Why School?

October 9, 2017 by

The other day, I heard an elementary student interrogate her mother with the same question asked of me for the past 12 years:  why do I have to go to school?

School. That glorious mix of social and educational experiences that happens 180 days a year for thirteen straight years. Sure there are holiday and summer breaks, and even those occasional professional development days when teachers show up but students don’t, but just think about it, for the most part, our entire childhood is spent within the concrete walls of some sort of educational institution.

Well if you have to be there, (and guess what? The US Government says you do!), let’s focus on the positive and make the most out of it!

Here are some really great reasons to get up and go to school every single weekday.

Friends

Let’s face it; school just isn’t the same for you or your friends when someone is absent.  Friends are there to walk the halls with you, tell you when your shoe is untied, keep you up-to-date on the latest and greatest school gossip, and basically help you get through the day. True friends are your most loyal fan club members.  They are there to support you when you try out for area band or take the field for your first big game. They listen to you go on and on about the joys of biology and help you make campaign signs when you run for class president. And when you’re home sick with the flu, good friends take notes for you so you don’t fall behind.  Best friends forever!

Do we have spirit? Let’s hope we do!

There is nothing like a school bursting with school spirit. Not only should you think your school is the best place on Earth, but you should want others to agree with you. Think about it? Why wouldn’t they?  Pep rallies, spirit days, school events, socials, get into it! Being part of all that excitement and pride is more than enough reason to show up.

The Perfect Attendance Certificate

For those ultra-competitive students, scoring the highly-coveted perfect attendance award is a tremendous honor. Being at school every day means fighting through the days when you have the blahs (and hopefully you’re not contagious!), the days when you have tests but didn’t study (let’s not make that a habit), and even the days when it’s pouring down raining and no one in their right mind would step outside.  Being in class every day says a lot about your (and your parent’s) commitment to education and your belief that showing up matters. Two thumbs up!

Life Prep

It might not seem like school is preparing you for life but it totally is. I agree, you may never need to know the exact calculation of pi (by the way…it’s 3.14159265…) or the names of all the planets (what the latest on Pluto?), or even that there are eight parts of speech (we all know those:  verb, noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction and interjection), but school is teaching you to show up, work hard, and apply what you’ve learned. Those skills will serve you well no matter which path you choose after high school. Yep, those thirteen years of school are helping you evolve into an adult!

Fun, Fun & More Fun

I know you don’t want to, but go ahead and admit it, school can be fun:  learning new things, exploring fresh ideas, succeeding academically, excelling in extracurricular activities…fun, fun, fun and more fun. Face it, even eating school lunch with your friends is fun. We know that all schools are not created equal and for some, the buildings and equipment are less than stellar, but the quest for knowledge goes beyond what happens in the classroom. Students learn from their teachers, their classmates and the entire school staff. When it’s all said and done, you’ll graduate from high school with a lot of great memories of all the fun times you’ve had over the years.

School.  Get there, be there and stay there!

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MCPS Teachers Attend STEM Workshop

September 28, 2017 by

On Saturday, September 23rd, MCPS teachers attended a STEM workshop in Westmoreland County.  Teachers from MES, SCW, and MHS have been participating in summer and weekend workshops to gain knowledge and training in  techniques in using problem-based learning in a Makerspace setting.  The program, called STEMLabs and Design Briefs for Building STEM Knowledge, is funded through the University of Mary Washington by the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia through Title II Part 1 NCLB. Middlesex County teachers are participating along with teachers from Colonial Beach, Rappahanock County and Westmoreland County.

Faculty from the UMW Colleges of Education and Arts and Sciences and educators from the Friends of the Rappahannock have partnered with approximately one hundred teachers and administrators from Superintendent’s Region III to develop a program of intense, high quality educational experiences that utilize a problem-based learning context, the Design Brief, to deliver middle and high school mathematics and science concepts aligned with the Virginia Standards of Learning.  As part of the program, MCPS received materials for their STEM labs and Makerspace areas that include 3D printers, Hummingbird Board Duo kits, and Vernier sensors to use with student projects.   

(See MCPS teachers in action in the video below!)

Below,  you can see a group of MCPS teachers working on a project they created to design a system to remove trash from our storm water system. They built and programmed a model of a storm drain and created a device to remove trash from the drain. The teachers used Hummingbird Boards and Visual Programmer Language to create this project. For more information about the program, you can visit stemlabsnn.blogspot.com.

Hands On Learning at SCW

September 26, 2017 by

SCW has partnered with Friends of the Rappahannock to offer real world experiences in the area of science. On Monday, sixth grade students had their first field trip to learn more about and practice water quality testing in Urbanna.

Practicing the 5 C’s

September 15, 2017 by

These students may look like they’re doing a puzzle, but they’re actually engaged in critical skills building to prepare for work in tomorrow’s global economy. As Virginia moves to a more holistic accountability profile in public education that includes workforce development and skills, MCPS is embracing the challenge to incorporate creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, citizenship and communication into every instructional experience.

Here, the Teachers for Tomorrow students are solving a problem (the puzzle) without the ability to speak or touch each other’s puzzle pieces. This requires exercising a new set of communication skills – ones that are often overlooked in the classroom – and collaboration to solve a problem.

Look for more opportunities for students to practice these skills so essential to the workplace as we move through the school year!

September is Attendance Awareness Month

August 31, 2017 by

School attendance is essential to academic success, but too often parents, students and sometimes teachers do not realize how quickly absences, excused as well as unexcused, can add up to academic trouble.  At the same time principals, division leaders, and community members often do not know if chronic absence is a significant problem in local schools.

Research shows that missing as little as two days every month, or ten percent of the school year is considered chronic absenteeism.  Missing school can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing courses and ultimately, teens dropping out of high school.

This September will mark the fifth annual Attendance Awareness Month campaign, an opportunity to rally our community, advocates, policymakers, volunteers, funders, and supporters around the importance of attendance and its role in academic achievement.  The campaign is spearheaded by Attendance Works, a national and state initiative that promotes better policy and practice around school attendance.

Check back with the MCPS Blog all this month for additional information about how attendance is linked with academic success.

Let’s get 2017-2018 off to a great start!

Calling All Charger Football Players!

August 23, 2017 by

Middlesex Community,

We need your help promoting this year’s Junior Varsity Football program. We are danger of not being able to field a team due to uncharacteristically low turnout thus far. Given the teams we play, it would be irresponsible for us to move forward with only a handful of student athletes – especially when many are younger. Without back-up support and younger athletes, our competition against seasoned, older players would result in possible injury.

We are hopeful that with your support, we will find more student athletes who want to learn and grow together in this wonderful sport!

If you or your child have any questions, please contact Athletic Director, Matt Stamm, or MHS Principal, Susan Fleet at (804)758-2132.

We hope to see you!

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MCPS Schools Once Again Fully Accredited

August 16, 2017 by

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) released official results of state testing today, and Middlesex County Public Schools (MCPS) continues to shine.  Virginia public schools administer 29 state assessments each year, tests that are based on the the Commonwealth’s Standards of Learning (SOL).  The results of these assessments, along with graduation rates, provide the framework for Virginia’s school accountability system and the VDOE’s School Quality Profiles.

Once again, all MCPS schools have met the state’s benchmarks and achieved full accreditation.

“We are extremely proud of this accomplishment,” noted superintendent Dr. Peter Gretz, “but the state tests are singular measures of proficiency. We want our students’ learning to move far beyond those minimum standards.”

The division has embodied a philosophy that by focusing on what’s ultimately best for students and pursuing an engaging, relevant instructional model, student performance on the SOL tests will continue to excel.

“Our students need to be practicing 21st century disposition skills such as creativity, communication, and collaboration,” Gretz continued. “We will be seeking more opportunities for students to engage in project-based experiences that require these essential skills. We’re confident that by focusing on deeper learning and skill building, SOL achievement will come as a byproduct of that great instruction.”

A comprehensive report of student achievement data including a deep analysis of specific student subgroup performance will be presented during a school board meeting this fall.

Parent Information from 3Rivers Health District

June 11, 2017 by

Parents and community members,

Please find important information from the Three Rivers Health District office. Click the picture below for helpful information as we all head into the summer, and head outdoors!

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Hey, Show Some Respect!

June 8, 2017 by

Adults hear it all the time. We are out of touch. We don’t understand. So maybe that’s accurate, but that still doesn’t mean that we need to tolerate the rolling of the eyes, sighs of exasperation and that little irritating scoff that we frequently endure from the younger generation.

Hey, we’ve been through a lot & deserve a little respect!

Think about what we have had to deal with over the years:

1. The only way to have that new song before you bought the complete vinyl album or the “45” came out was to hover over the record button of the tape recorder indefinitely waiting to tape it off the radio. What’s a “45”? Well, ask anyone over 45 and they can tell you!

2. Anything you needed had to be purchased from an actual brick and mortar store. No Amazon, no 2-day delivery, no Google Play, no iTunes. Virtually everything was closed on Sunday so that everyone could spend quality time with the “fam”.

3. We didn’t have Wikipedia. We had 24 volumes of Encyclopedia Brittanica. Do you know how tedious this was? (Full disclosure: it was kinda fun, too.)

4. We couldn’t just “change plans on the fly.” Either you got to the right place at the right time, or no one knew anything, and everything was ruined.

5. Meeting someone required some effort and courage, not just a social media app.

6. You actually got to watch movies in the theatre without knowing the spoilers in advance and weeks later, new movie goers still didn’t know the ending of the movie.

7. We didn’t have “on demand,” streaming video. Heck we didn’t even have RedBox. We had “driving to the video store and spending an hour looking at the dust jackets and picking out some video that might not even work.” What’s a dust jacket you ask? UGH…Let’s just move on…

8. We didn’t have video games with “immersive worlds,” we had one pixel at a time…think PONG.

9. We didn’t have Skype, we had calling cards.

10. Taking trips involved planning, a road atlas and the AM radio travel alerts. You didn’t have all this GPS stuff with second by second updates.

11. We couldn’t take a million digital photos and hope one came out well. Every shot was money out of your pocket.

12. Pretty much everyone could smoke anywhere anytime. In fact at many high schools, there was an actual smoke zone where students had free reign to “light up” as needed.

13. Privacy for phone calls was restricted to how far you could stretch out the curly cord, and there were pay phones on every corner.

14. The closest thing to health food was the tasteless rice cake!

15. We didn’t have Craigslist or LinkedIn or any other such wizardry. We had a newspaper, the classified section and a highlighter.

16. We didn’t have Instagram. Sharing your travel photos meant boring people to death with albums, scrapbooks or slides.

17. If we lost the Entertainment sections in the newspaper, everything on TV was a complete mystery, but actually that wasn’t quite as huge of a deal as you might think because there were only 3 channels to choose from!

18. But we did have this amazing thing called BOREDOM. Complete boredom was totally acceptable and in fact, it built character. You could relax, daydream and imagine what great inventions would be developed in the future…

So remember next time you want to lash out at someone of the mature variety. We really do deserve respect. We’ve earned it. We’ve clearly had to endure a lot!

SOL Review for You

May 16, 2017 by

Over the next two weeks, chances are if you have a student in 3rd-12th grade, they are probably going to be taking one or more of the Virginia Standard of Learning…aka, the dreaded SOLs.

For those of us familiar with the SOLs, it’s time for a refresher, and for those of us new to the SOL experience, below is important information for your perusing enjoyment.

The Standards of Learning (SOL) for Virginia Public Schools establish minimum expectations for what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade or course in English, mathematics, science, history/social science and other subjects. Student performance is graded on a scale of 0-600 with 400 representing the minimum level of acceptable proficiency and 500 representing advanced proficiency. On English reading and mathematics tests, the Board of Education has defined three levels of student achievement: basic, proficient, and advanced, with basic describing progress towards proficiency.

All items on SOL tests are reviewed by Virginia classroom teachers for accuracy and fairness and teachers also assist the state Board of Education in setting proficiency standards for the tests.

Today’s online SOL assessments challenge students to apply what they have learned in ways not possible with traditional multiple-choice tests. Reading, writing, mathematics, and science assessments include “technology enhanced” items that require students to demonstrate critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, much as they do in response to classroom assignments from teachers.

Students who take online grades 3-8 mathematics and grades 3-5 reading tests will be administered a computer adaptive version of the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.  A computer adaptive test or CAT is an assessment that is customized for every student based on how the student responds to the test questions.

Almost all SOL tests are now taken online. Online tests in science, mathematics, reading and writing include interactive non-multiple choice items that require students to apply what they have learned. Only students with a documented, disability-related need take pencil-and-paper tests. In addition, elementary and middle school students who fail SOL tests by narrow margins or because of extenuating circumstances now may be retested before the end of the year — provided that school divisions first secure parental permission. The retake policy does not apply to the Grade-8 Writing SOL test.

The Virginia Department of Education has been working to expand the types of devices approved for use in the administration of online SOL tests. By transitioning to a new version of test delivery software, TestNav 8, Virginia school divisions gain the flexibility of administering online SOL tests on a wider variety of devices, including touch-screen devices. The TestNav 8 software, via a custom application, allows tests to be administered securely on additional devices, while continuing to support the use of traditional Microsoft Windows-based and Mac OS-based workstations.

Taking the SOLs should not be a source of major stress and anxiety for your student. It should be an opportunity for the student to demonstrate his/her mastery of the material as established in the course curriculum.


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