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As the Columbus School District works to improve literacy and math scores, principals from all three schools presented mid-year progress reports to the Columbus School Board Feb. 26 at city hall.

Columbus Elementary and Discover Charter School Principal Beth Hellpap, along with Middle School Principal Loren Glassbrenner and High School Principal Jake Ekern, presented data through a slide-show presentation. The district is measuring college readiness growth for students in grades 3-11.

All principals admitted there is still progress to be made, but was pleased to see each school making strides to prepare students for college and beyond.

“It’s that time of year where we’re reviewing school learning objectives and the principals are working with their staffs to review the staff’s student learning objectives,” said Superintendent Annette Deuman.

Deuman stressed the objectives only measure work through the first-half of the school year. Principals will return to the board this summer to show progress made throughout the year and the second half of the 2017-18 school year.

Last fall, the district adopted the Units of Study teaching model, focusing on improving writing, reading and math through the next three years. Through Units of Study, teachers have consulted with coaches from outside the district and have spent more time on professional growth opportunities.

“It’s important that kids understand and take ownership of where they’re at in their learning,” Deuman said.

Columbus is hoping the Units of Study model will serve as a base of learning for students from grade school through high school.

Teachers are also working together to share curriculum at each grade level.

While raising math scores remains a priority at all levels, the district won’t focus heavily on Units of Study for math until the 2019-20 school year.

“We’re kind of stuck in the middle of what both Beth and Jake are doing at the elementary and high school levels,” Glassbrenner said. “We see a lot of similarities, which I think is good for a district.”

“Through this process, the teachers have something solid to hold onto,” Hellpap said.

Ekern said the new teaching model is curriculum staff has asked for a long time and have embraced it. Glassbrenner said the focus on writing has been a shock to some students, but most are showing improvement. He said Units of Study is a “very planned, structured format.”

“I’m glad we’re working together on this,” said board member Mike O’Brien. “It looks like the co-teaching model is working well.”

Project Unified nets $21K

Board President Cindy Damm reported through fundraising efforts, Columbus’ Project Unified raised more than $21,000 for Special Olympics of Wisconsin.

On Feb. 17, about 40 students and staff members jumped into the icy cold waters of Lake Monona in Madison during the annual Polar Plunge. Proceeds from the plunge go to Special Olympics.

Deuman said Columbus had the second-largest fundraising team in the state.

Hesselberg retiring

Barclay Hesselberg, a high school English teacher, will retire at the end of the school year after 19 years with the district.

Board member Mike O’Brien praised Hesselberg for his dedication to the district for nearly two decades.

Contact Kevin Damask at 608-963-7323 or on Twitter @kdamask