Thursday, November 16, 2017

Belonging Projects

By Richard Swanson
Byron Middle School Principal

We recently put our BEARS language to practice when our students helped develop the Belonging Projects for the end of Quarter 1. Students had discussions in their Bears Advisory time and decided to learn about and play different games together. The 6th-grade students taught their peers about some of their favorite games and then spent an hour playing them. The 7th grade created a "Minute To Win It" game show and competed against other Bears groups. The 8th-grade team signed up to learn some new games like Euchre. We even had a few individual groups that helped out in the community. Priority 3 of our Strategic Plan is "Develop well-rounded students in the areas of character, community, and academics. We will run these projects at the end of each Quarter. Our next afternoon will be covering the Educated and Active Learning components of our language when we have an Exploratory Day. We will be reaching out to our great community to help teach different sessions that our students can choose to learn about. It will be a lot of fun learning together. Go BEARS!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Byron Homecoming at BHS

Byron Homecoming

We had an amazing 2017 Homecoming week at Byron High School.  

On Monday we had Homecoming Coronation at the BMS Auditorium
Freshmen: Lauren Raymond & Travis Underwood
Sophomores: Payton Sampson & Carter Wilde
Juniors: Mia Jorgensen & Dylan Nickrenz
Seniors: Erika Smith, Ayoka Lee, Ryann Lake, Roni Mangouras, Luke Barth, Javin Logan, Owen Radke, Sean LaPlante

Prince: Mathew Hollister
Princess: Julia Fuchsteiner 

Our king is Owen Radke and our queen is Ayoka Lee.

On Tuesday, the Fall Captains and the Homecoming Court visited the Primary and Intermediate school at lunch and recess, spending time with students K-5.
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On Wednesday we hosted a student volleyball tournament.  We had many teams fight for the victory but by far the most creative team name and uniform was Team Hy-Vee.
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On Friday we held an exciting Pepfest, which included a guy/girl dance

And even staff participation

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The afternoon consisted of our annual parade. We are lucky to have such community support and involvement.

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PTO/Student Council Tailgating before the big game was largely attended. 


We played Lourdes and put up a huge fight, losing 21/20


Halftime consisted of: BHS Spirit Squad

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Homecoming Court,

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Hall of Fame Inductees, followed by the BHS Pep Band.

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Saturday held the Homecoming Dance


and the Hall of Fame Banquet:

2000 Baseball team

Kathy Borgschatz, Ed Voll, Owen Hoegh

  • Tom Holets 1977 Graduate
    He earned 10 athletic letters. Was captain of the varsity track, football and wrestling teams; setting numerous school records.   
  • Cathy Borgschatz 1989 Graduate
    Cathy is a four-year letter winner in basketball, three of which she was named All-Conference.  She was a three-year letter winner in softball and received All-Conference all three years.  She was a two-year letter winner in volleyball and received All-Conference one of those years.  She served as a captain on all three teams her senior year.  
  • Owen Hoegh 2000 Graduate
    Earned 9 letters in football, basketball, and baseball.  Was Academic All-State and team captain for football, basketball, and baseball his senior year.  Was named All-Conference and All-Area as a junior in football.  Was named All-Conference twice in basketball and was the team’s MVP his senior year.  
  • Ed Voll Class of 1940
    One of Byron’s biggest athletic supporters!  Ed has been supporting the school’s football, basketball, wrestling, softball, baseball and volleyball programs throughout the last 70 years.  During his high school career here at Byron, Ed earned two letters in basketball and was part of the Letterman’s Club.  Ed graduated from Byron in 1940, at graduation, he was awarded The Best School Citizen Award and The American Legion Award for Merit, Scholarship, Courage and Leadership.  

Honoring 2000 Baseball Team - 5th at the state tournament, team Academic all-state. Combined 46-9 record, junior and senior seasons. Junior year had the most wins in the state and their senior year they were ranked one or two all year. 8 boys in their class were in the honor society 6 of them on the baseball team. Four players were named all section, two players were named all-state. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Connections are Every Where!

by Amanda Durnen

Often times we think of the schools in Byron as their own entities.  We have the Primary School, Intermediate School, Middle School, and High School.  Although we are all located on our own campus, we do share a trait that can be felt district-wide: connectedness!

Through the month of September, connectedness was all around us.  From Homecoming Week activities, to Middle School students sharing Bullying presentations to our younger students, to our Intermediate School 5th graders getting ready to start their Leadership opportunities at the Primary School, to one particular story that had a perfectly connected ending.

At the start of the school year, we had noticed that our recess ball cart was beginning to feel the wear and tear of being highly used.  This was a good sign!  Kids were enjoying the activities that our ball cart was housing.  Last week, we were almost sure it had seen its final day.  After several attempts by our maintenance staff to try and save it with the materials we had access to at our building, it wasn’t looking good.

We want our students to recognize and utilize the resources around them when they are available, so why wouldn’t we as a school do the same.  A photo was taken and sent to the High School Industrial Tech class to see if they were interested in a project.  “Absolutely”, was the response.  The next morning the cart was delivered to the High School. 

At 2:15 pm that same day, I noticed two students rolling a fully functional blue ball cart up the sidewalk.  They rolled it in and shared that they had bolted all of the pieces back together and reinforced the attachments.  It looked brand new.

What started as a lost cause, ended up a complete success because of the connectedness we share as a district.  The true spirit of helping each other was alive and well.  Four young men were able to repair our recess cart and renew our spirit!  What a GREAT community of students and staff we have here in Byron!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Parent Involvement at the Primary School

By Amanda Durnen

Parents are the first educator’s in a child’s life.  We want to be true partners in education with all of our families.  Creating relationships between families and schools is a priority for us at Byron Primary School.  We are always looking for opportunities to engage and involve families in a child’s educational journey.

Research shows that a home to school connection can have many benefits including that of increasing student learning.  We like to start our school year by involving parents in a Back to School conference opportunity that allows parents, teachers and children the time to begin to create a comfortable relationship with each other.

This winter, we had a Family Literacy Night where parents and children practiced literacy strategies.  The children were the teachers in helping their parents understand how the strategies help them read.  It was not only an informative evening, but a fun and engaging event.  Students were able to take home two new books with them to keep practicing their reading strategies at home.  Parents left with tools in their toolbox to help their child when they are at home and need guidance.

Classroom teachers are always welcoming parents and families into their rooms whether it be for holiday celebrations, helping with learning centers, Kindergarten cooking or just as an extra set of hands.  Our goal is to continue to create more school-wide opportunities for parents and children to continue to learn and grow together!  Be watching for information on a Family Engineering Night coming in May!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February is Jump Rope For Heart Month

By Amanda Durnen

It has become a familiar part of each school year for Byron students: Jump Rope for Heart.  Each year in collaboration with the American Heart Association, we embark on a campaign to help those who have suffered from heart disease.  There are many benefits for kids to become involved in this campaign:

  • Jump Rope for Heart teaches students how to develop heart-healthy habits and the importance of physical activity.
  • Jump Rope for Heart teaches students the value of community service and empowers students to contribute to their community’s welfare.
  • Jump Rope for Heart brings students together in helping other kids with special hearts.
  • Jump Rope for Heart teaches jump rope skills to students that they can use the rest of their lives.

Byron Primary School had it’s kickoff on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017.  Our campaign will run through February 23rd, 2017 where we will have our finale assembly to celebrate the generosity of our students and families by unveiling a Grand Total.

Last year Byron students in grades 1-4 were the top raising students in the state of Minnesota!  They collected a record-breaking $42,273.33.  What a proud moment for our students!  This year we are aiming to beat our total from last year.  We hope to accomplish this goal with our Intermediate School friends and their Hoops for Heart event.  Here’s to a happy and healthy month of campaigning and helping those who need our help!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Active Learning at Byron Middle School

By Richard Swanson

It is hard to believe that we are half way through the school year.  We have had a lot of new things happening at BMS this year.  Through each of the changes, we are maintaining a relentless focus on our students.  We know that our students are at a unique place in their development.  Social, emotional, physical and intellectual growth is happening at a rapid pace.  We continue to use the AMLE Research to guide the teaching and learning that take place at BMS.  We recently communicated the importance of understanding the brain development of our adolescents and provide them strategies as they grow into understanding how to manage their impulses and organize themselves with more self-control.  If you missed it, here is a good article on executive function that helps explain more about our MS students so we can encourage them to actively participate.  

It has been an exciting first half of the year with many wonderful learning experiences happening across the school.  We ended the second quarter with our BEARS Projects that focused on the Educated and Active Learning words in our common language acronym.  Check out the pictures for some of the deep learning experiences the students were participating in that afternoon.  It was a great time together and we appreciate the parents, grandparents and community members that joined us.  It is great to be in a supportive community as we continue to push our students to Learn, Share, Innovate and Inspire!  Go BEARS!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Grading for Learning: A Standards-Based Grading Journey


I was once asked what the purpose of school is. What a great question! To be honest I had to really think about the answer, surprised that such a simplistic question could cause me to pause. Schools nurture, inspire, educate; all needed and very important virtues to our students and families we serve, but what I finally landed on was learning. The Wikipedia definition for learning states that “Learning is the act of acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information.” This happens every day in each of our schools. However, this question prompted myself and our administrative team to think deeper about what our practices, procedures, and policies were and whether learning was truly prioritized within our school.
If indeed learning is the business of our business, do all of our systems within our schools truly promote and reflect that?
In our case within the Byron Public Schools, not entirely. One glaring misaligned “learning” practice identified in our schools was in the area of grading and reporting. Like most schools, we had been using the traditional grading practice based on points and percentages. The grades students were receiving were not always reflective what they knew or understood. This question led us on a district wide quest over the last several years towards practices that closer measured what our students were learning in relation to what we wanted them to learn.
This process is formally known as Standards Based Grading (SBG) or Grading for Learning. It encompasses the belief that there is a better, more appropriate, more accurate, more transparent way to convey what is being learned throughout the year to our students and parents. This notion hinges on some fundamental learning premises:
  1. One is that standards, curriculum and instruction require tight alignment. Our standards should drive what is being taught in our classrooms rather than a text book or content that one arbitrarily finds interesting.
  2. Secondly, Grading for Learning requires assessments that are tied directly to the standard and learning objective and promote transparent feedback to students and parents. Knowing whether our students understand and have attained proficiency on the intended standard is important in gauging the learning that is happening.
  3. Lastly, Grading for Learning requires a fundamental shift away from a punitive points and percentage based system, towards a grade book philosophy where learning is truly recognized as knowledge acquisition without incentives and penalties.
In Byron, this shift in thinking began with an emphasis on Professional Learning Communities. Over half of our teaching staff have received formal training around this process answering the four essential questions. As a district we deconstructed this PLC process focusing on question one, “What is it that our students need to know”. This happened to coincide with a transition in our evaluation system. We moved to the Marzano professional growth model and district-wide emphasized one element (Learning Goals and Scales). This dove tailed with question one in the PLC model. Each grade and department spent a year getting to know their standards in a more intentional manner and began determining what standards were deemed essential using clear criteria:
  • Endurance – information that extends beyond one grade or course; concepts and skills needed in life
  • Leverage – interdisciplinary connections that have crossover application
  • Readiness – prerequisite concepts and skills students need to be ready for the next grade level
This process was essential for us to gain alignment in what we were teaching and move away from a coverage philosophy. The following year our district emphasized assessment learning for our staff. We learned about the purpose of each of the assessment’s we had in place and provided time for staff to create both formative and summative scales connected to our recently identified Essential Learning Outcomes.
Again, the time we took for staff to create and implement their scale work was essential for us to gauge where our gaps were and how to enhance transparent feedback to both students and parents.
During the course of these two years, a report card committee representative of departments and grade levels had been meeting to discuss this SBG implementation. We met each month to report out on progress and challenges along with answering questions to important learning around the grading philosophy we wanted to move towards. These crucial questions are noted below and were essential to gaining buy in and creating traction towards a successful SBG implementation. Another critical component to this process was the communication that we had with our parents and stakeholders. We hosted several parent informational sessions, provided resources for parents online and shared information with parents through monthly communications.
This fall we kicked off our Standards Based Grading with our parents and students. While it has not been without its challenges, I would say it has been well worth the hard work, time and effort.
Change is messy and never easy. Change with a purpose though can be beneficial. When that change is for the betterment of our kids and their learning it cannot be underestimated.
While every process is different and unique I like to think the one we went through was right for us. While it’s not complete and very well may never be, one thing is for certain: Byron Schools are much closer to measuring more accurately what a student knows and has learned than we ever have done before.

Essential/Crucial Questions

  1. What is the purpose of the report card?
  2. How often will the report cards be completed and sent home? (quarterly, trimester)
  3. Will a specific report card be developed for each grade level or will a more general one be used across grade levels?
  4. How many reporting standards will be included for each subject area or course?
  5. What specific reporting standards will be included at each grade level or in each course?
  6. Will standards (proficiency) be set for each grade level or each marking/reporting period?
  7. What specific process and progress standards will be reported?
  8. How many levels of performance will be reported for each standard?
  9. How will the levels be labeled?
  10. Will teachers’ comments be included and encouraged?
  11. How will information be arranged on the report card?
  12. What are parents expected to do with the information?
  13. What are students expected to do with the information?
  14. What policies need to accompany the new reporting procedures?
  15. When should input of parents and/or students be sought?
Article by:
Abe Rodemeyer, principal
Byron Intermediate
Byron Public Schools
Twitter: @aberodemeyer