Here are three things to know from the Monday, Jan. 18 meeting of the New Holstein Board of Education:
1. A report on Achievement Gap Reduction (AGR) testing in the New Holstein School District led to a longer discussion about student testing.
Elementary School Principal Jennifer Mohr-Whitman provided the report, highlights of which include a tightening of the gap between “identified” and “non-identified” students and apparent improvement in math scores in the district.
“Identified” students are those students who may be challenged in some way in their learning, including students who come from economically disadvantaged homes. About 25 percent of students in the New Holstein School District qualify for free or reduced meals, district officials said, which is one category of “identified” students. State officials have asked school districts to try to close the gap in test scores between those students and “non-identified” students.
Board members asked a number of questions about the data in the report. Administrators suggested that this might not be the best time or the best test to try to draw a lot of conclusions about the status of learning in the NHSD, although District Administrator Dan Nett said, “There is some promising data in here.” Mohr-Whitman added, “Overall I’m actually pretty happy with these numbers so far,” although she added she wants to wait to see the results at the end of the school year.
2. The board approved spending up to $52,000 to purchase a new special needs van with a wheelchair lift.
Business Manager David Ziegelbauer said he obtained several quotes and that the district also is receiving $25,000 in funding from a special needs transition grant to help pay some of the cost.
The new vehicle will be used daily to transport a seventh grade wheelchair student to school as well as for other purposes and trips. Ziegelbauer said he also looked at prices for used vehicles but they were still quite expensive and a new vehicle will come with full warranties. He added that it could take about 16 weeks for the vehicle to be fully fitted and delivered to the district.
3. Sixth grade teacher Rita Knoener gave a presentation to the board on Monday about Sphero projects now being done in the schools.
Sphero is a line of small, round robots which can be programmed to perform a variety of functions—everything from rolling around on the floor to lighting up to making sounds.
Knoener said the district has 15 of the robots plus five Sparks, a similar version without the lights. She said she appreciates the fact that the Board of Education approved funding for the robots. She added that after a three-day introduction of them in classrooms, students are very excited and looking forward to further use. “We have plenty of collisions—they’re very resilient,” she said.
All sixth grade students will be going through an exploratory class which will use the Sphero robots, giving them experience in coding. Knoener said they also could be used with children as young as kindergartners who are working on numbers and colors.
(For more from this meeting please see the Jan. 21 issue of the Tri-County News.)