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March 2012

Dear Rivendell Families,

Excellence doesn’t come easy. Here are some people who deserve special recognition for what they have achieved for themselves and for Rivendell Academy:

Congratulations to senior, Dylan Pelletier, for scoring his 1000th point on the Rivendell court. Dylan’s speed, strength, jumping ability, and agility make him an outstanding three-sport athlete. Dylan’s character and work ethic in the classroom also deserve recognition. Great job, Dylan!

Marshal Ivey’s artwork received an honorable mention from the judges at the 4th Annual Best of the Upper Valley High School Art Exhibit at the AVA Gallery in Lebanon. Stephanie DeSimone, Morgan Movelle, Amber Brooks and Kelsi Nanatovich also had their work accepted. Their art will be on display from February 17th – March 9th.

Thank goes out the Mr. Galli, Mrs. Surprenant, Student Government members and the entire staff for organizing a very successful Winter Carnival. Congratulations to the 7th and 8th grade students for being full participants this year.

This year’s 11th grade students deserve to be recognized for scoring an outstanding 91% pass rate on the state NECAP test in reading.  Rivendell’s 11th graders also had the highest writing scores of any school in the Upper Valley. Thanks goes out to Mr. Reichert for the great work that he did with our 11th grade students last year and to the work he and Mr. St. James did with the 11th graders this year in the writing course.

Big thanks go out to Mr. Galli and the Ice Jamz Committee - Mrs. Alden, Mr. Bristol, Ms. Blake and Ms. Drew, for organizing Ice Jamz II. Once again, we are blending outstanding musical talent from outside the area with our own outstanding Rivendell musicians and singers.

All of the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams have been well coached and played hard all year. Both varsity teams are taking talent and tenacity into the post-season games. We wish them the best. The boys have a phenomenal record of 18-2. On the last regular game of the season the girls beat # 1 ranked Oxbow.

Ryan O’Leary attended the New Hampshire’s Governor’s Institute. Great job, Ryan!

Learning and Responsibility at Rivendell

In a recent article in the Journal Opinion about NECAP results, I stated what I believe are the deeper issues with regard to student learning: Our job in the District is to develop students’ ability to think critically and independently. Our students need to be able to read well, communicate well, understand the relationship between math and science, to write to further their learning, and use numbers to answer real questions. They need to know to how to ask good questions. They need to learn to work effectively with others. An education at Rivendell or any other school isn’t about passing standardized tests; it’s about democracy; it’s about healthy communities; it’s about economic viability; it’s about a healthy environment; it’s about moral issues; it’s about the ability of our students to live rich and rewarding lives. If we are doing our job well, we should see evidence of these goals in our students’ work and we should see our students do well on any standardized test that is thrown at them.

With these larger purposes in mind the teachers are working hard on developing curriculum and analyzing learning in classrooms:

  • Teachers at the Academy have been working to develop curriculum for integrated courses in math/ science and English/ history.
  • Integrated classes will be taught by two teachers who will share students for 130 minutes. Students will receive one grade for both classes.
  • Students are taking finals and every final includes a writing component.
  • We are working on more ongoing and varied forms of assessment that are spaced out evenly throughout each trimester.
  • The District’s Committee on Learning is leading staff development, which is focused on having teachers analyze video of their teaching to identify the degree to which students are engaged in rigorous intellectual conversation.
  • We will be partnering with Boston Latin High School in piloting a new 9th grade physical science curriculum.
  • We implemented a mandatory academic support period for all students with a grade below 74%.
  • We will again hold a mandatory summer school for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students with poor grades. Students who do not make satisfactory progress will repeat the grade.

There are several general trends that I hope our work will address. First, I would like to see a stronger correlation between the grades of our top students and their scores on the SAT exam. My fear is that we are not asking our students to think deeply enough. Related to this, I feel that our students need to develop greater persistence, especially with multi-step problems in math and science that demand strong problem-solving skills. We also need to improve the quality of student discussions and writing when topics or questions demand synthesizing information and original thinking. We’re doing too much leading and feeding. Finally, I feel that we need to have honest discussions about accountability and responsibility. There are times when I feel that teachers and parents are working much harder than some students. The bottom line is that high school can be completed in 3 years, 4 years or 5 years. It’s a choice.

Mandatory Academic Support

Several weeks ago we implemented a mandatory academic support (30 minutes) for all students with a grade below 74%. We had a very large number of failing grades at the midterm report (177 compared to 91 failing grades at the end of the first marking period). The reason for the change was to discover if a more targeted approach to improve grades had an effect. We had done something similar during the first trimester with chemistry students and found that a significant number of grades improved.

There are two controversial issues with the mandatory academic support. First, the assigned students could only be with the teacher with whom they were assigned. Second, students with passing grades could not get help during academic support from teachers who were supervising assigned students. The reasons for these rules were to keep attendance and management issues tight (no going to get help then hanging out with friends with poor grades).

We are going to evaluate the results at the end of the second trimester and make adjustments accordingly. We hope the number of failed classes decreases, that more students begin to take responsibility for their work, and that we can once again allow all students to receive help during academic support. Other possible improvements would be to put two teachers in a classroom and have student tutors help other students.

New Three-Way Conference Format

I have received complaints about the structure of the conferences, and the turn out for them has traditionally been fairly low for the Academy. To address these issues, we have decided to hold conferences that would allow family members and students to meet with some or all of the student’s teachers. Conferences will be held on Monday, March 19th from 1:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. No appointments are necessary. Teachers will have student work on display and family members and students can meet to discuss students’ work.