NL eighth-graders present their achievements in the classroom to the school board

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


NEW LONDON ? Students opened the New London School Board meeting on Monday, Oct. 16, by presenting a music video they produced in U.S. history class ? an additional sixth verse to Billy Joel?s famous song ?We Didn?t Start The Fire,? with rapid-fire lyrics alluding to the top headlines during Joel?s lifetime from 1949 to 1989.

Students wrote their own version of a sixth verse for their eighth grade U.S. history class, using the historical people, places and events that have been important to them during their lifetimes. The students were to come up with a video, write the verses, record the verses and then explain to their class why they chose the historical events they did.

The presentation to the board was to showcase the use of the new Chromebook computers the school district received this year. The students said that although integrating the computers into their curriculum has felt challenging at times, they are able to easily problem solve with finding answers to computer questions on the internet.

?We love to see (students) come and show us how they?re using the technology in class like this,? board president Lindsay Porter said.

The Chromebooks are being implemented into the classroom in an effort for overall academic growth in the New London Community School District.

?It?s more hands on,? Principal at Clark Elementary Todd Palmatier said. ?Now it?s taking that information and actually using it. How does it affect you? How does it change history? It?s bringing that rigor into the classroom.?

During the meeting, Allison Lair presented the 2016-2017 Assessment of the district. Last year, the district chose to focus on growth. The assessment is based on the results of the Iowa Assessment test, a standardized test every student across the state of Iowa has to take.

For the 2016-2017 school year, Clark Elementary averaged 80 percent on the Iowa Assessment, which is the percentage the state of Iowa wants all their schools to be at.

?Our curriculum as a whole says that students are ready for the next level,? Lair said.

New London Middle School averages at only 75 percent, however. Lair said that the middle school always trends lower than the elementary and high school students. There is a data drop when fifth-graders move into the middle school, but the data finds that once students get to eighth grade, they are performing at higher levels again, Lair said.

Although the high school?s average is 80 percent, growth slows down after 11th grade.

?We?re trying to come up with answers,? Lair said, adding that they compared the numbers to the Mt. Pleasant Community School District and they were very similar for high school students.

Palmatier said that the district is asking the question ?What are we doing to academically achieve more?? They are looking to the transition from fifth to sixth grade and asking if it is as seamless as it could be, noting that a shift in fifth to sixth grade would shake up preparing students for the next level all the way down to kindergarten.

Palmatier said the district is considering convening a panel of recent New London Community School District graduates to discuss with them how they were prepared for college, the military or their careers, and in what ways they were unprepared.

Lair also plans on sending out a survey to recent graduates by the end of this week that asks these same questions.

?It?s been difficult, but we really feel like we?re on track,? Lair said. ?We?re really good at being a good school, but we?re ready to be a great school.?

The School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) will be having their first meeting soon to take a look at how students, parents and community members can better support the school district, District Superintendent Chad Wahls said. Members of the committee have to be a parent of a student in the district.