Monday, March 5, 2012


Hello Cougar families!  As we enter ISAT testing, I thought I would blog about some of the common questions about ISATs.

What are ISATs?
ISAT stands for Illinois Standards Achievement Test.  It is a state test that is given to all public school children in grades 3 through 8.  The students are tested on the skills and concepts that are in the Illinois Learning Standards for their grade level.  The purpose of the test is to determine how well the schools are doing in providing appropriate instruction for each grade level. 

What tests are given and how long are they?
In grades 3 and 5, the students take three reading tests and three math tests.  In 4th grade, the students take three reading tests, three math tests, and two science tests.  The testing sessions are all 45 minutes.  All three reading tests have multiple choice questions, and two of them have an additional extended response question.  Two of the math tests have multiple choice questions, one has three additional short response questions, and one test is made up of two extended response questions.  The science tests are both exclusively multiple choice questions.

I heard this is the last year for ISATs.  Is this true?
We will be switching to a new set of standards, called Common Core Standards.  The Common Core Standards are a common set of standards across the nation.  With this change, there will also be a new assessment that will be consistent across the country.  At one point, the plan was to allow districts to pilot the new assessment during the 2012-2013 school year in place of the ISAT.  Unfortunately, the assessment is not yet ready, so we will most likely take the ISATs in 2013.

I have heard about school districts that "teach to the test".  My child has mentioned practicing for the ISAT.  Does that mean our teachers are "teaching to the test"?
The term "teaching to the test" means that teachers teach a curriculum that is narrowed in scope to address only the skills that are most likely on the test.  In addition, students are only assessed in ways that mirror the ISATs so that they become very accustomed to the format of the test.  Our teachers do not do this.  They teach a broad curriculum that includes all of the standards for their grade level along with introduction to the concepts in the standards for future grade levels.  They assess students in a variety of ways throughout the year in order to provide them with the best chance to show what they know in a way that fits their learning style.  When we get close to ISATs, our teachers do provide practice opportunities for the students to take assessments that are like the ISAT.  They do this so that the students develop a level of comfort with the testing style.

What should we do differently during ISAT testing to ensure success for our student?
Prior to ISAT testing, you will often see tips for parents about making sure that students get enough sleep, eat a good breakfast, etc...  These are all good ideas, but our hope is that these things are always happening on school days!  We don't want the students to feel like these weeks are really that much different.  We do not want students to feel stress or pressure.  I like to tell the kids that this is a great time, because it is their time to show what they know!  It's like in sports where you practice and practice, then you get to show what you can do in a game.  This is their game day!!

What if my child gets sick?
We do not want students coming to school sick.  It will not allow them to do their best, and they will infect other students.  If your child is sick, the teachers will work with them to schedule make up tests when they return to school. 

When will we receive results from the ISAT testing?
We will get school wide summary reports in May or June, but you will not get your child's individual reports until next fall.

If you have other questions about ISAT testing, please feel free to ask!  Our staff at Prarieland does a phenomenal job teaching all of our students.  We are always excited to have our students show what they know because we trust in our instruction, in our students' hard work, and in the support and encouragement our students receive at home!

It's a GREAT day to be a Cougar!
Carmen Bergmann

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Technology Safety

We are definitely living in a world where children are becoming "tech savvy" at an earlier age.  I have heard from many of our students about ipods, ipads, Kindle Fire, nooks, etc... that they have at home.  Technology is such a great tool and it can be used in such a powerful way for children to learn and communicate.  Unfortunately, it can also provide our children with access to information that is not appropriate, and it can provide the public with information about your child that you do not want shared.

It is very important for you to carefully monitor your children's usage of technology.  It is also important to have conversations with your children about how to be safe when they are online.  Mr. Ford and Mr. Sterrett will spend time during tech time teaching students about internet safety as well.  Here is a website that can serve as a good resource for you as you have these conversations with your children:

Let me know if you have questions.
It's a GREAT day to be a Cougar!!

Carmen Bergmann

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year- My resolution.

Happy New  Year!  I hope everyone had a good break and that you had time to enjoy family and friends.  I  spent some of my break thinking about how fortunate I am to be a part of the Prairieland community and what I can do to maintain the high standards and success that characterizes Prairieland.  My first year was spent getting to know the community and doing a lot of observing and reflecting.  Unfortunately my first year was also spent completing my superintendent's certificate, which was very time-consuming and often stressful.  Now that I have had time to acclimate myself to this wonderful place and now that I am done taking classes, I am very excited to put all of my time and energy into continuing the tradition of excellence that has always been at Prairieland.

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to work with the staff to ensure that we are always doing what is best for the children and families so that our students will be successful for their entire educational careers and into their adult lives.  This is a tall order, but one that is wholeheartedly embraced by the Cougar staff.  We have been challenged recently by budget cuts and increased initiatives relating to assessment and instruction.  Our teachers are learning new approaches to literacy instruction, we are using a different approach to student interventions, and we are greatly increasing our use of data to form instruction and determine student intervention needs.  It has been overwhelming for the teachers, but they have soaked it all up and have done a fantastic job of trying to stay ahead of the game.  Everything we are doing is based on best practice and is intended to benefit all students.  My only fear in all of this is that we will become so consumed with the new initiatives that we will lose the personal connections with students and the need to develop a love of learning by helping students to feel a connection to Prairieland and a desire to be in school.  It is important for us to maintain a balance in all that we do.

In order to do this, our staff is going to spend time re-visiting our vision and core beliefs to ensure that we have a good balance.  We will then print our vision and post it around the building so that we are always on the same page and maintaining a healthy balance in all that we do.

At Prairieland, our families are always an integral part of what we do, and I am amazed by the commitment and dedication that our families constantly demonstrate.  In order to include all of you in this endeavor, I have created a very brief survey so that we can include your thoughts and beliefs in our discussions.  I would really appreciate it if you would take a few minutes to complete the survey (It is VERY short, I promise).  I have set it up so that it can be completed more than once on a computer in case each parent/guardian in the household would like to contribute.

The survey can be found at this link-

Thank you for your time and your thoughts!
It's a GREAT day to be a Cougar!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

As I am thinking about all of the things that I am thankful for, I have the usual list of family, friends, a warm home, food on the table, healthy children, etc...  I am so blessed and fortunate to have all of these things and I will always be thankful.

I am also lucky enough to be thankful for being a part of the Prairieland Cougar family.  I love coming to work every day because Prairieland is such a wonderful place to be!  Every morning when I come to school, I have students who smile and greet me or respond enthusiastically to my greetings.  Each day I get to witness or hear about student successes.  Just today (in just one hour of school so far) I was able to celebrate with a second grader who earned stickers for working towards a goal that we set for him a couple of weeks ago.  I celebrated with several kindergarten students who earned stickers for making good choices and following expectations in the classroom.  I celebrated with a third grader who moved up 7 reading levels in just 2 1/2 months!  I get to go into classrooms and see students excited about learning and working hard.  I get to see the smiles on their faces when they succeed and when they are pleased with their work.

I am so thankful that we have parents who are excited and willing to be involved in the education of their children!  I greatly appreciate the fact that parents share concerns with me and are willing to be a part of the solution.  I also appreciate the fact that parents take the time to tell me about the good things that they are seeing at our school. 

I am thankful that I get to work with such a wonderful staff every day.  They make me smile, they make me proud to be a Cougar, they amaze me, and sometimes they make me cry because I am so touched by their passion. 

I know this post is kind of a repeat of my last post, but this month of Thanksgiving has really gotten me thinking about how blessed I am to be at Prairieland!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!  Enjoy the time with family and friends.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Prairieland success

As our staff has been studying the student data from Prairieland, we feel tremendous pride for all of the success that our students have had and continue to have.  We will, of course, continue to look for areas for improvement, but we also like to take time to celebrate the successes!

Here are some of the things that we want to celebrate:
  • 92% of our students met or exceeded on the Reading ISAT last year and no one scored in the warning range.
  • 97% of our students met or exceeded on the Math ISAT last year and no one scored in the warning range.
  • In Reading, Math, and Language Usage, our mean RIT scores on the MAP testing exceeded the National Norms at every grade level for the fall term. 
  • Our students have an attendance rate of over 96%.
I could, of course, go on an on about the successes that we celebrate daily.  I am so proud of our Cougars and the hard work that they put into their learning. 

There are many reasons for the success of the students at Prairieland:
  • We have a supportive and encouraging parent community.  This support includes volunteering at school, encouragement at home to value education, assistance at home on homework and practice activities, attendance at school events, parent support of teacher initiatives and interventions, and much more! 
  • We have an outstanding staff.  The staff at Prairieland cares about the whole child, works tirelessly to find the best way to educate the students, uses creativity to "hook" students, meets students where they are ready to learn, and much more!
  • We have great students who want to learn.  Our students are respectful, they work hard, they understand their responsibility in the learning process, and they are motivated to be the best they can be.
Thank you for your continued support.  During this time of Thanksgiving, I have to say that I am thankful to be surrounded by such a phenomenal group of people who are all united by the desire to "Educate each student to achieve personal excellence"! 
It's a GREAT day to be a Cougar!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Parent Support

As I watched all of our parents coming to school and spending time talking about their child's education, I was reminded once again how proud I am of the parent involvement at Prairieland.  I am so glad that our parents find so many ways to be involved in the education of our students.  We have many parents who come to the school and volunteer on a regular basis, we have many parents who assist with extra curricular activities after school and sometimes on the weekends, we have many parents who spend time reading with their child at night, we have many parents who study with their child, we have many parents who talk with their child on a regular basis about what they are learning about in school.... I could go on and on about all of the ways that our parents are involved in the educational process.  I know that not everyone is able to to come to the school during the day to volunteer, so I am so happy to see our parents getting involved in many different ways.  I came across a document put together by the Michigan Department of Education that summarizes the research done on parent involvement.  It is very interesting, but I really like how it outlines the various types of parent involvement.  Here is a link to the document:

Thank you for all that you do to make the Prairieland community so wonderful!  It is a GREAT day to be a Cougar!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Parent Conferences

It is already time for Parent/Teacher Conferences!  It is important to take full advantage of this opportunity to talk with your child's teacher about how your child is performing in school.  We are a team and this time to connect and share is so important to the success of all of our children. 

During your conference, you will be given some information about your child's MAP scores.  This is a new assessment for us, and we are still learning about how to best use the information that we are getting.  Please feel free to explore the website- to find out more about this assessment.

You will also receive information about your child's reading level (the lexile is listed on the MAP score report).  It is a good idea for you to be aware of your child's reading level when you are choosing books for your child to read at home.  Please keep in mind, that a good way to challenge your child with books above his/her level is to read to them and talk with them about what you are reading.  Speaking of reading, I discovered some interesting information as I looked at the MAP scores.  When I looked through our scores, I noticed that most of our students' Reading MAP scores dropped from our spring testing to our fall testing, whereas most of our Math MAP scores increased.  I think this really shows us the importance of keeping students reading and talking about their reading!

I look forward to seeing all of you on Friday at Parent Teacher Conferences!  Be sure to stop in the IMC to see the Book Fair.  We will also have computers on for you to take the District Parent Satisfaction survey.

It's a GREAT day to be a Cougar!