Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, April 14 – All Gorham Chorus night GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm
Wednesday, April 15 – 8th Grade Celebration planning meeting 6:00 pm GMS Library
Friday, April 17 – Spring School Break Begins at dismissal of students, 2:15 pm
Monday, April 20 – Last day to order Yearbooks online
Monday, April 27 – 8th Grade students begin the MEA Assessment

Let’s Talk About the MEA (SBAC) Testing

Beginning the week that we all return from the warm April Vacation (maybe warm!), GMS will begin our administration of the new MEA. There are lots of questions about this assessment, and I hope to try to answer some of them with this post.

Let me state for the record that these opinions are my on, they do not reflect the opinions of anyone else, I am solely responsible!

Why do we need to do these assessments and why can’t we just use the NWEA that we have been administering for years?

I think the answer is a multi-faceted, meaning there are multiple reasons why schools administer large scale, high-stakes tests such as the MEA. This assessment, when administered to a large sample, state-wide for example, can yield results about the quality of education within the state of Maine relative to standards outlined in the Maine Learning Results. These results, because they are administered in every public school in the state at grades 3 through 8 and 11, should be able to give us a good read on how we are doing as a district relative to the rest of the state.

The NWEA’s, on the other hand, are widely used but not universally used throughout the the state. Also, the results we get from the NWEA are good in helping us determine individual student growth, but not school or district growth without some real work on a spreadsheet and some knowledge of how to work a spreadsheet. And, since the NWEAs are not universal and some schools use differing versions and don’t administer the same assessment, there would be too many vagaries in the results to render a judgement about how we are doing as a state or a district.

The MEA’s, on the other hand, are universally administered within the state to all students in the designated grades, so we can get a better picture of where the state is relative to the Learning Results, how well each school achieves, relative to the criteria of the Learning Results, and we should get some really good student data on how well each student is achieving, relative to the criteria of the Learning Results.

Is the MEA solely used to measure student performance for governmental/funding purposes, or does it have personal value to my child (e.g. class placement, or informing curriculum for my individual child)?

The simple answer to this question is “No”, but we all know there are no simple answers to these kind of questions.

With the landmark legislation, signed into law in 2002, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), states were required to demonstrate that all students were “meeting the standards” by the year 2014. The law also required that all students in every subgroup met the standards.

What are subgroups you ask? Subgroups are include the ethnic background of students, students identified with disabilities, different racial groups, students identified with Title 1 services, students who were new English language learners, to mention just a few.

So, while the answer to your question is no, there are lots of intricacies in the way we are measured that could (emphasis added) have ramifications.

The positive of getting the results of these assessments is significant though. We are able to get loads of information about how well we are doing towards the standards. In the past, we have done some really good analysis on each of the released items and this helps us make determinations about how and why our kids answered the way they did. Sometimes seeing the wrong answers gives us more information than seeing the right answers!

The last “no” answer is about do we use this information for class placement or informing curriculum for individual students. Again, this “no” is a qualified one because we do use the information to inform us on what strengths or weakness a child has exhibited, but this is used with other type of information about a student, including teacher assessments This information can help us when determining what kind of supports a student may need in math or reading, could they benefit from some extra support in a Learning Lab or should the math teacher look to extend their lessons to get this child into a more complex area of math or reading more complex books.

So we do use this information, but not in a negative manner.

“Why has it not been publicized that parents can opt their children out of the testing and how to go about doing it?”

Parents have always had the opportunity to opt their children out of large scale testing, dating back to the old MEA.   It might be a bit naive of me to say that there is no pressure being applied, but honestly, there is no pressure being applied. I know there is a lot of news stories about different communities and different groups who are dead set against this testing, so they are espousing the opt outs, but, their opposition to the testing seems more politically motivated.

And, yes, there is a process for opting out of the testing. It begins with an email or a phone call to the school. I can tell you that, while I am not crazy about the time this has taken from the school year, I do value the information we have received in the past. We have been able to make some very good adjustments to how and what we do based upon these results. So, I would encourage every student and family to participate in these assessments.

“Why is the MEA needed when our kids already take the NWEA?”

As I stated above, the information we get from these two assessments differ. The NWEA give us a score measure by a Rausch Unit or RIT score. This is a great score to use when measuring individual growth of a student, year over year. It is not a good measurement when we try to make determination about where our students are not demonstrating strength or weakness, without some serious manipulation of the data we receive.

It is also a much more of an individual assessment. The NWEA’s adaptiveness (is that a word), doesn’t allow for, in my opinion, enough of a common thread to make comparisons within the student base. If it does, we have yet to be able to isolate that component of the results. (That’s for the people at NWEA & SBAC, who will no doubt pick this up when they scan social media!)

We all realize that we have taken an inordinate amount of teaching time to dedicate to this upcoming assessment. Time that we could be using to engage students in the joy of learning (and, no that is not an oxymoron!). We are putting this time in now so we won’t have to in the future.

Since large scale testing has been a part of our school year for so very long, we accept that it will continue to happen. What we try to do is make sure that the testing assesses what our kids are supposed to know in the particular content areas, and not let this become first a technology test. In other words, if the kids don’t know how to manipulate the testing platform, or they do not understand the type of question being asked, that could impede their ability to supply correct answers.

If the sample questions that we have been given on the practice tests are an indication, these questions are vastly different from those on past assessments. Some questions ask for all the possible correct answers from a bank of 4 or 5 possible. So it is important that our kids see some of these style questions prior to the actual testing.

This has been a real upward learning curve for our faculty as well as our students. I believe we do some very fine work here at GMS with our kids. I believe they enjoy (most of them) coming into our building and that they feel safe when they are here. I believe that they feel their teachers challenge them fairly and honestly and with respect for the many different learning styles we have here everyday. But, this has opened our eyes quite a bit. The manner in which this assessment is constructed is vastly different than we have seen before. It has challenged each of us to take as second look at what we are doing in our classes and with our lessons that get our students into that zone “just above comfort” that we call the “Learning Zone”.

I hope I haven’t further confused anyone here. This is far longer than anything I have down in the past, and, to be truthful, if you are reading this I have either accidentally hit the “POST” button, or I have reviewed what I have said several times.

Time to Purchase Yearbooks

If your child was contemplating purchasing a yearbook, that will be filled with the memories of this school year, the deadline is fast approaching. If you want to purchase through the school, all order forms and checks must be given to the Office by Friday at 2:00 pm.

You will still have the opportunity to purchase online by going to and using school code 3788215. Lifetouch accepts Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express.

Until next time…

Heading Toward Spring Break!


Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, April 7 – Sebago Team’s Ancient World Museum, 6:00 pm GMS 6th Grade Wing
Tuesday, April 7 – All Gorham Band Concert, GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm
Wednesday, April 8 – School Committee Meeting, Municipal Center 7:00 pm
Friday, April 10 – GMS Dance sponsored by the 6th Grade, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Tuesday, April 14 – All Gorham Chorus night GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm
Wednesday, April 15 – 8th Grade Celebration planning meeting 6:00 pm GMS Library
Friday, April 17 – Spring School Break Begins at dismissal of students, 2:15 pm
Monday, April 20 – Last day to order Yerabooks
Monday, April 27 – 8th Grade students begin the MEA Assessment

Spring Break (Middle School Style!)

OK, let’s get the important stiff out of the way first, all students will begin their Spring Vacation at dismissal on Friday, April 17th (dismissal is at 2:15 pm). The kids will return to school on Monday, April 27.

We all hope that the snow is gone, the golf courses, baseball and softball fields are free from snow and beginning to green under the warm mid-April sun.

If you are traveling to warmer clime, we hope that your travels are safe and on time.

Ordering Yearbooks

YearbookclipartSome years, we get a mad rush from people who forgot to order a yearbook for their child by the due date and they are begging for us to be able to get one for their child. Some years, we are able to have extras ordered, but in the past few years the cost of the yearbook has risen so much that we cannot afford to order extras that will sit, unsold in our storage closet. So, to answer this, we have implemented a system of ordering only enough to cover those actually purchased. We will not have any leftovers this year!!! The only way you can guarantee that your child will get a yearbook, filled with all the memories of their school year, is to order one BEFORE April 20th.

Ordering a yearbook is very easy and there are two ways to do it. We have order forms in the Main Office that you can fill out, put a check in the slot provided on the form and give it to one of the secretaries. Or, you can go online to the Lifetouch web site

Ancient World Museum

The annual presentation by the Sebago Team students of Kim Fotter and Meghan Rounds will be Tuesday evening,Parthenon April 7th beginning at 6:00 pm in the 6th Grade wing of the Gorham Middle School. Parents and relatives are invited to peruse the many wonderful exhibits of the students demonstrating the many interesting facts they discovered in their exploration of the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome.

All Gorham Band and Chorus Nights

Also on Tuesday, April 7th, all of the band students from the entire district will be on hand to present a concert of Musicwhat they have been learning all year. There will be students from the Elementary Schools presenting a few numbers,. The Middle School will be represented quite well by our award winning Jazz Band and our Concert Band. The many different ensembles of the High School will present a few numbers of their own.

The evening will culminate with a number of several of the members of the different bands presenting a number for the enjoyment of the audience.

Then, the same night, the following week we will hold the annual All Gorham Chorus Night, again at the GHS Auditorium beginning at 6:30 pm. There will be singers from across the district, at all grade levels, entertaining the audience with the joyful sounds of young voices singing.

Please circle both dates on your calendar for two great evenings of entertainment.

School Dance

Our next school dance is Friday, April 10 in the GMS Gym from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. This dance is sponsored by the 6th grade team with refreshments being sold by the Student Council. As an added bonus for our students, Sophie Gagne, a 6th grader on the Eagle Team will be holding a bake sale. Sophie is quite an accomplished dancer and she has earned the right to compete in a dance competition in Las Vegas this summer. She is holding the sale to help raise funds to defray the cost of the trip. Let’s hope all of her school mates bring their appetites to the dance to help Sophie get the Las Vegas.

Principal for a Day

Each day, Mrs. Hanley, Assistant Principal, Mr. Kilborn, Physical Education Teacher and me greet the students as

Principal for the Day Jacob Polchies greets the students to a new day at GMS.

Principal for the Day Jacob Polchies greets the students to a new day at GMS.

they enter the building for a new day. The idea is to greet the kids each day with a pleasant “hello” and a warm smile as the enter the building for a great day of learning.

On one morning a couple of weeks ago, one student, Jacob Polchies said “Mr. Riley, we should with jobs someday!”. I think I surprised hime when I said yes and that we should do it on April 1st (for all the obvious reasons).

Plans were made, he would come to school wearing a suit (that’s what I wear on most days), and I would come to school dressed as a student and take his place in his class. Since the 7th grade with Sister Genevieve was not one of my best years, I can tell you that I was quite nervous. Jacob, on the other hand, was quite well prepared.

We have some pictures of the day, mostly of him doing a far better job that I do on a daily basis, that are included in this post. The idea has spurned a new idea for us, however.

On May 13, we hold our second Principal for the Day. This time, however, we are going to raffle the day off to the students. The raffle tickets will be $1.00 per chance and $5.00 for an “arms length”. The proceeds of the raffle will be put toward the establishment of a Unified Sports Program at Gorham Middle School beginning next year.

If you are unfamiliar with Unified Sports Programs, they are cropping up around the state.Unified Sports bring together students with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team to promote social inclusion through specific sports training and competitive experiences.

To learn more about Unified Sports Teams, you can checkout the Special Olympics web site. The Lewiston Sun had a great article that ran, Monday, March 9th, just prior to the start of the first ever state championships sponsored and sanctioned by the Maine Principals Association. I think the article speaks volumes as to why we need to get this program started here at GMS.

So, please, encourage your child to purchase a raffle ticket to be Principal for the Day.

8th Grade Celebration Meeting

Kristen Fitz has sent out emails to all of the 8th grade parents to begin the process of organizing the 8th Grade CelebrationCelebration at the end of the school year. It has really worked quite well to begin this process digitally using our BlackBoard notification system and email. However, it is time to hold a meeting in “Reality” to put faces to names and to clarify all of the moving parts of this entertaining evening for our kids.

So, we’ll hold our first “Real” meeting on Wednesday evening, April 15th in the GMS Library. We ask that you bring your creative minds and your calendars so we can finalize some of the plans.

Looking forward to seeing as many people as possible on the 15th!

8th Grade MEA Begins on April 27

When our 8th graders return from their relaxing break, enjoying the sights and sounds of spring (maybe!), we will begin the annual assessment of our students through the Maine Educational Assessment. This is the first time we will be assessing our students via this computer adaptive test and a Performance Task. We plan to use part of the days on Monday through Thursday for all of these assessments with Friday being a day that we will use for make ups for any students who was sick or absent.

The 7th grade and 6th grade will be assessed in the following weeks.

To make sure that all student computers are charged and ready, we are not going to allow the students to bring them home during the school vacation. During the weeks of testing, we also plan to keep all of the devices at school, for all grades. There are significant security concerns that have been conveyed about students having personal devices during the testing. Our plan right now is to have all students leave their cell phone, tablets and IPods, turned off and on the teachers desk during the testing. We are doing this for a couple of reasons, one being the security I just mentioned, and the second is a matter of band-width. The first one I can understand pretty easily, the second is more difficult for me to explain. It has something to do with the amount of information coming ito the school and going out of the school. These assessments take up a fair amount of band width.

If you have any questions about these assessments, please feel free to call me.

PGA Jr. League

PGA LogoThe Gorham Country Club and PGA Pro Rick Altham will be sponsoring a golf team in the PGA Jr. League in Southern Maine. The league will begin on June 14th and it will run for 6 weeks. There will be a clinic with Pro Rick Altham and 6 practices and 6 matches for the participants. Each participant will receive a shirt, balls, a tag for their bag indicating their participation in the PGA. Matches will be held on Sundays. Some of the other courses that are participating in the PGA Jr.League are Val Halla in Cumberland, Webhannet in Kennebunk, Purpoodock in Cape Elizabeth, Dunegrass in Old Orchard Beach and the Woodland in Falmouth.

The League is open to all kids aged 8 to 13.If you would like your child to sign up, or if you have any questions, please call me at the school.


Education Needs a Bill James


Upcoming Important Dates

Wednesday, April 1 – Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Tuesday, April 7 – Sebago Team’s Ancient World Museum, 6:00 pm GMS 6th Grade Wing
Tuesday, April 7 – All Gorham Band Concert, GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm
Wednesday, April 8 – School Committee Meeting, Municipal Center 7:00 pm
Friday, April 10 – GMS Dance sponsored by the 6th Grade, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Tuesday, April 14 – All Gorham Chorus nigh GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

There are several quotes from the inimitable Mark Twain that are my favorites, but this one is my most used and Mark Twainmy most favorite. (I won’t mention the quote about School Committees!!)

We live our life surrounded by these numbers, or data, as it is so often referred to these days in education. Dropout rates, Literacy rates, numeracy rates and graduation rates are just a few that we try to examine in making a determination about how successful American Public Schools are doing.

PISA logoLet’s not forget about the numbers we use when we compare our students to the students of the rest of the World, the all important PISA Assessment, or the Programme of International Student Assessment conducted by the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). The PISA assessment is the one done every two years and compares 15 year-olds in the United States to the 15 year-olds from around the globe. It is also the assessment that has almost every policy maker shouting from the tree tops that our schools are not doing their job!

In the coming weeks, our students at GMS will be taking the first administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Computer Adapted Test (CAT) and Performance Task (PT). This assessment is PARCClogodesigned to measure how well our students are “achieving proficiency” towards the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that were created at the direction of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). In Maine, we call this assessment the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA).

Now, this assessment, the MEA, is supposed to provide schools, districts and the state with an abundance of evidence that will indicate whether, or not, the schools, the teachers and the students are making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The assessment is broken down by sub groups, (e.g. Students Identified with Disabilities, Socio Economic Standing (SES), English Language Learners (ELL), Cultural background, Title 1 and a panoply of other categories). However, each of these sub groups are measured in the exact same manner, do the students meet proficiency on the assessment, period.

MLBlogoWhat if measured baseball in the manner? Think about it, all managers and coaches are rated on the ability of their hitters to hit the baseball, and their fielders ability to catch and throw the ball, ands, that’s it. How about if the only teams that make the playoffs are the teams that have the highest batting average. Ok, I know that it could be said that would seem as it should (consider the 1927 Yankees “Murderer’s Row”) or the teams who hit the most home runs. But, we know that is not always the case, some teams win with defense, others with pitching. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, we are going to measure the success of school districts, schools, principals and teachers on the one single statistic, the results of a test given to students.

What education needs is someone like Bill James. Who is Bill James, you ask? He is the man responsible for a 200x200xJames-Bill-square.jpg.pagespeed.ic.tkF52VCBl3whole new series of statistics that are being used in the baseball world. These statistics are used  by baseball management teams when they are negotiating new contracts for professional baseball players. These statistics are the numbers used to determine the value of an individual player, in the parlance of education, these numbers are summative assessments, just like the SBAC or PARCC!

As I said above, there have been some truly great players. Ted Williams was a great player, perhaps the greatest hitter of all time in the opinion of a few folks, and in the “numbers” he produced during his stellar career. Ted is the last major-league ball player to hit above a .400 average for a whole season, hitting .406 in 1941. Since then, some players have come close to hitting .400, but none have been able to sustain that level of proficiency for a full season since. Ted was also the American League MVP twice during his career, six-time American League batting champ, hit more than 500 home runs and won exactly no championships as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

OK, so I understand that baseball is a team sport. I know that it takes everyone doing their job to the fullest to win championships, or be a successful team. I also know that there are lots of reasons why teams win, and Bill James has been able to accurately quantify, using actual results, why these teams have been successful. He has broken down performance into very small bits that can be used to determine the value of baseball players.

How do we compare what we do in a classroom and how students learn with what goes on on a baseball field? I am sure there is a way to do it, it’s just that there isn’t the profit motive to get anyone interested. There is a motive (profit or some other) to rank school using the raw data from the results of tests that may, or may not measure what is being taught. One, need only look at the profit and loss statement of Pearson or any other testing conglomerate.

So, Bill James, if you’re unlucky enough to have stumbled across this missive, and cray enough to have plodded through this tome, the world of education needs your expertise. We need someone to make sense of the results of these new PARCC and SBAC Assessments and give a true picture of how are kids are doing!

Final Day for Ordering Yearbooks

Please remember that April 20th is the final day for ordering GMS Yearbooks. If you would like to purchase a yearbook, there are two ways to do it. You can stop by the GMS Main Office and pick up an order form, enclose a check in the appropriate amount and leave it with our secretaries, or you can go to the Lifetouch Website at use the GMS ID Code of 3788215.

We will only order as many yearbooks as students purchase, so if you don’t get your order in by April 20th, you will be “out of luck”!




Two 5 Day Weeks in a Row!!!



Upcoming Important Dates

Friday, March 6 – GMS Musical Alice@Wonderland, GMS Auditorium 7:00 pm admission $5
Saturday, March 7 – GMS Musical Alice@Wonderland, GMS Auditorium 7:00 pm admission $5
Saturday,March 7 – Indoor Track meet at Portland Expo 8:00 am
Saturday, March 7 – 6th Grade Honor Music Festival, Bonny Eagle Middle School 3:00 pm
Tuesday, March 10 – 8th Grade Parent Night at the High School 6:00 pm GHS Auditorium
Wednesday, March 11 – Early Release Day, Student dismissed at 11:10 am
Thursday, March 12 – Parent Teacher Conferences 3:00 – 8:00 pm
Friday, March 13 – Parent Teacher Conferences 8:00am – 2:00 pm NO SCHOOL FOR STUDENTS
Saturday, March 14 – Indoor Track Meet at Portland Expo 2:30 pm

School Yearbooks

YearbookclipartWe are again offering several options for parents and students to order yearbooks for this year, and you can order them online or pick up an order form in the Office. The cost of the yearbooks is $17 for a soft cover yearbook. The softcover is a nice option to help keep the cost down and still get all of the memories of the school year. If you want a hard cover bound version, that cost is $22, and if you would like to have your child’s name printed on the cover along with their school picture, to really personalize it, you can add that as well fro an additional $5 charge.

The last day to order yearbooks is April 20 and to oder online you can go to: and use the school code 3788215.

Alice@Wonderland Musical Performance

Friday and Saturday night, March 6 & 7 our young thespians performed the wonderful adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. If you weren’t able to make your way to GMS on either Friday or Saturday evening, you missed a wonderfully energetic display of song, dance and funny lines, not to mention some great acting.

Thank you to Joe Hanley, husband of Assistant Principal Susie Hanley, for some wonderful  pictures of both evening’s performances.DSC_0396 DSC_0403 DSC_0411 DSC_0416

Busy Week Next Week

Next week is a very busy one for all of our parents. Our 8th grade parents are invited to join Principal Chris Record of Gorham High School, along with the Department Heads and school counsellors, to preview what parents, and students, can expect when their child enrolls at GHS next year.

This evening is one that should answer all of your questions about the transition to the high school as well as bring up a few more questions that you hadn’t already thought about.

The evening begins at 6:00 pm in the GHS Auditorium and should last until 7:30, or so.

Then, on Thursday evening and Friday during the day, the Middle School is holding our Spring Parent/Teacher Conferences. By now, everyone should have scheduled an appointment to meet with your child’s advisor. If you have not yet received an appointment, or made contact with your child’s advisor, please send them an email or give them a phone call.

As you know, we schedule conferences with your child’s advisor, however, if you want to meet with a particular content area or allied arts teacher, you may do so by simply contacting them and setting up a time to meet.

If you haven’t heard from you child’s advisor, please give me a call and I can “gently” remind them to set up an appointment.

The Pass Out Challenge

We have become aware of a new “game’ that our students are experimenting with called the Pass Out Game or Pass Out WarningChallenge, This is a very dangerous game for for kids to be playing and the possible consequences can be devastating.

In the past, I have written about the Cinnamon Challenge, and the Salt Challenge and this is just another one of the many things that young people try as they experiment with their own mortality, yes mortality!

Let me give you an idea of what the kids do in the Pass Out Game. First, the kids will take about 30 deep breathe, in effect, to force hyperventilation. Then, with the help of one of their friends, they will deprive the brain of oxygen by having their friend compress their chest. They will stand against the wall and their friend will use both hands to press, as hard a they can, on their chest, in effect forcing all of the air out of their lungs. In a few seconds, the brain will be deprived of oxygen and the child will pass out. If they are alone, they will blow on their thumb, attempting to force blood into the brain that lacks oxygen. The result is the same, the child will lose consciousness, some kids actually go into convulsions.

I wish I could tell you that this new fad is really a new fad, but it is not. This has been around since I was a teen. I can remember the kids in my neighborhood playing this game more than 50 years ago. I can also tell you that I can remember some kids getting seriously injured and suffering some catastrophic, long lasting injuries because of this game. I suspect that this is still the case, now 50 years later.

If you are unfamiliar with this “game” and you would like to see what it looks like, checkout Youtube and search for Pass Out Challenge, there are tone of wrong-minded kids putting up their own videos for other to see hoping for sone notoriety.

Planning for Celebration of Middle School

This is another of those occasions where I say “I can’t believe it’s here already” or “It’s that time of year again”, but we need to begin the planning for the 8th Grade Celebration of Middle School on the night before that last day of school.

We will hold our first organizing meeting on Thursday, March 19 in the GMS library beginning at 6:00 pm. This meeting is usually informational and organizational. We do make some decisions on how we will be making decisions and how we will collect ideas and then act on those idea.

I look forward to getting the planning started. Please call me if you can’t make the meeting but would like to work on a committee.


We Actually Did 5 Days Last Week!!!


Upcoming Important Dates

Wednesday, March 4 – Spread the Word to End the Word Day
Friday, March 6 – GMS Musical Alice@Wonderland, GMS Auditorium 7:00 pm admission $5
Saturday, March 7 – GMS Musical Alice@Wonderland, GMS Auditorium 7:00 pm admission $5
Saturday, March 7 – 6th Grade Honor Music Festival, Bonny Eagle Middle School 3:00 pm
Tuesday, March 10 – 8th Grade Parent Night at the High School 6:00 pm GHS Auditorium
Wednesday, March 11 – Early Release Day, Student dismissed at 11:10 am
Thursday, March 12 – Parent Teacher Conferences 3:00 – 8:00 pm
Friday, March 13 – Parent Teacher Conferences 8:00am – 2:00 pm NO SCHOOL FOR STUDENTS

Alice @Wonderland

AliceatWonderland small posterJPEGIt is that time of year again! Our young GMS thespians get to “strut the boards” (that does it for my theatrical jargon!) and present to our community a wonderful adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Please join us on both Friday, March 6 and Saturday March 7 in the GMS Auditorium beginning at 7:00 pm for tea with The Mad Hatter or croquet with The Queen of Hearts. I am sure that the evening will be filled with wonderful song and lots of belly laughs for everyone.

Spread the Word to End the Word

For the past several years, Gorham Middle School Students, Faculty and staff have celebrated the 1st Wednesday in March expunge the word 100h-Alternate-Logo-Darkretard from the vocabulary in our school and community. Each year, our students renew their pledge to end the use of that word to denigrate, put down or otherwise slam their peers and I am happy to report that they have done a great job of cutting the word out of their vocabulary.

Luanne Amell has led this effort for several years at GMS and she has worked tirelessly to get our kids to go on line at and make their pledge to stop using the word. We will have great celebration on Wednesday, March 4, the actual day of Spread the Word to End the Word.

I hope that many of you will join us in this pledge to value each and every member of our community for who they are and the talents the bring to our world. Just go to the link provided and make your pledge.

8th Grade Parent Night

parentsYou know, I say this every year and it really does seem to sneak up on us, but it is that time of year when we start the preparations for saying good-bye to our 8th graders. It really seems like they just started here and we are planning to send them off to the high school.

High School Principal Chris Record and all of his Department Heads will welcome the parents of our 8th graders, and the 8th graders, too, to the GHS Auditorium at 6:00 pm on Thursday, March 10. Chris will outline what parents can expect during the next few months from the high school regarding courses, requirements and expectations from the high school teachers. This is a great night for the parents to ask questions, clarify the expectations and get the answers they need direct from the source. I hope you can attend.

Early Release Day

Wednesday, March 11 will be an early release day for the students so that teachers can attend a professional development event. Students will be dismissed at 11:10, but we will have a regular schedule, just shortened classes.

Parent Teacher Conferences

Our Parent Teacher Conferences will be held on Thursday evening, March 12 from 2:30 pm until 8:00 pm and again on Friday, March 13 CLIPART_OF_15182_SM_2(hopefully not a bad omen for our students or their families!) beginning at 8:00 am until 2:00 pm. Students’ Advisors will be available to meet with parents on these days, however, if neither of these days works for you, please just contact your child’s advisor to arrange an alternate date. These conferences are a very important element of the home/school communication and are a great chance for teachers, students and parents  to get together and discuss progress throughout the year.

You should be hearing from your child’s advisor in the coming days to schedule your time to meet.

Please note: There are no classes for students on Friday for students.

Cold Enough For You!?!


Upcoming Important Dates

Friday, February 13 thru February 22 – Mid Winter Break, Enjoy the snow!!!
Friday, February 27 – Southern Maine Honors Chorus Festival, Westbrook Middle School
Friday, February 27 – School Dance GMS Gym 6:00 -8:00 pm
Saturday, February 28 – Southern Maine Honors Concert, Westbrook Middle School 3:30 pm
Saturday, March 7 – 6th Grade Honor Music Festival, Bonny Eagle Middle School 3:00 pm

A Warm Welcome

photo-9All of the faculty, staff and our students want to offer a warm welcome to our new Superintendent-elect, Heather Perry. We truly look forward to working with Ms. Perry as we all tackle the challenges that public school education faces in the coming years.

A Dose of Reality

We had a great assembly with all of our kids on Friday. Linda Dutil, an Emergency Room Nurse from Waterville who travels around thephoto-10 country sparking with high school and middle school kids about the realities of abusing substances. Linda does a great job of keeping the presentation very appropriate for the age of the kids and she does not place challenges in front of the kids. What she does is talk about what happens when young people make poor choices and end up in her Emergency Room. Linda does a great job of getting the kids involved in the presentation and she paces her “shock” effect about substances with a comforting compassion of a parent.

Music Honors Season

MusicAs you can see form the “Upcoming Important Date” section of this edition, we have several Honors Concerts coming in the next few weeks for several of our very talented musicians. It is a source of great pride for our school and our community to have so many of our students selected for these great accomplishments. I urge you, if you can find the time, to take in one of these concerts. It is a great chance for our kids to collaborate with other great middle school musicians.

An Update of Proficiency Based Education

The Gorham School department continues to work toward awarding Proficiency Based Diplomas as required by the state beginning with our current 6th grade class. I know that there are several folks out there wondering what is the fuss about this and how is it going to impact my son or daughter as they continue on in CBE-image1school.

I think we first need to remember why we send our kids to school. Our community allocates lots of financial resources and makes great sacrifices so that our kids will learn skills and knowledge to be successful in their life and become productive, positive citizens who will contribute to the betterment of our society. Ultimately, we want our kids keep this Democracy, that has endured for more than 235 years, strong and vibrant well into the future.

There are far too many interpretations of what this looks like specifically, but I think we can agree that having a well educated populace is our top goal.

So the grading systems we all grew up with had teachers administering tests and quizzes and then assigning grades to them based upon the number of correct answers divided by the number of questions on the test. Some teachers assigned more points for short answer questions than they did for multiple choice, true/false, or selected response questions. Some tests had essay questions called constructed response questions that would be worth the most points. Teachers usually used a percent to represent how a student did on any given test.

So, here are 3 students in the same class, taking the same 10 tests. What do the results of these 3 students demonstrate about their learning in my social studies class?

Student 1 Student 2 Student 3
Test #
1 50 100 100
2 60 100 50
3 60 90 90
4 70 90 60
5 80 80 100
6 80 80 60
7 90 70 50
8 90 60 90
9 100 60 80
10 100 50 80
Average 78 78 78

Each student achieved an average of 78% on the tests given. These tests were designed to demonstrate student achievement on a topic in social studies. Unlike some teachers, I chose not to look at homework for this quarter, so I graded the students based solely on the results of these tests. I purposely didn’t give anyone a zero, because I know about the toxicity of giving a student a zero and how it serves only to disengage the student.

What do these grades say about each of these kids?

Let’s look at student #1;

This student appears to start slow, not getting the information or not knowing how to study for my tests, or not understanding what I was looking for. After a time in my class, this student seems to begin to understand either the content or what I was looking for in answers to my questions. By the end of the quarter this student seems to have a good understanding of the content, or what I was looking for in answers, or how to study better for my tests, or had the lead role in the play I was directing for the school, or was the all-state center on my hockey team, or was polite in my class! (Ok, some of these reasons are a little ridiculous, but I wanted to show how the human condition can enter into our decision process.)

Student #2:

This student starts the quarter off with a bang! 100’s on the first two of tests of the quarter. This is going to be a great quarter for this student, maybe a really easy quarter, maybe too easy! This student’s grade seem to fall off as the quarter moves on. Perhaps something happened at home, or “significant other” problems, or I truly bored this student (most likely!). What does this say about how much this student learn?

Student #3

This student is the most troubling, in my mind. Very inconsistent in the scores on each of the tests and this doesn’t really tell me a lot about whether this student is understanding what I am teaching.

The bottom line for each of these students is that the “averaged” a 78% for this quarter, but I cannot tell whether these kids have “mastered” what it was that I was teaching! The path each of these kids took to 78% are so vastly different that I cannot honestly say which one has attained proficiency toward the standard I was teaching.

This is why we need to honestly examine how we determine what students are learning and to what level there are learning it. Our traditional method for making these determinations has passed us by, and what we need our kids to demonstrate cannot be measured by these traditional methods.

We will continue to work as a school, and a district to create systems that will best help our kids become what we want them to become, and that is what we said above about preserving our Democracy for many future generations.

Please call, or email me, if you have any questions about what we are doing and why.

The Power of Social Media


Upcoming Important Dates

Thursday, February 12 – Digital Citizenship Assemblies for all grades
Friday, February 13 – A Dose of Reality Presentation, all students.
Friday, February 13 thru February 22 – Mid Winter Break, Enjoy the snow!!!
Friday, February 27 – Southern Maine Honors Chorus Festival, Westbrook Middle School
Saturday, February 28 – Southern Maine Honors Concert, Westbrook Middle School 3:30 pm

My Story about Social Media

On Thursday, February 12, Terri Dawson, Susie Hanley and I will address our entire student body in grade level assemblies to remind our kids about how to be a responsible digital citizen. I think we all recognize that, in the hands of the inexperienced, naive or immature individual, social media can be a very dangerous tool. It can be fraught with so many pitfalls that some of our students get caught up in a spider’s web of harsh talk, meanness and threat that escape, or even retreat, seems impossible.

There are some very positive ways to use social media, however, that can create a better world for all of us. Before last week, we had never heard of James Robertson of Detroit, Michigan. Today, because of social media, he will no longer have to trudge 21 miles, round trip each day, to get to work. Evan Leedy, a Wayne State University student had the idea to raise $5,000 to help James get his old auto repaired. His efforts through a social media fund-raising site raised more than $350,000 for Robertson and a local Ford Dealership donated the Ford Taurus. The result of these efforts not only aided an individual in need, it raised the spirits of a city, Detroit, Michigan, that has experienced a considerable downturn in the past two decades. As Robertson said “Forget Los Angeles, Detroit is the city of angels!”

My story is quite a bit different and far less compelling than James Robertson’s and Evan Leedy’s. Mine is about a large corporation and a small guy living in Saco, Maine who just wanted a way to keep his driveway clear of snow.

This past fall I purchased a garden tractor to mow my lawn, and a snowblower attachment to keep my driveway free from snow. Now, I must admit, I did not foresee the kinds of storms we have been getting this winter, but I did want to release myself from being reliant upon someone else to keep free from the back-breaking work of shoveling a long driveway.

When the first snowfall came, I was ready! My snowblower was on (I had the Sears guy out it on because I would have messed it up!), gas tank filled, oil changed to the proper weight (did you know you should use 5W30 and not 10W30 in the winter!), chains on the tires, I was ready. About 10 inches into a 21 inch snowfall, I went out, started my tractor and gave it a go. It seemed to be working fine, although the wind-swept snow returned to my driveway as soon as I passed, but I was making progress (in my mind).

Now comes the fun part. Toward the end of the snow storm (maybe the 19 -20 inch mark) I return to my tractor to finish the job begun earlier. I again check the gas, the oil, the chains and the blower chute, all good. I sit in the seat, place the choke on, depress the brake pedal and turn the key.

A wirrrr! A wirrrr? Yup, definitely a wirrrrr, no turning of the engine at, all. This isn’t right!

I could tell you all of the things I did to try to start this baby, but it would be a waist of time and space here. Suffice it to say that I needed to call the company, which I did.

They sent a man out to fix it and, after a week of waiting for parts and his schedule, he fixed it. Or, so I thought. Next storm, exactly the same result!

This time my call was on a Sunday (right in the middle of another monumental New England snow storm), and the results were much different. They could not possibly get someone out to see my sick little tractor for 12 days, 12 days! With the threat of lots more snow in the forecast, that was not acceptable and I told them that. Alas, there was nothing they could do, and they regretted my inconvenience!”, this is where social media enter the picture for me.

Having not had success with anyone from the company ( I actually had one of the telephone guys tell me “he was the boss, and there was no one above him” that I could speak with!), I turned to social media, met notably, Twitter and Facebook. Here is a picture of my original tweet.Screenshot 2015-02-11 09.45.21

Immediately, I received several tweets from other disgruntled Sears customers about their experiences with Sears repairs. The response was absolutely amazing.

My next move was to express my displeasure on the Sears Facebook page. On the Sears Facebook page there is a section for people to leave comments. I think Sears hoped that people who had received great service or bought life-changing appliances would sing the praises of the company for the whole world to see. What I found in this section of the Sears Facebook page were people who had similar experiences to mine and they were looking for a place to sound off.

This may be where my experience differs from many of the folks who had posted the negative comments. Posting to Twitter and Facebook elicited an immediate response from someone (other than the caller who was the boss!) to inquire about my problem. I started to think I was getting someplace, because shortly after I posted my comments to the Sears Facebook page I received a direct message (DM) on my Twitter feed asking if we could keep this in DM and not public and to DM my phone number and address to the folks at Sears Cares.

Initially, the response was similar to all of the responses I received up to this point. Here is the Sears Cares response:


Screenshot 2015-02-11 12.04.30When I responded to their DM that I didn’t want their “regret”, I wanted to be able to use the $3700 I spent for a solution. I explained they I had my money but, I didn’t have their product to use. Not the way I expect commerce to work! So here was my response to them:

Screenshot 2015-02-11 12.08.55

They then responded by asking me to call a telephone number. Now, I must admit I had great trepidation in starting this all over again, trying to get someone to understand the real problem here, not that Sears can made everything they make perfectly, but that they need to stand behind the products they sell. I understand that stuff breaks, I wish we could all be perfect (not like me!) and that the sun shined everyday and that we had achieved world peace, but I really , really do know that is not possible. What is possible is that the company can become more of a humanist (if that’s the correct use of the word) and exercise some compassion for their customer. That’s all I ask.

A nice woman answered the phone, after the obligatory auto-phone-answering voice led me through a couple of options. As soon as I mentioned my name she had my information in front of her on her computer screen. (What a great way to use technology!) She recapped my story and asked if Thursday would work for me (3 days!), so she understood! Finally, someone from the great corporate giant showing compassion!

I don’t know if they will be able to fix this garden tractor, and I certainly could have left all of the negative comments out there, but Sears did respond in an appropriate manner and they did, eventually find some compassion for a small consumer. This is no

Today is Wednesday and I have just received my robot phone call reminding me of the call between 10am and 2pm. I will take time out of my day to be there, as they requested. I am hopeful that the repair guy will have a new starter with him and that I will be able use my very expensive snow remover without any further problems. We’ll see.

What I did learn out of all of this is that social media can be used in a very constructive manner and it can be very powerful. It can also help to open doors to people and things that can help to make your life easier. I have been a huge consumer and user of social media in helping me to get better at being a Principal. I have connected with some very amazing people all over the world who face many of the same challenges and obstacles I do in being a Principal, and they have been so very helpful and giving of their expertise and knowledge.

So, we will continue to work with our students to help them become responsible, respectful, compassionate, courageous and honest users of social media. We will focus our attention on the positive uses and work to minimize the negatives because, if we all endeavor to contribute only positively to social media, we won’t need to worry about the negative. Maybe I’m naive, but I do think I know I kids… and they are the best!