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Jefferson County Public Schools

High school students will take new endof-course tests

September 2011

Also in this issue: • Trapping toads, learning engineering • How will the new state academic standards affect your child? • Are you as smart as a JCPS seventh grader?

Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer Offering Equal Educational Opportunities

amazing amount of data available on how students are performing.

Parent to parent

Improving academic performance Louisville’s commitment to education was instantly clear to me when I participated in public forums and met with stakeholder groups as a superintendent candidate. I often was asked how I would improve academic performance and close achievement gaps. I believe the key—at the classroom level, the school level, and the district level—is to be able to answer three questions paraphrased from the work of Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker, authors of Professional Learning Communities at Work: Best Practices for Enhancing Student Achievement: What are students expected to learn? The Kentucky Core Academic Standards, which specify what students should learn at each grade level, provide a clear answer to this question. (For more information on the standards, see the article on page four.) Have students learned what they’re expected to learn? Teachers must be able to answer this question throughout the learning process—not just at the end of a course or the end of the school year. What do you do differently if students haven’t learned it—or if they have learned it? Systems and structures must be in place to provide extra support for students who need it and to help students move to the next level when they master the material. These three questions are fun-

damental to academic success. Though they focus on meeting the state’s academic standards, they are not about “teaching to the test.” I do not believe this is an effective way to teach; it is not in the best interest of students. Of course, testing is a fact of academic life, and I welcome accountability. I believe schools and districts should be held accountable to parents and to the community for student progress. Instead of teaching to the test, however, the three questions involve identifying the desired outcomes and looking at the processes in place to help each student develop the deep-seated knowledge and skills that allow him or her to achieve those objectives. This is the art and science of teaching—designing instruction to meet individual needs and helping students build in-depth knowledge so they are never surprised by the questions on the test. Teachers can meet needs and build knowledge more effectively and efficiently today because there is now an

“I believe schools and districts should be held accountable to parents and to the community for student progress.”

As we develop school and district improvement plans, JCPS will carefully monitor and thoroughly analyze this data. We also will review operations throughout the district and bring a range of voices—including parents and business and community leaders—to the table to help us plot the most effective improvement course. I firmly believe that JCPS has the dedication and the talent to be the best urban district in the country, but we will not be successful until every student is successful. In the next Parent Connection, I will explain how one component of our improvement efforts—Curriculum Management Audits—will help us create a blueprint for raising achievement and will ensure we are delivering effective instruction that provides the in-depth knowledge every student needs to succeed.

Donna M. Hargens, Ed.D. JCPS Superintendent

JCPS 90-day plan In August, Dr. Hargens released a 90-day plan that includes three key themes: • Assess the needs of students and schools as well as the performance of the district. • Initiate a long-range planning process. • Take immediate short-term actions. The plan includes five priorities:

JCPS will initiate a longrange planning process and take immediate short-term actions.

Priority 1: Student achievement Strategies: 1. Analyze student achievement data. 2. Review/Determine a course of action for underperforming schools, and create a status review schedule. 3. Determine how schools answer three essential questions. (See Dr. Hargens’ column on the opposite page for the three questions.) 4. Conduct an external Curriculum Management Audit. 5. Assess student assignment recommendations. 6. Schedule Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBE) work sessions on student achievement. Priority 2: Teamwork Strategies: 1. Establish the board and the superintendent as a cohesive leadership team with a focus on student achievement. 2. Review and revise or affirm the district’s mission, vision, core beliefs, goals, and objectives. 3. Create a strategic plan to move from where we are now to where we want to be.

4. Develop communication protocols among the superintendent, the board, and staff. Priority 3: Engage the community. Strategies: 1. Establish a consistent message to share with stakeholders. 2. Establish positive relationships and open and responsive communication with schoolbased staff, district staff, parents, students, and community members. 3. Create structures to engage all stakeholders (i.e., summits). Priority 4: Retain, recruit, and train high-quality employees. Strategies: 1. Assess current systems. 2. Participate in Kentucky Leadership Training for Superintendents. Priority 5: Fiscal and organizational accountability Strategies: 1. Create data reviews for each department. 2. Establish a system for program evaluations that includes costbenefit analyses. 3. Create an organizational structure that is efficient, purposeful, and accountable. 4. Build structures for transparent accountability.


How will the state’s new academic standards affect your child? In math, your child will not only learn to solve problems but also develop a deeper understanding of the underlying concepts. In language arts, your child will learn to read increasingly complex material that ultimately prepares him or her for college-level reading. What your child learns and when he or she learns it are determined by academic standards.

The new standards are tougher than the old ones. Students at all grade levels will have to learn lessons more quickly and more in-depth.

Read the new standards The new Kentucky Core Academic English/Language Arts Standards are available on the Web at POS/KentuckyCommonCore_ELA. pdf. The math standards are available at otl/POS/KentuckyCommonCore_ MATHEMATICS.pdf. The JCPS Gheens Academy for Curricular Excellence and Instructional Leadership offers resources for teachers and parents on its Web site at gheens/COP/KCAS.html. The Web site for the Common Core State Standards Initiative is located at 4

For instance, eighth graders should learn how to solve linear equations, such as –x + 5(x + 1⁄3) = 2x – 8, according to the new Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by more than 40 states. Kentucky was the first. In February 2010, the Kentucky Board of Education approved replacing the state’s own standards with the Common Core State Standards in math and English/language arts. Throughout the past summer, JCPS teachers and administrators participated in several professional-development (PD) sessions to learn how to begin implementing the standards this year.

How are the new standards different from the old ones?

• There aren’t as many of the new ones, but they’re tougher and more in-depth. • The new ones are more closely aligned with college and work expectations. From kindergarten onward, students will prepare for these expectations.

• The new standards clearly outline a progression of knowledge and skills throughout all grade levels. • The new ones are partly based on standards in other topperforming countries, so they’ll help prepare U.S. students to succeed in the global economy.

PTA brochures explain the standards

The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has produced a series of brochures that highlight specific skills and concepts students will learn at each grade level according to the new standards. These brochures also provide tips on helping your child learn at home, and they offer questions you might want to ask your child’s teacher. You can download them at The new Kentucky Core Academic Standards align with the requirements of Senate Bill 1, passed by Kentucky lawmakers in 2009. The bill requires higher and more rigorous standards as well as new instructional strategies, a new testing system, and an intense focus on college and career readiness. JCPS teachers and administrators will work throughout the school year to implement programs and instructional strategies that ensure your child benefits from the new approaches mandated in the bill.

Keeping kids safe

Protecting your child from bullies The following information has been excerpted from a Web site hosted by the JCPS Safe and Drug-Free Schools Office.

Warning signs that a child is being bullied

• Sleeplessness or nightmares • Drop in grades • Unexplained cuts, bruises, or scratches • Damaged or missing clothes, books, or other belongings • Withdrawal or loss of interest in hobbies or friends • Frequent complaints of headaches or stomachaches • Wants to stay home from school • Nervous or fearful about going to school or riding the bus

What can you do?

• Assure your child that it’s not his or her fault if he or she is bullied. • Foster your child’s confidence. • Be willing to take action when needed. • Work with school staff to address the problem. • Offer support to your child, but don’t encourage dependence on you. • Don’t encourage aggressive behavior. • Help your child develop new friendships. • Stay involved in and be supportive of your child’s school and extracurricular activities. • Stay informed about who your child is socializing with.

• Promote respectful behavior. • Teach your child the difference between tattling and telling. The purpose of tattling is to get someone in trouble; the purpose of telling is to help someone stay safe. For more information on protecting your child from bullies and information on the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, and violence, visit and click the Keeping Kids Safe link on the left side of the page.

The consequences of bullying JCPS policies toward bullying are clearly defined in the district’s Code of Acceptable Behavior and Discipline and the Student Bill of Rights, which are available at

The code states that “students shall not engage in such behaviors as hazing, bullying, menacing, taunting, intimidating, verbal or physical abuse of others, or making threats. “This policy extends to any/all student language or behavior including, but not limited to, the use of electronic or online methods (otherwise known as cyberbullying).”

The code also notes that “every student and staff member has the right to respectful treatment and freedom from harassment and abuse. In order to achieve this, JCPS has established a zerotolerance approach to student discipline. This means that when students break rules, they are provided with clear directives and strict consequences.” The consequences of bullying range from short-term suspension to placement in an alternative school, and law enforcement officials are notified. “We do not tolerate bullying at any grade level,” says Jack Jacobs, director of JCPS Student Relations, Health, and Safety. He also points out that “parents are our partners in setting the expectations for their child’s behavior. At the beginning of the school year, parents sign and agree to the Code of Acceptable Behavior and Discipline, which also includes rules for acceptable behavior on the school bus.” “Student safety is our top priority,” Jacobs adds, “and we always investigate reports of bullying.”

For more information For more information on protecting your child from bullies, visit the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Web site. Go to www.jcpsky. net/Parents and then click the Keeping Kids Safe link on the left side of the page.


High school students to take new endof-course tests JCPS high school students will take a new state test at the end of certain courses—a test that will count for 20 percent of the final grade for the course. End-of-course tests are part of the education reforms resulting from Senate Bill 1, passed by Kentucky lawmakers in 2009. The bill requires that the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) be replaced with a new state system that focuses on making sure students are ready for college and careers. New end-of-year tests will be used in grades three through eight, and the end-of-course exams will replace CATS tests in high school. The new testing program is called Kentucky Performance Rating of Educational Progress (K-PREP). The new exams will be used this school year in English II, Algebra II, Biology, and U.S. History. All students must pass these courses to graduate from high school. Each end-of-course exam will have three parts. Parts one and two will consist of 35 to 38 multiple-choice

questions each. The other part will have one to three questions that students must answer in writing. Some JCPS high school students will take the new tests in February at the end of the first two trimesters. Other students will take the tests during the last two weeks of the school year.

The new test will count for 20 percent of the final course grade. Scores on the new tests will be part of the data used by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to calculate the Unbridled Learning College and Career for All Accountability Index (a measure of overall student performance) for each school. Statewide, students will take similar tests, and it will be possible to compare the results not only between schools but also with scores from students taking similar tests in other states.

“While Senate Bill 1 was supposed to decrease the amount of testing, the end result will be more testing and assessment than we have had in the history of KERA [the Kentucky Educational Reform Act of 1990],” says Joe Burks, JCPS assistant superintendent of high schools. However, Burks also points out that “teachers’ use of Project Proficiency [a JCPS high school initiative] in our Freshman Academies and Schools of Study will ‘guarantee student competency’ of key standards and prepare the students for the new end-of-course exams. “Our students should also be college- and career-ready due to our Career Theme design, which connects every student with a collegeaccess adult mentor and guides each student toward a credentialed diploma with an industry certification, articulated college credit, or dual college credit—all while in high school.”

Magnet program spotlight

Business and information technology Courses in the Business and Information Technology (IT) Professional Career Theme prepare students for a future in which both business and IT are likely to remain the two highest areas for growth in new jobs. Developed by district educators with the help of Louisville business leaders, the courses help business students learn how to create and run a company. Both business and IT students learn how to use technology to manage business operations.

Courses offer certifications and college credit

many other Business and Information Technology learning experiences create financially and digitally literate students who have the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the global marketplace.

A video overview of the Business and Information Technology Program and overviews of other JCPS Professional Career Themes are available on the district’s YouTube channel at www

Program is available throughout the district

Students throughout the district may apply to the Banking, Finance, Business Management, Entrepreneurship Program or the Computer Technology Program at Central High School Magnet Career Academy (MCA). Students districtwide also may apply to the Mathematics/Science/Technology (MST) Program at duPont Manual High.

Courses in the Business and Information Technology Professional Career Theme are available at three schools—one in each of the geographically based high school networks: • Doss (Network 1) • Southern (Network 2) • Eastern (Network 3) Don’t know which network your child lives in? Call JCPS Demographics at 485-3050, or use the SchoolFinder feature at http:// /demographics/schoolfinder. aspx.

The application period for all of the courses will begin in November and last through the end of the year. Watch for more information in future editions of Parent Connection.

Doss students run a branch of the Class Act Federal Credit Union inside the school.

Courses are available in banking, finance, business applications, marketing, accounting, computer repair, networking, Web design, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and programming. Many of these courses offer both industry certification and college credit. The courses also provide handson, real-world learning. For example, students at Doss run an actual branch of the Class Act Federal Credit Union inside the school. Named the Class Act Academy of Business and Finance, the branch manages accounts for other students and for Doss staff members. The student-run credit union and


How I spent my summer vacation

Trapping toads, learning engineering “The cane toad is still on the loose. Can you design a machine to help us trap it?”

famous in the 1920s. Many of the students’ toad traps operated on a similar chain-reaction principle.

them understand that critical thinking and creativity are as important to the job as math skills.

Students at Tully Elementary’s Engineering Adventures camp received that message from two (fictional) teens who accidently let cane toads loose in Australia, where the toads are an invasive species.

One trap included a weight that slid down a rope to knock over a box that fell over to catch the toad. Another included a bag of flour that hit a board and knocked off a weight at the other end, which released a rope holding up a towel that then fell on the toad.

The camp, held in June and August, also “reinforced regular classroom lessons and took them to a higher level,” says Tully Learning Lab teacher Laura Keeling.

The Tully students used the engineering design process—ask, imagine, plan, create, improve—to develop toad traps that could be activated from 5 feet away. For inspiration, the campers studied the elaborately engineered machines that Rube Goldberg made

“You have to be good at thinking and imagining” to build a good toad trap, says Tully student Jack Huff, who wants to be a professional engineer one day—which shows that the camp was accomplishing two of its goals: to encourage students to become engineers and to help

She was selected to lead one of only ten national pilot program sites for Engineering Adventures, a program created by the Engineering is Elementary team at the Museum of Science, Boston. Keeling also has developed a partnership with the University of Louisville (UofL) Speed School of Engineering. Professor Gary

Rivoli visited the camp, and Speed School staff regularly help students in the Learning Lab explore and solve problems as mechanical, chemical, geotechnical, and environmental engineers.

It also increases the fun. Parent Nancy Howell says that when she picked up her son, Samuel, from the camp, he kept “talking a mile a minute about everything they did and how much fun they had.”

Keeling says this inquiry-based approach increases student engagement, creativity, participation, risk taking, problem solving, and perseverance.

For more information on Engineering Adventures, visit www.mos. org/eie/engineeringadventures/ index.php.

What is inquiry-based learning? By pondering the answer to this question, you’re already well on your way to understanding inquirybased learning. It’s often driven by questioning. Asking and answering questions helps students develop problemsolving and critical-thinking skills. That’s why the JCPS math and science curricula, funded by the GE Foundation’s Developing Futures in Education grant, rely heavily on an asking-and-answering (inquirybased) approach. It’s very different from the way most parents learned when they were in school—listening to teachers lecture in class and reading a thick textbook in the evening. Today, students often work together in small groups and use various tools to solve math problems and conduct scientific experiments.

class, I use the rule, ‘Ask three and me,’” which means “before coming to me with a question, they have to ask three other students. The students have the confidence to ask others, but they are also willing to share what they know. This has been an amazing thing to see.” Because this approach is so different from the training most teachers received when they were in college, the GE Foundation funding has supported significant professional development (PD). In addition, staff developers and resource teachers are available to work

one-on-one with teachers in their classrooms. “The grant has provided high-level, student-centered, inquiry-based curricula, which allow students to explore and discuss new ideas,” says Amy Hunter, a middle school resource teacher. “There is more of an awareness that students need to have a voice and that there can be many ways to solve a problem. These are skills they need in the real world.” To learn more about the GE Foundation’s Developing Futures in Education grant, visit www.jcpsky. net/Projects/GEMSI/index.html.

Getting the correct answer is important, but students must also be able to explain how they came up with their correct answers. The inquiry-based approach increases the level of discussion between students. “The kids talk to each other,” says Steve Weber, a Noe Middle math teacher. “In 9

Two JCPS schools make Newsweek list

Culinary Federation (ACF) National Conference in Dallas.

Newsweek magazine’s list of the 500 best U.S. high schools includes 2 JCPS schools. DuPont Manual High is number 62. Ballard High is number 319. The total number of public high schools in the country is estimated at 23,000.

The award is presented once a year to an ACF chapter or a member who has shown extraordinary effort to help children. Thomas’s efforts include volunteering to coordinate an after-school nutrition education program called Chef’s Club at Wellington Elementary and working with the local ACF chapter to coordinate Hit a Homerun for Nutrition breakfast events at Wellington and Rangeland Elementary.

Newsweek has been ranking the top public U.S. high schools for more than a decade, but the magazine used a new methodology to compile the 2011 list. Newsweek asked nationally known education experts “to develop a yardstick that fully reflects a school’s success turning out college-ready (and life-ready) students,” according to the magazine. “To this end, each school’s score is comprised of six components: graduation rate (25%), college matriculation rate (25%), AP [Advanced Placement] tests taken per graduate (25%), average SAT/ACT scores (10%), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10%), and AP courses offered (5%).” For more information, visit www /americas-best-high-schools. html.

JCPS chef receives national award Chef Dan Thomas, supervisor of the JCPS School and Community Nutrition Services catering department, received the True Spirit Award at the 2011 American

Thomas helped organize the first Culinary Student Breakfast Recipe Challenge, which culminated in a large event at Lassiter Middle. The winner was crowned by a group of celebrity judges and the Lassiter students. Thomas also worked with JCPS students to enter several recipes in the USDA’s Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge. In addition, Thomas has volunteered to help with several nutrition initiatives with the Food Literacy Project at Oxmoor Farms, and he was instrumental in planning and executing the Field-to-Fork dinner event last fall to raise funds for an outdoor kitchen at the farm. The kitchen enables more than 2,000 urban youth each year to receive cooking and nutrition education on the eight-acre vegetable farm.

Student earns second national award for Spanish skills Tianjian Lao, a student at duPont Manual High, was among only 24 students nationwide selected

to travel to Argentina during the summer as a winner of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica (Spanish Honor Society) Junior Travel Award. She won the award during the last school year by submitting an essay, in Spanish, on an area of Argentine culture that she wanted to explore. She chose art styles. (Her father is an art history professor at UofL.) She also submitted a taped interview with her Spanish teacher, Diane Taylor. During the previous school year, Tianjian competed in the National Spanish Exam and was one of only 12 national winners of the Global Citizenship Award. She received two weeks at Concordia Language Villages, a language immersion camp in Minnesota. “Tianjian is an outgoing, energetic student who is passionate about Spanish,” says Ruth Pascual, Manual teacher and Kentucky director of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica. “Tianjian is a big soccer fan and follows the teams from Spain. She is fascinated by all aspects of Hispanic culture—art, history, linguistics, regional dialects, music, and dance. She has a talent for quickly absorbing new vocabulary and communicates very well in Spanish. She loves using her conversational skills on the kids in Head Start.” (Tianjian tutors Hispanic preschoolers at Okolona Elementary.)

For more information on the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica, visit

JCPS raises nearly $725,000 for community organizations District students and staff members contributed nearly $725,000 last school year to four organizations. “Despite difficulties with the economy, JCPS staff and students continue to show extraordinary generosity to the community,” says DeVone Holt, JCPS special assistant to the superintendent.

Mark your calendar Sept. 5: School not in session— Labor Day

Oct. 10–14: National School Lunch Week

Sept. 10: ACT

Oct. 11: School not in session for students—Parent-Teacher Conference Day

Sept. 27: Kentucky PTA Kids’ Day Sept. 30: School not in session for students—PD Day for teachers Oct. 1: SAT Oct. 3–31: Advance Program Testing Oct. 9: College and Career Expo (

Oct. 12: PSAT Oct. 15: PSAT Oct. 21–22: JCPS Showcase of Schools Oct. 22: ACT Oct. 22–30: Red Ribbon Week

Oct. 10: School not in session for students—PD Day for teachers

In 2009, the Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBE) approved annual districtwide fundraisers for the four organizations. Totals raised last year were: Metro United Way: $281,599; Crusade for Children: $154,262; Fund for the Arts: $241,233; JCPS/UNCF Minor Daniels Scholarship Fund: $47,635 The JCPS Metro United Way campaign was recognized as one of the top ten in the community. The district was recognized by the Crusade for Children for surpassing $3 million in total contributions.

Three things you can do at

In addition to the four groups, JCPS schools may choose to raise funds for one other organization from a board-approved list of 19, which includes the Louisville Zoo, Download the lunch menu. Go to the Parents page (shown above), the American Heart Association, and scroll down to the General Information section. Look for the School and Junior Achievement (JA). Meals heading, and then click Elementary, Middle, or High. Fundraisers are “extremely valuPrint the school calendar. Click the School Calendars button near the able in helping students undertop right corner of the homepage. stand civic engagement and responsibility,” Holt says, “and they provide a way for staff members to Find directions to any school. Go to the Schools page, and look for the Driving Directions heading. Select the name of the school in the dropgive back to the community.” down menu. 11

Getting ready for state tests

Are you as smart as a JCPS seventh grader? The following science questions are the type of questions that seventh graders may need to answer on state tests in the spring. The first three parents who send the correct answers to the Parent Connection office via e-mail and the first three who send the answers via regular mail will receive a free JCPS T-shirt. Please include the name of your child’s (or grandchild’s) school. The e-mail address is thomas. The regular mailing address is Thomas Pack, Communications North, C. B. Young Jr. Service Center, Building 4, 3001 Crittenden Drive, Louisville, KY 40209. You don’t need to write the questions or answers. Just send the question numbers and the letters for your answers. 1. In which part of a plant does photosynthesis take place? A. bark B. flowers C. leaves D. roots

Use the diagram to answer question 2.

2. In which stage of the rock cycle shown above would you predict the formation of fossils? A. stage L B. stage M C. stage N D. stage P

3. A scientist notices that a living organism changes color when exposed to a lower temperature. The scientist is making A. an inference. B. a hypothesis. C. a conclusion. D. an observation. 4. Earth has different seasons because A. Earth’s north pole is always tilted away from the sun. B. Earth’s tilt remains the same as Earth revolves around the sun. C. Earth’s distance from the sun changes. D. Earth’s rotation and distance from the sun change daily.

Parenting question of the month

What’s the best bedtime? What bedtime works best for your child? How do you get your child to go to bed without a fuss? If you’re the parent of a young child, do you have any bedtime rituals that help your child go to sleep? Share your tips with other JCPS parents by sending an e-mail to Your comments will be published on the Parent Connection Web site and, space permitting, in the next printed version of the newsletter.

Sept. Parent Connection  

JCPS parent newsletter

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