Sunday, November 13, 2016

A-B Students Honor Our Veterans and Your Role in Expanding our Notion of Success

A-B Students Honor Our Veterans

It was a privilege to see approximately 160 of our A-B students honoring area veterans on Friday at the annual Veteran's Day Breakfast at the Boxborough Holiday Inn. Students not only served breakfast, sang, and performed music, but most importantly, they talked with veterans about their lives and experiences. This has become one of our most meaningful traditions at A-B, with diverse groups of students coming together for a memorable morning.

We are grateful to Social Studies teacher and National Honor Society co-advisor Mary Price Maddox, who leads the event each year. It is a rich experience of learning, caring, and honoring for all involved.

Your Role in Expanding our Notion of Success
Recently, there has been a considerable amount of discussion in the community about stress and academic pressure at A-B. Last week, we had an opportunity to come together for a community learning experience about the roles we all play in helping our students to have healthier, more balanced lives. 

Dr. Denise Pope, Challenge Success

Dr. Denise Pope from Stanford University's Challenge Success met with our entire PK-12 staff on November 8th. She shared current research and school reform efforts geared toward helping high-achieving schools and districts to have healthier schedules, homework and assessment practices, and learning environments. Our district is currently focusing on three areas: school day schedule (including start time), homework and assessment practices, and family education and engagement.

Dr. Pope affirmed the work we have been doing at ABRHS for four years now in the areas of mental health, wellness, and learning. Following two years of cross-departmental work led by Associate Principal Larry Dorey, we plan to review alternative schedule models with our staff in the spring of 2017 with a projected high school schedule change for the fall of 2018. A schedule change at the high school will include professional learning for staff and community education for families. Dr. Brand is currently leading the district's efforts in the area of school start times.

We continue to review our homework practices at the high school (begun in 2013-2014) and as an extension, we are also focusing on assessment, which students consistently share with us as being stressful for them. Homework and assessment are linked, and a change in one area necessitates a change in the other. We are currently examining the purpose, frequency, form, and relevancy of our assessments in all subject areas. One result of our work so far is that we will pilot an assessment calendar during the two weeks prior to midyear week, a result of feedback we received about how challenging that period was for many students last year. Challenge Success assists schools with alternative assessment practices, and we will benefit from their expertise in enacting this kind of instructional evolution in a large school such as A-B.

Dr. Pope then presented to about 200 parents/guardians on the evening of November 8th. She again shared current research and included recommendations for parents to be partners in the work of helping our adolescents to live healthier and more balanced lives. Dr. Pope has specific recommendations for parents regarding technology use, sleep, choosing students' courses and overall course loads, the problem of students being over-scheduled in general, approach to the college entrance process, and suggestions for having conversations with your adolescent about academic integrity. 

For those who were unable to attend Dr. Pope's presentation, we are fortunate that Danny's Place Youth Services has generously purchased the link to her presentation "The Well-Balanced Student." I strongly recommend that you take the time to watch her presentation to gain an understanding of the expectations we will have for community partnership in our efforts. You received instructions to access Dr. Pope's presentation via email on Wednesday, November 9th. Here is what you will learn in viewing the presentation:

The Well-Balanced Student
Today’s high-pressure, fast-paced culture can interfere with healthy child development. When we are too focused on test scores, performance, and grades, we may deny kids the time and energy they need to effectively tackle the demanding work of growing up. This workshop examines the tensions that can occur between students, parents, and educators over issues such as homework, grades, and the culture of competition. We’ll offer parents research-based strategies to create healthier home and school environments. 

In this presentation, you will learn:
  • How students today are coping- or not- with the academic pressure they face
  • Ways you can reduce academic stress without sacrificing achievement or engagement in school
  • Strategies to increase resilience, creativity, and well-being for your child

The video link will be active for six weeks and expires on Tuesday, December 20th.  Once you apply the promo code and start the video, you have ONE WEEK to finish viewing the workshop.  

Meaningful and lasting change for our students at A-B will require an open, supportive partnership between our schools and our community. I'd like to see our community unify around this work on behalf of our students. Please take some time to view Dr. Pope's presentation and stay informed about the work we are doing at the high school, including as embedded in our School Improvement Plan, to challenge and expand our notion of success.