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WEBSTER MIDDLE SCHOOL
Every Classroom. Every Student. Every Day.

75 Poland Street  Webster MA, 01570

 Phone: 508-943-1922    Fax: 508-949-2648

School Hours   7:15 – 2:10

January 2017

Dear Parents/Guardians

The Webster Middle School strives to maintain a positive and safe learning community that sets high expectations and provides common learning experiences for all students so that they may achieve to their highest potential.

 

The opening of the 2016-2017 school year marks year one of full implementation as a 5-8 middle school. We pride ourselves on providing the children of Webster an education in a positive learning environment that focuses on supporting the unique needs and characteristics of the young adolescent including, physical, psychological, intellectual, social, moral and ethical needs.  The faculty and staff at Webster Middle School are educators who are committed to the the education of the young adolescent and strive to provide all students rich experiences through instruction and collaborative opportunities while maintaining high expectations.  We learned a great deal during the 2015-2016 transition and grade level re-alignment.  We gathered feedback and worked to make adjustments for the purpose of creating a strong foundation and an exemplary middle school that will successfully provide the youth of Webster a culture of learning and achievement.

 

WMS provides high quality curriculum that includes standards-based units, lessons, and assessments across all subjects and grade levels.  Our Enrichment Course provides students opportunity to solve-real world problems while developing 21st Century Learning Skills such as researching, identifying solutions, collaboration with peers and community partners, analyzing, publishing and communicating their results and findings.  Enrichment units are project based, interdisciplinary units that incorporates the major areas of study from each content. These are student-directed units in which the teachers act as facilitators and coaches. Interdisciplinary/cross-curricular teaching provides a meaningful way in which students can use knowledge learned in one context as a knowledge base in other contexts in and out of school (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1989). Interdisciplinary/cross-curricular teaching can increase students' motivation for learning and their level of engagement. In contrast to learning skills in isolation, when students participate in interdisciplinary experiences they see the value of what they are learning and become more actively engaged (Resnick, 1989).

 

Faculty, staff and students work together for the purpose of building community and defining our school culture and climate.  As part of this very important work we hold as a core value creating and maintaining a positive and safe learning community that sets high expectations and provides common learning experiences for all students so that they may achieve to their highest potential. With this in mind we are in our second year of fully implementing an Advisory model. The purpose of Advisory is to create small learning communities within the school that focuses on citizenship, collaboration, tolerance, and community service learning.  An advisory program facilitates relationships and provides the structure that creates "connectedness" in a middle school.
“Connectedness is a characteristic of school cultures in which students have meaningful relationships with adults within the school, are engaged in the school, and feel a sense of belonging to the school. School connectedness is linked to higher grades, higher test scores, and lower dropout rates, regardless of students' socioeconomic status (Blum & Libbey, 2004; Jackson & Davis, 2000; Klem & Connell, 2004; Mac Iver & Epstein, 1991; McNeely & Falci, 2004; National Association of Secondary School Principals, 2006).”1 Our belief is that the cornerstone to creating a vibrant, connected, learning community begins with developing strong relationships that promote our students feeling valued and safe both within the walls of the school as well as with their learning. Learning is an ongoing process that only occurs when students are able to gain knowledge from their mistakes and persevere through challenging tasks and concepts. By providing a nurturing, collaborative, environment that values and celebrates the contributions of each and every member of our school community we are able to, together, build a strong collaborative culture that promotes achievement and continuous learning.

 

With the onset of the 2016-2017 school year WMS established a new partnership with Community Matters.  Community Matters is recognized non-profit organization that focuses on youth development, bullying prevention improving social-emotional climate in schools, http://community-matters.org.   As part of our work with Community Matters WMS is participating in a Whole School Climate 360 Assessment (WSC360).  “WSC360 is a systematic analysis process that identifies strengths, weaknesses and gaps in school climate efforts.  Utilizing surveys, interviews, focus groups and analysis of existing discipline policies, WSC360 provided schools with a comprehensive report including specific recommendations and best practice actions to effectively improve school safety, increase attendance and promote greater academic achievement.” (http://community-matters.org/programs-and-services/whole-school-climate-360)  We have been working closely with Community Matters as they evaluate our practices and are scheduled to hold a two-day intensive reveiw of initial findings and action planning in Febuary.   This will provide us the ability to share the findings with our learning community and create a strategic plan for implementation in the 2017-2018 school year.  

 

Webster Middle School’s ultimate goal is to motivate our young leaders to share in the decision-making and development of school values, goals and initiatives. We strongly believe that students should be at the helm and take ownership of their learning.  We provide multiple opportunities throughout the school year for students to take the lead.  The most significant gain from these efforts would be Student-Led Conferences. Students spend time within their Advisory groups identifying goals in the areas of Academic, Character, and Health.  They track their goals and their academic progress through the development of portfolios. In the student-led conference format the students, with the support of their advisor, maintain their portfolio and monitor goals. Students portfolios and the artifacts and evidence within them are used by the student as they lead their parent meetings.  The advisor is available to facilitate the discussion.  The students reflect and report on their own behalf and are responsible for their own success.  “According to Gus Goodwin, a teacher featured in the book, Deeper Learning: How Eight Innovative Public Schools Are Transforming Education in the Twenty-First Century, is quoted as saying that parents appreciate student-led conferences as an alternative because they realize report cards are not useful, and over time, the parents begin to set a higher bar for their students at these conferences.  Adjusting to the new conferences takes time, but parents become more reflective about their children’s progress and understand how to help at home. The students also gain a better understanding of their strengths and challenges and the correlation between their effort, progress, and resulting quality of work” (A Guide to Student-Led Conferences

By Edudemic Staff on December 18, 2014).  Parents and guardians of Webster Middle School transition from having a ten minute speed round, conference once a year,  to a 30 minute focused discussion with their child twice a year.  If parents step away from the conference with concerns, we then provide the parents/guardians’ an opportunity to meet with the appropriate teacher to have a more individualized discussion. The middle school now offers parent conferences in November and March of each school year.  It is important to note that Webster Middle School piloted student-led conferences in March of 2016 to which we received very positive feedback and encouragement to fully adopt this approach.  

 

Keeping with our theme of students being active participants in their education, we encourage our students to take action within the school to include proposing, initiating and leading clubs, activities, events, and themes.  We celebrate students who honor the school code of conduct and exemplify positive character traits through our community meetings, merit awards, and social functions. These and many other school opportunities provide our students with enriching experiences that promote skill development, self-esteem, and community. We also take great pride in continuing to provide our students arts-based, culture and academic opportunities across all grades through wonderful partnerships with the Hanover Theater, New Haven Symphony and the Salt Marsh Productions.  

 

As part of our continued efforts to promote student progress and achievement, the faculty and staff engage in professional development that focus on improvement initiatives.  Our staff  participates in in-depth research, collaboration,  and development in the area of standards-based instructional systems, best practice, and culture and climate.  This has lead to our current practice of using common assessments, rubrics, and a standards-based report card to examine and report student progress.  Currently, we have professional learning committees researching and advising us as a whole faculty/staff in the areas of STEM/STEAM, Standards-based learning, Flexible Scheduling, Expeditionary Learning/Student Centered Learning, Advisory/Crew, and Gifted & Talented programming.   Using common planning time, faculty meetings and professional development days we regularly engage in meaningful dialog regarding effective teaching practices that promote student growth and achievement.  Through this process we have identified areas of focus: 1.  Creating high quality, standards-based lessons that communicate clear learning objectives and success criteria 2.  Teach and promote the development of critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration 3.  The promotion of self-determination, motivation and engagement.

 

Our dedication to the children at Webster Middle School motivates us in our work to provide all learners the opportunity to engage in meaningful curriculum and achieve at high levels. It inspires us to seek out new opportunities that enrich our students’ lives as well as provide them opportunity to become a voice in the shaping of our school. We continue to honor daily successes, reflect and investigate how to serve our children better.  We are constantly exploring opportunities for improvement. Together, Webster Middle School celebrates the relationships we develop, the growth we experience and the diversity that makes us strong and brings us together as a learning community.

Respectfully submitted,
Ms. Lundwall

 
___________________________________________________________________________________________
Standards-Based Report Cards
 

Dear Parents / Guardians,

 

Webster Middle School follows a standards-based instruction system to include the use of standards-based assessments and report cards.  It is our belief that a standards-based report card will provide you with more detailed information regarding your child’s progress towards grade level learning goals.  

 

A standards-based report card provides parents and guardians with specific information about your child’s achievement relative to each standard.  "Academic standards are a set of learning goals for each grade level and subject area.   These grade specific learning goals identify the content and skills students must achieve by the end of the school year."1  These standards increase in complexity as students move both through the year and from one grade level to another.   You will note that not all standards listed on the report card have grades as many of the them have not yet been taught or assessed for mastery.   In the future, standards that have not yet been addressed will have an NA listed.   Webster Middle School curriculum, aligned to academic standards, is available on the school website.  You may also review all K-12 academic standards on the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website at http://www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/current.html.  

 

Webster Middle School transitioned to a standards-based grading system as an effort to more clearly report what students have learned during the course of the school year.   "The practice of averaging scores throughout a marking period is a formula that presumes that students must reach mastery of skills early in the school year with little room for error.  In addition, grades are often calculated by combining how well the student met a teacher’s expectations, how much effort the student put forth, and how the student is doing in comparison to other students.  A letter grade only tells the student and parent how well he or she performed on average in a broad area such as English Language Arts or math.   A standards-based report card measures how well the individual student is doing in relationship to each grade level standard or learning goal.   This gives parents a better understanding of their child’s strengths and weaknesses and encourages all students to do their best."2

 

Each academic standard listed on the report card will be evaluated as follows:  Exceeds the Standard (4); Meeting the Standard (3); Progressing Toward the Standard (2); Limited to No Growth (1); Not Addressed / Not Assessed (NA).  Many of the skills listed on the report card are end-of-year competencies; so it will not be unusual for students to be “progressing toward the standard” at the beginning of the year, with proficiency or beyond by the year’s end.  Achievement will be reported on a broad range of academic standards in all subject areas offered at Webster Middle School to include “special” subjects.

 

In standards-based classrooms, the focus is on a student’s performance "over multiple opportunities, not simply grading and averaging tests and quizzes. Teachers collect evidence of students’ achievement through careful observation, examination of student’s work, discussions, projects, performance tasks, quizzes and tests."3 Teachers record information about each child’s progress on a frequent basis, analyze and compile this information, and use this data to evaluate a child’s progress towards meeting grade level standards. Report card grades are determined by the student’s final assessments that are given at the end of each unit studied.  

Parents and Guardians can monitor student progress and completion of assignments through the Power School parent portal at
https://wps.powerschool.com/public/home.html.  Webster Middle School has developed a set of criteria for each standard on the report card. This criteria, in the form of rubrics, will help teachers evaluate the progress of your child’s achievement at each marking period throughout the school year.  A student who is identified as “meeting the standard” has achieved appropriate learning and growth and meet the expectations for the school year.  

 

A key advantage of the new reporting system is that it provides more specific information to parents in working with their child at home on identified skill areas.  The academic standards or learning goals help parents know what their child is working on in school and can provide the basis for conversations at home between parents and their children.  This information can be used by parents to support the school’s efforts in educating their child to reach proficiency or to move their child to more advanced levels.  The report cards serves as one communication device used by teachers to inform parents of their child’s progress.  Parents and guardians are encouraged to communicate with their child’s teacher as needed.  You play a vital role in your child’s academic success.  

 

Please contact your child’s teacher directly if you have any questions regarding your child’s progress and/or educational program.


Sincerely,
Mrs. Lundwall

 

 

FAQ  Standards-Based Report Cards  

  1. Standards-based grading reports tell us how students are performing on a set of clearly defined learning outcomes.
     

  2. There is no single mark for a course as is traditionally generated by averaging or combining multiple scores across the duration of a class.
     

  3. Unlike traditional grade reports, standards-based grading measures students’ knowledge of grade-level content by reporting the most recent, consistent level of performance. So, a student might struggle in the beginning of a course with new content, but then learn and demonstrate proficient performance by the end of the course
     

  4. For example:  In traditional grading, the student’s performance for the whole quarter would be averaged. Early quiz scores that were low would be averaged together with proficient performance later in the course resulting in a lower grade than current performance indicates.  Standards-based grading reports separately on academic tasks and work habits in order to give a more accurate report of student progress in both affective and academic areas.
     

  5. Measures like effort, participation, timeliness, cooperation are not blended into the mark for academic performance.
     

  6. You cannot compare the two grading systems. As they say it is like comparing “apples to oranges”. Standards-based grading philosophy defines a standard, and asks whether or not a student is meeting the standard at given points in the school year, and does not average performance over the duration of a course.  A score of 3 is defined as meeting grade level standards and indicates that a student has demonstrated the skills expected for this reporting period or for the next grade level.  

 

WMS Standards-Based Reporting At A Glance

WMS Rubric Indicators

0

No understanding

1

limited knowledge

Several Misconceptions

Limited Examples

2

Minor/partial understanding

Some knowledge

Some examples

3

No significant misconceptions

Considerable knowledge

Complete examples

4

No misconceptions

Complete examples

Demonstrates considerable knowledge

WMS Report Card Indicators

No addressed

Not assessed

No Growth

Progressing

Met Standard

Exceeds Standard

 1 -3 Carlisle Public Schools, Parent Guide, 8/2015

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