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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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June 2012

Dear Rivendell Families,
There has been much to celebrate at the Academy over the last month:

  • Everyone that I spoke to loved the senior trip to New York City. A special thanks goes out to Senior Class Advisors Bob Thatcher, Silas St. James, and John Bristol; Nancy Thatcher, Nancy Hall, and parent chaperones Dawn Stever, JJ Hebb, and Don Mitchell. We would also like to thank all the families and individuals who helped with fundraising, most notably, the special individual contributions.
  • NECAP results showed that our combined 11th grade reading and writing scores were the highest in Vermont. As a community member pointed out at the school budget meeting, our math and science scores need to improve. We hope that increased attention (especially in science) may start to show in our scores in the spring science tests (May 8th and 9th).
  •  Numerous students have received awards and recognition from several outside organizations. You will find a listing further in this newsletter.
  • Congratulations go out to Rivendell junior, Christina Moreland. Christina met the requirements to enter the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Program based on her PSAT scores.
  • Big thanks go out to Rivendell junior, Kelsi Nanatovich, for organizing a very successful Ghost Out. A Ghost Out is a school‐wide simulation focused on raising awareness of deaths related to drunk driving.
  • A special thanks to Denise Riordan for organizing and chaperoning the trip to Spain.
  • Thanks to Jenny Silverstein for organizing a special NYC art field trip for a select group of Rivendell artists.
  • Each 7th grade student has been assigned a netbook that they will eventually be able to take home. The netbooks will follow students until graduation.
  • Thanks to Christian Knowlton and volunteers from his Scout troop for cleaning and repairing the greenhouse. Brynne MacMurtry has plants almost ready to be moved.
  • The school budget passed with a solid majority. Next year it would be great to have a larger turn out for the vote. It is an important part of our local democratic process.
  • Thanks to Carol Sobetzer and students for completing the yearbook. We look forward to seeing it later this spring.

Work Underway

  • Rivendell Academy received its accreditation four years ago by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Our first ever five‐year report is due to NEASC in March 2013. As schools move through the process, the evaluators expect to see growth and development in key areas.
    Specifically, NEASC is looking for us to design a school with a clear rationale and strong connections across the following areas:

  1. Stated values and beliefs
  2. Learning expectations
  3. Overall curriculum structure in the school
  4. Pedagogy
  5. Assessment of student understanding and skills

The connections must be clear on paper; understood by students, staff and families; and observable to visitors. In effect, we are being asked to demonstrate that we know who we are and to show that what we do improves the life and learning of our students. These are good things for us to think about.

Next year will be the second year of our new curriculum structure and schedule. In science and math, the courses will not be properly sequenced until the fall of 2013. Our Learning Expectations focus on seven areas (based on Rivendell’s Profile of the Graduate and the Strategic Plan):

  1. Literacy skills
  2. Math reasoning to analyze problems
  3. Effective communication
  4. Problem solving across disciplines
  5. National and global interconnections
  6. Personal responsibility
  7. Action on issues of public concern

Our work for the remainder of this year and next involves building more explicit links between these six areas, teaching and learning, and assessment in every classroom. As mentioned, curriculum will be integrated in several classes. We will work on improving the quality of projects that allow students choice in demonstrating their understanding. Teachers and students will use the Learning Expectations rubrics to evaluate the quality of major projects. We will try to link our students and curriculum to the world outside of the classroom. Our students will give more public presentations of their work and should want to do those presentations because their work has been truly meaningful to them. We will experiment with some type of portfolio that asks them to reflect on how work relates to learning expectations (areas of strength based on rubric performance criteria and areas for growth).

Everything that I described above already happens at Rivendell Academy. Our goal is to deepen and expand the good work that is already happening. Here is a very brief summary of some of what’s been going on in classrooms:

  • Stephen Johnson uses art and memoirs to teach history.
  • Jenny Silverstein has students write a great deal in art skills.
  • Eric Reichert’s students explore literature, the world, and themselves in their writing in Writer’s Café.
  • Doc Browne’s students use math to solve engineering design problems.
  • Rachel Sanders’ students recently completed a unit based on simulations of epidemics.
  • Rich Steckler’s students did outdoor field work to learn about stream ecology.
  • Chris White has math students work to solve sequences of problems that require them to create algebraic equations.
  • Christina Robinson and Meredith Hyder have created several integrated units focused on research, writing, and presentations.
  • Joe Beasley and Dan Newsted give students word problems that require multi‐step mathematical reasoning.
  • Silas St. James’ students explored setting, theme, character, and conflict in dramatic performances of novels they’ve read.
  • Students in Kirsten Surprenant’s American History course are currently researching Westward Expansion topics that will be presented at EXPO in May.
  • Bridget Fariel has placed juniors and seniors in job sites across the Upper Valley.
  • Denise Riordan has students write and perform skits in Spanish.
  • Gail Keefer’s two‐way exchange program with the school in Saverne, France takes our students to France and brings French students and teachers to us.
  • Bob Thatcher’s students learn to apply principals of physical development to programs that target their personal fitness goals.
  • Shawn Clough keeps students moving with numerous outdoor activities throughout the year, using the Cross Rivendell Trail and Lake Morey as an extension to his classroom.
  • John Bristol’s students learn video techniques and apply them to their own productions.
  • Anna Alden’s students in History Through Music create radio shows that link music to world events in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

There are two other areas that we will need to work on next year. First, we need to write a clear and concise statement about our values and beliefs related to our students’ learning. And second, we need to get more Rivendell Academy families and our communities involved in understanding and participating in the academic mission of the school. If we have done our work well, we will graduate students who have confidence in themselves because they know how to apply knowledge and skills and directed their own learning, taken college courses, explored the world of work, and been active in their communities and the larger world.