I've been meaning to do this blog post all summer, and now that the summer is almost over, I figured I better finally get it up. And I know I've been accused of focusing on the negative on this blog, but I'd also like to be clear that if/when I see good things happening, I'm certainly going to be equally loud about those.
So, what I'd like to share with my blog readers is the VERY impressive letter sent to 6th grade parents in late June from ARMS Principal Mike Hayes. This letter (which I understand from Mike is a new initiative) described the importance of helping rising 7th graders continue to practice their reading and math skills over the summer, and gives very specific suggestions for families about how students can maintain these skills.
The English department (chaired by Heather Sullivan-Flynn) requests that rising 7th and 8th graders read one of four books (one list for 7th graders, one list for 8th graders), and has copies of these books available to loan to families if needed. (My rising 7th grader read one of the books, and liked it so much that we got the sequel the next day, and he is now reading a second book on this list.)
The math department (chaired by Steve Zakon-Anderson, who has also contributed to this blog!) provides a very helpful description of math options for 7th graders, and also provided a HUGE amount of material for summer study (e.g., sample 7th grade pre-test, sample 7th grade extensions problems, sample 7th grade final exam) on the website (http://www.arps.org/ms/). This type of clarity and transparency is extremely helpful, and really marks a dramatic change from prior practice (in which the content of pre-test material, and sometimes even the existence of such a test, wasn't known to parents or students).
I remarked on the very helpful nature of this material, and publicly thanked Mike Hayes, at a Regional SC meeting in June, but then realized that those who didn't watch this meeting (or have rising 7th graders themselves) wouldn't be aware of its existence -- hence I wanted to make sure that at least my blog readers know about these impressive steps being taken by the middle school administration. This strikes me as a very good sign for the upcoming year in the middle school!
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.