Thursday, December 7, 2017

First Trimester, Holidays, and a New Year!

December 1 is day 61 (including our first weather cancellation on October 30) of our school year, meaning we have completed the first trimester here at Barnard School. Grades closed on November 21 and report cards were sent home November 29.  The Holiday Season brings performances and activities, while families recover from Thanksgiving feasts and prepare for our Holiday Break December 23-January 2.

November reminds us of our colonial heritage with the Thanksgiving Holiday, and Grades K-3 make it an annual tradition to visit that history in a live community presentation and a feast! After much practice and preparation with research to review the origins of the holiday, Grades K-3 entertained the school and several parents, younger siblings and other visitors with recitations, songs and displays of artwork on the morning of Tuesday, November 21. Following the presentation the students celebrated with a feast of turkey roll-ups, cranberry sauce, gluten free and regular corn bread, homemade applesauce, homemade butter (hand shaken), and individual pumpkin pies for dessert! Thank you parents for helping with preparations and a special thank you to Mrs. Pruett and Mrs. Moran for carrying on this important annual tradition!

I do speak frequently about the assessments we administer and how analysis of the results drives instruction, and as we approach midyear, there is real evidence of how it all comes together, particularly this year.  AIMSweb is a Pearson product we have used for years to assess Reading and Math skills and monitor progress in grades K-8. This year we have upgraded to aimswebPlus, a fully digital version of the assessment.  Pearson, the provider, defines their product as follows:  “aimswebPlus is a powerful and proven tool that informs instruction and improves student performance. Use its standards-aligned reading and math measures to screen and monitor progress for grades K-8.”  Courtney Peterson is participating in a yearlong online tutorial to fully understand how to best use this valuable tool and has committed to administer the product and share what she learns with the staff.  We have also added MAP Skills to our NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) assessment and they define their program as:  “a skills mastery and progress monitoring assessment that helps teachers drill down to the specific skills each student needs to learn. Use it between MAP Growth administrations to see exactly what struggling students are missing and advanced students are ready to take on—then adjust instruction in the moment and monitor student progress.”  Drew Szeliga has taken the lead with this new addition and has made the same commitment to work with Grades 3-8. Using these augmented assessments and the accompanying instructional enhancements will greatly help with our transition to a Competency Based model. Thank you Ms. Peterson, Mr. Szeliga and the entire staff for your commitment to these programs on behalf of our students!

Speaking of assessments, in late September, Spring 2017 Smarter Balanced Testing results were sent home for review.  This information allows us to access grades 3-8 student proficiency in Mathematics and English Language Arts, individually, and with the ability to compare scores within our population and statewide performance.  Not long after, we sent home NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) science results for last year’s students in grades 4 and 8 with similar proficiency and comparison data.  Smarter Balanced Testing and NECAP will be replaced in the spring of 2018 with a new program entitled “NH Statewide Assessment System.” On November 8 I attended a daylong workshop presentation to unveil these assessments, which will be administered for Grades 3-8 in English Language Arts and Math and Grades 5 and 8 in Science. One major improvement from previous tests is the availability of baseline and interim online assessments to allow students to practice and provide feedback to teachers in order to prepare students to perform at their best once the actual assessment is administered.  The tests are all online and adaptive, meaning the questions adjust to be more or less difficult as the students proceed, providing very accurate and valid results.  I will provide more information in future reports as it becomes available.

As reported previously, all grades are attending live performances at Epping’s Leddy Theatre.  On November 8, Grades K-3 attended Roald Dahl’s (I didn’t realize he was the author!) “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” In addition to attending the performance, classrooms spent time reviewing other versions of the play and other Dahl works.  On December 8, Grades 4-8 will see Dickens’ (I did know he was the author!) “ A Christmas Carol,” and classrooms will likewise see other versions and other works by this famous author.  In the spring we still have plans to go to Strawbery Banke and Lowell Mills with a whole school trip still in its planning stage with perhaps a trip to a major sporting event. 

December is our month for the annual Holiday Concert scheduled for December 12, weather permitting (yes it’s that time of year that we need to keep an eye on the weather!). PTA is planning their Book Fair for the same night and a couple days before. The annual Holiday Sale, also PTA sponsored, will be on December 7 and 8. Not soon after, we will be ready for Christmas and the break, which will bring us into a New Year!

That’s a short summary of what’s been going on and there’s always more to see and hear about.  Please continue to visit our website, Twitter, Facebook, teacher, and principal pages.  Best wishes on a joyous Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

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