Changes in Three Lakes puts district ahead of others
by Colby Robertson
THREE LAKES (WAOW) -- In 2004, the Three Lakes School District made some big changes in the classroom.
Five years later district leaders call the results of this 'Cultural Change Initiative' fantastic.
In fact, the career center at UW Madison says Three Lakes is nearly three years ahead of the rest of the state.
By the looks of it these hallways, this classroom and the students appear to be no different than other school districts in the state. But there's something different and something special about the Three Lakes School District.
District Administrator Dr. George Karling says, "Prior to this time I'm not aware of a district that has done this and taken the best of all the components and put it together and make it fit your district. That's a key for us."
Three Lakes' Cultural Change Initiative started in 2004. They didn't change the curriculum, but the environment in which students learn.
School Principal Bill Greb says, "We've looked at what's been done in education over the last 50 years. What has worked. We take the pieces that work and sift out the nonsense and what we put together is a program that is functioning beyond our expectations."
The first changes came to the 7th grade. Instead of having eight different class periods and eight different teachers, students stayed in one classroom for five periods a day.
Dr. George Karling says, "It changed a whole bunch of things from the standpoint of student engagement and discipline and achievement and it eased the transition from the 6th grade to the 7th grade."
That seemed to work and more changes were implemented. They started an honors study hall rewarding students with good grades so that those who need help can have the full attention of their teachers.
Jake Wales was the first 7th grade class to experience the cultural change back in 2004. Now a Three Lakes Senior he looks ahead to next year appreciating all he's learned over the years.
Wales says, "Overall I definitely think it's helped prepare because we know what to expect and it's definitely paid off."
But it's the results that speak loud and clear. In 2002-2003 there were 400 detentions. Last year less than 20. In 2004-2005 more than 11% of students had at least one or more failing grades. Last year, less than 2%.
Bill Greb says, "I don't care what school district you're at that's incredible."
There are a number of other components to this initiative. They have implemented a career mapping system allowing students to take ownership of their future education.
They also require students to repeat tests and exams until they reach a 50% level or better.