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…

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