News From Your ESU

Submitted by: Stephanie Malcolm ESU #15

     Feeling thankful this month as I write from my desk at ESU 15. I can look out my window and see the American and Nebraska flags of Community First Bank blowing in the crisp, fall breezes. I am thankful for the bags of popcorn given away at the bank on Fridays and the tax dollars that afford the support the ESU gives to our educational systems and communities in Southwest Nebraska.
As we count down the final weeks left in this decade, I will share just a few of the happenings over the last months, and also, a bit of what is to come in 2020.
     My partner in delivering professional development, Kelly Erickson, is participating in Cognitive Coaching Training in Neligh this month and focusing on continued improvement with teacher efficacy and effectiveness in the classroom. An educator of 24 years, she brings many hats and much experience to the ESU. Once a teacher, coach, school counselor, principal, and now staff developer, she continues to be focused on positively affecting student outcomes while coaching teachers to be their best. As she mentors teachers and administration, she also coaches me as I find my way in a new position, to which I am very grateful. She has been assisting schools in our service area with School Improvement Plans and processes, Continuous School Improvement, and is using certification within the NWEA, MAP testing platform to effectively utilize assessment data to increase student achievement. (Northwest Evaluation Association, Measuring Academic Progress) She is full of knowledge and experience about what works in education and has been instrumental in coordinating Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in our school districts over the last seven years at ESU 15. She was a Maywood/Hayes Center football mom, as she helped her husband coach their team through a successful season. She’s a natural leader, for sure! I often wonder why more of us don’t have coaches. Successful athletes are always thanking them…what if we thanked the ‘coaches’ out of the blue that inspire our children daily…our teachers?     
     Kelly and I were Evidence-Based Analysis (EBA) Reviewers for the Nebraska Department of Education over the last month. Many ESU staff and educational specialists from around the state spent many hours combing through evidence schools submitted for further review with the department, with hopes of “bumping up” one level on their state AQuESTT scores.(Accountability for a Quality Education System Today, and Tomorrow) It is not a perfect system yet, but NDE is working on it. The accountability system changed as of April 2014 with the Quality Education Accountability Act. As a taxpayer, I am concerned with how our tax dollars are spent in education and was surprised at the levels of evidence and lack thereof, provided by schools around the state when proving how they stack up against the AQuESTT criteria. The Nebraska Department of Education considers input from many stakeholder groups for this system. The areas of focus are positive partnerships, relationships, and success; transitions; educational opportunities and access; college, career, and civic ready; assessment; and educator effectiveness. Local control is still a priority in Nebraska and our accountability system allows for our unique differences across the state.
     We have hosted over 110 area educators from preschool to high school classrooms, and principals and superintendents so far this school year for professional development. They come to Trenton for a day of sharing and collaborating, information on how to keep their classroom practices engaging and up-to-date, data digs, student and educator wellness strategies, student-centered and rigorous lesson ideas, and many resources they can take back to their classrooms and implement. Kelly and I review needs assessment data from principals and teachers to plan our professional development, as well as, take recommendations and training from other ESUs, the Nebraska Department of Education, and other educational institutions to design professional development for schools that will help them be reliably successful in the future. If you’d like to see pictures of our PLCs, follow us on Twitter @ESU15Tech. I am grateful that we have so many knowledgeable and dedicated people serving the students of Southwest Nebraska. I learn so much from them at each of our PLCs.
     The new decade will bring some exciting additions and new approaches to how Kelly and I deliver professional development and support services to our school districts. As technology advances and educators shift their classroom practices to meet the needs of the 21st century learner, we too, are shifting our methods to meet the needs of the 21st century teacher. This means utilizing technology to reach more educators more often by giving them access to professional development “on-the-go”, delivering alternative ways to access quality, professional development, and also, availability for more face-to-face interactions on-site at their buildings for coaching and support. I am excited to explore the Articulate 360 program on asynchronous learning design that I will be a part of the 2020-2021 cohort of participants through a program offered by the Nebraska Department of Education, as well. We continue to focus on innovating and improving student and teacher experiences and outcomes in our schools, and I am excited to see what the new decade holds.
     Paul Calvert, our ESU 15 Administrator, attends the Nebraska Association of School Boards State Education Conference in Omaha this month. He will bring back information on many different topics affecting schools in the coming decade in Southwest Nebraska. Some topics addressed are current policy and legal issues, legislative updates (NE Education Chair Groene will be in attendance), cyber security, school safety, student/teacher wellness, equity in schools, superintendent evaluations, 2019 NE flood updates, student voices, and building school cultures to name a few. You can access more information from the website members.nasbonline.org.
     I invite you to visit our website at esu15.org. I also invite you to stop into the ESU if you have any questions about something in this article or wasn’t in the article. Laurie, our new ESU 15 Administrative Assistant and Distance Learning Coordinator will greet you with a smile and a wealth of information.     She has taken over for Barb Hidy, who retired after over 30 years with ESU 15. I am extremely grateful for her insights and what I learn from her each day.
     As I continue to be grateful for the continued opportunity to learn and share each day, I encourage you to do the same. We are all teachers and learners everyday, in school and out.

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