Happy Holidays, Now Let’s Get Back to School!

topperMiddle

Important Upcoming Dates

December 20 – January 1 – Christmas Break, No School
January 2 – Students and Teachers return
January 9 – Lockdown Practice drill for whole school
January 15 – Early Release Day for students, dismissal at 11:10 am
January 17 – School Dance sponsored by the 7th Grade

Happy New Year

Happy New YEarWhen I began writing this we were looking forward to having our kids return to school on Thursday, January 2. Unfortunately (for most of us!), Mother Nature had other plans for us. So, now I am sitting here, re-writing what I had originally written that would welcome the kids back to school and allow many of our parents the relief of having their kids getting back into their regular routine. I think tomorrow (Tuesday, January 7 will be the day!)

Actually, I am trying to figure out who is sleeping with the spoons under their pillow or wearing their jambes inside out and backward! If the person who is doing that happened to be reading this, please stop!

Anyway, I hope that you all had a great Christmas and a happy New Year celebration. It is now time to get back to the very serious business of educating our kids. Helping them help themselves prepare for the world that lies before them.

Our tasks have become considerably more complex in the past few years and the task promises to become even more complex in the future. Preparing our children to be engaged citizens who can work collaboratively and creatively problem solve is far more complicated that making sure they know about certain dates and events in history or the Pythagorean Theorem. Recognizing that the world they will inhabit will be significantly different from our world is our (educators) greatest challenge. It requires us to release some of our long held beliefs about what is important.

Below, I have introduced the PISA assessment results, which have been in the news quite a bit recently. If ever there an indicator of what is expected of the world’s young people, this is it.

More on the PISA Assessment

In my last post I discussed the results of the 2012 PISA Assessment and how all of the pundits and policy makers were wringing their collective hands about how poorly our 15 year old students here in America were doing compared to the rest of the world. You may remember that we talked about how our 15 year old kids were not improving on the results of this PISA logo assessment when compared to kids from Shanghai, China or Korea. Our results have not really changed since the first PISA administration in 2000.

So, as background to all of this, I should tell you all that I have just completed Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools as well as Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the Work and How They Got That Way, so this all is a bit more urgent to me right now. It also explains a bit about my possible bias, if it starts to come through!

I believe that Diane Ravitch has a very valid point about our societal ills having an impact on our students’ learning. Students who live in extreme poverty cannot possibly be in a “ready” position for learning. There just has to be too many other things going on inside their heads to focus on conjugating verbs. Important stuff like will there be food for dinner tonight or will I have a home to go to at the end of the end of the day? For far too many of our students, this is the reality in which they live. However, Amanda Ripley points out that there is still a possibility that students can learn, even living through extreme poverty. In her book, she examines the systems of several countries (Poland, Finland and South Korea, mostly) and what made them the “superpowers” of the education world. She speaks with several students, educators and parents from these countries to discover how the accomplished such levels of student learning.

Another item that she opened my eyes to was the actual PISA assessment. It is actually quite an assessment of, not just student learning of facts, but of how they applied the knowledge they have acquired up to the age of 15.

I had never examined the PISA assessment! I have examined, ad infinatum, the released items from the Maine Education Assessment (MEA), and questions from the Northwest Education Assessment (NWEA), and finally, the most recent New England Comprehensive Assessment Program (NECAP) to gain an understanding of what these assessments are measuring, but, never had I even thought about looking at the PISA! I urge all of you to do a search for PISA released items and take a look. You’ll find that they are not multiple choice questions or short answer questions or even constructed response questions. The assessment asks student to think of the “best” answer that fits the passage that the student is asked to read. This seems to be true for reading and math and science.

If you’d like to look at the released items from the 2006 administration, here are the links:

Science
Math
Reading

I think these will surprise you, as they did me, and make us all want to make our children’s educational experience a more rewarding and enriching experience and less of a practice for Jeopardy and Alex Trebeck.

Here is a video (about 12 minutes) that will describe the PISA and what it measures:

James Madison Writing Contest Winners Announced

James MadisonThe first annual James Madison Writing Contest was held for Gorham Middle School students this year sponsored by the town Republican Committee. The committee awarded three prizes to the students, First Prize and a cash award of $250, and two Runner-up Prizes of $100 each.

I will publish the winning essays over the next few editions of our blog beginning with a runner up essay from Kate Gilbert.

Our Nation’s Great Leaders
By Kate Gilbert

There are many things in this country’s history that made this nation great. The greatest of these, however, are the nation’s leaders. From our founding fathers, to Martin Luther King Junior, to war generals throughout time, they brought the nation together. With their intelligence and courageous acts, our leaders have overcome many obstacles. The people who formed our government, the men and women who served in the armed forces, and the U.S citizens, all played a part the forming of our great nation.

 President George Washington is one of the most famous men in U.S history. From being a General in the Revolutionary War, to being inaugurated in 1789, he helped guide the nation to what is now one of the leading countries in the world. Washington signed the Constitution, what American citizens live by today. President George Washington was one of the first men to build a foundation for this country to grow, but he wasn’t the only one.

 Our country had to fight and recover from a great Civil War. A war won by the Union in 1865. Ulysses S. Grant was appointed Commander in Chief by President Lincoln himself. Grant used specific war tactics on the south, that forced them to surrender. It is intelligence like this that we so needed to end the war. Grant also became the 18th president after the war. Grant contributed greatly to the war, and this great nation. Still, many more people had dreams for this country.

 Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior was a strong leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King had a dream that he would not give up on. From the Civil War ending slavery, to segregation ending in the U.S., he fulfilled his dream of living free in a great nation. He changed opinions on what was morally wrong and right. He, along with many others, made this country great.

 Being a leader takes responsibility, courage, sacrifice, and passion. Our nation’s leaders put themselves to the test and clearly showed these skills as our nation was falling or being built up. The U.S.A is successful today because of the men and women who started it. And also, the people willing to risk their lives for our country, those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and their mourning families pleading for change. Our great country has an impressive history of commanding leaders who have formed our government and our way of life.

I will publish the next runner up and the First Prize winner in our next edition.

School Lockdown Drill

We will be holding our second school lockdown drill of the school year on Thursday, January 9th. You may remember that when we perform these drills we have the local first responders join us in the drill and then we hold a review immediately following the drill to review our progress.security

School safety and the safety of our students and faculty are never far from the front of our consciousness. There can be no more important duty of the adults in the building than to bring the peace of mind to our community that are always working to improve what we do and how we keep our children safe. Knowing exactly what to do and when to do it by practicing these frills will help us in the event that we ever need to use these for real.

If you have any questions about our safety plan, please give me a call.

Parent Survey

SurveyLater in the month, we will be publishing a link to a parent survey seeking your input into how we can improve our school, how we can better communicate what we do and what is going on here as well as how you feel about the quality of education your children receive. There will be a two-week window for parents to complete the completely anonymous survey and submit it to the district.

Please watch this space for more information.

I think I have rambled on enough… Until next time!

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