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Summer Newsletter 20013-14

Posted July 16, 2013 in Community Blogs, Norwalk

Calendar Change for 2013: 

If you have not done so, please examine the calendar for next year.   You will notice that Norwalk has joined our neighboring districts and districts across Iowa by greatly expanding the number of “early out professional development times” for teachers.  The Iowa legislature has enacted new requirements for teachers in Iowa.  So, Norwalk’s tradition of “one early out per month” must expand next year.   We will begin weekly early outs instead of monthly.  I realize this change will inconvenience many families.  However, our School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) studied the new state requirements, parent surveys, staff requests and student achievement records.  Those requirements and results were compared to the existing times available for professional development.  After the study was complete,  there was a realization that Norwalk teachers could not keep our status of strong student achievement with the existing professional development schedule.  The result was a recommendation to the school board to increase the present system to weekly early outs.  Adding my recommendation, the school board voted for the present calendar and expanded the number of early outs.  You will see this change demonstrated in our new calendar.  Our calendar now looks very similar to Indianola, Carlisle, and other schools in Iowa.

The many new state and national requirements have increased over the last five years. The Iowa Core, teacher peer coaching, new standardized testing called “smarter balance” more requirements for bullying, mandatory reporting, and a myriad of other requirements simply require more time.   Most of these increases came without additional funding for these initiatives.  So, districts must look to their present schedules to find answers for these requirements.  Norwalk will be joining its neighbors and districts across Iowa by adding time.  Different than most Iowa districts, the Norwalk SIAC committee  found a way to expand the professional development time while  actually ADDING student contact time at the elementary and the secondary levels.  This innovation should multiply achievement gains.  The new research-based strategies being developed are multiplied by additional minutes of  student teacher contact time.  This SIAC strategy should work to improve Norwalk student achievement results. My personal thanks to the SIAC committee for their hours of diligent research on this topic.

Strong achievement overall in Norwalk: 

The achievement results for Norwalk are good.  But good can be the enemy of great.  A composite of all Norwalk high school students appears in the table below.  The scores represent the averages of all students on the Iowa Tests over the last 4 years.  As you can see, we have gained over six percentage points in math, seven points in reading, eight in science and nine points in social studies.   We are progressing toward 100% student proficiency.  An outstanding record!






Growth 2008-12



















Social Studies






A second area for celebration is the dropout rate.  Although dropouts are unacceptable outcomes for educators, you can see that we are steadily progressing toward 100% graduation.  Another outstanding record!


4-Year Cohort Graduation Rate

5-Year Cohort Graduation Rate

9-12 Dropout Rate













Hard work and training time is needed several areas:  

Ten years of continuous achievement is certainly encouraging.   However, our students with IEPs often score below the proficiency level in many areas.  Sometimes, far below proficiency.  Our students of low socioeconomic status often score below the averages of our scores for other students.  Additionally, we do not attain a satisfying number of students above the 90th percentile in all subject areas.   While an astounding 19.4% of our math students score in the top 10% on standardized tests, only 9,8% of our students attain the 90th percentile in language arts.   These goal areas will require specialized training and materials.  The district hired curriculum specialists Dawn Schiro from Western Dubuque and Amy Gage from Ankeny.  Their experiences and expertise will help lead us to the next level.  Additionally, expanding the early out schedules will assist in providing the time necessary for these goals.

The need for technology hardware and training: 

Technology is another huge area for growth for the Norwalk District.  Director Tim Geyer led an effort to survey students and staff with ta program called Clarity.  It provided vast amounts of data regarding our needs in technology.  A few of the Clarity conclusions appear below:

  • 85% of students believe technology enhances learning.   A huge majority.
  • 75% of students believe technology enhances engagement.  Again, a huge majority.
  • But only 13% of students report access to classroom computers “all the time”
  • 59% of students believe school encourages technology.  While 95% of teachers believe so.
  • 95% of students have comptuer access at home when needed.
  • But, only 32% have ready access at school when needed
  • Only 17% of teachers feel rewarded for innovations in technolgy by money, recognition or extra PD.
  • Although 85% of students believe technology enhances learning, less than 15% of teachers encouage students chat on line regarding academics, 37% of teachers assign research on line,  21% of teachers assign multimedia assignments, 15% share digital content and 40% asign use of online documents.

As you can see, there is a large disconnect between the student’s excitement about technology and the availability of technology.  Perhaps most impacting is the relationship enhancing learning with technology and the teacher training to provide it.  While 85% of our students report that technology enhances learning, very few teachers are adequately trained to provide that type of instruction.  In this digital age, we must multiply our efforts in this area.  The school board has committed to a 1:1 computer program at NHS.  Additional training with teachers will facilitate this new technology.

School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC):

It is once again time to re-invigorate our “Response to Growth” SIAC subcommittee.   You cannot go anywhere in the district without seeing a basement being poured, studs going up, rafters being set and happy families moving in. It is again time to assess our needs for the next twenty years.  There are also groups that problem solve for special education, talented and gifted, English Language Learners, School Safety, Title 1 Reading and many others.  Call my office at 9810676 or email me at to get involved.  We can use the help!

Overall, there is much to celebrate in Norwalk; new facilities, successful activities, constantly improving achievement, a staff with more awards than any in Iowa, great kids and parents, a supportive city, police force, fire responders and chamber, great civic groups and ministerial association.  Seldom do we stop to recognize the outstanding leadership provided by the school board.  They challenge, poke, cajole, inspire and lead with courage.  We will sincerely miss our outgoing board members Deb Hobbs and Tom Phillips.  They have led the district with spirit and class.  I will miss these loyal and dedicated Warriors.  Good luck in your “retirement”.

Get ready for another outstanding year of Warrior action and accomplishment.

Go Warriors!

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