Weekly Update, October 3, 2017

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GSD LogoUpcoming Important Dates

You can find all important dates for GMS activities at the link below. This is updated daily, so you can check it often!

GMS Daily Announcements

Teacher In-Service Day, October 6 & Holiday on Monday October 9

There will be no school for students on Friday, October 6 as teachers will be involved with a professional development day for the entire district. This will provide all families with an extra long four-day weekend. Students and teachers return to school on Tuesday, October 10.

Movie Screening and Parent Meet-up

We will be screening the film The Mask You Live In on Thursday evening, October 19 beginning at 6:00 pm. All parents are invited to attend the screening , which is free of charge and open to the public. Following the screening, Maine Boys to Men will facilitate a short discussion about the film.

This is part of our on-going effort to address our concerns as to the negative student interactions that have seemed to increase in the past few months.

This screening is for adults only, and will help us all better understand the world our children inhabit, complete with all of the pressures of social media, media representations of how life should be and where real life actually intersects with these stereotypical models presented to our children.

I hope that you can all join us for will be a thought-provoking evening.

School Dances

We have another school dance approaching, and we are hoping to straighten out a couple of misconceptions that have arisen lately.

These dances are invitation only. This means that we invite our students to join us for the dance. The invites can be reminded at anytime by administration. Some of the ways students lose their invite to a dance is as follows:

Throughout the year, dances may be held for 6th, 7th and 8th graders. They are always chaperoned by several teachers, willing parent volunteers and the school administrators. They are held on Fridays, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. in the gymnasium and drinks and snacks are available for purchase. Dress is expected to be appropriate for the activity and “dating” is strongly discouraged.

Parents must pick up their son or daughter promptly after the event, usually 8:00 pm. Students may not be allowed to attend a dance because of poor school behavior. The following rules will be followed while at the dances:

  • Only students from Gorham Middle School are invited to attend the dance. Students from any other school cannot attend. This would include visiting family members, students who attend private or parochial schools or charter schools.
  • The student is absent on the day of the dance. Only students who are present at school can attend the dance.
  • Similar to our guidelines for athletics, students must arrive at school prior to 9:00 am and must stay through the remainder of the day. Students who are dismissed by a parent for a doctor appointment, or such, may come to the dance. Students who are dismissed because of illness, may not attend the dance.
  • Students who have received 3 detentions in the period between the date of the last dance and the next dance, may not attend the dance.
  • Students who have been suspended from school, either in-house or out of school, may not attend the dance.
  • We realize that cell phones are an important communication tool with parents, and we expect students to have them so students can arrange pick up after the dance. However, we do not want students to be using them at the dance. We have had too many occurrences of students testing each other, using the camera or video function on their phones to create situations of conflict. Students who use their phone during the dance, will have the phone confiscated until the end of the dance.
  • Students are expected to dress in a fashion similar to the school day. We discourage students from dressing in formal attire, and the school dress code still applies.

These dances have been wonderful experiences for many of our students, students enjoy the school in a totally different setting than our traditional school day. They also enjoy seeing teachers and other adults in very different settings that usual, and that has been positive. Most, but unfortunately not all, enjoy the dances and rate these evenings as one of the more positive experiences of middle school. It is those few who seem to need to create the “drama” of conflict, that create problems for the whole. We are trying to reduce those episodes.

I plan to hold grade level assemblies with all students to review these rules for our dance. It would be very helpful to all of us if you would take a few minutes before the dance to make sure that your child understands the rules for the dance.

I would encourage all parents to volunteer to chaperone at least one dance during your child’s middle school life. It truly is an experience and one that will allow you to better understand what makes adolescents tick!

Parent Teacher Conferences

Please circle the dates of October 27 & 27 (Thursday and Friday) to meet with your child’s advisor. As we have done in the past, parents will meet with the child’s advisor to discuss student progress. Parents may request a time to meet with particular Content Area teachers if you fell the need.

Advisors will be meeting with teachers from within the Advisory Cluster to exchange information about student progress, so all advisors will be current with student progress. Also, students will be leading these conferences, helping parents make sense of the new formats of the JumpRope and Infinite Campus Report Cards.

You should be hearing from your child’s advisor shortly about scheduling your meeting time.

District Committee Opening

We are looking for a Middle School Parent to serve on a District-Wide K-12 Grading and Reporting Committee. The purpose of this committee is to collect data to monitor the success and challenges of implementation of our new grading practices across the K-12 system.  This data can be collected through student, staff, and parent pre and post surveys as well as through monitoring of student failure rates at the 6-12 level.  Other data collection methodologies can be determined by the group.  Once data is collected, this group will then make recommendations regarding any “tweaks” to our system and or plans for moving forward that need to be made in order to meet the needs of our students.  

The time commitment for this committee is one meeting per month for ten (10) months. The meeting duration is about 90 minutes and usually begin at 4:00 pm.

If you are interested in joining this committee please send me an email or call my office at 222-1228.

A Word from a Former MS Teacher on Grading

Rick Wormeli is an author of many books on teaching and learning as well as a noted national speaker on all things education. Rick is articulate, funny and concise. He makes his point with humor, but his perspective comes straight from the classroom and his actual experiences with adolescent learners. When he speaks, he speaks from experience… and he is fun to listen to!

Is It Really May??

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 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.

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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.

https://www.jumpro.pe/blog/getting-into-college-with-a-proficiency-based-transcript/

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…