevertheless parents of young innovators created a buffet of opportunities for their children, allowing them to explore different sports and musical instruments as well as other activities such as scouting. Love of learning and developing genuine interests were more highly valued by these parents than becoming an excellent athlete or musician. Parents of young innovators understand that the wellspring of perseverance and self-discipline essential for mastery is best developed through the pursuit of a passion, but that children’s passions often evolve, and that children should not be pushed to continue to pursue activities that no longer interest them.

    All of the parents whom I interviewed talked with their children about “giving back” and modeled this behavior as well. As a result, every one of the young innovators whom I spoke to was pursuing more than just a passion – but rather a deeper sense of purpose in their work: Creating better and more affordable Third World technologies; exploring green energy sources and manufacturing processes; preserving endangered wildlife; igniting children’s passion for science; organizing new community-based learning opportunities; mentoring disadvantaged adolescents – these were just a few of the projects the young innovators whom I talked to have initiated.

    The schooling of these young innovators was often more problematic. Most learned to innovate in spite of their schooling – not because of it – including those who went to some of the “best” colleges.

    However, the majority of the young people whom I interviewed could name at least one teacher who had made a critical difference in their development. In interviews with these remarkable teachers, I discovered that they, too, reinforced the intrinsic motivations of play, passion and purpose, while teaching students to work in teams, take risks and learn from failure.

    Kirk Phelps, who became a product developer for Apple’s first iPhone, said that he learned the skills he needed most in classes taught by an outlier at Stanford, Ed Carryer, who requires his students to solve problems in teams through interdisciplinary projects. Carryer’s goals as a teacher, he told me, are to “empower” his students to be able use what they know – not merely regurgitate it on a test – and to motivate them with assignments that have a strong element of “whimsy.”

    Amy Smith, another outlier teacher, takes a similar hands-on approach to her sequence of courses on Third World sustainable development at MIT, where, for homework, students grind corn three different ways or make charcoal. One of her graduates whom I profiled in the book, 23-year-old Jodie Wu, is now CEO of her own company, Global Cycle Solutions, inTanzania.

    Not every young person will become another Steve Jobs, but the majority of our young people can learn the skills required to bring more innovative approaches to whatever they do. How parents and educators raise and teach the next generation could make all the difference.

    Sunday, November 11, 2012



    «  To Gretchen Bruhn and the drama department on an excellent production of the musical Annie

    «  The volleyball team on a great season

    «  Kelli Langel on setting up a wonderful experience with a presiding judge and the county attorney as part of her social studies program. The comments from the judge and the county attorney were extremely complimentary of the students

    Friday, November 2, 2012


    «  To Lori Brandt (Ferreira) and her staff.  This week I witnessed some of the work they have to do. 

    «  To Haile Duden, who finished 21st, and Josh Olvera, who finished 34th, at the state cross country meet.

    «  To the Warrior volleyball team on qualifying for the state volleyball tournament.

    «  To the Kinsey kids (staff too) and their awesome costumes on Halloween.

    «  To Ken Dokter for another excellent bus inspection report

    «  To Denice Boote for the completing the Certified Enrollment Report (CER) and being recognized as a Platinum Performer by the State of Iowa.  The top ninety seven schools out of over three hundred were recognized as Platinum Performer.

    Wednesday, October 31, 2012

    State Volleyball information

    Congratulations to the Warrior Volleyball Team

    The Sioux Center High School Volleyball team qualified for the Iowa State Volleyball Tournament last night by defeating East Sac County in three games. 

    No School Thursday November 8th

    The Warriors will play Union High School of La Porte City at 1:30 pm on Thursday November 8.

    There will be no school on November 8th.   That day will be made up on President’s Day February 18, 2013.

    *State Tournament Venue *

    Due to extended renovations of the US Cellular Center, the 2012 State Volleyball Tournament will be held at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena located at 1100 Rockford Rd SW, Cedar Rapids, IA. The State Tournament is November 7th through the 10th.


    The admission price for each of the seven sessions is $8.00 per student and adult. There is no admission charge for children who are not yet in kindergarten.


    Advance Ticket Sales

    Tickets for Thursday’s match with Union High School will be on sale in the Sioux Center High School Office starting at 8:30 am on Monday November 5th.  Tickets are $8.00.

    Spectator Seating

    All seating is general admission.

    Parent Teacher Conferences

    Parent Conferences Moved to Thursday November 15.

    Middle School Basketball

    The 7th and 8th grade boys basketball games with Hinton scheduled for November 15th have been cancelled due to Parent Teacher Conferences.

    High School Musical

    ·         Should the Warriors lose on Thursday, the musical goes as scheduled.

    ·         Should the Warriors win on Thursday they will play in the semi-finals Friday, November 9th at 3:30 pm.  Friday, November 9th was already scheduled as a day with no school. The Musical performance scheduled for Friday Night will be rescheduled for Monday night the 12th of November.

    ·         Should the Warriors lose on Friday the Saturday Matinee and Saturday evening performances will proceed as originally scheduled.             

    ·         Should the Warriors win on Friday they would play in the state championship on Saturday November 10th at 2:00 pm.

    ·         The Saturday Matinee will be moved to Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm and Saturday Night will move to Tuesday Night.

    Middle School Vocal Concert

    If the musical is moved to November 13th, the MS concert on the November 13th will be moved to November 19 same time and place.

    Welcome Home

    Should the Warriors play in the state championship, there will be a welcome home Sunday win or lose.

    Friday, October 26, 2012



    «  Kari Wieking for providing a tour of Kinsey School for visitors from the Sheldon School District last Saturday morning.

    «  Carol Kooiker, Aaron Vanbeek, and Andrew De Jongh for qualifying for the All State Chorus

    «  Josh Olvera and Haile Duden for qualifying for the State Cross Country

    «  Tony Landegent, Austin Faber, Morgan Slagter, and Katie Movick for qualifying for the Opus Honor Choir.

    Friday, October 19, 2012

    2nd order change

    I have taught like I was taught;  I am seeing the light, though.

    "Teaching is not telling; repeating is not learning!"

    As much as we might dislike the implications, research is showing that didactic exposition of abstract ideas and lines of reasoning (however engaging and lucid we might try to make them) to passive listeners yields pathetically thin results in learning and understanding - except in the very small percentage of students who are specially gifted in the field.