Cold Enough For You!?!

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Upcoming Important Dates

Friday, February 13 thru February 22 – Mid Winter Break, Enjoy the snow!!!
Friday, February 27 – Southern Maine Honors Chorus Festival, Westbrook Middle School
Friday, February 27 – School Dance GMS Gym 6:00 -8:00 pm
Saturday, February 28 – Southern Maine Honors Concert, Westbrook Middle School 3:30 pm
Saturday, March 7 – 6th Grade Honor Music Festival, Bonny Eagle Middle School 3:00 pm

A Warm Welcome

photo-9All of the faculty, staff and our students want to offer a warm welcome to our new Superintendent-elect, Heather Perry. We truly look forward to working with Ms. Perry as we all tackle the challenges that public school education faces in the coming years.

A Dose of Reality

We had a great assembly with all of our kids on Friday. Linda Dutil, an Emergency Room Nurse from Waterville who travels around thephoto-10 country sparking with high school and middle school kids about the realities of abusing substances. Linda does a great job of keeping the presentation very appropriate for the age of the kids and she does not place challenges in front of the kids. What she does is talk about what happens when young people make poor choices and end up in her Emergency Room. Linda does a great job of getting the kids involved in the presentation and she paces her “shock” effect about substances with a comforting compassion of a parent.

Music Honors Season

MusicAs you can see form the “Upcoming Important Date” section of this edition, we have several Honors Concerts coming in the next few weeks for several of our very talented musicians. It is a source of great pride for our school and our community to have so many of our students selected for these great accomplishments. I urge you, if you can find the time, to take in one of these concerts. It is a great chance for our kids to collaborate with other great middle school musicians.

An Update of Proficiency Based Education

The Gorham School department continues to work toward awarding Proficiency Based Diplomas as required by the state beginning with our current 6th grade class. I know that there are several folks out there wondering what is the fuss about this and how is it going to impact my son or daughter as they continue on in CBE-image1school.

I think we first need to remember why we send our kids to school. Our community allocates lots of financial resources and makes great sacrifices so that our kids will learn skills and knowledge to be successful in their life and become productive, positive citizens who will contribute to the betterment of our society. Ultimately, we want our kids keep this Democracy, that has endured for more than 235 years, strong and vibrant well into the future.

There are far too many interpretations of what this looks like specifically, but I think we can agree that having a well educated populace is our top goal.

So the grading systems we all grew up with had teachers administering tests and quizzes and then assigning grades to them based upon the number of correct answers divided by the number of questions on the test. Some teachers assigned more points for short answer questions than they did for multiple choice, true/false, or selected response questions. Some tests had essay questions called constructed response questions that would be worth the most points. Teachers usually used a percent to represent how a student did on any given test.

So, here are 3 students in the same class, taking the same 10 tests. What do the results of these 3 students demonstrate about their learning in my social studies class?

Student 1 Student 2 Student 3
Test #
1 50 100 100
2 60 100 50
3 60 90 90
4 70 90 60
5 80 80 100
6 80 80 60
7 90 70 50
8 90 60 90
9 100 60 80
10 100 50 80
Average 78 78 78

Each student achieved an average of 78% on the tests given. These tests were designed to demonstrate student achievement on a topic in social studies. Unlike some teachers, I chose not to look at homework for this quarter, so I graded the students based solely on the results of these tests. I purposely didn’t give anyone a zero, because I know about the toxicity of giving a student a zero and how it serves only to disengage the student.

What do these grades say about each of these kids?

Let’s look at student #1;

This student appears to start slow, not getting the information or not knowing how to study for my tests, or not understanding what I was looking for. After a time in my class, this student seems to begin to understand either the content or what I was looking for in answers to my questions. By the end of the quarter this student seems to have a good understanding of the content, or what I was looking for in answers, or how to study better for my tests, or had the lead role in the play I was directing for the school, or was the all-state center on my hockey team, or was polite in my class! (Ok, some of these reasons are a little ridiculous, but I wanted to show how the human condition can enter into our decision process.)

Student #2:

This student starts the quarter off with a bang! 100’s on the first two of tests of the quarter. This is going to be a great quarter for this student, maybe a really easy quarter, maybe too easy! This student’s grade seem to fall off as the quarter moves on. Perhaps something happened at home, or “significant other” problems, or I truly bored this student (most likely!). What does this say about how much this student learn?

Student #3

This student is the most troubling, in my mind. Very inconsistent in the scores on each of the tests and this doesn’t really tell me a lot about whether this student is understanding what I am teaching.

The bottom line for each of these students is that the “averaged” a 78% for this quarter, but I cannot tell whether these kids have “mastered” what it was that I was teaching! The path each of these kids took to 78% are so vastly different that I cannot honestly say which one has attained proficiency toward the standard I was teaching.

This is why we need to honestly examine how we determine what students are learning and to what level there are learning it. Our traditional method for making these determinations has passed us by, and what we need our kids to demonstrate cannot be measured by these traditional methods.

We will continue to work as a school, and a district to create systems that will best help our kids become what we want them to become, and that is what we said above about preserving our Democracy for many future generations.

Please call, or email me, if you have any questions about what we are doing and why.

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