Coldwater MEAP Scores See Improvement In Every Category

Students at Coldwater Community Schools in grades 3-9 took the MEAP test in October. Math and reading are assessed every year through eighth grade. Writing is assessed in fourth and seventh grades, science in fifth and eighth grades, and social studies in sixth and ninth grades. Scores were just recently released to the public and compare the 2012/2013 MEAP tests to this year’s test.

We are happy to report improvement in almost every category. Significant work has been done district-wide in recent years to improve our curriculum and instruction. We will work relentlessly to continue to help our students make achievement gains.

This is the last year that the MEAP test will be given in Michigan. The state will adopt a new assessment for next school year. The new test will be aligned to the state-adopted Common Core State Standards for literacy and mathematics.

Another big change is that the test is moving from fall (based on previous year’s learning) to spring. The Michigan Department of Education is planning to move forward with Smarter Balanced Assessments, but other test vendors like ACT Aspire are still being considered by our legislature. Schools are waiting on a final decision.

All buildings are also looking carefully at the data of our subgroups (English Language Learners, economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities). We are seeing improvement for these students in several content areas and grade levels.Highlights of the Coldwater Schools MEAP data are categorized by grades.

For fourth grade, there was a significant improvement in writing from 33% of students proficient last year to close to half were proficient this year. Improvement over last year of 2% proficient for all students in fourth grade math.

Fifth graders improved in math from 39% last year to 42% proficient this year. These same students also improved MEAP reading scores by approximately three percentage points. Fifth grade science proficiencies improved approximately 3% from last year.

Sixth grade math scores improved notably with 34% of students proficient last year and just over half were proficient this year. Coldwater sixth graders moved very close to the top ranking in the consortium (Barry, Calhoun, and Branch Counties) with only two districts placing above them.  These students placed above the consortium average and the state average.  Reading scores showed just over 65% of sixth grade students proficient last year, which was up 2% this year. Last year, just over a quarter of sixth graders were proficient in Social Studies, while this year that percentage grew to 30%.

MEAP scores this last indicated that 34% of Coldwater Schools seventh graders were proficient in math, while this year it showed an improvement to just over 40% proficiency. 59% of these same students tested proficient last year, which improved to 63% this year. Seventh graders were proficient in writing last year at the rate of 46% and showed significant increase this year to 65%.

Coldwater Schools eighth graders improved in reading 2% from 63% to 65% over last year.

We are pleased to see increasing math scores in our upper elementary grades. We adopted a new math resource, Everyday Math, last year and incorporated training for teachers in Math Recovery, a math intervention model.

Overall, we are pleased with the improvement and the major strides our staff has taken to improve these scores. By increasing scores on standardized tests, we are creating a foundation of growth and increased learning for students at Coldwater Community Schools which helps reinforce the district’s mission of providing a supportive and challenging learning environment where every student is prepared to succeed in a global community.

Dr. Tina Kerr is the Superintendent of Coldwater Community Schools and can be reached by email at tkerr@ccscards.org or by calling 517-279-5910. The main website for Coldwater Community Schools can be found at http://www.coldwaterschools.org.

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Healthy Teachers = Healthy Kids

Starting this month, Coldwater Community Schools will kick off a healthy living initiative in the district for the teachers and staff. As we’re all accustomed to making New Year’s resolutions, I’m encouraging our staff to take this opportunity to make some small changes in their lives to live healthier. I truly believe that healthier bodies promote healthier minds, and the impact we can have on our students because of this initiative is exciting.

The 90 Day Wellness Challenge will include a discounted three-month membership for interested staff at Coldwater Community Schools at Great Lakes Health and Fitness. We’re also receiving support from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the provider of health insurance for the district, and the Branch County WeCan! initiative through MSU Extension and Branch County Great Start Collaborative. These agencies will be providing health information and encouragement for staff.

We will make it fun by rewarding staff based on the number of points they earn by adopting healthier habits such as eating fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, improving sleep habits, and incorporating movement into their day. Weekly prizes based on participation with mini-celebrations will be held as well. 

Teaching is a stressful profession, and educators sometimes forget to take care of themselves, so we’re really expecting this to be an opportunity for the staff to focus on their health. To have healthy kids, we need healthy teachers. Because students look to staff as mentors and role models, we want everyone to be at their best mentally and physically.

Dr. Tina Kerr is the Superintendent of Coldwater Community Schools and can be reached by email at tkerr@ccscards.org or by calling 517-279-5910. The main website for Coldwater Community Schools can be found at http://www.coldwaterschools.org.

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Community Understands Importance Of Education

In November, Coldwater Community Schools approached the community with a renewal millage to support the operation aspect of the district for the next 17 years. We provided you with the information, and the community spoke out loud and strong in support of the district, with approval in every precinct. Without this funding, we would have had to cut $5.5 million in revenue across the district, and we’re happy to say that is not what the voters wanted.

Because of this millage, Coldwater Community Schools will be able to continue to provide a high quality education for our students. Renewal for the operations of the school district will not be sought again until 2030. Since 2030 is a scheduled gubernatorial election year in Michigan, the district won’t have to pay special election costs the next time an operational millage renewal is sought.

Since the ratification of Proposal A in 1994, the state of Michigan has required local public school districts to levy no more than 18 mills in order to receive their maximum per-pupil foundation allowance. Throughout the months leading up to the vote, much discussion took place in the community about legislation for public schools. If you feel strongly about this issue, please contact our local legislators and congressmen.

On behalf of the 272 staff members and administrators, thank you for your trust and dedication to Coldwater Community Schools. We promise to be good stewards of the funds we receive, using it to fulfill the mission of the district to provide a supportive and challenging learning environment where every student is prepared to succeed in a global community.

Dr. Tina Kerr is the Superintendent of Coldwater Community Schools and can be reached by email at tkerr@ccscards.org or by calling 517-279-5910. The main website for Coldwater Community Schools can be found at http://www.coldwaterschools.org.

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November School Millage Supports Operation Of District

On November 5, thousands of residents in our school district will hit the polls to decide what is important in our community.  One of the items on the ballot will be the Coldwater Community Schools operational renewal millage. 

This is an important election for the district and without a successful millage election, Coldwater Community Schools will lose approximately $5.5 million in revenue annually, or approximately 22% of the current general fund budget. Services and programs like transportation and interscholastic athletics could be drastically cut back or eliminated if the millage isn’t passed.

I must emphasize, this is NOT an increase in the rate of taxation.  This is a 17-year renewal of the 18 mill operational millage for the district that was ratified in 1993 and has recently expired. If approved, renewal would not be sought until 2030.  Since the ratification of Proposal A in 1994, the state of Michigan has required local public school districts to levy no more than 18 mills in order to receive their maximum per-pupil foundation allowance.

HOW DOES THE MILLAGE AFFECT TAXPAYERS?

This is not an increase in the rate of taxation, and there will be no cost increase to homeowners.  This is a 17-year renewal of the 18 mill operational millage for Coldwater Community Schools that was originally approved for 20 years in 1993 and expired on July 1, 2013. If approved, the proposed millage would expire in 2030.  Principal residences are exempt. Properties such as apartment buildings, rental property, vacation properties, some vacant land, and commercial/industrial properties would see a continuation of the current millage rate.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE OPERATIONAL MILLAGE IS NOT APPROVED BY VOTERS?

Without a successful millage election, Coldwater Community Schools will lose approximately $5.5 million in revenue annually, or approximately 22% of the current general fund budget — the equivalent of 57 teachers being laid off, or 1/3 of our Professional Learning Community.

Passage of this millage proposal would allow Coldwater Community Schools to continue to build upon the student achievement programs and initiatives that have been introduced over the past few years in an ongoing effort to get our children ready for the future.

IF IT ISN’T A TAX INCREASE, WHY DOES THE BALLOT SAY “BE INCREASED BY 19.2346 MILLS”?

If you read the ballot language, you’ll notice what appears to be a tax increase – but it is not, technically speaking, a tax increase; it is listed as such because the district’s operating millage was reduced to zero by expiration of the current millage following the 2013 levy.

WHY 19.2346 MILLS?

The request for 19.2346 mills is the same millage rate that has been in place since 2006 and is actually less than the rate approved by voters in 2002. The current 19.2346 is made up of the original 18 mills and a .5 mill Headlee override, which have been reduced to 15.9837 and .4509, respectively, plus a 2.8 mill override first approved by voters in 2002.

ISN’T THE CURRENT LEVY 18 MILLS?

Yes; since the ratification of Proposal A in 1994, public school districts have been authorized to levy no more than 18 mills in order to receive their maximum per-pupil foundation allowance from the State of Michigan. If approved, the district will not levy more than 18 mills.

WHY 17 YEARS?

Since 2030 is a scheduled gubernatorial election year in Michigan, the district won’t have to pay special election costs the next time an operational millage renewal is sought.

Residents of the City of Coldwater will vote at the Dearth Center, located at the Branch County Fairgrounds. Township residents will vote at their township hall. For questions on polling places, please contact the County Clerk’s office at 279-4306 or visit: http://www.michigan.gov/vote

The passing of this millage will help reinforce the Coldwater Community School’s mission of providing a supportive and challenging learning environment where every student is prepared to succeed in a global community.

Dr. Tina Kerr is the Superintendent of Coldwater Community Schools and can be reached by email at tkerr@ccscards.org or by calling 517-279-5910. The main website for Coldwater Community Schools can be found at http://www.coldwaterschools.org.

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Love And Logic Classes Being Taught At Coldwater Schools

Coldwater Community Schools prides itself in maintaining great interaction and parent involvement in the school district to ensure academic success. Just as parents work to support us in our efforts, we are committed to working with parents to provide information and skills as they engage in the often tricky, sometimes frustrating, occasionally lonely job of parenting. Parenting deeply affects how our students interact, learn and grow while in school, and we want to help provide tools they can use at home.

Our new initiative, Love and Logic, is being facilitated by a team of community members and educators led by Dixie Koenemann, Coldwater Community Schools Executive Director of Special Programs and School Improvement. This team is now offering six-week series of classes in Love & Logic which will be scheduled for various times and in repeated sessions throughout the year.

The philosophy and set of skills for Love and Logic was developed by a school principal, Jim Fay, and a child psychologist, Foster Cline, MD, approximately 30 years ago. It is designed to assist parents, educators, and other community members in teaching responsibility, respect, and the ability to solve problems. Love and Logic provides simple solutions and practical techniques to help parents with kids of all ages to raise responsible kids, have more fun in their role, and easily and immediately (often in the first use of the strategy) change their children’s behavior. The classes will also be taught to educators and administrators so they can learn how to spend more time teaching and less time disciplining students. It reduces stress levels and brings back the enjoyment of teaching.

Parents want to enjoy their kids, have fun with them, and enjoy a less stressful family life. But even if their kids are trouble-free right now, they fear what the coming teenage years will bring.

At no time in history have parents been more unsure of their parental role. Even the best are not all that sure about whether they are using the best techniques. They say that their kids don’t appear to be much like the ones they knew in years past.

A lot of conflicting philosophies have been presented over the last 30 years. Many of these sound good, but don’t seem to do the job of helping children become respectful, responsible, and a joy to be around.  Many ideas, offered with the best of intentions, center around making sure that kids are comfortable and feeling good about themselves in order to have a good self-concept. However, it has been discovered that self-confidence is achieved through struggle and achievement, not through someone telling you that you are number one. Self-confidence is not developed when kids are robbed of the opportunity to discover that they can indeed solve their own problems with caring adult guidance.

Love and Logic’s approach to raising kids provides loving support from parents while at the same time expecting kids to be respectful and responsible.  The Love & Logic approach is kind, low drama, and effective. The coursework is very enjoyable and learning is done through stories and shared experiences.  It is not expected that every adult will adopt every practice taught, but only that adults will experiment with the various strategies to find what works with each specific child and in each particular setting.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Coldwater has collaborated with the district in bringing Love & Logic to our community and we are grateful to them in forming this partnership with us. In addition, grant money has been secured for financial support of this initiative. Information related to these series will be available on our district website and brochures will soon be available at various locations throughout the community.

To learn more about Love & Logic, see http://loveandlogic.com.

Providing learning opportunities for parents and staff helps to reinforce the district’s mission of providing a supportive and challenging learning environment where every student is prepared to succeed in a global community.

Dr. Tina Kerr is the Superintendent of Coldwater Community Schools and can be reached by email at tkerr@ccscards.org or by calling 517-279-5910. The main website for Coldwater Community Schools can be found at http://www.coldwaterschools.org.

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Expanded Accelerated Learning Program Offered At Coldwater

In order to make Coldwater Community School competitive within the state and the world, creating a district-wide accelerated learning opportunity is a necessity. Currently, accelerated classes are only offered at Coldwater High School, but we’re looking to expand the offerings starting in 4th grade. A team of educators from Coldwater Community Schools are working together to create a comprehensive Accelerated Learning Plan for Grades 4-12. They hope to implement the plan by the Fall of 2013.

This team of educators is working on identifying a number of students as early as third grade to participate in the program with the goal of having up to 25% of a graduating class taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses when they reach high school. The team will be seeking students in the gateway areas in math and English arts. Advanced students would work in those areas for 4-8th Grade and branch out once they got to the high school, taking AP classes in math, science, English, social studies, and computer sciences.

In addition to working within the state benchmarks, the main focus of the Accelerated Learning Plan is to increase the rigor in this program and in all subjects, starting in 1st Grade. At the high school level, implementing this program will lead to increased college readiness for the students at Coldwater High School (CHS) and attract students from throughout the area.

The core team of educators involved in this initiative and who are finalizing the Accelerated Learning Plan for the district include Martha Biddlecome, Ryan Scheetz, Deb Wilkinson, Nancy Yager, Karen Buys, Gary Dancer, Krista Searls and Jane Harris, Brian Stevens, and Jay Henry.

The proposed plan will increase the number of students in CHS AP classes and expand the number of classes within the program adding AP Biology, AP English Language, AP Studio Art, AP Statistics, AP Physics, AP Spanish, and AP Computer Science. Current AP classes offered at CHS include European History, Calculus, Chemistry, US History, English Literature, Calculus, Government and Psychology.

In 2012, CHS AP test scores for students were among the best in national averages. Of the 60 students taking the AP tests, 22 tests received the best possible score. For last school year, CHS had 18 students who were considered “AP Scholars”. For the 2012-13 school, CHS has 145 different students in 10th, 11th, and 12th Grades taking 281 credits of AP coursework. These test scores are a testament that our students are ready for more.

Coldwater Community Schools is excited to expand the accelerated learning opportunities, supporting the districts mission of providing a supportive and challenging learning environment where every student is prepared to succeed in a global community.

Dr. Tina Kerr is the Superintendent of Coldwater Community Schools and can be reached by email attkerr@coldwaterschools.org or by calling 517-279-5910. The main website for Coldwater Community Schools can be found at http://www.coldwaterschools.org

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Coldwater Academics First Initiative Plan Rolled Out

At Coldwater Community Schools, we are dedicated to excellence in educating all students.  However, when examining our test scores, we are aware that there is need for improvement in ensuring that all of our children are meeting high standards.

Coldwater Community Schools’ Academics First Initiative Plan was recently rolled out to parents at a Parent Advisory Council (PAC) meeting on March 20th.  This plan is designed to meet the mission of the school district through initiatives that provide the structure and strategies to ensure excellence in education over the next three to five years.

The most important element in creating conditions for student learning is the quality of teaching in the classroom.  A revised process for evaluating and supporting teachers has been adopted during the current school year.  After one year of practice in using this tool, we are able to provide much better feedback to teachers and administrators as we hold ourselves accountable for student learning.   Salary steps will be tied to student achievement/growth and graduation rates and, after providing opportunities and support for improvement, those faculty members who are not able to create conditions for student success will be released.

Over the past three years, we have made much better use of data in making instructional decisions and, as a result, our MEAP scores have improved.  In this plan, we will continue that trend and will increase high school graduation rates through credit recovery.  We will also establish early-warning systems to identify students at risk of failure or dropping out.  The number of accelerated placement classes will increase, and students at all levels will be better prepared to make transitions to the next grade level or to post-secondary schooling.

When creating schedules, we will prioritize academic learning and students will be provided rigorous interventions to address specific learning needs.  It is essential that teachers in a grade level or a department be provided time and support to examine data, plan powerful lessons, and intervene for students who may be struggling to master standards.  Grouping grade level students and staff together will allow us to schedule collaborative teacher planning.  It will also give us the structure to combine resources and to offer specialized teaching to meet developmental needs of our students.  To this end, Max Larsen Elementary will be the home of our Young Fives, kindergarten, and first grade students while second and third grade students will all learn together at Jefferson Elementary beginning in the fall of 2013.

Positive school climates, safe schools, and elimination of bullying behaviors will continue to be a priority in every building as we work in partnership with parents and community organizations.

The last part of the plan includes providing operational flexibility and sustained support giving schools sufficient operational flexibility (staffing, calendars/time, budgeting) to implement a comprehensive approach.  The district will also continue its work of ongoing intensive technical Assistance from the turnaround organization helping with Focus School work.

This is a two-tier plan which will be largely begun in the elementary buildings during the 2013-14 school year and in the middle school and high schools in the 2014-15 school year.  This plan will help our district in many ways, including improvement of test scores, higher quality teaching for our students, closer communication with parents and the public, and better preparation for college for our students. We are proud of the work of our staff as they have begun to implement this plan, and we look forward to great progress in the future.  The next Parent Advisory Council meeting is planned for April 16 at 6pm at Legg Middle School.  Please join us to discuss these exciting changes.

Dr. Tina Kerr is the Superintendent of Coldwater Community Schools and can be reached by email attkerr@coldwaterschools.org or by calling 517-279-5910. The main website for Coldwater Community Schools can be found at http://www.coldwaterschools.org

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