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October 2013 Superintendent Updates

Posted October 22, 2013 in Community Blogs, Norwalk

The Governor is clear on “Iowa Core” and Smarter Balanced” testing. 

Last week, Governor Branstad signed in an executive order stating that “Iowa controls the Iowa Core, not the federal government”.  Although all standards have some things in common between states, each state bears the responsibility of creating a curriculum for their local students.  The governor’s message can be found at:

Further, the governor strongly affirms Iowa’s need for common “Iowa standards” and “Smarter Balanced” assessments.  This can be found at:     One insight in the governor’s speech  of particular interest was:  “Smarter Balanced testing is the direction we’re looking at going,”  Information regarding Smarter Balanced testing information can be found at:   These Smarter Balanced Tests are rigorous and in many ways different than the old ITBS tests.  They will require more higher order thinking skills, entry by computer, writing components and other changes that will make these tests the most rigorous that Iowa students have ever taken and are highly aligned to the Iowa Core.  Raising the bar for students also requires retraining for staff.  Just like any other industry, changes in basic design require much retooling.  Our staff is studying technology, unpacking the Iowa Core, examining the Smarter Balanced system, and working to understand the many new models of teaching being produced at the state level.  We appreciate the additional early out time that we received this year to begin this task.  This time has made a positive difference in our ability to remain competitive with other Iowa schools.

Governor  Branstad also expressed a sense of urgency to  the Iowa State Board of Education Thursday afternoon, “We being the last state to adopt state standards, that is one of the reasons we fell behind.”  He does not intend that Iowa fall further behind other states in achievement growth.  So, the path seems clear.  Governor Branstad intends Iowa Schools to adopt the Iowa Core and participate in Smarter Balanced testing.  As a result, Norwalk schools are preparing diligently for that challenge.  We are using our planning times to understand and implement the core in our daily work.  We are learning how to choose text materials which align to the Iowa Core.  We are spending time studying our assessments to determine which are useful for the future and which are antiquated.  Prepare for many changes in Iowa education.  They are coming soon!

Norwalk Educators honored:  Past, Present and Future:

As many of you know, NHS teacher Andy Mogle is winding down on his reign as “Iowa Family and Consumer Science Teacher of the Year”.  Andy’s excellence was also recognized by his selection as overall “Iowa Teacher of the Year” in 2008.   Andy is a great asset to the community as a whole and works tirelessly to prepare our students for postsecondary education and the world of work.

In addition, Lakewood teacher Pam Nichols has just been named Iowa Technology Teacher of the Year by ITEC (Iowa Technology in Education Connection).  This is a very prestigious award given once a year to deserving instructors nominated by their peers, parents and students.  Why is Pam so deserving of this award? Here are a few quotes from her nomination paperwork:

“She has so much enthusiasm, I want to go back to school” – Tammy Randal, Parent

“Mrs. Nichols is a great team member and understands how technology can impact a student’s life as well as anyone I have ever met.” – Tim Geyer, Tech Director

“I marvel each day how she transforms the educational experience for each child in her room.” – Jill Anderson, Principal

“She expects her students will be respectful of the opportunity to be exposed to technology.” – Maggie Davitt, Parent“

Pam’s class is comparable to attending a conference session, I always walk away with a new tool, a new idea.” –Sandi Lathrum, Colleague

“The most memorable thing she did for me was going to the tech fair with me. I had worked long and hard on a tech project with her. I won a blue ribbon and I owe it all to Mrs. Nichols. She taught me to strive for the best.” – Evelyn P., student

“We use iMovie, Toontastic, and the green screen for our projects. She loves technology and is always using it. If I could, I would wholeheartedly vote for Mrs. Nichols for Technology Teacher of the Year.” – Brett D., student

Congratulations Mrs. Nichols, we know you do a great job, and now the rest of Iowa knows it, too!

In addition, it has recently been announced that NHS science teacher Shannon McLaughlin has been nominated as one of the state finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.   The finalists in math are Allysen Lovstuen of Decorah High School, Brian Reece of Central Academy in Des Moines and Jeff Marks of Roosevelt High School in Des Moines. The finalists in science are Marcia Powell of West Delaware High School in Manchester and Shannon McLaughlin of Norwalk High School.  Their applications were submitted to the national selection committee. One math and one science award winner may be selected to represent Iowa.  Winners receive $10,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C., where they will participate in an award ceremony and receptions, professional development programs and discussions with policymakers on how to improve math and science education.  Especially gratifying in this case is that Shannon is not only a Norwalk teacher, but he was also a Norwalk student.  Good luck Shannon!

Finally, I was one of three state finalists for Iowa Superintendent of the Year.  The award went to Paul Gausman of Sioux City.  Paul is an excellent administrator and very deserving.  He will represent the state very well in national competition.  The third nominee was Mike Haluska of Decorah.  My thanks to those both  inside and outside the district for their support through the nomination process.   Thanks also to the panel of superintendents who spent  hours interviewing  us.  The awards are sponsored by School Administrators of Iowa.  SAI is a statewide organization founded in 1987, represents more than 1,800 Iowa educational administrators. SAI’s mission is to support, encourage and develop Iowa’s educational leaders and learners.

Go Warriors!

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