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Department of Education Review 2011

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Current Curriculum


Call to Faith is a K-6 comprehensive religion program. The heart of lifelong catechesis, Call to Faith provides a solid foundation of Scripture and Tradition, a rich diversity of prayer, and a developmental sequence of activities.

Call to Faith is shaped by the following catechetical principles:

Conversion is central to catechesis. The aim of Call to Faith is to form participants into disciples who act with the mind and heart of Christ.

Catechism is a lifelong process. Call to Faith is the springboard for ongoing lifelong catechesis for the entire Catholic community.

Catechesis is the responsibility of all baptized members of the Church. The whole parish community is called to hand on the faith through faith sharing and the witness of daily life.
Call to Faith draws on the following sources of Catholic wisdom and experience:
Scripture The treasure of God's word is highlighted and integrated into the program instruction, reflection, sharing, and prayer.

Doctrine Each lesson of Call to Faith draws on Church doctrine in ways that help students, catechists, and families appreciate the Church's teachings as they apply to life today.
Lives of Saints and People of Faith Call to Faith takes seriously the importance of models and witnesses of faith as a factor in the faith development of both children and adults.
Church Feasts and Seasonals Complete seasonal lessons and celebrations introduce children to the feasts and seasons of the Church year. Music, prayer, and ritual actions draw children in to participation in the liturgical life of the Church.

Cultural Customs and Celebrations Call to Faith is unique in that it involves the customs, devotions, and culture of many local communities. This component assists parishes in making the curriculum their own.
Catholic Social Teachings Call to Faith provides a curriculum for Catholic Social Teaching: "Faith in Action," a comprehensive, age-appropriate lesson at the end of each unit that correlates to the text and key Catholic Social Teaching themes. It is the first of its kind in an elementary religion series.

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Guided reading is a method of teaching reading to children. Guided Reading is also a key component to the Reading Workshop model of literacy instruction. Guided Reading sessions involve a teacher and a group of around preferably two to four children, but may work with up to six children. The session would have a set of objectives to be taught through the course of a roughly twenty minute session. While guided reading takes place with one group of children, the remaining children are engaged in independent or group literacy tasks focusing upon the key components of comprehension, fluency and phonics or phonemic awareness. The idea is that the teacher is not interrupted by the other children in the class whilst focusing on one group. Guided Reading is a daily activity in our classrooms PreK- 8th grade and involves every child in a class over the course of a week. Each Guided Reading group meets with the teacher several times throughout a given week. The children are usually grouped by academic ability, reading levels, or strategic/skill-based needs.

Before reading the teacher will access background knowledge, build schema, set a purpose for reading, and preview the text with students. Typically a group will engage in a variety of pre-reading activities such as predicting, learning new vocabulary, and discussing various text features. If applicable, the group may also engage in completing a "picture walk." This activity involves scanning through the text to look at pictures and predicting how the story will go. The students will engage in a conversation about the story, raise questions, build expectations, and notice information in the text (Fountas and Pinnell).

During reading the students will read independently within the group. As students read, the teacher will monitor student decoding and comprehension. The teacher may ask students if something makes sense, encourage students to try something again, or prompt them to use a strategy. The teacher makes observational notes about the strategy use of individual readers and may also take a short running record of the child's reading. The students may read the whole text or a part of the text silently or softly for beginning readers (Fountas and Pinnell).

After reading following the reading, the teacher will again check students' comprehension by talking about the story with the children. The teacher returns to the text for teaching opportunities such as finding evidence or discussing problem solving. The teacher also uses this time to assess the students' understanding of what they have read. The group will also discuss reading strategies they used during the reading.


Saxon math, developed by John Saxon is a teaching method for incremental learning of mathematics. It involves teaching a new mathematical concept every day and constantly reviewing old concepts. One of its strengths is the steady review of all previous material, which is especially important to students who struggle with retaining the math they previously learned.

In all books before Algebra 1 and 2 (the equivalent of a Pre-Algebra book), the book is designed for the student to complete assorted mental math problems, learn a new mathematical concept, practice problems relating to that lesson, and solve a varied number of problems which include what the students learned today and in select previous lessons—all for one day's class. This daily cycle is interrupted for tests and additional topics. In the Algebra 1 and 2 book and all higher books in the series, the mental math is dropped, and tests are given more frequently.

Social Studies

Social studies is the integrated study of the social sciences to prepare young people to become responsible citizens.

The purpose of social studies is to develop social understanding and civic efficacy (the readiness and willingness to assume citizenship responsibilities and to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a democratic society.)

The social studies curriculum builds four capacities in young people: disciplinary knowledge, thinking skills, commitment to democratic values, and citizen participation.


​The Full Option Science System™ is developed at the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California at Berkeley. The Hall provides public access to scientific ideas and interactive science experiences, and supports the design and development of new methods and materials for teaching and learning science.
FOSS® emerged from a philosophy of learning that was introduced in the 1960s by the late Robert Karplus, physicist and science educator. The most important principle of that philosophy is that students should learn science by doing science. When presented to students in a thoughtful and engaging manner, the study of science is an exciting and interesting experience. A great deal of knowledge about science education has been generated since the pioneering days of the 1960s. We better understand how to set up efficient learning systems that engage students in science and engineering practices, organize productive collaboration, integrate reading and writing effectively, and monitor student progress accurately.

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Annual Report to the Public

The desire to provide a Catholic education for the children of Des Moines became a reality with St. Ambrose School which opened in 1856 with an enrollment of 307 students. At that time, there was only one diocese in the newly formed state of Iowa; the Diocese of Dubuque, which encompassed the entire state. A second school, St. Michael's, was opened in 1881, and in 1907 changed its name to Visitation School. After the formation of the Diocese of Des Moines in 1911, six new elementary schools were built between 1912 and 1926. During the depression and war years, new building came to a halt but the existing schools prospered. The post war baby boom provided the need for the addition of four new elementary schools and in 1949 St. Joseph School was built.

St. Joseph's School is located in an eastern suburb of Des Moines. Our student population is predominantly middle to lower socio-economic, with approximately 30 % of our students eligible for free and reduced lunch. We are a population of ethnic diversity, with students from many different ethnic backgrounds that bring a wonderful cultural dimension to our school. We have seventeen licensed teachers and serve 275 students in our prekindergarten through eighth grade programs.

The mission of our school has remained essentially the same since it began in 1949; to provide a quality education to our students, to educate the whole child, educationally, emotionally, and spiritually. We hope to prepare our students to be successful in a global economy, to understand and embrace the need for service to others, and to demonstrate higher level thinking skills. Students today, as then, are instructed in the "basics"-reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. Religion classes are conducted daily, all students attend a weekly school mass, and our parish priest, deacon, and religious director visit the classrooms on a rotating weekly basis. Rounding our curriculum are art, music, physical education, computer study, and foreign language. Special classes for TAG students are conducted weekly. The media center is open to large group and individual students daily. Each of our classrooms is equipped with Smart Board technology.

With the assistance of our parents, our teachers, our parish community, and our community at large, we have been able to make a difference in the lives of our students. As the school administrator, I have been very appreciative of the support I have received from all of our stakeholders. Our students are performing at a very high levels academically, we initiate several projects throughout the school year to reach out to those in need; clothing drives, food drives, funding for the victims of natural disasters, and for animals at the Animal Rescue League.

When parents and school work together, great things happen. At St. Joseph's School, it is evident that the parents care about their children's education for their involvement at all grade levels is very high. An active Home and School Association provided opportunities for all families throughout the year to help raise funds for the needs of the school. Our Annual Hawk Hike is a family centered activity held in the fall, and a Carnival is held in the spring. The major focus of the Home & School Association this year is the new playground which will allow our students to play in an area closer to the school.

St. Joseph's Catholic School uses the Iowa Test of Basic Skills as an accountability and improvement measure at the local level. These tests are also used throughout the Diocese. We report achievement test results in the academic areas of reading, math in grade 4, and in the areas of reading, math and science in grade 8. Even though these are the grades reported, all students in grades 3-8 take the ITBS as a way of monitoring academic growth.

Students at St. Joseph's School post generally high test scores. Testing experts stress that this information is best used to identify areas of strengths and weakness for individual students and classes, and to measure academic growth. Because of the way the test is designed, and the demographic factors that influence results, standardized test scores alone are not a reliable method for comparing teachers, schools, or districts. However, this information is useful to us in planning curriculum, developing school improvement plans, planning professional development and making instructional decisions. We focus upon improvement goals, including reducing the number of students who fall below the 40th percentile of the national percentile rank with a goal of reducing that number. In addition to the ITBS, during the 2008-2009 school years, three additional assessments were utilized to measure academic growth in the areas of math, science and reading for students in grades 4, 6 and 8. These assessments, along with the achievement levels, are the Exemplars which is used in math in grade 6, SCASS which is utilized on science in grade 8 and the Constructed Response Survey in reading in grade 4.

The chart below illustrates the scores for our students on our most recent Iowa Test of Basic Skills tests in October of 2008.

              Grade    Reading   Language   Math    *Core    Social Studies   Science   Composite
​                   3rd              93                 83              92              92                   99                      96                   97
                   4th              97                 92              96              95                   99                      98                   97
                   5th              93                 97              87              94                   98                      99                   98
                   6th              82                 89              75              84                   94                      90                   89
                   7th              90                 96              96              91                   93                      99                   95
                   8th             67                  72              75              72                   57                      96                   73

Core total includes scores of vocabulary, reading comprehension, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, usage and expression, math concepts and estimation, and Data Interpretation. The composite score is an average of all scores from each student in the grade in all test areas. The highest attainable score is a 99. The percentage (number) means that students in that grade scored higher than that percentage nationally. For example, students in grade 3 scored higher than 93 % of students nationally in reading. Our students are performing at very high academic levels.

Our goal was to increase the percentage of fourth grade students to the proficient or higher range as measured by the Iowa Test of Basic Skills Reading Comprehension part of the assessment compared to their third grade scores. Third grade scores indicated that 75% of students were at the proficient or proficient and above range. This year our scores indicated that 97% of our students scored in the proficient and proficient and above range. A second measurement was used in fourth grade to measure reading comprehension. The chart below illustrates the percentage and number of students performing at each level.

Results of Constructed Response Survey (Reading Comprehension)

​                                     Grade 4 SCASS        Novice         Apprentice       Practitioner            Expert

                                % at each level              0                      0                       48                        52

                                 # at each level              0                      0                       15                        16

​Our goal was to increase the percentage of students in the proficient and proficient and above range in fourth grade in the Mathematics assessment of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills as compared to their third grade scores. Third grade scores indicated that 80% were proficient. Fourth grade scores indicated that 87% of students scored in the proficient and proficient and above range of the ITBS mathematics assessment. A second measure used for mathematics to assess proficiency is the Exemplars. The chart below indicated the number of students and proficiency levels.

Results of Exemplar Assessment (Mathematics)

​                              Grade 4 SCASS      Novice      Apprentice      Practitioner      Expert

                                 % at each level               0                      10                          45                     45

                                  # at each level               0                       3                           14                     14

​The annual goal in the academic area of Science was to increase the percentage of eighth students performing in the proficient and proficient and above range as measured by the Iowa Test of Basic Skills Science sub-test. Seventh grade scores were 82% proficiency. This year 96% of our students scored in the proficient and proficient and above range. A second assessment, SCASS, is administered to our eighth grade students to measure proficiency in the content area of Science. The following chart illustrates the percentage and number of students at each proficiency level.

Results of SCASS assessment (Science)

​                Grade 8 SCASS      Novice       Apprentice      Practitioner     Expert

                          % at each level                    0                          16                               38                       46

                          # at each level                     0                           4                                 9                        11

​Our academic goals were met in the content areas of reading, mathematics and science. The data indicates that our students are demonstrating academic growth from one year to the next. In addition, they are performing at higher levels than their peers at a national and state level.

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District Contact

Phone: 515-266-3433
Fax: 515-266-2860
2107 E. 33rd St
Des Moines IA 50317