Wednesday, April 27, 2016

You Are Hired!

It has been a very busy hiring season at Hudson schools. Fortunately we are on the backside of this process! In the last month we have hired six new teachers, replacing seven that will not be returning for the 2016-2017 school year. Due to increasing enrollment, we have also hired a half-time science teacher in the middle school. Depending on kindergarten enrollment, we may need to hire an additional teacher there as well. As has been past practice we will let that trajectory continue to percolate until later in the summer. Right now we are projecting numbers in the low 50s, but it continues to be very fluid! 

Four of six teaching positions that have been filled are at the elementary level. As you might imagine those positions were incredibly competitive. The candidate pool was very deep and rich with qualified applicants. The mere speculation that Hudson will have an open position for an elementary teacher can yield dozens of applications before we even have a chance to begin the process! Admittedly, because the volume of applications is so large it is impossible to interview every qualified candidate that crosses the desk of our hiring agents. Hiring of personnel at Hudson is delegated to the building principal or department head who will be charged with supervising and evaluating that employee. Our district conducts a very thorough and detailed process when it comes to the recruitment and selection of personnel.

It starts with crafting the announcement of a vacancy. That announcement tells potential applicants what we are looking for in our teaching staff and what we value. After the position has been posted internally, it is posted externally on the employment page of our website

After collecting applications, the goal is to narrow the pool down to about four candidates. This is accomplished by screening applicants for certain endorsements, checking references, and considering the amount of experience the candidate has. Too much experience can be as much of a deterrence as too little or no experience.

When it comes to deciding which candidates will be invited to interview for our positions, the number and type of endorsements the candidate holds carry the most weight. Because of the importance we place on reading instruction in our district, a reading endorsement is considered the gold standard. Beyond that, candidates who hold special education endorsements or other content area endorsements are also incredibly valuable and key to getting an interview. Not only do these added endorsements provide a greater base of content knowledge and instructional strategies for our teaching staff, but they also provide greater flexibility in job assignments a few years down the road. Ironically, candidates who hold a Master's Degree in lieu of these endorsements oftentimes have less flexibility in job assignment.

Once the slate of candidates is set, the hiring agent will discuss the candidates with those who will be colleagues of the new employee and the superintendent. An interview schedule is developed, and candidates are invited to the district to meet with the interview team. For teaching positions, this most commonly consists of the building principal and a team of teachers who will be working with the new teacher. Following the interview, the team discusses the strengths of the candidates and selects the person they think is the best fit for the district. However, the building principal or department head has the final say regarding who will be made an offer. Yet in the vast majority of cases, the building principal and teacher group concurs with the selection. Following reference and background checks, an official offer is made. 

The following teachers have accepted offers of employment in the Hudson Community School District for the 2016-2017 academic year:
  1. Sarah Koch, (Hud '11) Special Education
  2. Sara Cartney, (Hud '10) Kindergarten
  3. Samantha Roelfs, Third Grade
  4. Kayleigh Cuvelier, Fifth/Sixth Grade (science emphasis)
  5. Nicole Davis, Instrumental Music
  6. Casey Tecklenburg, 7-12 Vocal Music
  7. Kate Thilges, Seventh/Eight Science (part-time)
We'll be sure to share more about the background of these new teachers as the 2016-2017 school year draws closer. Be sure to check our website for more information as it becomes available. Now a little advice for the dreamers and job seekers out there! 

License endorsements trump a Master's Degree most of the time. In many cases, an MA makes sense in the following circumstances: a specialized education job (i.e. guidance counselor, administrator, school psychologist, or college teacher). The MA can also be useful for those secondary instructors interested in teaching college level, concurrent enrollment courses--but be warned! This will only prove beneficial if your MA is in the content knowledge area of the college course you wish to teach. If you are determined to obtain an MA for the purposes of salary advancement, please 'get where you want to be' before starting and completing this work. 

Research your potential employer! It is critical that job candidates understand and be able to speak to the core values and initiatives of the school district. In the case of Hudson, we are invested in teacher leadership and connected learning. We have also placed a heavy emphasis on reading and math the last three years. Candidates that can speak to these initiatives and articulate how they can help the district achieve their goals put themselves ahead of the competition.

Manage your social media footprint! Candidates should be prepared to answer questions regarding their social media use. You should assume that you will be 'Googled'. Be very careful about what you post on your social media accounts. A fun picture from your days in college or on the weekend can be a disqualifying event. As an aside, if you don't have a social media footprint, this can have a negative impact as well. This is 2016! If you are not connected yourself, how can you contribute to our connected learning environment?

To those who have successfully navigated the process, we welcome you to the Hudson Community School District! We can't wait to have you join our team and contribute to our students' success!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How Learning is Being Transformed at Hudson Schools

Guest Blog Post by Instructional Coach Mike Lewis

In the Hudson district, the Clarity survey is taken annually by students, staff and parents. This survey measures the access to, proficiency with, and efficiency of technology in our schools. The wealth of information provided by this survey is immense, and impossible to summarize succinctly. Interested parties that would like to see all of the information may check out this link to see all the reports; I will attempt to give some highlights.
The International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) has laid out eleven standards, six for students and five for teachers, to measure the integration of technology into learning. The infographic below shows how the Clarity survey measures our progress as a district in each of these standards. We are Proficient or Advanced in six of the eleven, Emerging in five and Beginning in one. The data collection from the previous year indicated Proficient or better in five, Emerging in four, and Beginning in two. We clearly have improved in the ISTE standards in the last year, though there is definitely still work to be done.

Our level of access to technology both in and out of school is outstanding, and has improved in the last year. 94% of our students have access to the Internet at home (up from 91%) last year, 91% have access to a device at home (up from 90%), and 68% share that device with others (down from 75%). This high degree of access outside the school allows students to interact with their learning in new ways that are not limited to the seven hours of the school day.

We understand that, while technology can transform the learning that takes place in our schools, it is not a process that will happen overnight. Teachers and students alike need to adjust their way they are used to doing things, and that change is happening in our district. To see the growth that is happening in the way technology is changing how our students and teachers interact with their learning, we can use the SAMR model. Briefly, SAMR indicates whether technology is being used to do the same things that we would do without tech, or if the tech is allowing students to do things that are literally impossible without it. Thinking of it as a spectrum, the “R” end indicates teaching that is truly transformative, and the “S” end indicates activity that doesn’t really do anything different than could be done without the tech.

November 2014

November 2015

These graphs indicate the progress that is being made, and the work that lies ahead. Note that the elementary is essentially unchanged - not surprising, since the access to technology at the elementary level is much more limited. The high school is largely unchanged as well, but note how the junior high has moved considerably to the “R” end of the spectrum. As teachers geared up for the increased access that the junior high students would have starting in Jan 2016, their instruction began to transform accordingly.

It should be stated that the goal is not to get 100% of instruction to the “R” end of the SAMR spectrum. Students still do -  and will continue to - develop skills with writing, pencil-and-paper computations, hands-on activities that do not require technology. But as we understand that technology drives our world in greater ways every day, integrating that technology into our instruction is only that much more important.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Final Connect(ion) in Our Learning Environment

Continued from last week:

The slow march to the renewal of the PPEL began while at the same time preparations were being made to launch our connected learning initiative. We had to make plans to move forward because if the vote were successful it would leave only a few short months to put everything together and work through the logistics of getting devices into the hands of our students. Two dates were circled on the calendar, September 10th, 2013 (election day) and January 6th, 2014. If we had a successful PPEL renewal, that was the date that we would begin our journey. That summer we began a training regimen for our faculty, hedging a bit in anticipation of a successful vote. The summer training continued into early fall, taking the first two complete inservice days in order to finish getting our teachers ready for this transformation in learning. While this was occurring we were redeploying computers to the elementary school, adding a third stand alone computer lab for those students and teachers. In July of 2013, the Board adopted the Hudson 2020 visioning plan. Developed in collaboration with district stakeholders and steered through the SIAC, this strategic plan outlined 6 key recommendations that included among other things a goal to infuse technology throughout the district. It went on to recommend that any major capital outlay be delayed until after the PPEL vote.

On September 10th, 2013 the PPEL was renewed with 78.7% voter approval. The die had been cast. At the September board meeting and before seating the new board, the retiring board voted to approve a 1:1 at the high school (now coined connected learning initiative) to begin in January 2014. 

A little over a year ago we started talking about expansion. That would have been in the spring of 2015. Indeed it was earlier than what we had originally anticipated, but we were already beginning to see results and the board was anxious to move forward. The idea was floated to launch grades 7-8 in August of 2015. Logistically this wasn't something we felt we could properly execute, so we moved forward in January of 2016. But the board wasn't done. They were interested in a final expansion and were eager to move forward. There must be no mistake: this is a progressive board that has shown incredible leadership throughout this process!

After careful study, we intend to recommend third grade as the entry point to our connected learning environment, with the primary device being an iPad. That will continue to be the device of choice through the fourth grade. Beginning in grade five, students will be introduced to a laptop computer, which will be the primary device used for the remainder of the students tenure at Hudson. The approximate annual cost of our connected learning environment will be around $126,000 annually. This doesn't include costs associated with some software that will also be necessary.

It is important to remember that we have been deliberate about how we have referred to this. It is not about the device, but what students can do with the device. We are redefining student learning. Next week we'll spend some time discussing the transformation in learning that is happening in Hudson Schools and what data tells us about how learning in changing for our students.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The History of Our Connected Learning Environment

Unless you have a student in grades 7 or 8, you are probably unaware of where our connected learning environment currently stands or what our ultimate strategy is for the ubiquitous deployment of devices in our school district. The last time we spoke about this was October of 2015. At that time we were poised to recommend an expansion of our environment to include these two grade levels and field test tablet devices in the elementary. The board subsequently approved that recommendation in October. That approval led to the deployment of laptop computers for students in grades 7-12, with the option of taking those devices home daily. At the same time, we introduced tablet devices in grade 3, tasking those instructors (two of which are model teachers) with field testing the strategy and researching the utility of this device at the elementary school. Third grade students are not permitted to take these devices home. All of this happened in January of 2016. 

We are now poised to make a final recommendation to the board that will fully scale up our connected learning environment, making third grade the entry point for connected learning. It has taken us many years to get to this point, and I appreciate the patience that many of our parents have exercised while providing strong advocacy to ensure your student is prepared to live and work in the 21st Century. Our intention was to move at a pace that ensured we were making the right decisions for our school district and students. If you will oblige me the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane!

Third grade students using iPad devices during a lesson on measurement
in a recent math class. Each student in third grade was assigned
an iPad beginning in January of 2016.
Upon arriving in Hudson in 2010, an idea existed to provide a 1:1 laptop environment for students in the high school. However, at that time the infrastructure did not exist. The electrical service in our elementary was an immediate concern and a wireless network had not yet been developed. Before any advances in technology could be given serious consideration, these obstacles had to be overcome. In the spring and summer of 2011 the electrical system in the elementary would begin to be addressed. This project would include re-wiring the entire elementary attendance center and would span two summers with final completion the summer of 2012. That same summer, work began on the installation of a wireless network that would provide coverage district wide. In June of 2011 a plan was unveiled to the board that included a timeline for launching a 1:1 environment in the high school. That initial plan called for a roll out one year later.

The same time all of this was happening, we were busy throughout the district ensuring we had projectors installed in every classroom and that the rest of our computer fleet was up to date and would be compatible with a different platform. Additionally, the Hudson PTO partnered with the school to purchase projectors and Apple TVs for each elementary instructional space. We also began field testing computers and tablet devices in classrooms.

In the fall of 2012, the discussion about our 1:1 environment began to accelerate with the board. Guests were invited to visit with board members about specific solutions, how to manage the devices, and what to expect upon roll out. We were also continuing to have deep discussions about why we should or should not consider this. If indeed we were going to be a 1:1 school, we wanted to do it for the right reasons--that is for the students of Hudson schools. Not because of any actions from our neighboring districts. It was somewhere around this time we began to talk about the idea of connected learning instead of 1:1. To this day we continue to remind people, "It is not about the device, it's about what we can do with the device". That fall we completed the installation of our wireless network throughout the district. In January of 2013, it was recommended that we time the final board vote of the initiative to coincide with the renewal of the PPEL, which was scheduled for that September. The downside would mean a delay of implementation until January of 2014, but the positive was that it provided a unique opportunity to permit voters of the Hudson Community School District to weigh in on the project.