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Archive for January, 2017

Project-Based Learning and Advanced Coursework

Parents of students in the WDMCS Extended Learning Program (ELP) may ask how project-based learning meets the needs of high-ability, high-potential, and high-achieving learners.

Research shows that project-based and problem-based learning provides natural differentiation for students because students can tailor projects to their interests and work at their own level.

Female high school students build drone at STEM school

Female New Tech high school student builds a drone.

New Tech delivers project-based learning that allows students to expand their inquiry to areas of interest and to build depth into their learning that will help them retain knowledge over time.

Project-based learning encourages a growth mindset, collaboration, and communication. In addition, it ensures students are college and career ready upon graduation.

How is this done? Teachers scaffold the learning to meet state standards while differentiating to students’ individual learning styles and ability levels. Differentiation is included in all aspects of project-based learning, including working on a project, producing a final product, benchmark expectations, and researching within the curriculum itself.

If needed, students who participate in the New Tech pathway will have opportunities to take non-project-based courses.

Need more information? See the following Frequently Asked Questions.


Will ELP students be grouped together within New Tech?

All New Tech designated teachers will receive training to meet the needs of all students in project-based learning. In addition, New Tech teachers will collaborate with ELP specialists in order to meet the needs of ELP students. When scheduling students, counselors will attempt to cluster ELP students within New Tech classes. Scheduling does depend upon students’ course requests and students’ needs.


How will students be grouped for projects within New Tech?

The use of mixed ability grouping within Project Based Learning can be an important consideration when choosing the best fit for ELP students. Often, teachers group students by ability level within New Tech, which means ELP students may often be grouped together for projects. However, sometimes New Tech group projects include students of mixed ability levels. Mixed ability grouping fits with New Tech’s emphasis on preparing students for a workforce comprised of people with varying ability levels and backgrounds.


Can New Tech students come in and out of the New Tech pathway?

Students can “passport” out of the New Tech pathway depending upon course interest and student schedule availability. Example: If a student is placed into a math course not currently offered in New Tech, the student can “passport,” or travel, to the appropriate math course outside of New Tech, then return to New Tech for other courses. Example: If an eligible student enrolls in the ELP course, the student can “passport” to the ELP class.


Can students take advanced coursework through New Tech?

Students will have access to advanced coursework within New Tech classes. Example: Students will engage in enriched projects with advanced-level standards and benchmarks within a PBL/PrBL classroom, based on their needs. Students can also take advanced coursework not offered through New Tech through a “passport” system (see above).


How will New Tech fit in with AP courses?

Students will have access to AP coursework within the New Tech pathway (VHS courses have not yet been determined). Also, students can take AP coursework through a “passport” system (see above).


How will New Tech fit in with Honors and Scholars Designations?

Eligible students decide to pursue Honors and Scholars as sophomores. The New Tech pathway for 9th grade is compatible with the preparatory coursework needed to pursue Honors and/or Scholars Designations. When scheduling courses, students will need to review the requirements for Honors and/or Scholars Designations to determine whether New Tech coursework is appropriate.


How will New Tech courses appear on transcripts?

Transcripts will reflect the core class content covered within the New Tech course. For example,  New Tech Humanities will be recorded on the transcript as Geographical Cultural Studies or Global Understanding and Language and Literature or Literature and Composition.


Topics: New Tech

Board Holds Final Meeting in Facilities Workshop Series

Facilities study image 2aThe West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education will hold the final meeting in its series of special workshops to study facility use in the district.

The final scheduled workshop will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in the Community Room at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines.

This meeting is open to the public.

The meeting agenda is available at

For background on this study, please visit


Topics: Facilities

Informaline—Jan. 17, 2017 Issue

PDF | en español | Virtual Backpack/La Mochila Virtual

What Do You Think? Informaline Survey
The School/Community Relations Office wants your input! Please let us know if the Informaline district newsletter is helpful for you and your family by taking this short survey:

Important Dates
Jan. 17: School Community Network Meeting, 9:15 a.m.
Jan. 17: School Improvement Advisory Committee Meeting, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 19: SAPCC Meeting, 7:30 a.m.
Jan. 22: School Board Special Workshop Session, 1 p.m.
Jan. 23: School Board Workshop Session, 5:15 p.m.
Jan. 23: School Board Regular (Business) Meeting, 7 p.m.
Jan. 25: Grading Practices Task Force Meeting, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 26: Impact of Art, 6:30 p.m.

District Equity Team to Select a Guiding Structure for Equity Work
A team of students, parents, community members, and West Des Moines Community Schools employees are close to selecting a guiding structure for the district’s work to ensure equity for students. Learn more at

Transportation Fees Due Jan. 10
Third-quarter transportation fees were due Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. You can still make payments at your school or online at

This is also a good time to change your child’s bus ridership details if needed. Please complete and submit the “Make Change to Current Ridership” form at or contact the Transportation Department at 515-633-4902.

School Board Reviews Second Phase of Facilities Study
At a special meeting in December, the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education reviewed the findings of the second phase of an elementary school space utilization study by architects at Shive-Hattery. Find out more about each option at

Kindergarten Enrollment Open Today!
Kindergarten is a big adventure in life’s journey. We will be right beside your family every step of the way. Start your child’s kindergarten adventure with the WDMCS at!

Stay Warm with WDMCS Activities This Winter
Avoid the chilly winter weather with family-friendly indoor activity options from the West Des Moines Community Schools! Keep an eye on the online calendar at to stay up-to-date with districtwide and school activities. Upcoming events include opportunities to cheer on the Tigers, experience the arts, and be true to your school.

Students, Staff Recognized by Board for Outstanding Achievements
The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education recognized the outstanding achievements of district students and staff at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 9. Read the full Student and Staff Recognition report at

Try Something New: WDMCS Community Ed. Registration Open!
The new LEARNwest and Adventure catalogs are here! Try something new in 2017!

  • LEARNwest offers a wide range of classes for adults who want to expand their skills, make everyday life better, and try something new. LEARNwest classes are offered evenings and weekends. Learn about class options at
  • Adventures provides a way for students in grades K-9 to expand their knowledge or skills in an area of interest and try something beyond the classes they have during the school day. Classes take place after school, in the evenings, and on the weekends. Find Adventures opportunities at

Valley Students Perform in Second Annual “Opera Project DSM” Production, “Cavalleria rusticana”
The Valley High School Performing Arts Department is partnering with The Opera Project DSM for the second year in a row for a production of Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana.” The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) will host the performances in the Staplin Performing Arts Center, 3650 Woodland Ave., West Des Moines. There will be performances at 8 p.m. on Jan. 21 and 3 p.m. on Jan. 22. Both performances are open to the public and free of charge. Learn more about Valley students’ involvement in the production at

Topics: Informaline

Level Up! Project-Based Learning Coming to Valley Southwoods

Next year, project-based learning is expanding into Valley Southwoods Freshman High School as it introduces its first “school-within-a-school.”

Working in group

Group of three students working on a project.

All incoming ninth-grade students will be part of Valley Southwoods Ninth Grade High School, but some can choose to be part of a project-based learning environment.

Project-Based Learning

Through authentic, community-based projects and problem-based experiences, students will collaborate with their peers and business and city leaders to make an impact on our community.

Teachers design complex, authentic challenges that engage students, require them to demonstrate mastery of knowledge, and foster written and oral communication skills.

All Valley Southwoods students will have access to the same curriculum, but the school-within-a-school will integrate multiple courses, like English and history or science and business, into one class.  

Technology-rich Environment

Through a technology-rich environment, teachers and students create, communicate, access information, and experience self-directed learning. Each student is assigned a personal Chromebook, and an online learning platform supports project-based learning.  

College- and Career-Ready

As they move on to Valley High School, students will graduate with the skills and knowledge that allow them to be creative and productive citizens in a global society and be college and career ready.

At Valley Southwoods Freshman High School, students will be active problem solvers and creators.

Learn More!

Learn more about project-based learning and how you can be a part of this innovative learning approach at


Topics: New Tech

School Board Reviews Second Phase of Facilities Study

At a special meeting in December, the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education reviewed the findings of the second phase of an elementary school space utilization study by architects at Shive-Hattery.

The architects further studied how the possible removal of sixth grade and preschool from the elementary schools would affect building space availability and usage. The study also focused on the viability of removing media centers and computer labs, contingent on providing computer devices for each student.

Based on interviews with the leadership teams, teaching staff, and parents from each of the elementary schools, as well as junior high administrators, the architects presented a brief summary of the findings for each school. Those findings included information on the redistribution of areas at each building.

Estimated construction and operational costs were also provided for three different options:

  • Option 1—Relocate Sixth Grade: Provide for Core Plus space, provide secure entrances for elementary and junior high schools, sixth grade moves out of elementary, new 8/9 grade site with shop/makerspace and field house would be $83.8 million with $1.15 million ongoing operational costs.
  • Option 2—Sixth Grade Remains: Secure entries, flex spaces, and renovations would be $53.5 million with $389,015 ongoing operational costs
  • Option 3—Add Flex Space to Existing Elementaries: additional square footage for flex space would be $82.4 million with $650,645 ongoing operational costs.

It was also noted that a new preschool center would be an estimated $9.34 million in construction costs and $1.0 million in operational costs.

The next step is to compare these estimates with the district’s 10-Year Facilities Plan budget. For more information and background on the district’s facilities plan, please visit

Topics: Facilities

District Equity Team to Select a Guiding Structure for Equity Work

A team of students, parents, community members, and West Des Moines Community Schools employees are close to selecting a guiding structure for the district’s work to ensure equity for students.

Since November, the West Des Moines Community Schools Equity Team has studied five frameworks that will guide the district as it addresses equity through professional development, leadership development, student relations, and curriculum. The selected framework will also help the district evaluate the effectiveness of its work.

“The most important work we have this year is to select a framework because it will guide all subsequent decisions [regarding equity],” said WDMCS Superintendent Lisa Remy, Ed.D., at a School Board workshop in September.

The team is studying the Anti-Racist Education, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, Cross-Cultural Competence, Deep Equity, and Equity Pedagogy frameworks. Articles about each framework are available below.

Four of the frameworks were recommended by Iowa State University in its equity audit of Valley High School.

According to the district’s “Race & Equity in Our Schools: Action Steps for Positive Change,” the team will select a framework by Feb. 28, 2017.

For more information and background on the district’s equity work, please visit

Topics: Equity

District’s Operating Budget Outlook Solid for 2017-18

West Des Moines Community Schools CFO Paul Bobek reported to the School Board in December that the district ended its 2016 fiscal year with increases in its general fund and unspent spending-authority balance.

Given these two conditions, the administration will not recommend a formal budget reduction process for the 2018 fiscal year.

In March, the district administration will conduct its regular staffing process for the 2017-18 school year. This annual administrative process may result in either adding or reducing staff based on student enrollment in programs, courses, or grade levels. The Administrative Services department will also continue meeting with administrators with budgetary responsibilities to review individual budgets.

The fund balance and unspent balance are two key indicators of budget health. The general fund balance increased by $4.7 million and the unspent balance increased by $2.9 million. The unspent balance relates to a district’s legal authority to spend money measured in dollars. The unspent balance is the leftover spending authority at the end of the fiscal year.

Bobek said the increases were the result of the district spending fewer state categorical fund dollars. Categorical funding comes from the state and is targeted for particular categories of students, special programs, or special purposes and has restrictions on its use. Another factor was the reallocation of property tax levy money from the district’s management fund to its general fund.

School Board Workshop Agenda (12-12-2016): Audit and Budget Report

Topics: Budget