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Grading the system: No more credit for work not done


Changes to the Janesville School District’s grading policy mean students will no longer be able to ignore their homework and still get an A.

In what Janesville School District officials are calling “minor changes,” high schools students grades will continue to depend primarily on how well they do on tests. But students who want to retake exams or turn homework in late now have less time to do so.

They also get no points for work not turned in.

The Janesville School District went to “standards-based” grading in the 2016-17 school year. The idea of standards-based grading is that a student’s grade should be based on what the student knows, not his or her behavior, class participation or homework. Knowledge is what matters, supporters said.

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Others, including parents and some teachers, argued homework and class participation were part of the work habits that prepared students for college and the workforce. Students are not allowed to retake tests or turn work in late in college, they pointed out.

Since standards-based practices went into effect, Craig and Parker leaders have made adjustments to the system each year, Parker High School Principal Chris Laue wrote in an email The Gazette.

The latest round of changes are “based on direct feedback from staff and anecdotal feedback from students and parents,” the email reads.

Under the old system:

  • Students’ grades were based 90% on testing and 10% on homework and other, in-class work. The lowest score students could receive, even if they didn’t turn in their work, was a 50, not a zero. Students quickly discovered that because the lowest score they could receive was a 50, homework counted for only 5% of their grades. The range for an A was 92 to 100.
  • No extra credit was allowed.
  • Students could retake tests and turn in homework late.

Under the evolving system:

  • Students still can redo exams, but they are allowed only five school days after tests are returned to retake them.

“We recognize that not all students master skills at the same rate,” Laue wrote. “We continue to allow them to do retakes or redos to show mastery of their learning”

  • Students can turn in homework late, but the timeline and penalties have changed. They now have only two days to turn in work without a penalty.

In the past, work that was not turned in was worth 50 points out of 100. That was lowered to 40 points out of 100. Now, work that is not turned in is not worth anything.

“When students do not turn their work in, the teacher codes it as “M” (missing) in the online grade book,” Laue wrote in an email. “No points are awarded until the student turns in the work. If the student chooses to never turn in the work, they would not get points.”

Teachers often reach out to parents if work is not turned in, Laue wrote.

“…This will continue to be the practice to make sure students stay on track,” Laue wrote.

Laue and other district officials have said standards-based grading is being adopted by more schools and is supported as a “research-based practice.”

In a February 2018 issue of The School Administrator, the magazine for the American Association of School Superintendents, Drake University Professor Tom Buckmiller wrote that university admissions directors expressed “general approval” of the system.

“They shared their frustrations with rampant grade inflation, inaccurate portrayals of student performance, the regular need for remediation once students were enrolled and widely varying grading systems from one school district to the next,” Buckmiller wrote.

A standards-based grading system does away with many of those issues, according to the article.

However, a study published in 2017 in the Journal of Research in Education, shows “GPAs remained unchanged and ACT scores may be negatively impacted” when high schools use standards-based grading. The same study also noted that “ traditional grading practices were a small factor combined with GPA in predicting ACT scores.”

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United Way announces smaller goal for 2019 campaign

Dozens of volunteers carried new mattresses into the House of Mercy Homeless Center in Janesville on Wednesday morning.

About 32 miles away in Stoughton, volunteers fed goats and picked apples with adults who have disabilities.

Both groups had the same goal: to make an impact on their community through United Way Blackhawk Region’s Day of Caring.

The Day of Caring launches the United Way’s annual fundraising campaign by sending hundreds of volunteers into Rock County and the stateline region to do volunteer projects.

The United Way announced Wednesday its 2019 fundraising goal is $2.4 million, the smallest goal since 2016.

The nonprofit’s 2018 goal was $2.6 million, which was reached thanks to a last-minute anonymous donation.

In June, the United Way announced it would give $3.65 million to 30 nonprofits during its two-year funding cycle from July 2019 to June 2021. The entire 2019 campaign and portions of the 2018 and 2020 campaigns will feed the 2019-2021 cycle, according to a news release.

Board Chairman Al Hulick said in the news release that this year’s goal is a “bit of a stretch.”

“Despite some exciting economic development in our region, when local companies experience changes in ownership or executive leadership, continued support for United Way is not guaranteed,” Hulick said.

Hulick said competition from other community fundraisers is also a challenge.

More than 700 people volunteered for 44 nonprofit projects Wednesday, according to the release.

Tammie King-Johnson, manager of the House of Mercy, said she was thankful the homeless shelter was chosen as a Day of Caring recipient.

Angela Major 

Dana Lutton carries a mattress out of the House of Mercy Homeless Center while volunteering for United Way Blackhawk Region’s Day of Caring on Wednesday in Janesville. The Day of Caring kicked off United Way’s 2019 fundraising campaign.

A team from the Rock County Leadership Academy raised money to buy new bed frames, mattresses and vinyl mattress covers for the shelter, King-Johnson said.

Ashley HomeStore donated 20 additional mattresses, so all of the shelter’s 28 beds have new mattresses, King-Johnson said.

The shelter has not replaced its bed frames since it opened in 1996. The new frames will save the organization money and time.

Volunteers from RSM, a Janesville accounting firm, spent nearly six hours tearing down old wooden frames, building new frames, carrying mattresses and other tasks, King-Johnson said.

Angela Major 

Dana Lutton, front, and Julie Fiedler carry a rolled-up mattress donated by Ashley HomeStore on Wednesday while participating in the Day of Caring for the United Way Blackhawk Region in Janesville.

The vinyl mattress covers will extend the life of the mattresses to 20 years, King-Johnson said. The House of Mercy used to replace mattresses every two years.

Becky Sather, a recreational specialist at Community Connections adult day program, participated in her fifth Day of Caring on Wednesday.

Program staffers typically ask volunteers to help with indoor projects, but this year they chose to go outside and show the community the impact field trips can have on adults with disabilities, Sather said.

The program participants jumped, yelled, smiled and cheered as they fed goats at Eugster’s Farm in Stoughton. Volunteers from the United Way helped guide the group and helped those with mobility issues.

Angela Major 

Sam White carries an old mattress out of the House of Mercy Homeless Center as a volunteer for the United Way Blackhawk Region’s Day of Caring on Wednesday in Janesville. House of Mercy received money to buy new bed frames, mattresses and vinyl mattress covers for its shelter.

The program’s field trips are the only opportunity some participants have to go outside and socialize, Sather said.

“When anyone asks why we do what we do, it’s right here,” said David Abb of Community Connections as he watched the participants feed goats.

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UPDATE: After trying to free turtle, woman’s car goes into Rock River


A Janesville woman’s car rolled into the Rock River late Wednesday morning after she stopped at the boat launch off Afton Road to free a turtle that had showed up at her house Tuesday.

“I was just trying to be a good Samaritan,” Missy Long said in an interview at the Rock River Parkway Trailhead, near the boat launch where her car rolled into the water.

Janesville police and fire officials responded at about 11:34 a.m. Wednesday to a report of a white 2011 Chevrolet Equinox Crossover SUV that was in the river and floating downstream, according to Long and the Rock County Communications Center.

Long said she apparently did not put the car in park, and she thinks that’s why it rolled into the river.

Long was busy tending to the turtle she intended to release into the river when she saw her car roll down the boat ramp and into the water. It then began floating downstream.

No one was in the car at the time, Long said.

By about noon, the car was mostly submerged but appeared to be marooned on the riverbed near the river’s north shore, upstream from the Bellrichard Bridge.

The rear windshield wiper was still on, and it continued swiping away river water before fire department divers shut off the car’s power.

Shortly after noon, authorities cut away trees to make room for a tow truck to winch out the car. A fire crew monitored the situation from a rescue boat.

Police Sgt. Dean Sukus said police received a pair of 911 calls that a car was in the river near the Bellrichard Bridge. When authorities reached the boat launch off Afton Road, they quickly learned from Long that nobody was in the car, Sukus said.

Kevin Mageland said he was riding across the Bellrichard Bridge on his motorcycle Wednesday morning when he saw the car floating down the river.

He told a Gazette reporter that he called 911 and then ran down the hill, removed items from his pockets and jumped into the river to see if anyone was trapped in the car.

“I waded out there, and I jumped in the car and fished around in the back seat and fished around in the front seat. And there was nothing. Nobody. I tried to shut off the windshield wipers, but they just kept on running,” Mageland said.

He said he learned a couple of minutes later that the nobody was in the car when it went in the water, and its owner was OK.

Mageland lives just up the street from the river. He said he has never seen a scene like the one Wednesday.

“It’s not every day that you drive over that bridge and see a car just floating down the river,” he said.

Long cut the Gazette interview short because she said she had to make arrangements to get a ride from the boat launch.

Authorities on scene said they weren’t sure if Long’s turtle had made a successful journey back into the wild.

Neil Johnson 

Janesville police and fire officials responded Wednesday to a vehicle in the Rock River near Afton Road and Crosby Avenue in Janesville, according to the Rock County Communications Center.

Submitted photo 

Janesville Little Theatre’s production of ‘Ramshackle Inn’ performed in December of 1948.

Obituaries and death notices for Sept. 19, 2019

Larry D. Garber

Douglas Griffin

Robert R. Schmid

George Hoag Sholes

Lenora Eileen Thomas

Wilbur G. Wiemuth

Angela Major 

Workers pour concrete onto forms for the new Milwaukee Street bridge deck Wednesday in downtown Janesville. The job took all day and required about 100 workers to pour and smooth 1,100 yards of concrete for the bridge’s future driving surface. The project, which has faced months of weather-related delays, is slated to wrap up sometime in late October.

Officials: Mosquito-borne virus that has killed 5 people present in state

A dangerous and often deadly version of mosquito-borne encephalitis that has flared across a number of states including Michigan this summer is already present in Wisconsin, according to state officials.

Known as Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, the virus has infected people in Michigan, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. At least five people have died after contracting the infection.

In an average year, there are only seven human cases of EEE in the entire country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But this year, Michigan and Massachusetts each have at least that many cases under investigation.

Three Michigan residents have died from the rare virus and four others have been sickened, state health officials there said Tuesday amid that state’s biggest outbreak of EEE in more than a decade. The three people who died were all adults.

In Massachusetts, eight human cases of EEE have been confirmed this year. One person has died, according to the Boston Globe. In Rhode Island, three cases have been confirmed, with one death, according to the Globe.

In August, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory confirmed that horses in Green Lake, Waushara and Barron counties tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis, Wisconsin’s first confirmed EEE case this year.

“While no human cases of Eastern equine encephalitis have been reported in Wisconsin this year, it’s important for people to remain vigilant in their efforts to avoid mosquito bites to prevent not only EEE, but West Nile virus, and other mosquito-borne illnesses,” said a statement from the state Department of Health Services. The presence of the EEE positive horses “confirms that there are mosquitoes in the area infected with the EEE virus that can spread the virus to people and other animals.”

The black-tailed mosquito is the primary carrier of EEE.

Few mosquitoes actually carry the virus, but it is important to take preventive measures when spending time outside, health officials say.

“All residents of and visitors to areas where EEE virus activity has been identified are at risk of infection,” according to the CDC.

“The risk is highest for people who live in or visit woodland habitats, and people who work outside or participate in outdoor recreational activities, because of greater exposure to potentially infected mosquitoes.”

Mosquitoes acquire the EEE virus by feeding on infected birds, according to the Wisconsin DHS. The virus is not spread person to person or directly between animals or between animals and humans.

Many people infected with EEE virus do not get sick, according to the state DHS. But those who do become ill might develop brain inflammation known as encephalitis.

EEE is one of the most deadly mosquito-borne viruses in the U.S.

“Approximately a third of patients who develop EEE die, and many of those who survive have mild to severe brain damage,” according to the CDC.

The only way to prevent it is to avoid mosquito bites. There is a vaccine for horses, but one has not been approved for humans.

Whether the uptick in cases in neighboring state Michigan is any indication of what could occur in Wisconsin is impossible to predict.

Wisconsin has only had three human cases of EEE since 1964, said Ryan Wozniak, supervisor of the Vector-borne, Respiratory and Invasive Diseases Unit for the state DHS.

The agency is constantly monitoring the situation with EEE as it does with every other mosquito-borne illness.

“We’re always looking for these cases and following up on every one of them,” Wozniak said. “This isn’t something we start monitoring only when we see an outbreak in a neighboring state. This is something we are always monitoring.”

The EEE virus is found mostly in the eastern United States and in the Great Lakes region. Infections tend to occur near freshwater hardwood swamps, according to the CDC.

Why cases of the viral infection tend to increase in any given year—in 2012 there were 15 human cases reported nationwide, while there were only three reported in 2009—is a complex question thought to involve such things as rainfall rates, mosquito habitat and bird populations.

But there has clearly been an uptick in cases this year.

“Michigan is currently experiencing its worst Eastern equine encephalitis outbreak in more than a decade,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services chief medical executive and chief deputy for health.

The threat will remain until the first frost.