Sanborn's End of Year Review
This article will appear in this month's school newspaper The Sanborn Voice.
It is hard to believe that we have reached the end of yet another school year. It seems like we just started. For me, this school year marks my twelfth in education. That hit home for me the other day when I realized that the current seniors started first grade the same time I first entered the classroom as a new teacher fresh out of college. I have started and ended each of my twelve years in education in much the same way – in the fall I set goals for myself for the year, and in the spring I reflect on those goals to see what I did well and what I need to work on in the future. My article this month is my reflection on my goals for this year.
Goal #1: I will work to foster a positive school culture by improving the communication with students, staff, and parents.
One of our three pillars at Sanborn is fostering a school culture that promotes respect, responsibility, ambition, and pride. We have so many great things that happen each day in our school, but I have often felt that we do a poor job making people aware of what these things are on a regular basis. That is why I chose to focus on improving our communication this year.
This year my weekly email newsletter took on a new user-friendly format. I expanded my readership from about 500 parent email address to almost 2,500 email addresses. Now, the SRHS newsletter reaches parents in all schools in Fremont, Newton, and Kingston; SRHS students; local business leaders; community leaders; town employees; SRHS staff; and members of our Sanborn Seminary Trustees. We also blast the newsletter weekly on our Facebook and Twitter pages. The content of our newsletters has also evolved to include more articles about all the great things happening in our community. In the middle of this year I also started a popular feature of writing senior spotlight articles. To date I have featured over sixty seniors in these spotlights. All of this, combined with our increased use of social media websites and monthly articles in community papers, such as the Carriage Towne News, has helped us to become very transparent with the community. I hope in the next year we can find more ways to spread the word about all the news and events that impact Sanborn Regional High School.
Goal #2: I will work to support the small learning community model for all students.
Another one of our three pillars at Sanborn is to support small learning communities that “work interdependently to achieve successful student performance for which we are collectively responsible and mutually accountable.” Two years ago, under the stewardship of Assistant Principal Ann Hadwen, our school redesigned grade 9 into the first of these learning communities – The Freshman Learning Community (FLC). In April of 2012 the FLC won a First Place Magna Award for innovation from the National School Board Association. This year, based on the success of the FLC, Assistant Principal Michael Turmelle worked with sophomore teachers to implement a similar (but different) model for our sophomore students. Concurrently, I have spent my time this year working with junior and senior teachers to design a career pathway learning community model which we will begin to phase into our school over the next few years for junior and senior students. This work has been both challenging and rewarding for all involved. It is challenging because change is never easy but it takes courage to recognize that sometimes we have to operate differently if we expect to get better results. It is rewarding because I am convinced that if we as a school community can be really good at operating in a small learning community model, we will be one of the best high schools in New Hampshire.
Goal #3: I will work to support student engagement through our competency-based assessment system.
When you fly on an airplane you put a lot of faith into your pilot’s flight skills. You assume that the pilot went to a flight school that tested him or her on very specific skills/competencies such as making the plane take off, landing the plane, etc. If the pilot was not proficient in one of these skills, you would assume the flight school wouldn’t have let the pilot pass, right? You would hope that the flight school wouldn’t have taken the approach of just giving the pilot a bunch of tests, averaging them together, and using that average to determine if the pilot passed pilot school. In that model it is possible to fail an individual test (like the one where the pilot would have learned to land the plane) but because the other tests were better the overall average made it look like the pilot was proficient. What would be worse would be a model where the pilot did really poorly on the tests, but because they did all their homework every day and raised their hand in class that bumped their grade up to passing. That makes no sense at all. When you are in that airplane, the only thing you care about is that the pilot is proficient at landing that plane – a performance task.
Our competency-based model, although it is still only three years old, has helped all of us to think differently about assessment. It highlights the specific skills that students need to be successful at in order to be able to say they passed a particular course or program. It is changing the types of assessments that our teachers use to ones that involve more higher-order thinking and use of performance tasks. These efforts, over time, are raising the bar for all and helping us better prepare Sanborn students for the challenges of the 21st century.
Looking Forward to Next Year:
I think our three pillar model does an excellent job outlining the things our school community needs to do well in order to be a premiere high school in our state. As I look forward to next year, I hope to continue to focus on these three pillars and how we as a school community can take each of them to the next level. I feel very fortunate to be able to serve the communities of Fremont, Newton, and Kingston in my role as Principal at Sanborn Regional High School. It is a role I take very seriously, and I am committed to ensuring that all students who attend our school receive the finest education available to them.