Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Welcome to the Wall of Fame

The Don Viar Memorial Wall of Fame began in 1997. Don Viar came to Abingdon in 1945. Along with his teaching duties, Coach Viar assumed the roles of Athletic Director, head football coach, junior varsity basketball coach, and head track coach. During his 15 years at Abingdon, his teams amassed a record of 78-40-5 which is a .654 win percentage. During the time the teams of 1948 and 1954, both of which as members of the Wall of Fame, went undefeated and untied.
There are currently 41 members of the Don Viar Memorial Wall of Fame. This evening we welcomed five new members. Each of these members has made a significant impact on the A-Town communities.
Dick Brown
After a successful athletic career at Canton HS, Richard “Dick” Brown continued on to be a standout athlete on the baseball field and basketball court at Spoon River College. He then went on to play both sports at Western Illinois University. While at Spoon River, he broke the scoring record for points scored in a game. He held that record until the mid 1980’s when the three point shot was introduced. A few years ago, he was inducted into the Canton HS Athletic Hall of Fame.
After earning his master’s degree from WIU, he taught science for a short time in the Colchester School District. In 1970, Dick and his family moved to Avon and began what would become a 41-year career at Avon HS. He wore many hats over that tenure including physical education and driver’s education teacher, athletic director, and dean of students. He also coached many sports during his time at Avon including boys’ basketball, girls’ track, and golf.
Throughout his time at Avon, he saw many changes in the school district. He and his wife were fully vested as they raised and graduated all five of their kids as Avon Trojans. The school was their family’s second home as his athletic directing duties required many after hour and weekend chores to be done - usually with at least one of his kids “helping”. Some of the biggest changes/challenges came with the athletic co-ops as the athletic numbers dwindled. There was a time that he had to coordinate transportation and scheduling with Valley HS, Abingdon HS, and Roseville HS as Avon cooped sports with all three. He had a great working relationship with so many area athletic directors, principals, coaches, and officials….most of which he still calls friends. Recently, someone talking with one of his daughters noted that at the conference meetings, they still strive to run things “like Mr. Brown used to do it!” The IESA and IHSA gave Mr. Brown the honor and responsibility MANY times to host regional and sectional events, though the gym was not always conducive for larger crowd – they KNEW it would be a well-run tournament!
Though Mr. Brown retired from teaching in 2011, he continued helping with the A.D. duties for a few more years. Though fully retired now, he can still be seen gracing the area gyms as he cheers for his two granddaughters and their A-Town Tornado teams!
Mel Casper
Mel Casper taught Art and coached high school boys basketball in Abingdon from 1983 to 1985 and Avon from 1985 to 1994. During his tenure at both schools, his teams won: 4 conference championships, 6 regional championships, and made 3 sectional final appearances. Prior to the consolidation, both Abingdon High School and Avon High School benefited from his creative artwork in the gymnasiums, classrooms, and hallways. With the consolidation in 2013, Coach Casper was the creative genius behind the school district’s new mascot and color scheme. All of the artwork you see in both gyms was created by him in his shop in Avon. Mel continues to live in Avon and has recently volunteered his time with the junior high girl's basketball program.
Coach Casper molded not only art and basketball skills but also the development of young men and women to better prepare them for success in their adult lives after graduation.
Steve Franklin
Steve Franklin is a 1984 graduate of Abingdon High School and a lifelong member of the Abingdon community. Steve has operated his businesses in the Abingdon and Avon communities from 1993 through the present day. He is a sponsor of the Sid Harmon Memorial award, along with annual support of both the Avon Fat Steer Show and the Abingdon Community Fall Festival. Over the last several years, Steve’s Friday night firework displays associated with Tornado football have become famous.
Steve is always quick to step up to help support programs or beneficial activity that serves the youth of each community. Steve is the kind of guy that hangs in the background doing the things that many times go unnoticed. Thank you for you service and support!
Rick Quinn Sr.
Rick Quinn Sr. has served the Abingdon and then Abingdon/Avon communities for almost his entire life. Rick has been involved in several aspects of the school community. He is a 1976 Abingdon High School graduate where he participated in football and track. After serving in the Army, Rick returned to Abingdon and became a successful business owner. His restaurant served as a community gathering place for 22 years before it was lost to a fire. Rick served as an assistant football coach for 25 years before semi-retiring after the 2014 season. Rick also served as the head track coach for one year when the track program was brought back in the spring of 2015. He has since taken on a new role serving the youth of Abingdon-Avon as a volunteer junior high JFL football coach. Through the years Rick Quinn Sr. has aided in the development of countless young men from the Abingdon-Avon communities. He has donated endless hours and been willing to go above and beyond when it has come to helping our youth.
Larry Wherley
Larry lived in the Abingdon area all of his life, graduating from Abingdon High School in 1969. Larry taught vocational agriculture classes at Abingdon High School for 28 years. He was the FFA Advisor and the Livestock Judging Coach, earning man awards as a Judging team as well as Parliamentary Procedures, Public Speaking, and Record Books. Larry was very proud of his Ag. class members and taught them the importance of community service. The community service projects included: assisting the American Legion with Memorial Day flag placement for veterans at the local cemeteries, setting up luminaries for the Annual Chamber of Commerce Christmas Walk, pouring new sidewalks for the community, building new dugouts at the ballpark, cleaning up the old pottery grounds, planting trees and landscaping the schools, and detailing fire trucks in Abingdon. During his time at Abingdon High School he also coached football and baseball. Larry was a member of the Abingdon Community Festival Association where he ran the Livestock Show and Auction. Larr also sat on the Knox County 4-H Foundation Board. He was a member of the FFA Alumni, Illinois Teachers Association, and was an original member of the Abingdon Jaycees serving as President for a time. Larry was dedicated to the Abingdon area and was always willing to lend a hand to this community. Larry passed away last year after a battle with cancer. His wife Judy, daughter Patti Stoneking and son in law Donnie Stoneking accepted the award on his behalf.

Winter Spirit Week

I want to congratulate the A-Town High School Student Council on a very successful winter spirit week! The participation of the student body was the highest it has been. Throughout the week, students raised money for the statewide student council philanthropy project. Money was raised through a coin war. Each class had a container in which coins were positive and bills were negative. So, classes were putting bills in other classes containers trying to win! One student, Chelcy Lytle, made a contribution of $352! The total raised for the week was $1,529!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Dual Credit Expansion at A-Town

Abingdon-Avon students graduating with the class of 2018 will have the opportunity to earn an Associate Degree from Carl Sandburg College while they are in high school. Over the last three years, dual credit at Abingdon-Avon High School has expanded from 12 credit hours in 2013-2014, to 24 credit hours in 2014-2015, to 30 credit hours in 2015-2016. Course offerings for 2016-2017 are essentially unlimited based on student interest.

The desire to expand dual credit opportunities for students are as follows:
  • Challenge students at their level
    • Many students are ready for college level work.
    • Students who have been participating in our current dual credit program have a very solid track record of success.
  • Ease transition to college for students
    • The transition to college can be difficult if students have never been exposed to a college environment. This helps students learn time management and the demands of college level work. 
  • Cost savings for students and parents
    • The costs associated with attending a four year university have increased 500% over the last 30 years. 
    • If students participate in the full program, the average anticipated cost per credit hour is   $120. 
  • Better use of financial aid for students
    • Students will enter undergraduate programs with freshman financial aid status.
    • Federal PELL money is available for six years after high school graduation. Students can use this money for advanced degree which cost more than junior college courses. 
  • Early exposure/success leads to a degree
    • Research shows that students who take and complete dual credit courses are more likely to earn a bachelor degree. Numerous studies confirm this.
  • Expand curriculum opportunities for students
    • With the current economic climate in Illinois, curricular opportunities are shrinking for many students across the state.  This is a way to expand opportunities for students. 
How will this be accomplished?
  • Student choice
    • The full course of study would allow students to earn an Associate of Arts.
    • Students can participate in as much or as little of the dual credit program as they choose.
    • Students can take courses that will apply to their chosen field of study.
  • Trimester schedule
    • Allows students to take three courses (9 credit hours) each term.
    • Two courses will occur with a CSC instructor at AAHS.
    • The third course will be online with designated time during the school day.
  • CSC tuition = $150 per credit hour
  • Dual credit students are offered half price tuition up to 12 credit hours per year.
  • 9 credit hours per term = 
    • Fall = $1050 ($75 x 4= $300 + $150 x 5= $750)
    • Winter = $1050 ($75 x 4= $300 + $150 x 5= $750)
    • Spring = $1050 ($75 x 4= $300 + $150 x 5= $750)
    • Summer = $1050 ($150 x 7)
  • Overall cost of the full program = $7350 (61 total hours/$7350= $120/hour)
  • Same 61 hours @ (This just represents tuition costs. Fees, room and board are extra)
    • WIU = $23,400.82 (61 x $383.62)
    • Bradley University = $59,303 (61 x $972)
    • Monmouth College = $69,540 (61 x $1140)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What Does Education Mean for Students Who Find it Meaningless?

I actually started writing this blog in December 2014.  I have thought about the subject often, but have not been able to put "pen to paper" because I don't have the answers necessary to correct the problem and that is something that makes me unsure of myself, which is an uncomfortable feeling.  So, in an effort to gain insight and new opinions on the issue, I will switch my initial intent and let out a cry for help.

Last week I had two difficult conversations with students who do not like school.  Each student had different reasons for not liking school, but both are having similar issues (failing courses, poor attendance) because they do not like taking the core classes that are required by AAHS and the State of Illinois for graduation.
Student A does not like sitting in class.  I believe that math and English are difficult for them and they would rather be doing something else.  Student A has a schedule in place that attempts to accommodate their desire to not sit in a classroom, however there are still times in the day in which sitting in a classroom is a necessity due to requirements.
Student B has other circumstances.  They do not mind being in class because of the social aspect, but they have no intention of completing, "that teacher's work."  As long as this perspective endures, is there really any hope of completing requirements?  This attitude is not confined to just one class.  This student is required by probation to be in school, but that is where it stops.  They find no meaning in the traditional/contemporary school setting.

What does education mean for students who find it meaningless and why do all students have to learn the same thing/standard/content?  Essentially, that is what is required for graduation, both through the Illinois State Board of Education and Abingdon-Avon High School.  There are a few categories in which we can "group" students.  Those who are bound for college success right out of high school.  Those who jump through enough hoops to make it through high school.  Then there are those who will not jump through the hoops.  I cringe at meetings for a struggling student when another staff member says, "this is just a hoop you have to jump through."  Why?!?!  I suppose that is more of a rhetorical why.  Hopefully though, it is more of a reflective, why.  We make many attempts to work with at risk students, but the current financial and educational environment in Illinois does not help.  There are many avenues to point blame or make excuses, but that doesn't make any progress toward finding a solution.

Student motivation is an issue in every school in the world.  How are others addressing it?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Iowa 1:1 Institute

Last week a team from Abingdon-Avon attended the 6th Annual Iowa 1:1 Institute in Des Moines, Iowa. Around 1200 educators from around the Midwest gathered for the worlds largest 1:1 technology conference. I am always impressed by the level of innovation and collegiality in Iowa schools.  Many school districts in Iowa have been practicing 1:1 programs for several years so they have a wealth of information and experience that they are always willing to share.  

The conference began with a Leadership Day on the afternoon before the conference.  Buddy Berry, Superintendent at Eminence Independent Schools in Eminence Kentucky, was the speaker.  He showcased some of the innovative, students centered approaches that Eminence Schools are practicing.  He described traditional school through a process in which gaps are created at the end of each grade level.  One in which even if students do not master necessary skills and concepts they are passed along to the next grade.  Mr. Berry has changed his school district from the Ford model of instruction (assembly line) to a competency based model in which students demonstrate skills to progress through school.  For example to be able to move on from Kindergarten, students must be able to create digital audio books.  Eminence creates D.N.A (Digital Narrative Album) that follows the student through their schooling so all who interact with students know how they learn, their strengths and areas of growth.  Eminence ISD also employs a very innovative schedule in which the majority of academic classes are held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while Tuesday and Thursday are dedicated to I.C.E. (Intervention, Connections, and Enrichment)  Students use this time to take advantage of dual credit opportunities as well as hone skills necessary for success.  Through all of this Eminence Schools graduate more than 90% of their students either college or career ready. Abingdon-Avon has begun the process to become more student centered. Teachers are working weekly to make school work better for students.

The conference featured many different concurrent sessions.  I was able to take advantage of two sessions with Shawn McCusker along with a sessions by Dr. Clayton Edwards and Mr. Jimmy Casas.  Shawn McCusker is an amazing educator from Libertyville, Illinois.  His classroom is has made the shift to become student centered.  He allows students to create more than they consume.  Students are allowed to work in the medium that suits them best.  Students research and fact check each other because they have been conditioned to do so. 

Mr. Jimmy Casas, Principal at Bettendorf High School, spoke on, What Connected Educators Do Differently. As a colleague and I were discussing, sometimes you just need a dose of Jimmy.  Mr. Casas is a master at building a positive culture. His people centered (and I use the work people intentionally) approach leads to a very positive culture and atmosphere.  One in which people (students, staff, community) want to be a part of.  Mr. Casas is always good for a dose of motivation and you always leave wanting to be better.

Dr. Clayton Edwards is a middle school math teacher from Grundy Center, Iowa. The structure of his math class allows students to progress at their pace which meets each student's needs.  He utilizes technology and manipulative assignments to engage students.  Dr. Edwards' data speaks for itself: 
7th Grade
100% of Students Proficient                                      27/43 Students Were Classified "Advanced"

40/43 Students Showed Growth                                
37/43 Students Grew By One Grade Level or More

In closing, the Iowa 1:1 Institute is so much more than schools talking about what device they employ.  My biggest take aways were strategies to pass on to my staff to become more student centered. Technology resources make this easier to achieve, but implementing strategies that make students the most important people in the building is why I am in education.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Looking Back at PARCC

Abingdon-Avon High School recently completed the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exam for English II and Geometry courses.  This post will hopefully shed some light for parents and community members who are curious about the process. For the PBA (Performance Based Assessment) portion there were three English sections and two Geometry sections.  For the EOY (End of Year) assessement, there were two sections of Endglish and two sections of Geometry.  In total, 80 students participated in the English assessment, while 69 students participated in the Geometry assessment.  Of these students, 36 participated in both the English and Geometry assessments.
The deciding factor in which students were tested is different from years past.  For many years it was common practice to have all students in one grade take the same assessment.  For example, all Freshmen used to take the Explore exam, all Sophomores used to take the Plan exam, and all Juniors took the ACT exam.  PARCC is different at the high school level in that students are tested based on which classes they are enrolled in.  So, as previously mentioned, all students enrolled in English II took that exam.  All students enrolled in Geometry took the Geometry exam.  Hence the 36 students enrolled in both English II and Geometry took all five sections (3 English & 2 Geometry) of the PBA and four sections (2 English & 2 Geometry) of the EOY.  
Abingdon-Avon is blessed with an incredible technology infrastructure and resources so utilizing the computer based test mode worked very well.  Since all students have their own Chromebook they were able to have easy access to the test during each session.  Gaining access to the testing portal was incredibly easy. After hearing some horror stories during the field tests we were nervous how the system would operate. Those involved in developing the TestNav program and interface did a nice job, because it was simple and user friendly.
Feedback from students was generally positive overall.  The vast majority of students I interacted with after testing were not overwhelmed by the exam and stated that the practice tests were more difficult than the actual test.
The one concern I have with the process is how much the testing schedule has interrupted learning for an entire week with the PBA assessment.  Two factors led to the interruption.  First, since there were five sections of the test that allowed 75 - 90 each to complete we had to devote the entire morning for four days to testing.  This not only took three teachers out of their classrooms, but pulled students away from their scheduled classes all week, which is the second factor.  On the surface one would think that only those three teachers had their schedules interrupted.  This is not the case because at different times anywhere from 35 - 40 students were pulled from class to take the exams.  As previously mentioned students tested if they were enrolled in Geometry or ELA II.  We have students freshmen through senior standing taking Geometry, so ALL classes for the entire week were disrupted.  For the PBA, we could have crammed more tests into a lesser number of days, but I would assume if a student took all five sections in one day that would change the validity of the test because of test fatigue.  After listening to concerns, the Illinois State Board of Education has promised that the examination will be shorter next year.
Overall, the administration of the PARCC exam was not negative.  There has been a lot of bad press, protests from students, and parents attempting to opt their students out.  After experiencing the testing process, seeing the work students were asked to complete, and gaining feedback from the students themselves; the bad press, protests, and opts outs all seem pretty silly.  Standardized testing has been around a long time and will continue to be around.  In the end, the PARCC exam did a nice job of asking students to demonstrate necessary skills unlike some tests such as the ACT which are norm referenced and basically designed for section of the population to fail.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What Does Reading, Writing, and Literacy Mean In a Digital Age?

I contend that students read and write more today than they have ever.  Therefore, I believe that students are more literate than ever before.  One look around any school will lead you to believe me.  Before the digital age I can only remember one student I had that would walk down the hall reading a book.  Amazingly enough, he never ran into a wall.  Today I see dozens of students reading and even writing on their devices between every class period.  I see almost every student in every class connected and engaged in their chromebook during class reading content.  Are they reading Dickens, Vonnegut, or Chaucer?  Probably not, but they are reading and writing.  Reading and literacy takes on a new meaning as we have moved away from an analog style to a digital style.  Reading used to be a lonely game.  Reading used to be curling up with an actual book.  Today, reading is interactive and collaborative. Students are reading status's, writing in 140 characters or less, liking, sharing, re-tweeting, texting (yes, I used that as a verb), #discovering, and other cool things that I probably know nothing about.  I would say that all of this is okay and not as scary as some would lead you to believe.  I am sure that any English teacher will back me up on this, it is an absolute struggle to get a large portion of students to read and write, but now they are doing it voluntarily.  What about grammar and spelling? Text message lingo is not appropriate for formal settings, but Facebook,Twitter, and a students text message reel are not formal settings.  This is where students need to be taught the difference.
Literacy in a digital age is a major change and it requires education to change to attempt to keep up.  I am by no means saying that books and content should go away.  Some students and staff still prefer having an actual book to read and that is okay (for now). However, as we progress I would forecast that content will be at least 95% digital within five years.  This is a major mind shift for many in education and can be scary. In my opinion, the access that students have is great because, as I began students read and write more today than they have ever.