Week of September 5th

topperMiddle

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Upcoming Important Dates

Sep 6 – Laptop Orientation during Tutorials
Sep 8 – Picture Day
Sep 8 – Vision & Hearing Screening
Sep 11 – 15th Anniversary of The Attacks on 9/11
Sep 12 & 13 – MLTI Parent Orientation Night 6:00 pm
Sep 12 thru Sep 23 – Star 360 Testing Window
Sep 16 – School Dance 6:00 pm GMS Gymnasium
Sep 17 – U.S. Constitution Day
Sep 21 – Early Release Day Students dismissed at 11:10

MLTI Laptops

I mentioned, at the close of last year, that GMS was going to be receiving new Apple MacBook Air laptops for all of our 7th and 8th grade students. Well, they have arrived and we gave them out to the students on Thursday. We will be working with the students to get them all configured when they return to school on Tuesday. We will do this laptop activation during the period we call Tutorial, so there will be no loss of class time.

Most of the 6th grade students received the whole MacBooks that we have used for the past 7 years. However, the students on the Moosehead Team will be participating in a Pilot program and will be using ChromeBooks. Every 6th grade students will have a device assigned to them for their use.

We will hold the annual MLTI Parent Orientation Nights on Monday and Tuesday, September 12 & 13 at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium. Attendance at this event is required of all parents in order for their child to be able to bring their device home from school.

Please make every attempt to attend one of these evening events. I know these are a real pain, but we are required to do these and parents are required to attend annually. We will do our best to be quick and be informative.

Picture Day

Picture day is on Thursday, September 8 for all students. Students did receive an order form on the first day of school. Please use this form to complete your order.

If your child lost the form, please don’t worry, you can order pictures online by going to the LifeTouch web page. Just follow the directions on the page, it really is easy!

Portland Tutors

Portland TutorsOccasionally, I get asked if I know of a tutor who can help a child through some difficulties in math. Recently, a friend of mine actually began such a service and, I am happy to pass along his information. His name is Alexander Decal, a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy and an accomplished engineer. He can be reached via email at Alexander@portlandtutors.org, or via his website at portlandtutors.org.

Annual Vision and Hearing Screening

Nurse Cathy Loiselle will be conducting the annual Vision & Hearing screenings for all 7th grade students, and some Eye examselected 8th grade students. If your 8th grade child is one of the selected students, you will have been notified in advance.

These screenings are designed to uncover any issues with our students and to report anything we find to the parents. We have been conducting these screenings since I was in school, with chalkboards and paper bag book covers!

STAR 360 Assessments

For more than 10 years, we have use the NWEA Assessments in an effort to help us understand what we need to do next to help our students learn better. This should be the goal of any assessment, help us learn how we can help our students learn better.

This year, we will be making a switch to an assessment called STAR 360. This assessment is similar to the NWEA in that it will be administered via the computer and that it is also an adaptive assessment. The part I like best is that it will provide our teachers will a complete set of information on our students by class or by grade, and the information will be norm referenced, meaning a view of how our students fare against the nation as well as criterion referenced information, meaning how are our students doing toward the learning targets.

Parents will receive similar information on their child’s results and you will see a clear picture of their progress.

We plan to begin the administration of the assessments during the second week of September. When we have completed all of the administration, I will let you know overall results and when you will receive your child’s results.

Education for the Future

Over the past few years in this space, I have included articles, blog posts from others and videos that challenge our ideas about what education should be. I think I even offered the observation that if Horace Mann, who died in 1859, were to return to Earth today, the only thing he would recognize is the education system!

In Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith book Most Likely to Succeed, they speak in great detail about the shaping of the American Public School at the turn of the 19th Century. How the “movers and shakers” of the day recognized that America was moving from an agrarian society to one that required skills in manufacturing. They also realized that an educational system needed to be instituted to address this change and to train the American worker to move from the fields of the farm to the floors of the assembly lines.

In a way, these men, called the Gang of Ten (yes, they were all men!), recognized that the technology of the late 19th and early 20th Century was changing the way of life for our country, and the country needed to respond to these changes.

In a way, we are at a similar crossroads again. Technology has again changed the course of human events.

Schools need to be responsive to this shift, the shift in skills that the kids in our schools today will need for their future.

We have a lot of work to do in the coming years to re-tool what we do, and how we do it, in our schools to make sure our students are ready for the world ahead of them.

 

We’ll explore more in the coming weeks here. In the meantime, take a few minutes to view Ted Dintersmith giving a speech in Fargo, North Dakota on why he supported the making of the documentary Most Likely to Succeed.

 

Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy!

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Aug 29 – First day of school for 6th Graders
Aug 30 – First Day of school for 7th & 8th Graders
Sep 2 – No School Labor – Long Labor Day Weekend
Sep 5 – Labor Day No School
Sep 8 – School Picture Day
Sep 8 – Vision & Hearing Screening day
Sep 12 & 13 -MLTI Parent Information Evening
Sep 16 – School Dance

Student Placement

We have completed the placement process for all of our students for the next school year. The process is exhausting and extensive and it is one that we take very seriously. We take information from parents and the students’ teachers to make sure we put together combinations that make sense for the entire school. We also work hard to make sure that students have at least one friend on their team (usually, they have many friends with them!).  In any event, since the 8th grade is housed in one wing of the school, it is very likely that they will still have plenty of time for socializing with friends.

Our goal is to have teams that resemble the grade as a whole, in other words, a heterogeneous group of students with similar strengths and similar challenges. We endeavor to make sure that no one team can be perceived as the team that has far more of one type of student over another.

(Side note: In some of the emails and telephone calls we have received, parents have objected to their child being placed on the team with all of the Special Education students, or the behavior students, or, that another team has all of the “college-bound” students. This is why we do this exhausting process, to keep this from happening)

We also understand that sometimes we don’t get it right. We have set out a protocol for parents top voice their concern and request a change of team. To do so, parents must demonstrate one of the following four possibilities in making the request:

  1. Prior negative experience with the student and a teacher on the team;
  2. Prior negative experience with a sibling or family member and a teacher on the team;
  3. An issue between another student on the team that rises to the level of civil or legal involvement, and;
  4. A teacher on the team who is a relative and placement could cause a problem.

Short of meeting any of these conditions, we are restricted from moving students off a team.

There is a bit of hope, however, we know that over the course of the summer students move in and students move away. We are committed to making our teams representative of the grade as a whole. In late August, when we begin to receive the transfer requests, we re-examine the make up of each team and make adjustments at that time. In the past, we have had to move students to different teams.

What we cannot allow is the idea of “team or teacher shopping”. Making requests for a particular team or teacher would complicate the process to the extent that it would be impossible to keep the mix of students representative of the whole grade.

If I could pass on a little bit of wisdom that I have gained over the years, first as a parent, and then as a middle school administrator, kids are incredibly resilient. What appears to be the crisis to end all crises, can be mollified with time.

Finally, I am happy to meet with any parent to talk about each of the teams at our grade levels. We are incredibly blessed at Gorham Middl School because we have some very talented, dedicated teachers who go more than above and beyond to provide our students with great learning experiences.

 Supply Lists for 2016-2017 School Year

I figured that I would try to beat Staples, Wa;smart and Office Max to the punch and get our supply lists out to all well before the “Back-to-School Sale Season” starts. I want to temper these lists a little bit by reminding you that your child does not need  to have all of these supplies for the first day of school, these are meant to last for the entire year, so you might be able to ease into the purchasing a bit.

I have updated our GMS Webpage with the complete lists for each team. Follow this link to the GMS page and scroll down to “Supplies List” section. Please be very mindful of the amount of supplies your child will need. Also, if you are experiencing financial difficulties, please don’t hesitate to call me. We do have some supplies available for students, if necessary. I will keep any information in complete confidence.

Summer Reading for a Principal

Summer is the time that I can settle in for an afternoon of enjoyable reading. Maybe some history about General George Washington and the American Revolution, or John Sanford novel with Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, those are always interesting, if not a bit gruesome.

But for now, I am elbow deep into Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith’s Most Likely to Succeed (MLS). Tony Wagner has been featured in this blog on a couple of occasions, both in video and in print. I appreciate his take on the challenges we are facing in preparing pour kids for their future. Ted Dintersmith is new to me. The book jacket says he is a venture capitalist who has turned his attention to improving our educational system in a manner that is quite different than other wealthy people are suggesting.

As I said, I am only elbow deep into this book with lots more reading and understanding to do.

About a year ago, Ted Dintersmith was in Fargo, North Dakota, attending a TEDx conference. He delivered this address about his ideas and talked about the documentary he financed about education across the country. So far, I have been completely enthralled with everything Wagner and Dintersmith have said about how our education system needs to be more responsive to the needs of our future. I think we’ll be talking about this more in the coming months. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy his speech from Fargo.