One of the amazing aspects of our district is the tremendous number of opportunities our students have to engage in authentic experiences. While you will also see traditional classroom activities such as ‘tests’ and 'quizzes' designed to assess understanding, more often you will see students preparing for and engaging in authentic experiences and assessments. This past week, two such experiences were on display for the public.
The Science Fair, on April 4, allowed our eighth graders to explore their interests and demonstrate their understandings of the scientific method, by researching, conducting experiments, gathering data, analyzing data, and presenting to an audience of judges, parents, community members, and peers. Students could also choose to design and create a real world product, instead of conducting an experiment, if that was their interest. The level of work on display was impressive and it was wonderful to see how proud our students were of their accomplishments. Listening to them present their work to parents and community members the pride they took in what they had accomplished was obvious, and you could also see how their confidence grow with each presentation, as they also practiced and further developed their public speaking and presentation skills. It was also interesting to see how our younger students responded to the obvious hardwork of their older peers. Creating such opportunities for our students is not easy, and I want to thank Kathy Marsh and all of our faculty, staff and community volunteers who helped to make this wonderful experience possible for our eighth graders.
On Thursday our Concert Band and Chorus traveled to Shelburne, Vermont to collaborate and perform with students from the Shelburne Community School. From all reports it was an amazing experience where students had the opportunity to meet new people, collaborate on a performance, and bond with their fellow band members. This ‘real world’ experience exposed our students to another side of the music world as authentic as an adjudicated performance like MICCA, but very different. I am pleased to report our students distinguished themselves on this trip as both talented musicians and polite and respectful young adults. Thank you to Kevin Maier, Tara Callahan, and all of our chaperones for making this memorable opportunity available to our students.
It is important to note that authentic work does not only take place in our Middle School, and that our Elementary students also participate in many real world projects and applications. One such example, also from last week, was our third graders engineering towers that were to be tested against the forces of the wind. Students were charged with designing and building multi story structures from a prescribed list of resources. Ours had the opportunity to exercise their creativity, practice collaboration, construct a tower, and test it against the elements.
As educators and parents, we understand that these types of ‘hands on’, ‘authentic’, ‘real world’ experiences are most powerful, and it is reassuring to know that they are a fundamental part of our students education.
On Sunday, April 2, the Carlisle Middle School Symphonic Band and Concert Band participated in the MICCA Festival at Lexington High School. It was exciting to see over 90 of our musicians participating in this adjudicated festival. It was also great to see the number of family and friends who turned out to support our musicians. I am proud to say that the Symphonic Band earned a Bronze Medal and the Concert Band earned a Silver Medal. Thank you to all of the parent volunteers who helped to make this experience possible, and a special thank you to Kevin Maier for the dedication, expertise, and patience which he brings to his work. Bravo!
This past Friday I had the opportunity to enjoy a ‘lunch date’ with quite a few of our third grade friends. Many of you may know what I am speaking about when I refer to a ‘lunch date’, but if you are not familiar with the term, let me fill you in, as initially I was a little vague on the subject myself. When I first came to Carlisle, I took the opportunity to mingle and meet students in the Dining Room during lunch, as this is always a good time to meet and connect with students, but it didn’t take long before some of my new acquaintances were asking to set up lunch dates, which at the time, I thought was precocious and cute. I soon learned that this ‘lunch date’ concept was a long-standing custom, and yet another example of how special our school community is. I eventually learned that students have lunch dates on a regular basis, sometimes in small groups, sometimes with larger groups, and always with some member of the faculty who takes the time to ensure that those positive connections made in years gone by stay in tact from one year to the next. It is amazing to see students returning to classrooms they were in sometimes 1, 2 or 3 years earlier to have lunch and spend time with a former teacher and a current friend.
Lunch Dates are a wonderful representation of the strong positive relationships our school community fosters among all its members, and they are also a fun and engaging way to stay centered and focused on what is most important in our daily work.
Final Four Winner
Congratulations to Elizabeth W. on winning our first Final Four Tournament Challenge. Elizabeth successfully predicted 3 out of the 4 Final Four teams (North Caroline, South Carolina, and Gonzaga), which was pretty impressive. Elizabeth also had North Carolina winning the National Championship. Great job by all of our students who "started the college search early" by participating in the challenge.
Culture, Space, and Time(travel)
Images from 8th Grade Artists
Responsibility in Action
This week I had the opportunity to hear Liz Suneby, author of Razia’s Ray of Hope, speak to our Sixth Graders about education in Afghanistan. The presentation focused on the struggle for women’s education in Afghanistan and it highlighted the extraordinary work of Razia Jan and what she and her collaborators and supporters have been able to accomplish in one school. The presentation along with our students’ participation in the dialogue demonstrated not only the intellectual engagement of our students with the political and economic challenges confronted by people across the globe, but it also highlighted the deep sense of empathy and caring which we seek to foster. The presentation is part of the “Poverty Project” which our Sixth Graders are working on right now.
The wonderful thing is that while this project may be some of our students most intense and informative exposure to the hardships and need, which exists in our world, it is not the only such experience they will be exposed to in our school. For some, however, it serves as a starting point for many other like-minded programs, which are carried out by our students. A few current examples of charitable programs initiated by our students are the Cradles to Crayons drive which is going on through April 4, and the Book Drive for the Lazarus House, which runs through the end of March. These are both student lead activities, which reflect the high value our school and our community place on responsibility and service. Each day I am impressed and appreciative of the work our faculty and staff do to further develop our students’ sense of agency and to create an environment where student action is encouraged.
If your interested, you can always check the announcements to stay informed about and support the variety of programs taking place in our school, and of course, if your child is interested in a particular cause, encourage them to speak to Mrs. Wilson or Dr. Sidell, to see how we might support their efforts.
Our students’ experiences shape their character and based upon the actions I have observed, our students are developing into thoughtful, creative, and responsible young adults, whom we all can be proud of.
Thoughts on State Assessment Participation
This week, I have received a few inquiries regarding student participation in the upcoming MCAS Assessments. The MCAS is part of our state-wide accountability system designed to ensure that schools are providing all students with high quality and effective educational experiences. The assessment system is also designed to provide valuable information on both school and student performance, information which can and should be used to effectively improve both. There is, however, some opposition to these assessments, opposition which comes from both education professionals and families. While I completely understand and agree with some of the opposition to the assessment system, I would like to make the case for all students’ to participate in the MCAS assessment.
The first point in support of student participation is the fact that all students are compelled to take these assessment by the state. There is no “opt out” option available. Last month I shared Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester’s communication to districts, where he stated the state’s position on this matter. Not only is there no “opt out” option, but schools that do not meet the participation threshold for these assessments will be categorized as Level 3 schools. Currently we are designated as a Level 1 school and I would hate for our status to change based upon MCAS participation. There are, however, more important reasons that I believe all students should participate in the assessment system.
The state accountability system has had some positive impact on the educational experience of students, who may have previously been underserved in schools. While a counter argument could be made that advancements in ELA, Math, and Science performance may have come at the expense of other opportunities, one of the most powerful components of the accountability system is its ability to ensure that “all students” make progress and meet the standards, in these academic disciplines. I know we are quite confident that students in the Carlisle Schools are receiving a quality education, but for many students across the Commonwealth, this may not have always been the case. The accountability associated with the MCAS assessment has gone a long way to ensure that members of all subgroups (students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, students of color) are making effective progress, and while we may feel that this has not been a problem here in Carlisle, I can assure you that it has historically been a problem in some communities, and our participation in this state-wide assessment is a small contribution in order to address that inequality.
Additionally, these state-wide assessment provide us with informative data with which we can assess our curriculum and instruction, and assess the progress of each of our students, with the purpose of supporting the positive development of both.
Finally, it is important to note that all students graduating from a public high school in Massachusetts will need to pass the ELA, Math, and Science MCAS administered in 10th grade. While I expect all of our students to be successful on these assessments, there is a benefit to be derived from the testing practice, which is associated with participating in these earlier assessments. This test familiarity goes a long way in diminishing any anxiety, which might exist when these assessments become high stakes in grades 9 and 10. I also believe there is some benefit to be gained from these assessments which could carry over to other standardized assessments such as the SAT or AP Exams, even though those formats are quite different.
I can honestly say that there are components of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System which I do not agree with, but I did want to share my perspective on why I feel it is necessary and appropriate for all of our students in grades 3-8 to participate in these assessments. I welcome your comments and feedback, and I hope you feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this further.
Spring is here!
One of the wonderful aspects of living in New England is that we have the opportunity to experience all four seasons, and while spring may only be three days long, we do enjoy the feeling of renewal, which comes from the season. In line with the concept of starting something new, I thought it would be a perfect time to start communicating with our Carlisle School Community using this blog format. I hope to use this medium as another way to share many of the amazing things, which are taking place within our district, from engaging classroom activities to major theatrical performances, from community events to professional programs, there is much happening, which we want to share. I hope this inaugural post finds you well and that you come to access this blog as another way to stay informed and in tune with our district.
Congratulations to the cast and crew of “Shrek” on an amazing production. The performances of our young actors and the work of the stage and technical crew were impressive, and along with amazing costumes, scenery, makeup and hair, it made for quite a professional production. Thank you to all of the parent and community volunteers who made this wonderful experience possible for our students.
Coming Soon to a Dining Room Near You
We are excited to announce a number of changes to our Dining Room lunch menu. Starting on Tuesday, March 28, we will be offering an extensive salad bar as one of the lunch options in the Dining Room.
You may have noticed, if you read the monthly menu, that Sue Robichaud, our Food Service Director, has been making a number of changes to the menu including adding new dishes and highlighting some of those items she has traditionally been making from scratch. The salad bar will be a significant and much anticipated addition, and we hope that students and staff will support the endeavor. As I said, the new salad bar will be extensive and shall include a variety of options such as lettuce, spinach, cucumber, tomato, onion, peppers, pepperoncini, turkey, cheese, tuna salad, hard-boiled eggs, potato salad, pasta salad, and croutons. Sue is also open to other potential items to include, so feel free to share any ideas you may have. Of course there will also be a selection of dressings, which will include a gluten free option. The salad bar price will remain the same as other lunch options for students, but we are projecting lunch prices to increase for the 2017-2018 school year, as we work to bring fresh, healthy, and delicious lunch options to our students and staff. Thank you to Sue Robichaud for making this healthy and delicious addition possible.
Massachusetts State Assessments
Carlisle families should have recently received a letter from me previewing the upcoming MCAS Assessments scheduled for April and May. While these assessments may draw criticism for a number of reasons, they do serve a purpose in improving education and outcomes for students across our commonwealth. That being said, I am pleased that the sheer number of assessment sessions is down for this year compared with last year under PARCC. Early plans for PARCC implementation originally called for additional testing at both the mid-point and the end of the year, so I am pleased that we, as a state, have chosen not to pursue that policy, which would have been excessive. The MCAS schedule for April and May is posted on our website.