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March 21, 2005

Board adopts new elementary mathematics textbooks

Cautioning administrators that adequate staff training must accompany the move, Hamilton School Board members voted 6-1 to approve new mathematics instructional material for grades K-5. The 18-member district Mathematics Committee made its recommendation after meeting since last fall to study best practices in mathematics instruction and review new elementary textbooks.

Instructional Services Supervisor Dee Bauman, Ph.D., reported that the committee recommended “Everyday Mathematics” as the core instructional material because it:

  • aligns with the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for mathematics;
  • addresses the National Council of Teacher of Mathematics (NCTM) Best Practice in Mathematics Instruction standards;
  • includes quality teacher resources; and
  • provides material for communicating with families.

Committee members attended regional and state mathematics conferences, read and discussed research about the most effective instructional methods for teaching mathematics to elementary students. They also visited classrooms in other districts to talk with teachers who are using various programs and observe classroom implementation.

Prior to taking up the item on the agenda, School Board members heard from two parents who urged them to adopt the new mathematics materials. Pauline Wasser said she supported a move to the new Everyday Mathematics materials. She said she was concerned that in times of budget tightening, districts would have “a tendency to hunker down and not look ahead.”

Laurie Cox said she trusted the expertise of district staff who recommended the materials. She said the issue was discussed at a Templeton Middle School Home & School meeting and suggested providing more information to parents who may have concerns about the shift to new textbooks and material.

School Board member Debbie Briggs, who supported the adoption of “Everyday Mathematics,” cited the experiences of a Merton teacher who has used the materials for years with success.

“The key is that training and ongoing support is there,” Briggs said of the teacher’s advice.
School Board members Dawn Van Aacken, Michael Hyland, James Long and Gabe Kolesari echoed those concerns in their comments.

Bauman listed the various training opportunities that will be available to staff members as part of her report.

When asked by Kolesari what impact the material adoption would have on state standardized tests, Bauman said it should support greater achievement because both the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams and “Everyday Mathematics” materials are aligned with NCTM Best Practices.

The only School Board member voting against adoption of the material, Jennifer Rude Klett said she did not agree with the approach of the new textbooks because it relied too much on “group work,” and she objects to the use of calculators among elementary students. She said it would create strife among parents and teachers. She said such a drastic change in mathematics instruction should be made with parental knowledge and consent.

In addition to reviewing the books himself, School Board member Gerald Schmitz passed along the material to a relative who homeschools her children. He said the mother was impressed with the textbooks.

2004 Community Survey results released

Results of the 2004 Community Survey, in which 536 residents were interviewed by phone, were reported by Public Information and Volunteer Program Coordinator Denise Dorn Lindberg. It was the fourth community survey in 11 years, and the district saw some remarkable gains. Among the results were:

  • Overall perceptions of district quality improved continuously since 1993 and are at the highest level since the district began surveying community members;
  • There has been a steady increase in the number of residents who would choose the Hamilton School District for their child if given any choice;
  • In 1993, Hamilton results were 1 percent below the national average in the percentage of respondents who considered their local schools excellent or above average in comparison to the national Phi Delta Kappa Gallup poll. In 2004, Hamilton results were 7 percent above the national response.
  • Gains were made from 1993 to 2004 in satisfaction ratings of all curriculum and program areas. The mean score averages increased in each area between 3.6 percent to 10.5 percent over the 11-year period. The greatest gains were seen in:
    – Computer ability or literacy – up 10.5 percent;
    – Preparation for technical school or apprenticeships- up 9.7 percent;
    – Basic skills such as reading, writing, mathematics and science – up 8.8 percent;
    – Preparation for college – up 8.7 percent; and
    – Preparation for the job market – up 8.5 percent.
    – Community involvement increased 8 percent and the percent of parents who said they were “very satisfied” with opportunities for involvement increase 18 percent.
  • Questions about their level of knowledge about the school district revealed that community members perceive that they are more knowledgeable. The percentage of respondents who say they are very knowledgeable about the district doubled from 1993 to 2004, while the number of respondents who said they have average or little knowledge decreased by 21 percent. The mean score average indicates a 7.5 percent increase in level of knowledge about the district since 1993.
  • The level of priority for educational programming has changed in some cases since 1993. The top two priorities Basic Skills and Prep for College were the same in 2004 and 1993. Computer ability or literacy edged past preparation for the job market, flipping their order on the list. Preparation for technical school or apprenticeships held the same level of priority. Fitness education and health was given greater importance — moving past guidance and counseling. While not changing their order on the list, greater levels of importance were given for world languages, music and fine arts, and sports and cocurricular activities.
  • When asked about two specific facilities questions, 63 percent support the idea of building a swimming pool, but only 43 percent favored a new fieldhouse. The questions did not include costs or impact on taxpayers and therefore are not necessarily indicators of the outcome of a referendum.
  • The most significant demographic shift is a more educated community. The number of residents who have 16 years or more of education is up 15 percent since 1993; the number who have 10-12 years of schooling is down 14 percent.

Lindberg reported that Hamilton High School students once again interviewed community members on four different evenings in December. She thanked Principal David Furrer for his assistance in recruiting 60 student volunteer — including students in statistics and business education classes and members of National Honor Society, LEO Club, Boys Football, Chargerettes, Pep Club, and Student Council The students contributed more than 200 hours of service.

Lindberg also thanked students in Penny Komatz’s Advanced Placement Statistic class who calculated and confirmed the statistical significance of survey results.

Lunch prices to jump 15 cents next fall

Beginning next fall the price of hot lunch will increase 15 cents for students and adults. The price for elementary lunches will go to $1.75, middle and high school lunches to $2 and adult lunches to $2.65. The price of milk will remain at 30 cents. Business Services Director Bryan Ruud reported that the increase is due to commodity cutbacks and increased costs for labor, equipment and food. He noted that Hamilton prices remain moderate compared to other lunch programs and provided comparisons for 19 other school districts.

Marcy site plan approved

Marcy Elementary School Principal Donald Behrens reported on his school’s site plan. The tactics for the five-year plan state that the school will:

  • create and disseminate a vision statement;
  • improve communication to maximize the exchange and understanding of information among parents, teachers, new staff members, new families and the community;
  • increase students achievement across grade levels through curriculum articulation; and
  • improve achievement for each learning through effective and innovative practices.

Behren’s report indicated that while Marcy student achievement is high, fourth grade science scores on the WKCE was somewhat lower than expected even though they were competitive with area schools. It was the subject of study and subsequent staff meetings.

Anecdotal evidence on building climate is positive, according to Behren’s report, and the latest parent opinion survey suggests strong parent school support.

Students get approval for Youth Options Program

The applications of six Hamilton students were approved for enrollment in the Youth Options Program for the first semester of 2005-06. The students qualify by competing their sophomore year, having good academic standing and no record of disciplinary problems. The students are able to take technical college or university courses at district expense if they have exhausted the curriculum offered in the district.

School Board accepts retirement request of Berggren

The School Board accepted with regret the retirement request of longtime Marcy administrative assistant Barb Berggren. Berggren has worked in the district for 19 years and her retirement will be effective at the end of the school year. School Board member Gerald Schmitz said it will be difficult to replace her.