January 15, 2007

Hamilton works on increased honors, AP enrollment
Hamilton High School is getting closer to its goal of increasing honors and Advanced Placement (AP) enrollment through a number of initiatives. Principal Candis Mongan updated School Board members on how the school plans to achieve that goal by:

  • increasing AP offerings;
  • meeting with eighth grade parents;
  • modifying the criteria for honors placement;
  • conducting parent and student meetings;
  • closing the achievement gap so that more students are targeted, prepared and supported to take AP courses;
  • offering AP course to students in grade 10 and 11;
  • monitoring criteria that surrounding school districts use for enrollment;
  • continuing discussions with postsecondary admission representatives; and
  • using vertical teaming so that students are exposed to the concepts in AP courses beginning in grade 6.

Mongan noted that compared to last year’s enrollments, honors courses increased by 32 students and AP courses doubled. While increasing enrollment in courses, the high school also wants to ensure that students will be successful. More than 80 percent of Hamilton students who took AP courses last year passed the exam with scores of 3 or higher.

Students taking AP courses this year have weighted grades for the first time in which students are graded on a 5.0 instead of 4.0 scale. Mongan said school staff members are considering whether honors courses should be weighted as well.

“While it may serve as an incentive for some students, weighted grades at the honors level can create another potential set of problems,” Mongan noted in her report.

Among the potential drawbacks, Mongan was concerned about developing a false sense of accomplishment among students who earn higher grades, the difficulty in determining what qualifies for honors status and the complications involved with communicating a weighted system to postsecondary admission offices.

Mongan recommended that the high school continue to monitor the impact of AP weighted grades on class rank and move cautiously in considering weighted grades for another segment of courses.

School Board member Lynn Kristensen challenged high school staff to come up with an incentive to keep students in honors courses.

“Find something to differentiate the classes or we are going to start losing them,” she said.

Students’ busy lives and the recent change to a more rigorous grade scale could mean fewer students find the extra work of honors curriculum worthwhile.

“We need to show them it’s an investment,” Kristensen said.

School Board member Gerald Schmitz said he agreed with taking a cautious approach to more weighted grades until the impact of weighted AP courses are understood.

“Personally, I think the way we are going is the right direction,” he said.

Hamilton course catalog approved
Mongan presented changes in the high school course catalog that School Board members approved. “Introduction to Engineering Design” will be offered as the first sequence to Project Lead the Way, and standards from mechanical drawing and computer aided drafting will be integrated into its curriculum. Other courses that will be added are “Entrepreneurship,” “Honors Chemistry,” “Honors Physics,” “Environmental Science” and “AP European History.” Mongan also described various course modifications and fee increases.

Cooke complimented Mongan for her first presentation of the high school course catalog and noted that the changes reflect a new direction for the school.

ELL Program continues to grow
With 117 students needing help in acquiring English, the district has seen English Language Learner (ELL) enrollments more than triple in the last five years. Assistant Superintendent Dean Schultz and Instructional Supervisor Dee Bauman, Ph.D., gave an update on the program.

For the first time, the district hired two half-time ELL teachers this year who monitor all ELL students and provide direct service to some. Teachers Jaclyn Mauer and Jeanna Tinus spoke to School Board members about their work with students and their role as a resource to classroom teachers.

While some students get direct support in small groups, most ELL students receive support within the classroom from their regular teacher. In addition to help from Mauer and Tinus, the district offered a staff workshop taught by a ELL professor, and ELL sessions are offered on district in-service days.

Marcy Site Plan OK’d
Principal Donald Behrens, Ph.D., reported on Marcy Elementary School’s Site Plan. He discussed changes at the school which include increased enrollment and greater mobility and diversity among students. The site planning team revised wording of the third tactic to provide better direction to the tactic team.

Three tactics of the plan that staff members continue to address indicate that Marcy students, staff and parents will:

  • become a strong and cohesive community through enriching and memorable experiences,
  • attain the highest possible levels of achievement through the use of effective and innovative practices; and
  • welcome the responsibility to create and maintain a physically attractive, emotionally safe, caring, inviting and supportive school environment.

GradeCheck ready for rollout
Templeton and Hamilton students and parents will soon be able to check grades online when GradeCheck is unveiled in the next two months. Superintendent Kathleen Cooke, Ph.D. provided a written report about GradeCheck, which will allow students and parents to see attendance and grade information.

Staff from both schools previewed the new system. An introductory meeting for parents is slated Jan. 31 at Templeton and March 14 at Hamilton after which GradeCheck will be operational. Student user IDs and passwords will be distributed at the parent meetings and later through the mail for those not able to attend the parent meeting.

Students recognized
Mongan presented Hamilton Band drum majors Kyle Giese, Sarah Buck and Lydia Hickey for School Board recognition because of their outstanding efforts in facilitating marching band performances. This year, the band took its highest honors ever in marching band competition taking first places in Greendale and Cudahy. The band finished fourth out of nine at state.

“These students led by example and are well-respected by their peers,” Mongan said.

Personnel news
In personnel business, the School Board:

  • accepted the retirement requests of Hamilton alternative programs teacher Jill Matarrese and Marcy library-media specialist Nancy Boeck;
  • accepted the resignations of Templeton sixth grade science and social studies teacher Jessica Cernoch and Marcy special education teacher Janet Brueggeman; and
  • appointed Lorene Lisheron as the Hamilton replacement art teacher, Annette Herbert as a Templeton clerical and instruction paraprofessional, William Hahn as a Hamilton night cleaner and Murrene Payton and Bob Blessington as summer school assistant coordinators.