Well, That was Interesting…


Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, August 26 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Wednesday, August 27 – 1st Day of school for 6th grade
Thursday, August 28 – 1st Day of school for grades 7 & 8
Friday, August 29 – No School
Monday, September 1 – Labor Day, No School
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, September 10, 11 & 12 – Tooth Fairies
Monday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – Picture Day, Vision & Hearing Screening

The Conversation on Dress Codes

Last week, I mentioned in this space the difficulties of crafting a dress code that was not slanted towards restricting one gender because the other gender might be distracted by the choice of dress of the other. This caused some comments from the Twitter-verse and from some parents of GMS. That is what I had hoped would happen, the beginning of a conversation.

As I said in the post, at the end of the school year,I had a few teachers, male and female, comment on what we needed to do regarding our young girls who wear yoga pants. They used terms such as “disruptive of the teaching process”, ” distracting to the male students” and “it can be uncomfortable for some”, when expressing why I needed to do something.

The way students dress for school has been an issue for generations. Check out this video from the 1950’s to see what “juvenile delinquents” would try to get away with when they went to school and what the “proper” students should wear:

In the early 60’s, during the “British Invasion” to our shores, hair styles became the item of the moment. Schools enacted hair style restrictions to limit the length of the hair boys were able to sport. I can remember on more than one occasion, having the debate with my dad about the length of my hair. He wanted me to comb my hair back, off my forehead, but the style that the Beatles made famous, a bit long and combed across my forehead, was my chosen style.

In schools during this time, administration had rules about how long boys hair could be, using hair over the ears, or on the collar as the rule. I do remember some of my classmates who were suspended from school and strongly advised to visit the barber before returning to school. Interestingly, those that were suspended did visit the barber before returning to school and there were no more incidents of long hair. Hmmmm…

During the late 60’s, hair got longer, the clothing styles changed dramatically and schools were faced with considerably more complex problems with dress codes. In fact, the US Supreme Court had to weigh in on a couple of incidents where students were disciplined for their choice of style of clothing. In Tinker v. DesMoines Board of Education, the court ruled that clothing styles were a form of speech and as such, could not be absolutely restricted. The phrase that the Court used was that “students did not leave their first amendment rights at the school yard door…”, thereby freeing students to express themselves, within certain limits.

Many of the case that went before the courts had to do with the anti-war sentiment that was pervasive during this time.

I guess what I am trying to communicate here is that every generation has had definite issues about how our young people dress while attending school. It seems that we adults have an amnesia about our lives as adolescents. Whether is was Elvis Presley and his sideburns, or the Beatles with their “mop heads”, the hippies and their long hair and scruffy look or, most recently, the baggy, low-riding pants that many of our young men wore showing off their Joe Boxers, school administrators have worked to find ways to get our kids to conform.

We have a wonderful Code of Conduct. The words mean so much more than their dictionary definitions, and they are truly words that need to be put into action. Respect, Responsibility, Courage, Compassion and Honesty are a common thread in the fabric of our school. The meanings are broad enough to encompass a culture of acceptance of others, as well as a positive image of ourselves. Let’s use our Code as our guideline for all that we do at GMS.

A Great Resource for Parents

Occasionally, in this space, I offer different items that I come across in my travels. One of my favorites are all of the offerings from CommonSenseMedia. However, I have been introduced to a teacher, author, mother and Twitter friend who has so many real practical offerings to help all of us help our kids reach more successful lives.

Jessica Lahey is a teacher, a writer and has appeared on radio and TV, so I guess she is famous! More importantly, she is a very practical voice of reason in a time where the voice of reason is noticeably absent. She writes a bi-weekly piece for the New York Times as well as pieces for The Atlantic and Huffington Post Education. She can be followed on Twitter at @jesslahey and her blog at http://comingofageinthemiddle.blogspot.com.

I would suggest that you explore what she has to offer, especially the NY Times pieces called Motherlode. She is truly a breath of fresh air, and, as all parents of middle school aged children know, fresh air is a rare commodity.

Until Next Week…


Getting Ready for The New School Year


Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, August 26 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Wednesday, August 27 – 1st Day of school for 6th grade
Thursday, August 28 – 1st Day of school for grades 7 & 8
Friday, August 29 – No School
Monday, September 1 – Labor Day, No School
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, September 10, 11 & 12 – Tooth Fairies
Monday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – Picture Day, Vision & Hearing Screening

Not to be a “Debbie Downer!”

I know that summer is just beginning, and we are all still formulating plans for that fishing trip or family gathering. I, too, really don’t want to be thinking about this, but as the great philosopher Yoda says “think, we must”.

So, with that in mind, we have scheduled to GMS Open House for the evening of August 26th from 6:00 – 7:00 pm. Teachers will be in their rooms to meet the parents and guardians of their new students. We all hope to see you all there. It will be a great time to meet our “old” staff and the new faces that will be joining the GMS Family for the coming year.

Student Handbook Revisions

As we do each summer, we examine our Student Handbook for areas where we need to make changes. We intend to publish the Student Handbook in Ibook Author which will allow everyone to see it, regardless of what computer platform you use. It should also be available on other devices as well, such as smart phone and tablets.

The area that seems to cause the most concern and consternation is our dress code! Given that styles are ever changing, and the retailers are marketing specifically to our aged kids with an eye toward making them seem older than the really are, becomes a problem for most middle schools.

We, meaning me, really struggle with writing a dress code that does not single out one gender over the other, and yet most dress codes seem to do exactly that.

In our school, our male students have eschewed the baggy, low riders that displayed their boxers. A couple of years ago, the skinny jeans were in style for many of our male students, but that, too seems to have passed. We now have the yoga pants fad going through our school for our female students, and that seems to be causing quite a stir among our faculty as well as around the country.

I have done a little research on this in the past week and I have discovered that we definitely are not alone with this issue. Seems that schools all across the country are facing this new fad. How they are responding to their girls wearing yoga pants, which tend to be body conforming, is not unexpected, they are banning their students from wearing them.

I am not sure we are sending an appropriate message when we ban things like yoga pants from schools because it is, in fact, gender specific. In some manner, it may be perceived that the “good order of the school” relies on what the girls are wearing, this somehow feels unbalanced.

I have survived the middle school years, albeit 15 to 20 years ago. The schools my kids went to had dress codes that restricted what the students could wear. I didn’t find that I had to fight too much with my kids about what they wore, mostly because my and I bought their clothes, and we didn’t purchase the kinds of clothes that made my daughter look older than she was. Also, she was quite level headed and involved in other things to worry about what she wore.

It also helped that I was teaching at the school and she didn’t have the opportunity to leave the house wearing one set of clothes and then changing into other clothes when she got to school. This has happened with several of our students in the past year!

In any event, we will be making some adjustments to our dress code this summer. We will try mightily to make sure that we do not isolate on one gender with too many restrictions. And, we will be asking parents to be mindful as the  begin the process of “Back-To-School” shopping of succumbing to the wishes of “Madison Avenue” and the Disney Channel Kids shows, and looking for clothes that will be functional for school, easy on the pocket book and doesn’t make you child look 5 years older than they really are!

As an aside, I came across this article from an Evanston, Illinois newspaper about the dress code at one of their middle schools. I think you’ll find this interesting! Haven Middle School Dress Code Protest

Student Placement Issues

We have received a few calls and emails regarding the placement of kids on teams for next year. I appreciate all of you for understanding our process of placement and the lengths we go to to try and make teams that make sense for our entire school. We do try to make sure that each child has  friend with them on their team. In some cases, we have even been able to get friends in the same advisory, but not always!

Just a reminder about requesting changes of placement for your child. We have four possible conditions to which we can respond:

  • Negative prior experience with your child and a particular teacher;
  • Prior negative experience with an older sibling and a particular teacher;
  • Issue with another student that rises to the level of legal action between the families, and;
  • A neighbor, relative or close friend as the teacher that would create an uncomfortable situation for the child, teacher or family.

We will be back in the office during the second week of August, so if you have any questions regarding placement, you can call us then. You can also email us if you have a question that we can answer. We do monitor our emails often during the summer.

 Student Supply Lists

At the annual step up day this past June, your child should have received a supplies list from their next year team. The list usually includes items such as notebooks, 3-ringed binders, pencils, pens, index cards, markers, etc. I know these are all very important items for school. I also know that your child will want to feel prepared when they arrive at school on that first day. So, that means that you will begin hearing about all of the things that will be “necessary” on that first day of school.

I have cautioned the teachers to make sure that all requested supplies are “necessary” and just “what we have always done”. I can assure you that no child will be made to feel uncomfortable on those first days of school if they don’t have everything on their supply list!

I have always been shocked by the total  cost of all of the items on these lists. I must say, however, our teachers do a really good job of keeping the lists short, but, depending on grade level and team, the cost of all of the items on the list can exceed $100! And some of the items will not be needed until 2nd semester!

So, please use your best judgment, not about what is on the list, nut about what you can reasonably afford, when you head out for back to school shopping. (there, I said “Back to School”!)

Summer Reading Recommendations fro CommonSenseMedia.com

CommonSenseMedia Over the past several years, I have recommended CommonSenseMedia.com as a great resource for all things about your kids. Things like newly released movies and video games, ideas about how to help your child deal with issues about bullying, and so many more topics. Here is a review of some books for teens from 12 to 17 years old that might help both you and your child pick out some interesting summer reading books.

CommonSenseMedia not only makes a recommendation according to genre and style, they also give you a very nice synopsis of the book to help you decide if it is right for your child. Check them out at CommonSenseMedia. While you’re visiting the site, check out all of the other great features they offer to parents to help you deal with technology, video games and even friendships.



And now, the end is near –Frank Sinatra



Important Upcoming Dates

Monday, June 16 – 8th Grade to Range Pond
Tuesday, June 17 – K-9 Step up day (more information below)
Tuesday, June 17 – Celebration of Middle School 6:00 pm, GMS Gymnasium
Wednesday, June 18 – Last day of school, students dismissed at 11:10 am
Wednesday, August 27 – 1st day of school for 6th grade only
Thursday, August 28 – All students arrive at school
Friday, August 29 – No School
Monday, September 1 – Labor Day Holiday, No school

Step Up Day for All Students

We will be welcoming our newest students to the Middle School on Tuesday, June 17. The 5th grade students will arrive, via school bus, from their respective elementary schools at 9:30 am and proceed directly to the GMS Auditorium to meet their new advisors. Upon the arrival of the 5th graders, the 8th grade students will board the buses for their second trip to the high school.

The current 5th, 6th and 7th graders will meet their new teams and teachers and be given a very brief look into what a day will be when the arrive on their first days of school. All students will meet their new advisors and get to know those who will be with them each morning for the next year.

The 5th graders will be returned to the Auditorium at 10:45 and all other students will return to their “this year’s” teachers for completion of the rest of the day. The 5th graders will board their buses to return to their respective elementary schools at 11:00 am.

Student Placement

We begin the process of placing students in March by asking for parent input into their child’s learning style, concerns and success. We complete the process on Step Up day when we assign all students to their new advisors and teams. In between those two events there is a considerable amount of work. We include the child’s current teachers, the School Counselors and the School Social Workers. Finally, we ask the administrators to examine the lists to see if there may be something we may have missed.

We know that on Step Up day, students will still come home complaining about their team, not having any friends with them, etc. in spite of our best efforts. There are only four possible conditions under which we may be allowed to switch a student’s team, They are:

Prior negative experience with a particular teacher and your child,
Prior negative experience with a teacher and a sibling,
Significant conflict with a particular student (“significant meaning restraining order, protection for abuse, etc.)
Relative or close friend or neighbor which could cause discomfort in the relationship.

In any event, we will not be doing any possible changes in placement until late August, after we have examined any new student arrivals or departures.

8th Grade Celebration

For the past few months, several groups of parents have been busy planning and preparing for the final Celebration of Middle School for our departing 8th graders. I am excited about the send off for this great class that these folks have planned. I am sure that the kids will have a great time and it will be a fitting lasting memory of their time here at Gorham Middle School.

The evening begins with what I call the “Parent Portion” of the event. We will gather in the Gymnasium, beginning at 5:30 pm with the slide show of pictures submitted by the families of our 8th grade students. Seating is on a first-come-first-served basis and we have always had plenty of space available for all who want to attend.

The formal portion of the vent will begin promptly at 6:00 pm and should last about an hour. After the formal portion, our 8th graders will gather in the cafeteria for one final evening of dancing and enjoying the sounds of DJ Adam Parvanta. There will be food available for the students and lots of sweets and other “teen-like” food.

The dance will end at 9:00 pm and we ask that the students be picked up at that time.

Laptop Turn in and Repairs

The students are currently turning in their laptops for the year. This is a fairly cumbersome process as we ask the students to remove any work that they want to save that wasn’t saved to the “Cloud” and any music or games they downloaded to the device needs to either be saved to their ITunes account or they will lose them. We have give the students time to complete this process and we are now collecting them from each grade level.

Once we collect them, we will examine each device for damage to the case, keyboard, display screen. We will examine the “innards” for damage to moisture sensors to see if any of them may have been tripped by a spill.

If we determine that there has been some damage, we will contact the parents of the students and give them a list of the damages and what will be necessary to bring the device back to working order. This will be done either by phone call or through first class mail.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

GMS Summer Reading List

Each year, GMS School Librarian, Kathy Marquis puts together a list of books that would interest our students for summer time reading.

We all know that summer is filled lots of outdoor activities and family vacations, but we also know there needs to be time to keep the momentum for reading up. I can’t think of a better activity on a rainy day, or first thing in the morning before getting out of bed or in the afternoon after a swim in the lake, and always, before turning out the lights for the night. Here is Kathy’s list:

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library - Chris Grabenstein
When a lock-in becomes a reality game, 12-year-old and his friends use library resources to find their way out of Alexandriaville’s new public library.

Deep Blue - Jennifer Donnelly
Uncovering an ancient evil, Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas, to save their hidden world.

Always Emily: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance - Michaela MacColl
Young Emily and Charlotte Bronte investigate a possible connection between series of local burglaries and rumors that a neighbor’s death may not have been accidental.

Ashfall - Mike Mullin
A super volcano erupts in Yellowstone National Park, covering much of North America in volcanic ash and plunging the world into nuclear winter.

The Familiars - Adam Jay Epstein
The young wizards-in-training are kidnapped by an evil queen and their familiars, the alley cat, the blue jay and the tree frog. The familiars set out on a dangerous journey to rescue the boys.

Foul Trouble – College recruiters are trying to sign Terrell Jamerson, the #1 high school basketball player in the country. Not all of these recruiters are straight shooters.

How to Catch a Bogle - Catherine Jinks
In 1870’s London, a young orphan girl becomes the apprentice to a man who traps monsters for a living.

Malala Yousafzai - This is the biography of a Muslim teenage girl from Pakistan, whom the Taliban attempted to assassinate on October 9, 2012.

SYLO - Pemberwick Island, Maine is occupied by a Navy section called SYLO who claim a virus has been unleashed, but Tucker Pierce, who has seen a strange aircraft, realizes something else is going on.

The 5th Wave - Richard Yancey
Cassie Sullivan, the survivor of an alien invasion, must rescue her young brother from the enemy with help from a boy who may be one of them.

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures - Kate DiCamillo (2014 Newberry Award Winner)
A girl named Flora and a squirrel named Ulysses team up to conquer villains and protect the weak.

Each of these books are available at the Baxter Memorial Library this summer.

I also follow @pragmaticmom on Twitter and she has produce a wonderfully extensive list of books that are of high interest. She has broken the list down by genre and interest as well as supplying titles for students who may struggle. Please check out her list here. You may also want to follow her on Twitter, she has some great resources for parents of Middle School kids.


At the risk of being too commercial and being seen as supporting a particular office supplies store, I offer the following video to celebrate the end of the school year… but remind you of the next school year.


Happy Memorial Day… When Does the Summer Weather Arrive???


 Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, May 26 – Memorial Day Holiday – No School Thursday,
May 29 – Career Day for 8th graders – Details below
Thursday, May 29 – GMS Chorus Concert GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm
Friday, May 30 – Gorham School Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast, GMS 10:00 am
Friday, May 30 – Gorham Chorus and Steel Band to OOB and Funtown
Wednesday, June 4 – Little River Team to Boston
Thursday, June 5 – Band Concert, GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm
Friday, June 6 – Stroudwater Team to Portland Freedom Trail
Tuesday, June 10 – 8th Grade Step up Day (More info below)

New Email Addresses

We have switched our email provider and moved in the world of Google and Gmail. Beginning on May 14th our new email address are our FirstName.LastName@gorhamschools.org. If you have been trying to email at our old address, the emails probably got bounced back to you (or they’re still bouncing around in cyberspace!). We really are not trying to ignore you, please try again with the new email address. Sorry for any inconvenience.

8th Grade Step up Day

On June 10, our 8th graders will make their first trip to the High School to learn who their advisors will be, what their schedule will look like and run through a mini schedule of their classes. This will, hopefully, allow these soon-to-be-newly-minted First Year High School students to learn where their classes will be held and how to navigate the maze of hallways, that I have yet to solve, by the way. It will also help them when the upperclassmen and women try to explain to these first years that the pool is on the 3rd floor and they are expected to report there for swimming lessons.

In order to accomplish this we will be asking students who normally walk to the Middle School instead walk to the High School. For parents who normally drive their kids to school in the morning, to please bring them to the auditorium entrance to the high school by 7:50 and our busses will be letting our 8th graders off at the High School rather than bringing them to the Middle School.

We will be bringing the 8th graders back to the Middle School around 9:50 am.

Step Up Day for the Rest of the School

Students in grades 6 & 7 will have their step up day on Tuesday, June 17. Students will be given their schedules, team assignments and meet their new advisors as well as run through a mini schedule. We will get the exact schedule out to everyone after we arrange the transportation with our buses.

Student Placement

We have been working since mid-March gathering information from Parents and teachers to inform our decisions about student placement. Our goal when placing students is to create teams that our balanced in several categories, gender, achievement, behavioral, student identification (Special Education, Gifted and Talented) and other social issues. We try very hard to make each team a microcosm of the entire grade level. Sometimes we are more successful than others.

When your child receives their placement assignments on June 17, expect that they will come home and complain that they don’t know anyone on their team, or that their friends all got placed somewhere else. We have tried to take all of these questions into consideration and worked to make sure that students have at least one friend, or someone they seem to work well with, on their team. We do not take any requests for team changes in the days following step up day.

If you have concerns about your child’s placement, we have 4 possible considerations that would allow us to make a change of team:

Prior poor experience of the student with a teacher on the team
Prior poor experience with a sibling and a teacher, or teachers on a team
A teacher is a relative or close family friend and the parents chooses not put either student or teacher in a difficult situation
A legal issue with another student, or student’s family placed on the same team

Other than those four conditions, we cannot consider a team change.

Field Trip Season

At the end of the school year, many teams try to take advantage of the good weather (Really? This year!) and plan excursions outside of the school building. Teams will send home permission forms for parent signatures and to also inform the parents of where, when and why a trip is planned. Last week, I talked about the Funtown Physics Day fired trip for the 8th graders and, while many folks doubted my explanation that this trip was truly academic in nature, that is what we ask the teams to consider when planning their trips.

If you have any questions about field trips, I encourage you to contact your child’s team and ask your questions.

Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast

On Friday morning, May 30, the Gorham Schools will celebrate all of the wonderful people who volunteered their time to help in our schools. It is no small sacrifice for these folks to give up their time to come into our schools and work with all of our kids. It is also a tremendous aid to our schools to have caring adults who are exemplary role models for our students in demonstrating what it means to be an engaged citizen.

Please join us in celebrating all of the great accomplishments of our volunteers. The breakfast will begin at 9:00 am in the GMS Cafeteria.

The Concert Season

It is that time of year when our students get the chance to “Show off their Stuff” in the form of concerts for our community. We will begin with the annual Chorus and Steel Band Concert on Thursday evening at 6:00 pm. This jus a great show of wonderful songs with our Chorus, including several solos from some very talented students. On Friday, The Chorus and Steel Band students will travel to Loranger Middle School in Old Orchard Beach for an adjudicated show. An adjudicated show means that their will be judges who will rate their performance on a certain set of criteria. The kids really look forward to this concert and they really love the feed back they get from all of the judges.

Of course the students also love the fact that after the concert, they get to go to Funtown/Splashtown and perform again before enjoying the “fruits” of the park!

8th Grade Career Day

For the second year in a row we are working with our 8th graders to give them a small taste of what all of this education business they have been enduring the past 3 years (and more) is all about. We will be having several members of the business community coming into school to discuss their businesses and how they work as well as discussing the skills they needed to be an “employable commodity” for their bosses. We expect to start off the day with and exciting keynote speaker who will set the tone for the rest of the day. We plan to wrap up the day with several activities that will have the students processing and sharing with the classmates what they heard and what they learned.

I think the day will be engaging and informative for our students.

Mandarin Chinese and Asian Culture

This year we offered to several students an opportunity to be exposed to Chinese Culture and the Mandarin language. The students who participated in this offering surpassed our wildest expectations for what they would gain from this experience. We will again offer this experience to 7th and 8th grade students next year, beginning a month earlier than this year. We will partner with the Confucius Institute at the University of Souther Maine to offer the course 4 days per week to students in grades 7 & 8. The classes will meet during our EICAL period on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

If you are interested in having your child participate in this class, please contact me at School.

Is It Really May??


 Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, May 19 – Proficiency Based Education Parent meeting 10:00 am GMS Library
Wednesday, May 21 – Eagle Team to Wolf’s Neck State Park
Thursday, May 22 – Proficiency Based Education Parent meeting 6:00 pm, GMS Library
Thursday, May 22 – Selected Students to the MLTI Student Conference in Orono
Monday, May 26 – Memorial Day Holiday – No School Thursday,
May 29 – Career Day for 8th graders – Details below
Thursday, May 29 – GMS Chorus Concert GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm

School Report Cards

The Maine Department of Education has issued its second round of School Report Cards based upon the administration of the NECAPs back in October, 2013. Now, before I go off on a rant about whether these report cards are fair, I came across a blog entry from Daniel Waisberg, an Analytics Expert from Google. Many of you who are regular readers here have heard me use the well worn phrase of Mark Twain about “Lies, Damnable Lies and Statistics. In fact, a few month ago I posted a TED video by that very name. The whole idea that we can use statistics, and data to make any point we want sound good. However, Mr. Waisberg talks about using the data to make a story, our story, memorable. And, yes, we do have a story, and a memorable one at that! Last year, we were rated a “B” by the state, which should mean that we are a pretty good school. While we were proud to receive that “B”, we also knew that in the future, there would be challenges coming given how these grades would be computed. This year, we received a “C”, and, yes we are proud of the “C” as well. We recognize that while we dropped a letter grade in our scores, we were extending our practices to reach all of our students, especially the bottom 25% of our students. In a rather ironic twist, it was this group of students who created the greatest lag upon our grade. We did not get enough of them to demonstrate “growth over year-to-year”. What I find difficult to understand is that almost half of the students who are in our bottom 25% are all “proficient” according to the NECAP results. Somehow I need to paint a compelling story about how we educate our kids in our community using this type of data. So I will begin with a note from Haim Ginnott, and I think it is self-explanatory. Screenshot 2014-05-19 08.19.02 This note was written in 1972 and I came by through Ingvi Hrannar, a teacher from Iceland who I follow on Twitter. This is what we work towards everyday. Yes, we teach Reading, Writing and Arithmetic everyday as well, but helping students understand that there is power in knowledge, but also knowing how to use that power gained from learning is the most important thing we do everyday.  Somedays, we are better at it than other days, but it never leaves our focus.

Physics Day at Funtown

Last Friday, our 8th grade students were among a small number of Middle Schools invited to participate in the annual Physics Day at Funtown. While I will agree that this is a wonderful marketing device by the folks at Funtown/Splashtown, it is also a day for students to experience all that they have studied in their science class first-hand. One experiment that was accomplished was the rate of descent of an object, as evidenced by the following video:

While the students were calculating rates of descent, I was calculating how many quarters would be needed to get a complete soak. And, as you can easily see, my calculations were spot on! So, see, it was educational for everyone!

 GMS Robotics Team Places 2nd

The GMS Robotics Team of Vipul Periwal, Nolan McCullough, Aaron Jones, Xander Lemieux and Nate Goff showed great team work and sportsmanship during the Maine Robotics Track Meet in South Portland over the weekend. The team competed in the Shot Put competition and placed 2nd among all teams. Congratulations to all of the team members.


Conversation of Proficiency Based Education

We have had one meeting discussing the coming shift to Proficiency Based Education on Monday morning and we will have a second conversation on Thursday evening in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm. We do have a presentation to work through but, today, we found lots of time for some really good questions from the parents in attendance as we progressed through the requirements of this shift.

One question, and really a great concern of most in attendance, was the ability of college admission people understanding a Proficiency Based Transcript when making decisions about their incoming First Year Class. Here is a link to a blog post by former Gorham Middle School teacher Sara Needleman providing some insight and some answers to this questions.


Ultimately, teachers will continue to teach and, hopefully, students will continue to learn. We will still have lots of homework and tests and all of the “things” we have now, we’ll just look at it differently.

Hopefully you can join us on Thursday night at 6:00 pm.

8th Grade Career Day

We are in the final stages of planning our second annual Career Day on May 29th. Unlike last year, students will remain at school and we will have several folks come in to speak with the students about what skills they will need to get a job. We will have more information and the names of the folks who will be presenting to the students by the end of the week. We will get that information out to you shortly after.

It has the possibility of being a landmark day for our 8th graders. What they will hear and the lessons that will be taught should have an impact on our kids during their high school years.

NWEA Testing

We will finish up this year’s NWEA testing this week as we administer the assessment to our 8th graders. We have tried to emphasize how important to all of the 8th graders how important these assessments are as the high school works to placing students in certain classes. The high school administration closely examines these results to try to determine whether a particular student may need additional support services in order to be successful.

The assessments we administer are Reading, Math and Language Usage. They are very comprehensive in testing the progress and learning of students as well as providing one predictor of future success. I am asking you all to speak with your 8th graders about how they think they are doing on the NWEA’s and to stress how important it is that they show what they know in math and reading.

Until next time…



Thursday, May 15 – Selected 7th & 8th Graders at Model United Nations
Friday, May 16 – All 8th grade to Funtown Physics Day
Monday, May 19 – Proficiency Based Education Parent meeting 10:00 am GMS Library
Wednesday, May 21 – Eagle Team to Wolf’s Neck State Park
Thursday, May 22 – Proficiency Based Education Parent meeting 6:00 pm, GMS Library
Thursday, May 22 – Selected Students to the MLTI Student Conference in Orono
Monday, May 26 – Memorial Day Holiday – No School
Thursday, May 29 – Career Day for 8th graders – Details below
Thursday, May 29 – GMS Chorus Concert GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm

Proficiency Based Education

We have posted several times in this space about how public education will be changing over the next several years. We have also written about how the Common Core State Standards will influence our work with your children and how it will have in impact on how and what they learn.

Beginning on Monday morning, May 19, we will hold a series of parent meetings, that will extend beyond this year into next year, to inform parents about these changes and to receive feedback on our progress. We will start very slowly for those of you to whom this may be new news. Our presentations this week will focus on some of the basic “nuts and bolts” of what the state expects schools in Maine to do and how we will be expected to determine how and when students are ready to move on to the next challenges.

Of course, we are all concerned about his this “new” shift in education will work her in Maine! I mean, how many states have taken the bold move to a Proficiency Based Education? I was sure that Maine was the first and that we were going to tread where no one has before!

That is until I found out that New Hampshire, yup, the state right next to us, has been doing this since 2005.

Below, I am sharing an article, with links to a more complete study, from the Clayton Christensen Institute, outlining the progress of a Competency Based Education system that has been used in New Hampshire since 2005. This summary is authored by Jill Freeland, a Research Associate of the Institute. note: I hope I am not violating any copyright laws here!

By Julia Freeland

May 2014


In 2005, New Hampshire abolished the Carnegie unit—the core unit around which schools typically measure credit hours. In its place, the state mandated that all high schools measure credit according to students’ mastery of material, rather than time spent in class. This policy shift created the first-ever statewide effort to create a competency-based education system.

Competency-based education: An overview
Competency-based approaches stand to support more personalized instruction by ensuring that students can move through material at a flexible pace with the supports they need and without accumulating the gaps endemic to time-, age-, and grade-based promotion policies that govern most school systems today.

According to CompetencyWorks, a high-quality competency-based model is one in which:

  1. Students advance upon demonstrated mastery.
  2. Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.
  3. Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students.
  4. Students receive rapid, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.
  5. Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge along with the development of important skills and dispositions.

Each of the five tenets of a competency-based system requires dramatic changes to traditional teaching and learning.

Implementing competency-based education in New Hampshire: Strategies and challenges
Under the new 2005 regulations, New Hampshire districts were required to create competencies and begin measuring credit in these terms by the start of the 2008–09 school year. Because local control rules the day in the “live free or die” state, New Hampshire’s districts and charter schools were free to interpret and implement this mandate as they saw fit. The 13 schools profiled in this paper each demonstrate a distinct approach to competency-based education in their local context.

When the state took schools “off the clock,” something interesting happened. Some schools invested deeply in building competency-based models by creating opportunities for students to move at a flexible, personalized pace; providing supplemental content for students who had fallen behind or wanted to move ahead; and making assessment more frequent and formative, with a focus on demonstrating mastery in real-world examples and settings.

Other schools, however, have remained tethered to time-based practices, such as bell-schedules, end-of-unit assessments, and fixed whole-class pacing. Although teachers and administrators at these schools have articulated school-wide competencies, these competencies may not guide curriculum and instruction across all subjects. Students still move through material as a class and therefore still stand to accumulate the gaps in their learning that competency-based models are designed to prevent.

New Hampshire’s example demonstrates both the power and limitations of state-wide competency-based education policy, particularly in a setting with a strong tradition of local control. The lessons from 13 schools across the state suggest that adopting competency-based approaches is not a quick or easy process, and that it requires new infrastructure, new approaches to teaching and learning, and new tools to deliver content and assess work to allow each student to progress upon mastery.

Download the full case study

- See more at: http://www.christenseninstitute.org/publications/from-policy-to-practice/#sthash.zyoYpy9W.dpuf

Until next time…



We Have So Much



Upcoming Important Dates

May 9 – GMS Night at the Sea Dogs
May 9 – Progress Reports available on Infinite Campus Portal
May 14 & 15 – Model UN at University of Southern Maine
May 14 Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:10 am
May 16 – Physics Day at Funtown
May 16 – School Dance Sponsored by the 8th grade 6:00 – 8:00 pm
May 19 – What is this Proficiency Based Education? 10:00 am GMS Library
May 22 – What is this Proficiency Based Education? 6:00 pm GMS Library
May 26 – Memorial Day, No School

GMS Night at the Portland Sea Dogs

There is still time to order your tickets, at a reduced rate, for the annual GMS night at the Portland Sea Dogs. The game begins at 6:00 pm and our very well traveled GMS Chorus will be performing the National Anthem to begin the game. Please join us for a great night of baseball and see some of the future Boston Red Sox. Did I mention that the Red Sox are the World Series Champions? I wasn’t sure!

For tickets, please call Kristen at 222-1220

NWEA Testing Administration

If it’s May, we must be testing! And, indeed, we are.

The Northwest Education Assessment (NWEA) will be administered to all of our students during the month of May. The assessment is an adaptive, computer based measure of student progress toward standards. It really is an individual measure of a student’s progress from year to year, and, most importantly, it tells us what we need to do as educators to help the student continue their progress forward.

This assessment will be done during class time and the results will be available to us almost immediately. We will get this information uploaded on to the Infinite Campus Portal soon after the close of school. If you would like your child’ results sooner than that, please give me a call and I will try to get them to as quickly as I can.

 The Weather is Getting Warmer

I have said this many times before, but I am now convinced (mostly because my lawn needs to be mown) that Spring has finally arrived. The warm weather brings out all of the warm weather fashions, and it also makes Principals begin to think about our dress code! Here is a reprise of our funny video about our dress code that will hopefully remind parents about what is expected of our students.

Save the Date

This item is way out of order, but since I was showing you the Dress Code Deputies, which was a winner of the film festival two years ago, I thought I may as well tell you about our Annual GMS Film Festival. The quest for the coveted Ramsies Awards will end on the evening of Saturday, June 14th beginning at 5:30 pm. There will be Limos and red carpets. There will even be paparazzi and popping flash bulbs (do any of you remember flash bulbs!?) capturing every glamorous moment.

I will give you much more information in the coming weeks, but I can tell you that all of our film makers are busy as bees getting their projects “in the can” for the judging and the evening on the 14th.

Please circle this date!

School Security Updates

Throughout the year, we have conducted all sorts of drills to practice our safety protocols for different possible events. In fact, we even had an actual event when students and parents were present in the building, and everyone performed wonderfully!

We will be conducting another lockdown drill during the week of May 12. We are not going to publicize the actual day or time that we will perform this, but I wanted you all to be aware of the drill so when your kids come home and tell you about the surprise drill, you will already know about it.

Proficiency Based Education in Gorham Schools

We had a meeting last week to plan for the 8th grade celebration at the end of the school year. As the meeting was wrapping up, I asked those present if they had heard about the new legislation that will require this year’s 8th graders to demonstrate proficiency in all 8 content areas of the Maine Learning Results and not just acquire 22 Carnegie Units, as we have always done. Many of the mothers who were present said that they had heard about the new law and that they were very concerned about what this would mean for their child’s chances at attending a top ranked college.

Here is a link to the Maine Department of Education’s web site: Maine DOE, for more information. Additionally, here is a link to an Education Week article about Competency Based Education that has links to other resources at the end of the article. Ed Week CBE article

We will be holding a couple of informational meeting at GMS on Monday, May 19 at 10:00am in the Library and On Thursday Eveing, May 22nd at 6:00 pm, also in our Library, to discuss what this will look like in Gorham and also to answer any questions you may have…Hopefully!

I hope you can join us on either of these dates.