Monday, November 27, 2017

Congratulations Mr. Gullickson!

It is my pleasure to announce that Mr. Gullickson has been named Regional Principal of the Year! He will be receiving the award at the Elementary Principal's Mid Winter Conference in February.  He is now in the running for the North Dakota National Distinguished Principal Award. If he is chosen to receive this honor, he will be making a trip to Washington, DC next October to represent our state.

Mr. Gullickson is a modest person and will discredit himself in regard to this award. We appreciate his hard work and dedication to our school district! We are very fortunate to have someone of his caliber leading Ely Elementary. I personally feel very fortunate to have worked along side Jason the past six years. You won't find a more student centered and compassionate school leader. I have no doubt that he will represent our organization well at the regional and state level.

Thank you and good luck Jason. We believe you are worthy of the North Dakota National Distinguished Principal Award!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Grading Reform: Part 4

I am very proud of the work of our Grading and Reporting Committee over the past year. We have had some great debate about how to implement best practice in relation to grading and reporting. There has been a considerable amount of compromise on both sides of the debate. I believe we have created what I feel is a good mix of the research and our current practice.

We plan to pilot this for the second semester and gather feedback through student focus groups, surveys, and comments from teachers. We will use that data to further fine tune this document for board review and full implementation during the 2018-2019 school year.

Here is the latest draft:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Parent Advisory Committee

Dear Parents,

I need your help!

Four years ago we started a Parent Advisory Committee (PAC). We have had several parents take part in these PAC meetings. We typically organize four meetings each school year and try to target dates that do not conflict with other activities. These meetings usually last around an hour.

These meetings have opened communication between our school district and parents.  The topics you can expect at these meetings are insight on current initiatives, feedback from you on our school programs, and a book discussion (you don’t have to read the book to participate).

Please go to the link below if you are interested in taking part in this opportunity.

Parent Advisory Membership Link:

We are looking at some time in January to have our first meeting of the year. If you are interested in taking part in a conversation to improve our schools please visit the link above by December 1st.

Parents play a key role in their child’s success in school.  I am looking forward to hearing feedback from you and building better relationships within our school community.      

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Disagree and Commit

Ideas Are Scary - General Electric

"You will either step forward into growth, or you will step backward into safety." - Abraham Maslow

Most leaders will agree that change is a complex process for everyone involved. Leaders have to gauge the readiness of their staff. We ask ourselves questions like: When is change needed? When do we push? When do we slow down? Is there ever a good time? In my experience 100% buy in on change is unrealistic. We have to gather input and have methods put into place that allow us to understand the readiness of our organization. I have found success by using a committee structure and pursuing many individual conversations.

I read a recent article from Lee Ann Jung. Dr. Jung shared the mantra of disagree and commit at Amazon. We all approach change differently. Some seek change regularly and are constantly reinventing themselves, some are finding success with their current methods and do not see reason to change, and others openly resist for the sake of resisting. Disagree and commit is the idea where we move forward, try it, and learn along the way. We let the idea marinade for a bit, we attempt it and we let it sit with us without immediately dismissing it. We disagree, but we are open to the idea of trying it. I may disagree right now, but hopefully over a period of time I may find value in the change.

I think it really comes down to how we approach something new. Do I immediately write it off and disagree or do I let it percolate and stay with me? I try to approach something new as an opportunity to grow. Now do I agree with every new idea, program, or bit of research? No, but I believe it is important as an educator that I think about how that new idea, program, or bit of research may help me grow in my profession. There have been several times where I have either listened to or read something that I didn't necessarily agree with, but over time I have found value. When we dig our heels in and resist we miss out on opportunities for growth.

It is important that we have dissent in an organization when it comes to implementing something new. Dissent allows us to see things that we may have never considered, because we have been busy drinking the Kool-Aid. Disagree and commit gives those that are unsure or opposed an opportunity to shape the change effort without halting progress.

How do you approach something new?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Grab N Go Breakfast is here!

Recent studies confirm that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Our breakfast is nutritious and will help prepare students to learn. Last year, Rugby Public School’s Wellness Committee set a goal to offer a breakfast alternative for students on the go. We also wanted to increase breakfast consumption by students. The committee sought out to implement a Grab N Go breakfast for all K-12 students.

Rugby Jr./Sr. High School recently received a $4800 grant from Midwest Dairy Council and Fuel Up to Play 60 to purchase a breakfast cart.  We were excited to be chosen as a recipient of the School Nutrition Equipment Grant.  This cart provides our students with quick access to healthy and easy to eat options. 

Rugby High School kicked off Grab N Go Breakfast on October 9th.  The Grab and Go breakfast program is intended to ensure that all kids who didn’t eat breakfast at home can access it at school.  School Breakfast has been shown to help students improve grades, perform problem-solving tasks and increase attention in school. It is hard to learn when hungry. In the past month since implementing Grab N Go we have seen a dramatic increase in breakfast sales.

Grab n Go Breakfast is available daily to all students at the Rugby Jr./ Sr. High School.   Students will be allowed to choose from a variety of healthy breakfast items, which includes milk, juice, fresh fruit, muffins, bagels, cereal, etc.  Breakfast is $1.90 or free to all students qualifying for free and reduced-priced meals.

Ely Elementary Grade School started offering Grab N Go Breakfast bags at the beginning of this school year also.  These breakfasts are conveniently packaged in bags so students can grab a bag from the cafeteria quickly when they get off the bus or arrive late at school. 

“Midwest Dairy Council is committed to child health and wellness through our collaborative program, Fuel Up to Play 60.  For more information, visit  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Standards-based Grading and Reporting at the High School Level

Many schools across the country have been implementing standards-based grading and reporting within their schools for quite some time. In general, elementary schools have led the charge in this area. Currently at Ely Elementary, students in grades kindergarten through fourth grade have received a standards-based report card throughout their elementary experience. Next year, grade five and six will communicate progress through a standards-based report card. This has caused us to move the conversation on standards-based grading and reporting to the high school level. In many districts high schools have been slow to the process. This is largely due to concerns with college entrance and scholarships. College entrance and scholarships often require a class rank and an overall GPA to determine acceptance.

These are all valid concerns and something that we will have to work through as implementation continues over the next few years. I have spoken with the North Dakota University System in regard to transcripts that may not have traditional grades. Their response was that they receive transcripts from across the world and are able to identify those who will be successful. I believe the benefits of standards-based grading and reporting far outweigh these concerns. Based on the research and our experiences I created a list of benefits below:
  • Students are more aware of teacher expectations.
  • Learning is more visible to the student. 
  • The grade is more accurate when nonacademic factors like effort, attitude, participation, and class behavior are removed from the grade.
  • Identifies breakdowns in learning to guide interventions. 
  • Identifies areas to enrich for students that already know the material. 
  • Allows opportunities for student self-reflection on a set of criteria.
  • Identifies gaps between and across grade levels. 
  • Provides diagnostic information helpful for instruction and future training.
  • Develops consistency across grade levels, classrooms and schools.
  • It makes teacher collaboration more valuable for teachers.
Our Grading and Reporting Committee recently developed a timeline for preparation and implementation of standards-based grading and reporting in grades 7-12. The next five years will certainly be a learning experience for our school district. 

Here are several research articles that detail the benefits of standards-based grading and reporting at the high school level:
  • The Association Between Standards-Based Grading and Standardized Test Scores in a High School Reform Model (2015)
  • Making High School Grades Meaningful (2006)
  • The Minimum Grading Controversy: Results of a Quantitative Study of Seven Years of Grading Data From and Urban High School (2012)
  • 7th – 12th Grade ELA Teachers and Their Classroom Grading Practices: Investigating the Use of Standards-based Grading in Nebraska’s Rural Classrooms (2010)
  • Standards-based grading: Educators’ perceptions of the effects on teaching, student motivation, and assessment at the high school level (2016)
Dr. Matt Townsley has compiled a nice list of research articles that share the benefits of standards-based learning. The full list can be found here: Comprehensive List of Standards Based Grading Articles

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Personalized Learning for Teachers

This is my presentation for the upcoming AdvancED Conference on September 21st. It details our district's work to provide a better professional learning experience for our teachers. The presentation includes practical examples we have developed to create a more personalized and meaningful approach to professional learning.