June 15

Last Lessons From Algonquin

Our 8th Grade Celebration on Wednesday night was an enjoyable way to honor our 8th grade students as they move on to the next phase of their education.

During the celebration, I offered the following suggestions to our students:

  • Dare to imagine.
  • You can get (almost) anywhere from here.
  • Effort always comes before excellence.
  • Failure is an opportunity.
  • Use your powers (and phones) for good – not evil.
  • “We need to live in a world with fewer selfies and more otherpeoplies.” – Kid President
  • Choices develop habits.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Be kind.
  • There is always room for the best.

We wish this group of students the best in all they do.

Once an Eagle, always an Eagle!

Mr. K

June 6


A hash tag educators often use this time of year is #finishstrong.
It’s a reminder to each other and to our selves to stay focused and intentional through the end of the school year.
It helps to remind us that EVERY day of school is important – from the first to the last.
It tells us to bring our best every day, especially toward the end of the year when distractions abound and some of our students have begun to shut for the year.

As a student, as a parent, and as an educator it can be easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking: “There are only a few days left, why does it matter?”
We can’t do this.

We all need to:
stay focused
be intentional
practice patience
practice kindness
remain determined
continue to put forth maximum effort

It’s been a year full of learning and fun and if we all do what we need to, we will finish the year that way, too.

May 15

Spring Behavior Reminder


Spring seems to have finally made an appearance and, along with a rise in temperatures, we have seen a rise in poor behavior choices by SOME of our students.

It can be easy for students to get excited about the approaching end to the school year and it’s understandable that the spring weather has brought out additional energy. However, with more than twenty school days remaining, appropriate focus and behavior continue to be important. Stated another way, that’s nearly twelve percent of the school year – far too much time to simply slack off.

As a school, our number one priority is to ensure the safety of our students and staff.
We are also responsible for ensuring the school environment is conducive to learning.
An important element of both priorities is teaching and reinforcing appropriate behavior, as well as responding to inappropriate behavior.

Our expectations in May and June remain as they have all year.
Families can help us by reminding children of their expectations for appropriate behavior at school.
As always, it’s a team effort.

We appreciate the support.

May 7

Achievement & Attendance



The fact that attendance and student achievement are linked really should not come as a surprise.
How do you learn the content when you are not regularly in school?

We recently created a scatter plot to explore the relationship between attendance of our eighth grade students and their achievement on the NWEA MAP test this spring.

The x-axis on the graph shows the percentage of days a student was in attendance at school.
The y-axis on the graph displays the RIT score a student achieved on the spring assessment of the NWEA MAP for math.

Note that none of the students who missed the most school were among the higher achievers on the test.
Also note that among the students who most regularly attended school, low scores were rare.

Unfortunately, school attendance has been on a decline.
We have not yet achieved our school-wide goal of a daily average of 96% of students in attendance over the course of a month. In fact, our best month to date was October, when we were at 94%.

If we want achievement to improve, it seems we need attendance to improve first.


May 2

The Gift of Failure: Chapter 12 – Dialogue Question 2

The following statement is from page 235:

“A better way to approach grades and report cards is to talk to kids about what went well with a particular assignment or class when they receive a high grade. Ask what approaches worked for your child as he prepared for that French test, and what approaches did not work as well. If he gets a low grade on a test, as what he might do differently next time, strategies that were successful or problematic. Grades should be a measure of progress, not a destination, so give them the weight and attention they deserve, no more.”

How might this shift in focus impact the parent-child relationship?
What might be the long-term benefit to learning?


The final session of our book study will be in-person at school next Wednesday, May 9 at 6PM.

Thank you to all who have been involved in our book study, learning from and with each other.


May 2

The Gift of Failure: Chapter 12 – Dialogue Question 1

The on-line component of our Community Book Study wraps up today with a conversation about Chapter 12 of The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey – Grades: The Real Value of A Low Score.

Our Community Book Study is an opportunity for us to learn together on a topic that impacts the education and development of our children and students. Whether or not you have been reading the book, you are invited to add to the conversation by responding to the prompts or comments from other participants.

The following statement is from page 225:

“Grades are extrinsic rewards for academic performance. Extrinsic rewards undermine motivation and long-term learning. Ergo grades undermine motivation and long term-learning.”

What is your reaction to this statement?
Can grades have value as they relate to the learning cycle?




April 30

Thirteen (and a half) Things New Algonquin Parents Should Know

Last Wednesday night was our annual 5th Grade Parent Meeting. It was pleasing to have a record crowd on hand (51% of the families we expect to make up next year’s 6th grade class). We used the meeting to share thirteen (and a half) things parents new to Algonquin should know.

  1. We’re on a mission.
    Algonquin students and staff (with some input from parents) recently re-wrote our mission statement. Beginning in the fall of 2017, our new mission statement will be: Algonquin Middle School offers a positive and safe environment in which students will obtain knowledge and skills to achieve success.

    The statement compliments the work we did during the 2016-2017 school year to identify the abilities, actions, and attitudes we strive to develop in our students while they are at Algonquin.

  2. Middle level children are unique.
    Next to the early years of life, children develop at a greater rate during the middle school years than any other time during life. They enter middle school closer in age to kindergarteners and exit middle school only four years away from graduating high school.
  3. Curriculum is exploratory and aligns with state standards.
    The middle school curriculum is designed to prepare students for what high school, as well as to give them an opportunity to experience a variety of opportunities.
  4. Title One makes a difference.
    Algonquin is a Title One school, which means we receive funds to help support our academically struggling students. The additional funds we receive allow us to purchase equipment and run programs to help our students.
  5. Algonquin students grow.
    Comparing Algonquin’s test scores to those of neighboring schools can be deceiving. Our students regularly achieve growth at a rate greater than national and district norms.
  6. Failure provides opportunity.
    Algonquin works to promote a growth mindset in our students, helping them to understand intelligence is not a fixed asset. We can all “get smarter”. Parents can help with this by the language with which they speak to their children and the language they encourage their children to use. A simple step is to add the word “yet” to the end of sentences, such as “I don’t understand . . . yet.”
  7. Student attendance and involvement matter.
    It may seem logical, but evidence suggests students achieve better when they regularly attend school. Providing children opportunities to participate in before or after-school activities can help, as well.
  8. Parents are important,
    Middle school students need their parents to be involved. Algonquin wants parents to stay involved.
    (8.5) and please be patient in the parking lot. Please help us by following our parking lot procedures. They are designed to keep everybody safe.
  9. Communication is key.
    Algonquin uses US Mail, email, our web site, Remind, and several digital media platforms in an attempt to meet parents where they are and to keep everybody informed. If parents ever have a question about anything, we encourage you to call us.
  10. Cell phones are good (and bad).
    We understand the importance of cell phones. Many students carry them for safety reasons and as a means to stay in touch with family. At times, we also allow them to be used to support the curriculum. Parents need to be aware, however, that use of devices needs to be monitored. An important suggestion to follow is to disallow devices from children’s bedrooms (particularly at night). Parents may be interested in utilizing the Family Cell Phone Agreement (posted to our web site) in their homes.
  11. We are a team. 
    Misunderstandings and disagreements may arise, but school and families are on the same team, working to support our students’ best interest.
  12. Everybody belongs!
    We are extremely excited that Algonquin will be a WEB school beginning with the 2018-2019 school year. We are in the process of identifying and developing student-leaders who will help our incoming 6th graders to transition to middle school. Students will be receiving invitations to attend an orientation on August 23. We hope to see ALL of our new 6th grade students at this event!
  13. Middle school matters.
    Research shows that the greatest indicator of college readiness is whether or not the student is academically sound at the end of eighth-grade year.
April 25

The Gift of Failure: Chapter 11 – Dialogue Question

Algonquin’s Community Book Study of The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey continues with Chapter 11, Homework: How To Help Without Taking Over.

Consider the following statements from the author, who is a parent and a high school teacher:

  • “It’s really important that kids know we have other things to do in our lives than sit next to them and wait for them to get stuck and ask questions.” (page 214)
  • “When parents step in and ‘help,’ however, teachers get an inaccurate representation of that mastery.” (page 216)

Please share your thoughts about homework and how parents can help ensure students do the work, without doing it for them.

The on-line portion of our book study will conclude next Wednesday, May 2, with Chapter 12 – Grades: The Real Value Of A Low Score.

Thanks to all who participate!


April 24

Algonquin Hosts Chippewa Valley BOE

Last night was a unique moment in the history of Algonquin, when we had a chance to host a Chippewa Valley Schools’ Board of Education meeting.

Special thanks to our team of staff members and students who helped ensure the building looked great for this event.

Board members and central office administrators who were present were grateful and enjoyed their time in our building.  Our jazz band provided pre-meeting entertainment and four Student Council members served as tour guides. Our visitors were impressed by the polished sound of the band and by the enthusiasm and pride from our student guides.

A few of our parents and staff members stuck around to attend the meeting.

It was a pleasure to host the Board of Education and show off our building, if only for a few hours.



April 18

The Gift of Failure: Chapter 10 – Dialogue Question 2

Consider the following excerpts from The Gift of Failure:

“When your child is dissatisfied with something that has happened at school, whether she is upset about a grade or feels a teacher has acted unfairly, the student should always be encouraged to speak to the teacher directly. As children move into middle school, students should be responsible for dealing with the details of their education and scheduling, including planned absence forms, permission forms, and deadlines.” (page 199)

“When a teacher reports that something is going on with your child, at least consider that the teacher might be right. Rejecting teacher observations out of hand is a common defensive move, . . ., but it damages relationships and delays the opportunity for academic psychological, or medical help for a student.” (page 200)

“It is very confusing for children (particularly young ones) to understand when parents and teachers, their authority figures, collide.” (page 202)

 How can parents and teachers work together in the best interest of students, even when concerns or disagreements arise?


Thank you for participating. The conversation continues on-line on April 25, when we’ll look at Chapter 11 – Homework.