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Thursday, January 18, 2018

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News From Keri Gelenian

Dear Academy Families,

We had 91 students on the Honor Roll first trimester. Thirty students earned High Honors. We recognized honorroll students with an evening potluck in the Café. The food was great and students did a wonderful job presenting a number of special opportunities for Rivendell students. Thanks to all who attended.

This past spring, Rivendell families received a letter indicating that our math scores on the fall NECAP exam added us to the long list of ―improvement‖ schools in Vermont. I noted that the scores did not reflect the academic prowess of last year's junior class. My hunch that the juniors' science NECAP scores would vindicate them proved correct:

Level 4 (high) Level 3 Level 2 Level 1 (low)
Rivendell 2012 0% 40% 47% 13%
State 2012 0% 31% 42% 25%
Rivendell 2011 0% 5% 53% 43%
Rivendell 2010 0% 17% 67% 17%

Our challenge is to keep our scores consistently strong by focusing on more than test scores. Grades and performance follow expectations. We need to maintain high expectations. Rich curriculum develops understanding, enjoyment, and confidence. Projects, simulations, integrating instruction in math and physical science, multiple and varied forms of assessment, explorations of students' thinking in discussions, and a strong focus on literacy are all essential components of a rich curriculum in action. If we teach with these goals in mind, then our students will do well on whatever the next state or national tests look like. More importantly, our students will be able to use what they have learned.

Other Academic Issues

There has been a pattern over the past three years of a high number of failed courses at midterm each trimester. In general, the number of failed classes and students who have one or more F's drops by the end of the trimester. At mid-trimester this year, 29.82% of our students failed at least one class, and they failed 10.83% of all possible classes. At the same time last year, 28.57% of our students failed at least one class, and they failed 10.63% of all possible classes. Our goal for the year is to see the number of students earning one or more F's at the end of each trimester drop to around 12% (33 students), which should also significantly lower the percentage of failed classes.

There is no easy solution to this problem of student motivation. While the last two years have been focused on removing structural barriers to higher achievement (the schedule, curriculum, expectations, integration and staffing), the next two to three years will be spent developing students' sense of personal power to direct their lives and learning. A common misconception that some people are simply born smart and don't have to work hard erodes personal power. We all like some things more than others; everyone can make progress in areas that aren't their ―natural‖ interests; and ―smart‖ people work tremendously hard and often fail.

A current junior gave me some insight into the sort of change that improves student motivation. He said that he's grown as a student since 9th grade partly because he thinks classes have become more interesting. As an example he said that he likes the freedom of the honors challenge in chemistry. He explained that the students who elected honors in chemistry work as a team on the material with support from the teacher when they get stuck and they work at a faster pace than the rest of the class. What was really interesting was that he said that although they are working ―harder‖ (i.e. faster), the work doesn't feel harder because they are learning so much from one another.

Another case in point—because of integration of math and science in 7th grade, Mr. White and Mr. Steckler coordinated their topics: Mr. Steckler was teaching time and distance graphs through a project and Mr. White moved to that topic in the math book. Because of the coordinating curriculum in 7th grade, the students realized that the math book was incorrectly calling time and position graphs time and distance graphs. There is a significant difference. The students found other strange errors as well. This discovery and the level of thinking that students displayed developed out of our move to integrate the classes and develop a structure that allows teachers to work together.

The examples from chemistry and math reflect what I like to call intellectual integration, ideas coming together from different people and through different experiences that learners put together to advance their own thinking. A group of teachers in Cambridge, MA have been exploring ideas like this for a long time. Some of their work and ideas can be found at http://www.criticalexplorers.org/.

Fun, Character, and Success in Athletics

Congratulations go out to Coach Newsted and his Cross Country team. The girls placed 5th in the state and the boys placed 9th. Liam Fleming took a medal at State, placing 9th among more than 90 runners.
A referee summed up our soccer season in two emails, one sent to Coach Thatcher and the other sent to Coach Goodwin:

Bob (Thatcher)...the team played with a lot of heart and with great Sportsmanship... Please let them know that at least one official greatly appreciated their play, guts, attitude, and the way they supported each other no matter what was happening on the field. This is a team I will truly miss officiating as I always had these games circled on my calendar as events to look forward to. I know that not being on the winning side yesterday was tough for the crew, But I am equally sure they handled it with class—of course this comes from the top down—but nonetheless a credit to the boys."

Tim (Goodwin)...I am sure you and the team had hopes for another state title, so very disappointing. I did want to say that I enjoyed working your games very much. Your players clearly loved playing together and had a great chemistry on the field, never getting on each other, always in support and showed great respect for everything about the game. I am sure we'll start all over again next summer and I look forward to meeting the new players, but make sure the ones leaving know that at least one official will miss them!

Congratulations to the varsity teams and a big thanks to Jon Lester for coaching 7/8 girls, Tom DuBois for coaching 7/8 boys, Mel Emerson for his work with JV boys and Laura Haber for coaching JV girls.

9th grade Recycling

Rivendell Academy has been making progress with energy efficiency and recycling. Last year, Mr. Collins received a grant that refitted the entire school with energy efficient fixtures and lighting. He also purchased large recycling bins for paper and cardboard. This year, the 9th grade advisers and students have organized a plastic bottle recycling program. Students have outfitted the entire school with specially built boxes to collect empty plastic. They worked with Mr. Collins to find a way to get the bottles recycled. The Academy students have done a great job getting their plastic in the bins. Well done 9th grade!

Disc Gold Course Construction

Jon Lester's disc golf students designed and began building a disc golf course for Rivendell and the community. By the end of the trimester, they successfully installed the first three holes.

National Honor Society

On November 5th , the Academy inducted 6 new members into the National Honor Society: Junior Nathaniel Eastman and Sophomores Samuel Emerson, Miranda Garrow, Moriah Ludwig, Christian Parenti and Cassandra White. These new inductees join existing members: Seniors Stefanie DeSimone, Christian Knowlton, Sarah Landgraf, Meg McCormack, Christina Moreland, Ariana Murphy, Molly Pierson, Jack Steketee, Tala Wilson, Amber Wolf, and Stacie Wright, and Juniors Brandon Gardner, Andrea Haehnel, Josh Marshall, Richard Otis, and Megan Perkins.

Recruitment

On November 6th the Academy hosted forty-eight 7th and 8th grade students and four teachers from Waits River Valley School. We are actively reaching out to choice schools in the area to attract the type of deep thinking, energetic, independent learners who would flourish at Rivendell Academy. Student government members Tala Wilson, Jen Woodward, Christian Parenti, and Josh Marshall did a great job as guides, taking students to see eight different Academy programs. Scott Calhoun, Luke Bell, Megan Winagle, and Stefanie DeSimone gave excellent overviews of athletics and school culture.