…And Now, The End is Near –Frank Sinatra


Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, June 2 – Public Hearing on School Budget, Municipal Center 7:00 pm
Wednesday, June 3 – Incoming 5th Grade Special Education Students visit 10:30
Friday, June 5 – Step Up Dance 6:00 -8:00 pm GMS Gym
June 9 – Referendum on the School Budget, GMS Gym, all day
Tuesday, June 9 – 8th Grade Step-up day 9:00 – 10:40 am

Recap of MEA Testing

We are putting the finishing touches on the first (and last, I guess) administration of the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) produced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). As well, we are also wrapping up our semi-annual administration of the NWEA.

I can report to you that most of our students found the MEA to be less than inspiring and not worth the build up we gave it during our preparation period. I can also report that teachers were less than impressed on a couple of fronts. First, the few questions that they had the opportunity to read, (let me interject here that teachers did not spend their time looking over kids shoulders to see the questions,) they were not impressed with their quality! Second, with both the ELA Performance Task and the Math Performance Task, the teachers were required to deliver a short lesson to “prime the pump” of the students prior to completing the performance task. Several of the students at all grades really questioned the value of the 15-30 minutes spent delivering the lesson as the questions had little to do with the lessons.

With the NWEAs we at least get a picture of individual growth of the students over the course of the year. This is not to say that the NWEAs offer a real clear picture of growth, the reports are given in the form of RiT scores and are not easily transferable into a normed score, at least for this anachronistic administrator! But, we do get data very quickly and it is data that we can use as we place students on teams for next year and make decision bout programming,unlike the data we expect to see from the MEA, maybe in July!

Also of note, the kids were under-whelmed by the MEA assessment. I have no idea what our results will be, but I am confident that our kids and our teachers put forth the best effort possible. I am confident that our efforts were strong and our energies were placed properly. The results may, or may not bear this out, but regardless of our results, we know that there will be something new that we’ll need to prepare our kids (and teachers!) for in the coming year.

Grades vs. Learning

As we travel through this assessment season (MEA & NWEA), I am always puzzled by the results many of our students generate on these assessments and the results that are generated in their classrooms. For many of our students there is a real disconnect between what learning students demonstrate in our classrooms and what achievement levels they demonstrate on these normed assessments. Quite honestly, some of the students show dramatic gains on their NWEA between the fall assessment and the spring assessment, yet their report cards don’t indicate that kind of gain.

Which brings me to what we do in middle school, or, at least what I think we should do.

I have been a building administrator at the middle level for 14 years and not once have I received correspondence from any college, university, community college, technical school, prep school or the military regarding a student’s record for the 3 years they attended my school. Not one!

What do you think this means? Do you think this is a classic case of “what have you done for me lately?” that we see in our professional (and college, OK, that’s probably professional, too) sports across the nation. A team doesn’t perform to expectations, the coach gets fired, the quarterback gets benched, etc. the story is the same across all sports? I don’t think so, I think that the colleges, et al understand the the years during middle school are designed to help the student understand themselves as learners, not good students of content matter, but good learners regardless of the content.

Kim Kankiewicz is a Seattle area writer published in Pacific Standard, McSweeney’s, Full Grown People, and elsewhere, you can find her online at kimkankiewicz.com and tweeting as @kimprobable, wrote an interesting piece that was published in the Washington Post on May 12, 2015 about her trials with her 7th grade son and his grades.

It seems that as she experiences the anxiety of the weekly teacher email and the weekly review of the students online report card, she begins to get a better understanding of the purpose of these years in middle school. As she starts to ask herself the questions as to exactly what do the numbers on the screen mean, she begins to come to the understanding that those numbers could mean lots of different things, or nothing. She begins to understand that when we assess students, it should support student learning. The numbers just can’t seem to do that very well.

There is an old allegory used in education about the Acme Parachute Packing Company. In their training program, they have 3 new trainees learning how to pack a parachute. Trainee 1 pack the parachute correctly the very first time and receives a pat on the back. However, in the ensuing days of the training, this Trainee 1 begins to believe s/he has this packing business down pat and begins to lose focus. The parachutes s/he packs over the next few days aren’t quite up to the level of his first attempt, in fact they seem to be getting progressively worse.

Trainee 2 does a very poor job on the first attempt and each subsequent attempt, s/he gets progressively better until finally s/he can pack the parachute correctly every time.

Trainee 3 seems to be an enigma, sometimes s/he packs the parachute perfectly another times, not so good!

When we average out the grade for each of these parachute packers, Trainee 1, high marks in the beginning of the training and then progressively worse, Trainee 2 starts out very slowly but steadily improves to a consistent level and Trainee 3 is very inconsistent in how s/he packs the parachute. However, if I were to average out each of the trainee’s performances, the average would be about the same. The question is: Which one do you want packing YOUR parachute?

The final number doesn’t tell the story of a student. There has always been so much more to student learning that cannot be communicated in a single number! Also, and this is especially true in middle school, this will not be the final exposure to any of the content our students will have. We just have to make sure that we don’t suck the learning life out of our kids.

8th Grade Celebration

Plana are moving forward to end the year with a wonderful celebration of the middle school experience for our 205 8th graders. Many parents have been busy making book marks and organizing decorating parties to transform the school into a “Glow in the Dark” and J Adam Parvanta has been carefully selecting tunes for the students to dance their way out of middle school and on to high school.

We are still on for the evening of Thursday, June 18th at 6:00 pm in the Gymnasium. We ask that the students be in their seats at 5:55 pm and we will start promptly at 6:00. At 5:30, we will start to show the 8th grade Slide Show, pictures of our  8th graders that they have submitted and have been compiled by Christine Ioconeta. Our goal is to have the “Parents Portion” of the evening done by 7:10 and get the students into the cafeteria for the dance celebration, or the “Kids Portion” of the night.

This should be a fun night. We do not limit the number of guest that each student can have, but we do ask that if any of your guests have any special needs for handicap seating, please let us know in advance and we’ll try our best to accommodate.

8th Grade Students and Over Due Library Books

Along with the end of their middle school careers come the necessary collection of middle school items like laptops, textbooks (do we still use those?), uniforms and sports equipment, etc. We expect that each of the items that our students used during their time here will be returned in good working condition. Sometimes, however, that is not the case.

If we find that your child was issued a textbook, laptop or school uniform and it suffers damage, there may be a charge assessed to the family for repairing or replacing the item. The laptops are given a very quick scan by our Tech Department when the student returns the device, however, there are times when damages are discovered when we get a chance to do a complete scan of the device. If this occurs, we will attempt to contact the family and let them know of the damage and why will be required of them.

Library books are also a difficult item to collect. There have been years when we discover that students have books issued to them over all three years of their time here and they remain outstanding. Try as we do to collect these books, we have a few individuals who just can’t seem to get the books from home back to school. If you happen to see any books that belong to our library, it would be very helpful to have them back.

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