Important Upcoming Dates
December 20 – Awarding of the James Madison Writing Contest Winners
December 20 – Annual Faculty/Student Basketball Game 1:00
December 20 – Christmas Break Begins at 2:30 pm
January 2 – Students return from Christmas Break
January 9 – Practice Lock Down Drill
There aren’t many days that pass where the education of our children doesn’t find its way onto the front pages of our newspapers and as a topic for discussion on the evening news. Most recently, the news was about the “dismal results” of American 15 year olds on the most recent administration of the PISA assessment. PISA stands for the Programme for International Student Assessment and it is an international assessment that measures 15-year-old students’ reading, mathematics, and science literacy.
The truth is that the United States falls someplace in the middle on this assessment. We have not demonstrated an appreciable change in our overall scores in each content area since the first assessment in 2000. However, many countries have gone up and down during that time. Case in point, Finland was the darling of the education world for the past 3 years because they ranked, as Jimmy Cagney said in White Heat, top of the world, fell in the most recent administration of the assessment. Unlike we in America, Finland continues to carry on and care for their children. Unfortunately, we in America are gnashing our teeth and wringing our hands at our “mediocre” results.
But what does this mean for us at Gorham Middle School? Are we going to scrap everything that we do in response to these results? I don’t think so!
We will continue to work with our students to get them ready for their world. Our test results on our state assessments (NECAP) are ranked among the best in the state and our students perform very well on the nationally normed NWEA assessments. We will continue to use the reality of these assessments to help us make decisions about what we need to do next for our students. In our collective minds here at GMS, that is and should be the purpose of assessments. They should not be used to rank our students against our neighbors, nor should they be used to incentivize our work. They are snapshots on a given day that help us uncover our strengths and, also the areas were we need to improve.
For what it is worth, we were not included in the PISA assessment in this most recent iteration!
Common Core Work at the Middle School
We continue to work on aligning our curriculum to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I would love to tell you this is easy work, but it really isn’t, it is hard, grueling work that test all of our levels of patience, endurance and skill. To further compound the work that we must do, we now have the state Department of Education coming to us and requiring schools to be “Proficiency Based” in our teaching and learning. (I thought we already were!)
This will have an impact on how we operate, for sure. We have all become accustom to receiving grades in the form of a letter. In a proficiency based environment, letter grades will have less meaning and actual student learning will take center-stage. Students will need to be able to demonstrate, in multiple ways, what they have learned. time will not be important, the learning will!
The state has done an excellent job putting together a link on their website that does a good job of explaining what a “Proficiency Based Education ” looks like and what it will mean for our students and our schools. In the meantime, we will keep you informed of how these new changes will impact your child and their education in the coming months.
It is at this time of the year, when our thoughts turn to family and friends and all of the festivities that are in keeping with the holiday season. I then began to think back just a mere 12 months ago and all that occurred in the tiny town of Newtown, Connecticut and my thoughts then turned to all that we have done during that time to improve our security. No sooner had I begun to write these words and my Twitter feed began to “light up” with the news of Aurora, Colorado and the students and faculty of Arapahoe High School. The horror of one year ago began to be conjured up in my mind far more vividly and in much greater detail because of these events.
Planning for an event such as those in Connecticut and Colorado are not the reason for which any of us went to school! We entered the education field because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of our students, we wanted to touch the future, leave a larger footprint, and make a difference! And, yet, here we are planning for things unspeakable.
We have planned, lots of hours and many people. We are fortunate to have a very professional police department and fire department. Many hours have been spent around tables planning and practicing for any such unspeakable act. We have collaborated with all of our ideas and concerns, each concerned with keeping our community safe.
Many of you who have come to the Middle School since the start of the school year have already noticed our most visible changes with entry to the building, but, believe me wham I say this, there are many more changes in how we do what we do that are unseen but have an impact in making our school safe.
James Madison Writing Contest Winners to be Announced
Just prior to our annual student/faculty basketball game on Friday, December 20, the winners of the first annual James Madison Writing Contest will be announced. The three winning students will be presented with their awards in front of the entire school community. Their winning essays will be read to the whole school and they will be awarded their cash prizes. Newly elected School Committee member, John Doyle will be announcing the winning essays.
This event is open to the public and all are invited to attend.
Riley Perkins Returns to Address 8th Graders
Former Gorham Middle School student (and GHS Graduate) returned to Gorham on Tuesday, November 26 to address the 8th grade students about his trip to China as part of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). Riley presented to the students all of the adventures he experienced during his summer in China. He told stories of how he lived with a host family and learned about the culture of the Chinese family direct from the source, by living it! He regaled students with the many different sights, sounds, smells and tastes that he experienced.
The students were treated to many glorious pictures and some of the “real” stories about life as a Chinese teenager. Our students were very engaged as Riley spun the tales of his journey and he encouraged our students to look beyond the boundaries of Gorham and to follow their dreams.
Riley supplied our students with many surprises during his 90 minute talk, but about 10 of our 8th graders surprised him when they told him they were taking Mandarin Language and Chinese Culture this year as students at GMS.
Thank you to Riley for sharing his knowledge and experiences with our students.
Wishing You All The Merriest of Christmas and Happiest of Holidays
From the Gorham Middle School community to our whole community, we wish you all the joy, peace and happiness that this time of year brings to our world.