Hang in There, The Tests are almost done!


Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, May 11 – 6th Grade MEA Testing begins, all week
Monday, May 11 – 8th Grade Summer Reading Book Talk 8:00 am
Tuesday, May 12 – Selected Students visit Elementary Schools
Wednesday, May 13 – Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Thursday, May 14 – Selected Students visit Elementary Schools
Friday, May 15 – 8th Grade Physics day at Funtown
Tuesday, May 19 – NWEA Testing Window begins for 8th graders

8th Grade Book Talk

Lucie Bowers and Chris Record will address the 8th graders on the selection of books for their summer reading. 8th Grade teachers, please remind your kids of their obligation to finish reading these books during the summer to prepare for a series of activities during the first day of school in August.

5th to 6th Grade Transition Activities

During the coming week, a group of selected 6th, 7th & 8th grade students will be traveling to the Elementary Schools to talk about “Life as a Middle Schooler”. These students will be dismissed from their classes for the afternoon (after testing for 6th graders).

Early Release Day Agenda

To properly prepare for the work of Wednesday, all teachers should begin entering some of you 3rd quarter assessments into Jumprope as we will be asking all teachers to take 5 students, and their 3rd quarter work, an upload their results into Jumprope. This will require each teacher to determine which performance indicators that were being assessed. When this information is uploaded, I would like to have all teachers begin to manipulate the information in Jumprope (e.g. formative assessments, summative assessments, cross curricular information and guiding principles). We are seeking to see where we need to address future professional development.

One real caveat, this will be far from perfect! I have no expectations that everyone will have a complete understanding of this. We hope that this will begin to uncover what our next steps need to be as far as professional development needs for the coming school year. It should also help each us get a better understanding of how the system works and how we can makes this work for us.

We will meet in the Library at 12:15, after lunch on your own.

Field Trips

This time of year tends to get very busy with teachers and students leaving the building for various activities. Please complete the District Field Trip Request form found on the district Web Site and as you send this out for approvals please make sure you include the following:

Kristen Fitz
Judy Philbrick – Transportation
Rhonda Warren – Superintendent Office
Lynn Erickson – Food Service
Teresa Merrill – School Nurse
Susie Hanley
Bob Riley

If you are leaving the building to take your kids on a walk or to do a lesson out of the building, please let Kristen and Laurie know. Often time, it seems that when we are looking for kids for their parents to pick up, they are outside the building. It would also be helpful if you took one of the walkie-talkies with you.

More Testing

Now that we have almost completed the MEA administration, we start all over agin with the NWEAs. 8th Grade will begin the schedule on Tuesday, May 19, followed by the 7th grade the following week and the 6th grade the week after that.

Then, we will be done with the assessments for the year… until September!

So Far, So Good


Upcoming Important Dates

Wednesday, May 6 – Teacher Appreciation Day at GMS
Friday, May 8 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Friday, May 8 – Parent Meet Up, GMS Library 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Friday, May 8 – MEA Science Assessment for all 8th graders
Monday, May 11 – 6th Grade MEA Testing begins, all week
Monday, May 11 – 8th Grade Summer Reading Book Talk 8:00 am
Tuesday, May 12 – Selected Students visit Elementary Schools
Wednesday, May 13 – Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Thursday, May 14 – Selected Students visit Elementary Schools
Friday, May 15 – 8th Grade Physics day at Funtown

MEA Assessments

I am aware that there has been a considerable amount of discussion and concern on the part of many parents about the Maine Educational Assessments (MEA). Some of our parents have chosen to opt their children out of participating in these assessments, and that is certainly within the parental rights. I can tell you that our 8th graders reported found that the assessments were “not that bad” given what they were led to believe they would be like. Many of the kids said that some of the questions were a bit difficult to understand and they required a couple of readings to be able to understand what was actually being asked, but they thought the questions were fair and the felt that our teachers had them very well prepared.

For those students who have been opted out, we have a couple of activities for them to complete during the time that the other students are taking the tests. These activities require the students to complete some research and then be prepared to publish their findings. When these are completed, I will provide links so you can see what your kids produced.

Spring and Dress Codes

With the advent of the warmer weather (really!), comes the infernal and eternal battle with how kids dress. Last summer I addressed the dress code in relation to yoga pants and whether they should be allowed in school. Several of our faculty were concerned that the tightness of these garments and the “body-hugging” nature of these, apparently, very comfortable pants caused some concern that they would be a distraction to our school.

Of course, this only pertained to our young girls, as our boys were attired in jeans or shorts (worn appropriately at the natural waistline). When I asked how many of their students indicated to them that these garments were a “distraction” in the class, they could not cite a single occasion.

The truth is, in my humble opinion, our students in the Springtime are filled with distractions. Regardless of the manner of dress of anyone of the opposite sex, our kids are distracted. Some from the warm weather and being stuck, yes stuck, in a classroom and some form those first yearnings of attraction to someone special. If we really think that our young boys “driven to distraction” by the dress of our young girls, we have a far greater problem on our hands. We should be teaching our kids about respect, compassion and honesty (words from our Code of Conduct) in how they view their classmates.

Society has given us far too many examples in how not to treat each other, we need to be setting the examples in how we should be treating each other.

So, rather than waxing on about dress codes, please know that we are not going to be fashion police. Our Handbook states that shorts and skirts should be worn no higher than the mid thigh ( we have a rule of thumb about fingertip length), pants should be worn at the “natural waistline, and shirts, T-shirts and sweatshirts should not promote behaviors that are sexual in nature, advertise alcohol or tobacco products and should not contain words to be considered “fighting words”. We do not allow T-shirts that have unusually large arm hole that expose a large portion of the students anatomy.

Parent Meet Up

On Friday, May 8, we will hold our monthly school dance in the gym from 6:00 until 8:00 pm. Unlike our regular monthly dances, Claudine Emerson, our school Substance Abuse Counselor will be holding a Parent Meet Up in the school library during that same time.

What is a Parent Meet Up, you ask? Claudine will be available to answer your questions and concerns about the substance abuse that is present in Gorham among our young people and how you can identify the tell-tale signs of whether your child is beginning to engage in risky behaviors.

The meeting will coincide with the dance, so you can bring your kids and the  stay for a while in the Library. This meeting should last about 90 minutes and then you can check out your kids and “slow dancing”!

MEA Science Assessment

On Friday, May 8, all 8th graders will be participating in the annual MEA Science Assessment. This assessment is a “paper-and-pencil test, unlike the recent computer adaptive test given to the 8th grade last week. This is a test, again mandated by the state, to all 5th, 8th and 11th grade students state-wide.

For those parents who “opted” their children out of the computer adaptive test earlier, if you want your child opted out, you will need to make a separate request for this assessment. The requirement are the same:

Date of the request
Legal name of the Parent
Legal Name of the Student
Reason for the opt out

6th Grade MEA Assessments

Beginning the week of May 11, all 6th graders will be administered the MEA computer adaptive test and performance tasks for English/Language Arts and Math. The students will be tested in the morning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The following Monday, May 18th will be used for make up for students who were absent.

I can honestly say that the administration has gone quite well for the 7th and 8th graders. We have not experienced any technical difficulties and our students have worked very diligently at performing that highest level, I am very proud of how well they have done, regardless of the actually outcomes.

If you have any questions about this assessment, please give me a call at 222-1228.

Early Release Day – May 13

All GMS Students will be released at 11:10 am on this day.

During the morning our students will be engaging in an activity of decorating their classroom doors. We at Gorham Middle School pride ourselves as being a welcoming, warm and safe school for all of our students. In our Mission Statement we use the words “…Inspires our students to become model citizens…”. The door decorating activity will foci on how our school understands that there are differences among us, but that these differences actually make us a far stronger community, able to take on difficult tasks successfully because of the vitality of our community.

The day will be very full of learning, both traditionally and non-traditionally, learning by doing and learning in action. It will be a great day for our kids.

A Most Interesting Video

Finally, I showed this video to our faculty last week in an effort to demonstrate the nature of how we learn and, hopefully, to create a different understanding of how the Brain works so very differently in younger folks. It also was a great demonstration in how the older we get, the more rock solid our biases become in our own neurological system. I hope you enjoy it.


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 http://www.ybpay.lifetouch.com 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 YBPay.lifetouch.com

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 ybpay.lifetouch.com 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: http://www.ybpay.lifetouch.com 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 www.r-word.org 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.