November Newsletter Available

Dear Central Academy families and students,


Quick reminder that Tuesday night, 11/14/2017, is the Unity Through Diversity Student Forum from 6:30 – 8:30 PM in the Central Campus Multi-Purpose Room (where the school board meets). Here is a link to the WHO-TV interview with two of the student leaders who organized the event:

When student leader, Grant Fay (Lincoln), proposed this idea to me in early August, he expressed his concern that our national political discourse had stalled– we had stopped trying to understand differing views.  Instead we seemed content just to ‘agree to disagree’.  Grant felt that in order to find workable solutions to our problems, we’d have to come together as Americans and as Iowans and start to listen to each other. He brought together student leaders from across DMPS to create the Unity Through Diversity Forum.  Student Moderator, Ellie Konfrst (Roosevelt), set the topics for discussion and the rules for the panel.  Grant got early support from fellow panelist, Robert Nishimwe (North). They interviewed and selected two additional panelists, Maya Miller (Roosevelt) and Jerry Jones (East).  It was important to ensure the panel included students with conservative and liberal political views.  Each of the panelists created research teams of students in grades 8 – 12 to develop their position statements.  Lorena Eclatt (Lincoln) was the student Communications Director. She designed to posters, press releases, and social media coordination (#UTDForum2017).  During the Forum she will organize the audience questions.

It should be an exciting night.  It is free and open to the public. A special thank you to Central Campus Broadcasting instructor, Tim Coleman, and his class for recording the event. We will share the link when it is available.


Central Academy potters are thrilled to team up with local business Art Terrarium,, to celebrate and sell their hanging vessels and the most beautiful plants around, just in time for the gift giving season.

Please join us for the opening celebration Sunday, November 19th, anytime from 12-4pm. Proceeds of the sales from the vessels will go to Central Academy’s Renovate 2 Innovate fundraising campaign.

The potters’ vessels will be featured in the Art Terrarium shop the entire week of Thanksgiving, including Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and at DM Market Day

Renovate 2 Innovate: Our goal at the Central Academy studio is to give authentic experiences in innovation, persistence and creation to Des Moines Public High School through the exploration of the ceramic arts. Our goal is to raise $500,000 to renovate a currently unused space into a state of the art studio. If you would like to be a part of enhancing the lives of our students and providing more opportunities like these, please consider making a donation to Renovate to Innovate.

Facebook Event


Utilizing Standards Referenced Grading (SRG) practices requires two distinct steps: 1) scoring an assignment and 2) assigning a topic score by examining the scores for related assignments (i.e.: the ‘Body of Evidence’).  In the first part of the semester, our focus tends to be on scoring assignments. But now, in the second half of the semester, we have enough individual pieces of evidence (aka: assignments) in a particular topic to determine how well the student has learned the material within each topic.

This is where SRG is different from the traditional grading practices familiar to most parents. Unlike traditional grading practices, the scores on individual assignments are NOT averaged. Instead, teachers are looking at trends in student learning over time. As students master the learning goals within a topic, their topic scores change to reflect that mastery.  Topic scores are posted and updated as new evidence is presented until the end of the semester.   Students have several opportunities to improve topic scores by demonstrating their learning throughout the semester.  It is not until the semester concludes that grades are calculated.

Generally in accelerated classes there isn’t time to ‘go back’ and redo, retake, and resubmit individual assignments.  Since most of the SRG courses at Academy are accelerated, our focus is providing students with multiple opportunities going forward.  This means if students do not show the level of proficiency they would like for a specific learning target on a particular assignment, there are multiple opportunities to demonstrate improvement and proficiency for that learning target on subsequent assignments.

Each instructor can decide if it is in the student’s best interest to go back or go forward.  Typically, Academy teachers opt for going forward.  Sometimes, the teacher may decide that it is better for a student in a particular situation to go back and redo something.  But often it is better for the student to remain current and keep working on the skill as they work on the next assignment.  For example, last year there were 3 students who missed a Word within a Word quiz in an English class.  One missed it because she was hospitalized, the others because they attended a field trip.  In each of these cases, the parents wanted the student to go back and retake these quizzes.  But the teacher recommended that two students just to take the next quiz the following week instead of going back to log the missed quiz.  The teacher felt that the hospitalized student should save her strength and work on the essay instead of ‘checking a box’ on the Word within a Word quiz– the teacher had enough data from other quizzes to feel confident about the student’s mastery and the student was using the Word within a Word vocabulary as part of the essay.  And for one student on the field trip, the teacher felt that the student could skip the quiz because the student would be able to demonstrate proficiency the next week.  The teacher had enough evidence from that student to show a fairly consistent performance; missing one week wouldn’t be a problem.  But for the other student on the trip, the teacher and student agreed that more data would be helpful to demonstrating that student’s improving proficiency.

In the end it is not about the amount of work a student does, but the evidence of learning that the student is able to produce. One of our goals at Central Academy this year is to leverage and amplify all students’ capacity for their own autonomous learning.  We want to help students increase their ability to accurately estimate their performance, describe their progress, and learn how to work collaboratively with other students to help each other move their work to the next level.  We are working to develop student capacity to communicate with their teachers about their personal goals for the class (if they are shooting for an A with Honors, for example), feel confident to ask questions when they are unclear about procedures or content, and ask that critical question, “when will the next opportunity to demonstrate that skill be offered?”


The Central Academy office staff is sponsoring a box for the US Marine’s Toys for Tots drive.  We will be accepting new, unwrapped toys through December 20.  If you have a donation, just bring it by the Academy office. Learn more about the program at


DMPS has started surveying staff, students, and families about switching secondary and elementary start times for next school year. The school board will vote on the proposal on November 21.  If you haven’t completed the survey or want more information about the proposal check it out:


This week on Thursday, November 16, DMPS will be testing the Emergency Contact System.  A test message will be sent out at 2:30 PM several ways: by voice mail, text, email, and through Infinite Campus.  If you don’t get the message, please contact the school where your child is primarily enrolled to ensure your contact information is up to date!  Learn more at:


Every Tuesday we have Academy After Hours from 2:30 – 4:30 except next week.  Because to the holiday, After Hours will be cancelled on November 21 but will resume the following week.

Attending these After Hours sessions help students work a little at a time on their assignments and begin to develop the time management skills they need.  During After Hours students can use school computers to work on assignments, join student groups, form study groups, consult with teachers, and develop working relationships with teachers and students at Academy.  We provide free popcorn to those who choose to stay.  There is a late bus that will shuttle students back to any DMPS middle or high school– they just have to sign up for the bus when they get their popcorn. Students are welcome to stay for Afters Hours as it fits their schedule.  Students are not required to stay the entire time, for example.  Sometimes parents pick up students on their way home from work at 4:00 or 4:15. Unfortunately, for those students who only attend Academy in the morning, their are no buses available after school to pick students up from home schools and return them to Academy for After Hours.


There are no classes on Wednesday, November 22, through Friday, November 24, for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Classes resume on Monday, November 27.

Attached is a district calendar that shows the dates of winter break, spring break, and professional development days that impact the normal class schedule.  District Calendar

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