Week of: March 26, 2012
March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme is “Get Your Plate In Shape.” This week I’m going to highlight some of Leander ISD’s efforts to encourage healthy nutrition habits, while promoting student learning.
At the March 22 LISD Board meeting, the Board of Trustees and I had the pleasure of honoring 15 students who were winners in the recent culinary arts competitions sponsored by our food service provider, Sodexo. For both competitions, participants prepared healthy kid-friendly recipes. As part of their recognition, the Board tasted some of the award-winning dishes our students cooked for the competition, and they found it delicious! On behalf of LISD, we again offer our heartiest congratulations to our 2012 Sodexo Student Well-being Culinary Competition winners: Jessica Minne, Yusif Shalab, Brendan Chance, Alan Palmer and Cam Boucher, champions of the Culinary Throw Down Competition; and to Abigail Crandell, Gabrielle Gilly, Rebekah Hamilton, Madison Nicole Lee, Megan Leingang, Natalie Mercado, Elise Orgeron, Nataniel Rodriguez-Saldierna, Trevor Stebbins and Renee Torres, the winners of the Future Chefs competition.
Sodexo is teaching fantastic life lessons through these culinary competitions. They have proven to be fun ways to motivate elementary- and middle school-aged students to engage in the food preparation process, experience following recipes and learn about nutrition to take ownership of their well-being.
It always makes me smile when I ask students what their favorite thing is about school, and they answer, “Eating in the cafeteria.” While we certainly want students to enjoy lunchtime, we also want to ensure that what they are eating is wholesome because students can’t feed their minds if they don’t feed their bodies first. That’s why LISD’s Child Nutrition Services offers a wide variety of nutritious breakfasts and lunches to every student each school day on all campuses.
In the wake of recent headlines regarding the use of lean finely textured beef (LFTB), or “pink slime,” I want to take a moment to inform you of LISD’s practices. Our meat providers do not purchase ammonia-treated beef for their school products. All U.S. Department of Agriculture beef purchases for the National School Lunch Program meet very high safety standards. LISD, along with all of our food vendors, strive to serve our students only safe, high-quality food items.
Regardless, we want to make sure we are offering what kids want to eat. LISD’s Student Health Advisory Committee and student and adult customers provide input on menu items, which already exceed the nutritional standards set by the USDA. And we want students to appreciate the fact that just because they aren’t familiar with a certain food, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. So other programs and events like our “A to Z Salad Bar,” also sponsored by Sodexo, introduce students to exotic varieties of produce.
To be healthy now and later and life, LISD believes in teaching students what it means to make wise choices. Our health curriculum emphasizes the importance of eating well. Moreover, teachers and staff, including our Child Nutrition Services employees, are constantly encouraging students to seek out healthy options.
Indeed, the district is focusing on student learning by providing quality, nutritious meals for students. I also want to mention that LISD was recently recognized by the Texas Department of Agriculture for our support of the Summer Food Service Program. You may remember that this state-sponsored program provides free meals to children ages 1-18 years old at specified locations throughout the district. This is a great program that we are pleased to be a part of because it provides a beneficial service to our communities and our families.
Life-long good nutrition habits require buy-in from students, parents, staff and community members. This March, I encourage you to help us set a good example for our students by getting your own plate in shape.
For more information about LISD’s menu offerings, visit www.leanderisd.org.
Have a great week!
Week of: March 19, 2012
On Thursday, March 22, Leander ISD is holding its annual Pre-K and Kindergarten Registration Round Up at all elementary campuses from 7:30 – 11:30 a.m. and from 1:30 – 6:30 p.m. Parents of children who plan to attend Pre-K or Kindergarten next fall are encouraged to register their child for school on that day at the campus they are zoned to attend.
In anticipation of Registration Round Up, last week I offered some tips parents can use at home to help ensure their child is ready to begin Kindergarten. However, as I said last week, parents should not be deterred if their child is not an expert at those basic skills before school starts. There will be plenty of time to get them where they need to be. We welcome all eligible children to enroll for school as soon as possible, regardless of their skill level, because Kindergarten is a fun learning experience where every student begins their educational journey.
You might be amazed by the breadth and depth of the Kindergarten curriculum. The whole year is about building a solid foundation by introducing students to language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, fine arts and physical education. Each of these subjects is then broken down into Essential Units of Study based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the state mandated curriculum. With an unwavering focus on student learning, the Essential Units of Study are designed to ensure that every LISD student, regardless of campus or teacher, receives the same high-quality instruction. With that basic understanding in mind, here’s a quick look at what you can expect your child to learn when he or she begins Kindergarten.
During language arts, Kindergarten students begin to read and write. They have opportunities to look at, listen to and explore a variety of texts including nursery rhymes, folk tales, fairy tales, poems and even some fiction and non-fiction pieces. They begin to learn reading strategies, the letters of the alphabet and their sounds. Students also learn to write in Kindergarten and begin to learn how to express their own ideas and feelings. They develop drafts and revise and share their writing with others. These learning experiences are designed to build
students’ confidence and their love for reading and writing.
Math, in Kindergarten, is very hands-on. Children use technology and math tools to develop a fundamental understanding of problem solving, communication and reasoning. Math curriculum includes number concepts, measurement, geometry, patterns and graphing. Students develop an understanding of word problems and solve problems using different strategies. Throughout the year, students will continue to revisit these math concepts to ensure that all students gain an appreciation for math.
Likewise, science in LISD is experiential, what we call “hands-on, minds-on,” and is designed to be active and engaging for Kindergarten students. During the year, students will examine and compare all sorts of critters including fish, snails, worms and bugs. Students will learn about the changes of the seasons and basic weather. Our science curriculum builds upon students’ natural curiosity to develop their understanding of our world.
Kindergarten students learn about the concepts of “self,” “home,” “family” and “community” during their social studies lessons. Units are centered around holidays, customs, symbols and celebrations that represent America, in addition to countries throughout the world. These lessons give students a foundation in history, geography and patriotism.
In fine arts, students begin to express themselves by experiencing music, art and theatre arts. Learning music, students sing and perform songs, and while exploring art, they learn about colors, lines, forms and space. In theatre arts, students engage in dramatic play, use puppets and props and practice using voice and movement. During physical education, students learn how bones, muscles, heart and lungs work in relation to activity. Students engage in play, games and other activities to develop basic levels of strength, endurance and flexibility.
In summary, Kindergarten is a terrific blend of learning and fun. It’s an important time for students to build a solid foundation for their educational careers. I’ve just scratched the surface in this brief overview this week, but I hope it’s given you an idea of what you can expect your child to learn during his or her first year of school.
You can get a more in depth look at the academic standards for every grade level, Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12, on the LISD website by visiting www.leanderisd.org and selecting the departments tab, then clicking on the curriculum standards link. I invite you to check out these documents to extensively review the learning objectives for Kindergarten students and beyond.
Have a great week!
Week of: March 12, 2012
The day you register your child for school is an important day. It marks the beginning of your son’s or daughter’s official educational journey and is the first of many steps he or she will take in becoming a successful, contributing member of society. In Leander ISD, we celebrate this day with an event called Registration Round Up. Already looking ahead to the next school year, LISD is holding its 2012 Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Registration Round Up on Thursday, March 22, 2012, from 7:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. at all elementary campuses.
If you have a child who will begin school next year, you are encouraged to participate in Registration Round Up at the school your child is zoned to attend next fall and get a taste of what you can expect. Come meet your child’s soon-to-be principal and other students he or she may have in class and tour the school.
Registration is ongoing in LISD, so if you cannot make it to Registration Round Up, please register your son or daughter as soon as possible prior to August 1. (Visit the LISD website for a list of the eligibility requirements and documentation needed for registration.) If you do not know which school your child will attend next year, you may call the LISD Transportation office at 570-0700, or enter your address into Transfinder on the LISD website (select the Parents/Students tab, and then Transfinder) to find out.
Starting school for the first time can be nerve-wracking for students and parents alike. After all, Kindergarten has changed a lot over the last 20-30 years, since we were in it ourselves. I often hear that parents want to know if their child has the skills necessary to be successful in Kindergarten. In the weeks leading up to LISD’s Pre-K and Kindergarten Registration Round Up, I will be offering a few tips parents can use at home to prepare for their child’s transition.
One of the most beneficial things a parent can do to help prepare their child for school is reading to them every day. Reading aloud to your children helps build their vocabulary, develop their comprehension, stimulate their imagination, broaden their knowledge and strengthen
listening skills. The time you spend reading with your child is enriching, quality time that bonds you together over a good story. It also promotes literacy by modeling the simple pleasure reading. (Visit Reading is Fundamental at www.rif.org
for more information about the value of reading to your child.)
Beyond reading to children, at Registration Round Up, parents are given a checklist that covers some basic Kindergarten readiness skills. This checklist includes scissor skills: holding, opening and closing child-sized scissors, guiding paper with his or her other hand, cutting close to lines on paper; functioning in the classroom: properly holding a crayon, using multiple colors and showing detail, staying on task for five minutes, using a proper “indoor voice” and following multi-step directions; name writing and recognition: writing his or her name using correct capitalization, staying within the lines, using proper spacing between letters, forming letters appropriately, and being able to pick his or her name out of a group; and self help skills: buttoning, zipping and snapping his or her own clothes and opening all items in his or her lunch box. Along with the checklist, the district provides some helpful strategies parents can work on with their children to improve their skills in these areas.
If your child is bound for Kindergarten next year and is not yet an ace at these skills, do not worry. Our teachers are prepared to welcome Kindergarten students with a wide variety of skills and needs. Kindergarten teachers have the most rewarding job of any educator, in my opinion. They warmly greet every single student who walks in their classrooms and patiently work with students to help them improve. Regardless of how prepared students are when they begin the year, by June, Kindergarten students will be ready for first grade.
Next week we’ll delve into some of the learning objectives parents can expect their child to cover while in Kindergarten.
Have a great Spring Break!
Week of: March 5, 2012
The State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, exams have received a lot of attention lately. Students and teachers throughout the state, including Leander ISD, will get their first glimpse of the new testing system in just a few weeks.
Over the last several months, our district has been hard at work educating students, parents and staff about STAAR and how it will impact students. Debbie Sommer, the LISD director of assessment and accountability, has held numerous Parent Information Nights over the last few weeks, most recently at Vandegrift High School on February 27. Parents of ninth-grade students will have another opportunity to learn about the STAAR on Monday, March 19 at Leander High School at 6:30 p.m. in the Little Theatre. All parents of freshmen are invited to attend.
As you know, STAAR is different from previous testing systems. In addition to its increased rigor, STAAR is designed to determine if a student is successful in the current grade level and prepared for the next grade level, and it is aligned to ensure students are college- and career-ready. This is a new measure in our state assessments and one that we are excited to use in LISD. Under the STAAR tests’ more complex structures, even students in elementary grades will be measured on college- and career-readiness standards. The exams will measure critical readiness standards and supporting standards necessary for building a solid foundation for college and life-long success.
The high school piece of STAAR, the End of Course Exam (EOC), has been a hot topic in the news recently. A total of 12 EOC assessments will replace grade-specific tests for current ninth-grade students (10th- and 11th-grade students will continue to take the TAKS). These tests will have an impact on the awarding of credits for the courses tested. Under the
Texas Education Code, students will be required to take and meet the performance standard developed by the state on each EOC assessment to achieve their graduation requirements, an important difference between STAAR and the previous TAKS exams.
What’s received the most attention is that, under current law, EOCs will count towards 15 percent of the course grade. This new rule has caused a bit of a stir in the education community and many asked that current ninth-graders be given a one-year reprieve as districts (students, teachers, administrators, curriculum writers and other support staff) continue to transition to STAAR. It seems only reasonable. After all, our campus and district ratings will remain the same for two years because of the implementation of the new system.
Just a couple of weeks ago, education leaders in the Senate told the Texas Education Agency that it could grant districts a deferment for the 15 percent requirement for this year. After listening to feedback from students, parents and staff, and updating the LISD Board of Trustees of the issue at the March 2 board meeting, we are recommending that the district submit a request to waive the implementation of the 15 percent grading requirement for this year. Many districts are doing the same. In order to submit the waiver, our Board of Trustees will have to take formal action authorizing me to send a request for deferment. While I will not definitively know the outcome until the Board’s vote and the Commissioner’s approval, at this time I do anticipate that we will be requesting and receiving a waiver from TEA.
Every time the state rolls out a new testing system, adjustments must be made to do what’s best for students. Should additional information about STAAR come our way in the coming weeks, I will share it with you. Be sure to check the LISD website www.leanderisd.org for a complete look at the STAAR.
Thank you for your continued support for LISD.
Have a great week and a safe spring break!