September 16, 2013

Hamilton sees success from initiatives

An increasing number of accolades and awards have come the way of Hamilton High School in the last few years. The high school was named to Newsweek Magazine’s “America’s Best High Schools” for two consecutive years and for the first time to The Washington Post’s “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” list. Hamilton is one of only two Wisconsin high schools that will be recognized this year with the Wisconsin Title I School Recognition Award for earning the highest rating of “Significantly Exceeding Expectations” on the state school report card and reducing the achievement gap.

Principal Candis Mongan provided School Board members with actions the school has taken to build rigorous curriculum, promote Advanced Placement classes for all students and prepare student for 21st century skills. Mongan noted the classes and programs that support students including:

  • Advisement curriculum: Students receive curriculum during the intervention period. Topics vary by grade level and include standardized test prep, financial literacy, reading strategies and college and career readiness planning.
  • GAP advisement: Students not proficient on the grade 8 WKCE are placed in an advisement structure that helps students learn and apply study skills, like note-taking, vocabulary acquisition and test-taking strategies.
  • GAP College: This course assists students in advanced placement courses by reinforcing advanced study skills that are required for success at the university level. Also offered are practice opportunities within the context of the current course load.
  • PASS: 32 different computer courses, each consisting of five units, are geared for individual pacing and used by students for credit recovery purposes.
  • Individual learning plans: Guidance works with each student, beginning in their freshmen year to develop an individual learning plan. Career, academic and standardized testing are components included.
  • Intervention block: Students are assigned to an academic advisement classroom three times per week. These classrooms are staffed with an academic teacher in that specific content area. This provides students with the opportunity to work with teachers on an independent basis. Students receive RtI reading and math intervention at this time.
  • Introduction to ACT exam: All juniors are required to take the practice ACT exam, within the context of the school day. Two mandatory advisement sessions are provided. The session prior to the test focuses on strategies to use when taking standardized tests and the follow-up session focuses on data and individual results.
  • Gearing Up: Students attend preparatory advanced placement practice test sessions two months prior to testing. These sessions are facilitated by their advanced placement teacher.
  • Math and reading RtI advisement: Students not proficient in the area of math on the grade 8 WKCE or demonstrate below average ability in Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing, are placed into an advisement structure whereby teachers provide a “double dose” of instruction to support proficiency.
  • Portfolio advisement: Students who demonstrate below average ability on the grade 10 WKCE are placed into an advisement structure whereby proficiency is expected in each area of deficiency. Mastery of content is demonstrated through a student portfolio.
  • Writing lab: Assistance is provided during each advisement period for students to receive assistance with the writing process, research skills and editing opportunities.
  • Reading resource: Students learn and apply study skills, vocabulary acquisition and test- taking strategies to assist with reading, writing, organization and study skills. A final portfolio requirement is required.
  • Club Success: After-school homework program designed to provide students with study skills, learning strategies and homework completion.

In addition the school puts a priority on strengthening the skill-set of teacher through:

  • Walk-through documentation: ACT provides benchmark readiness standards for each of the ACT score ranges. Specific teaching strategies are aligned with each benchmark. Hamilton adopted a walk-through form for this school year that integrates the readiness standards. Administrators document teaching strategies that promote college readiness skills.
  • Disciplinary literacy implementation plans: Staff members will continue to expand on the work that was started in August with Doug Buehl. They will implement disciplinary literacy strategies, aligned with our upcoming site plan. Staff members are responsible for reporting-out their progress and student results in this area.
  • Monthly staff development meetings: Staff development has the power and potential to improve educators’ attitudes, behaviors, knowledge and skills to benefit student learning. It is high quality when it is explicit about the results it seeks to achieve and when it produces evidence to document that we have achieved the desired results. Various themes are addressed throughout the school year. Several examples include: literacy strategies, formative assessment, RTI, 21st century learning skills, site planning goals and department plan alignment.

Summer school sees more

As Summer Opportunities staff members recapped the 14th year of the program, the program reflected more – more students, more sections, more transportation and more new class offerings. Three components comprise Hamilton summer school program – credit recovery for secondary students who must gain credits, invitational for students who need to maintain their academic skills and minimize summer loss, and enrichment that serves the largest number of students with its wide variety of academic, fitness and high interest classes.

Coordinator and Lannon Principal Dick Ladd shared information about the highly popular program with School Board members. With 2,101 students, enrollment was up 36 students in 2013, and an additional four sections – for a total of 302 – were scheduled.

Next year’s program will operate from June 23 to July 18 with July 4 as a day off for the holiday.

Increased enrollment spurs need for additional staff

Increasing enrollment at Marcy Elementary School’s second grade and Templeton Middle School’s seventh grade was the impetus behind hiring the equivalent of two full-time paraprofessionals. Marcy’s second and Templeton’s seventh grade classrooms were above district recommended class size averages. Marcy second grade sections were at 26 students per classroom and Templeton seventh grade classes were at 30 students. Class size guidelines suggest average class sizes to be 22 students in grade K-3 and 25 students for higher grades with effort to avoid class sizes of 25 and 30 respectively. Two half-time paraprofessional positions at each school will help provide services to students in the affected grades. The cost for the positions will total $36,000 and will come from the district’s contingency staffing budget.

A part-time reading specialist will be hired to support literacy needs of students as part of the high school’s new advisement structure. The added position was recommended as a way to help best serve students who qualify for Title I services. The part-time position will cost approximately $12,000 to $15,000 and will be funded through a federal grant.

Other personnel action

In other personnel business, the School Board:

  • approved a 2.07 percent salary adjustment for administrators, confidential support staff and administrative assistants and a 1 percent increase for assistant cooks and associate kitchen staff for the 2013-14 school year’; (The food service budget, which funds the district’s self-supporting hot lunch program, will be reviewed at the end of the first semester to consider a further salary adjustment.)
  • accepted the resignations of Marcy special services paraprofessional Heidi Schwartz, Maple Avenue paraprofessionals Amanda Tschanz and Catherine Poepping;
  • appointed Lanell Becker as Hamilton administrative assistant, Kelly Wood as Woodside special services paraprofessional, Colleen Engel as Willow Springs paraprofessional, Tim VanPietersom as Maple Avenue part-time cleaner and Meredith Fenske as a Marcy paraprofessional; and
  • modified Woodside physical education teacher Jennifer Reuter’s contract from 70 to 72 percent.