Tuesday, November 26, 2013
In case you missed it in the news last week, the Massachusetts Board of Education voted to accept a two-year transition plan to the PARCC assessment. The original plan to implement PARCC testing called for all Massachusetts students begin taking the new assessment in 2015, but MA Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester has been listening to school and district leaders across the state and has advocated for a more gradual transition:
“I have heard a great deal from school superintendents and others about the importance of pacing ourselves so that schools can implement PARCC and other reform initiatives in a thoughtful way,”he said in the memo. “This transition approach is responsive to the field…”
Many of the concerns schools have is in regards to the online aspect of PARCC testing, something that is new to our state. In order to help facilitate this transition, Burlington has volunteered to help support students and educators across the state in this transition.
We are pleased to be participating in the Spring 2014 PARCC Field Test – and have asked PARCC to expand the sample of our students involved because we believe that this experience will be good for children in Burlington and across the state. The Burlington Community has generously provided us with the technological resources to expand our Field Test to include all students. We are also lucky to have talented people working in the district who are willing to learn from this experience and to share this knowledge with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and across Massachusetts.
Our plan is to use different devices at different grades (i.e. tablets, chromebooks, computer labs, etc.) to determine which environment is best for students. We will be conducting focus groups with students and teachers after each testing window and sharing this information with our stakeholders and other school districts to help prepare for what is ahead. This district preview will help us to better prepare our students and curriculum for future test administrations.
Because our students are participating in the PARCC, we have the option of opting out of MCAS English Language Arts and Math testing at all grades except grade 10 . Our sophomores will have to take both PARCC and MCAS due to both the state graduation requirement and to qualify for the Adams’ scholarships. In other words, it appears that we will not be administering the MCAS Test this year (aside from grade 10 and possibly Science in grades 5,8,9)
There are two testing windows for the PARCC assessments. The first, for the Performance Based Assessment (PBA), is March 24 – April 11 and the second, for the End of Year Assessment (EOY), is May 19 – June 6. The PBA consists of three testing sessions and the EOY consists of two. We will share more specifics in regards to dates for each grade as soon as we coordinate them with the DESE and PARCC testing officials.
We have been informed that we will not see the results of the Field Test. Pearson (the creator of the PARCC test) may share district results but they will not be sharing individual school or student results. While this may concern some parents, we feel confident in our ability to continue to show evidence of students growth through a variety of assessments that our staff members conduct throughout the year.You may have lots of questions. We have lots of questions. We will be getting out more information as it becomes available.
|Chris Herren Speaks to BHS Students|
BHS students sit through a number of assemblies over the course of their high school years, but rarely do they make an impact like today's assembly with Chris Herren did. Mr. Herren, a former high school All-American from Fall River who went on to be a star in college and eventually play for the Celtics, shared his struggles with addiction and his road to sobriety in a talk that had students captivated.
Chris Herren with Senior Max Bressi after the assembly
Chris Herren, the focus of an ESPN Special titled Unguarded (check out a clip below), and the author of the book Basketball Junkie, got many positive reviews from students. He opened the presentation by sharing a short video of his journey through Durfee High School, his college years, his professional career, his battle with addiction and his road to recovery. He spent time recounting his high school experience when speakers came into his school to talk about drugs and alcohol and thinking "come on man, I don't need this." He followed by recounting his unbelievable journey from hoop star to drug addict to today where is closing in on almost 6 years of being sober.
One of the most important messages that Chris shared was to be happy with who you are and the need to "not be somebody different on Fridays and Saturdays". He encouraged students to have the courage to be happy with who you are and not turn to substances to be cool, tough, or fit in. Chris also focused on how students could help their friends who may be struggling with addiction, self-harm, or other dangerous behaviors by speaking up. "True friends will knock on doors, I wished someone knocked on my door and said, hey Mr. Herren you better help Chris". "The code for me growing up was not to rat on each other, but that's Hollywood, true friends step up and intervene, they don't just standby."
Herren also mentioned a project he has started called Project Purple. PP encourages students to stand up against substance abuse and to also preach acceptance for students who do the right thing. He wants to help put an end to environments where students who make good choices and get mocked by classmates. "It's not right that kids run their mouths because some kids are going to do the right thing."
Thank you to Health teacher Amy Doughty and Associate Principal Deb Deacon for their hard work in bringing Chris Herren to BHS and for also promoting and running our Be Smart Program that consistently hits on the following themes throughout the year:
The impact and consequences of our choices and decisions
The issues of bullying, peer pressure, and drugs/alcohol
Appreciation for our abilities and the people in our life
The courage to believe in oneself
The power we have to reach out and make a difference
I am hopeful that the positive energy from today's assembly will further promote positive decision making and broaden our levels of acceptance.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Kolkata (Calcutta) 2010
In 2010 I traveled to Kolkata, India with photojournalist Peter Turnley and six other photographers from around the Globe for a workshop on street photography. This workshop introduced us to one of the world's most visually magnificent and stimulating cities.
Kolkata is one of India's largest cities, a former capital of colonial India, full of history and streets filled with constant motion. Kolkata is a photographer’s dream for capturing street and travel photography. This workshop was beneficial in developing the social skills necessary when shooting street photography.
As part of the workshop, photographers agreed only to use wide- angle lenses, so my images were captured with the Nikon 17-55mm F/2.8 or 24mm F/1.4. Composing these wide-angle scenes presented visual challenges as well as an abundance of creative possibilities. Wide-angle lenses view the world very differently from normal-range or telephoto lenses. Positioning in close proximity to your subject can often be intimidating. It is clear to see that the images displayed in the gallery were captured within two feet from the subject. Hopefully, this experience will allow me to return to the wonder of India and participate in all it has to offer.
Laura Phillips is an art educator at the Marshall Simonds Middle School.