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New Berlin, Muskego school districts not resting on laurels

Oct. 29, 2012

Even though nearly all the schools in New Berlin and Muskego got exceptional grades on the new preliminary school report cards the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction issued last week, they still have plans on where to go from here.

Both New Berlin's middle/high schools and Muskego High School and both middle schools exceed expectations in the state report, which is intended to evaluate how well the schools keep their children from falling behind and how well they engage students.

New Berlin West Middle/High School Principal John Budish wrote to parents last week after the report cards were issued, saying that the drive toward higher scores would continue to focus on teaching reading and writing across all subjects.

At the same time, Eisenhower Middle/High School Principal Michael Fesenmaier was writing to Eisenhower parents to say that school officials are aware that the gaps in achievement between subgroups of students such as English language learners and their peers need to be closed. Overall, Eisenhower also will focus on reading and writing to drive higher achievement, he wrote.

At Muskego High, plans are already in motion to improve reading through greater emphasis on the Achieve 3000 program. The school also is striving to increase the number of students taking college-level courses and actually earning college credit and those taking advanced standing courses and participating in work-based learning, said Superintendent Kelly Thompson.

The school also started freshmen transition and respect, responsibility and acceptance efforts, she said.

At Bay Lane Middle School, some of the improvement efforts include monitoring individual student reading and math progress and giving extra help early. Reading and writing instruction is more individualized than before and literacy is being taught in all subjects using technology to a greater extent. The school also is developing more standardized grading practices.

At Lake Denoon Middle School, teaching is geared to the new higher Common Core standards to which the entire state is shifting, she said. The school also is working on reading comprehension and maximizing the middle school schedule that includes built-in time for students to receive focused, small group instruction in reading or math.

Similarly, all four of New Berlin's elementary schools and all five Muskego elementary schools met or exceeded expectations.

New Berlin's goals

The answers to where do the schools go from here were detailed in New Berlin by each school principal:

At Elmwood School, Principal Royce Lindner wrote to parents that better reading and writing were already the goals for this year. The plan is to bring that about through more professional development. Reading will be taught based on individual needs, he said. Close attention will be paid to student progress in relation to their peers.

Orchard Lane Principal Amy Fare said that school will continue to explore how each child learns and provide instruction based on that in reading, writing and math. Teachers are already involved in ongoing professional development in the areas of reading, writing, mathematics, technology and overall best practices.

Poplar Creek Principal Brady Reinke wrote that the school is already implementing a reading and writing program to help children read and write more critically. Also, literacy is being taught in such a way as to enable teachers to meet individually or in small groups to work with students based on their needs.

Ronald Reagan Principal Cory Whitsell wrote that more data is being collected on student subgroups to enable the school to better help them keep up with their peers.

Muskego's goals

At Muskego-Norway, each school has its own focus for the future, but each school also participates in districtwide improvement efforts, Thompson said.

Those include designing a comprehensive plan to close the achievement gap between students with special education needs and their peers. The schools also are creating a plan for changing grading and homework.

Another goal is to screen better for children who need special help, standardize that help and make sure that help is working and that children make the desired progress.

Finally, the schools will continue to focus on personalized learning through more use of technology.

- Jane Ford-Stewart

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