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WMS / PTO Newsletter
March 14, 2016
Message from Principal Gavron

Grades mean a lot of things to a lot of people.  For students, and parents as well, grades can be a source of happiness and pride or a source of upset and discouragement.  Bumper stickers that range from “my kid is an honor student” to “my kid can beat up your honor student” provide a window into the emotion grades elicit within our society.  Students sometimes derive a sense of self-worth or self-hate based on grades, which they often confuse with intellect.  I have seen grades significantly contribute to stress in school, with some students believing their future happiness is predicated on having good grades.  For example, just a few of weeks ago, I had a student crying in my office who told me if she did not get good grades, then she would not get into a good high school, and if she did not get into a good high school then she would not get into a good college, and if she did not get into a good college then she would not get a good job, and that if she did not get a good job then she would not be happy.  Yikes.  It was one giant run-on sentence of angst and distress. It was way too much pressure for any 13 year old to bear.  

How did grades become the be all, end all?  One hypothesis is that when grades serve as sources of significant reward or punishment their importance is heightened.  Many students receive celebratory dinners, money, or even exotic trips for good grades.  Others have been grounded or had privileges removed due to poor grade outcomes.  Some parents simply state that nothing less than an A is acceptable.   That is a lot of pressure.  Social pressure to achieve at high levels is also a large factor.  My worry is that when grades take on such a role of import, the ultimate goal of learning can be forgotten.  Incidents of students cheating (to get a higher grade), or altering a report card (to reflect a higher grade) are telling.   Pleas for extra credit or arguing about points on an assessment make me worry that developing academic or social emotional learning has at times become obscured by the quest for an “A.”  I encourage you to think deeply about the messages you want to send your child about grades.

Grades are not the enemy, however. Assessment and feedback are critical parts of the learning process, and I do not advocate for eliminating grades. I just think that in some cases we have lost our way with them.  I do believe that we can find a way to move grades to what feels their underlying purpose – a source of non-judgmental feedback about progress towards a learning goal.  As educators we believe all of our students can learn at high levels, but we know children take different paths to get there.  Some get it with the first explanation while others need many more opportunities and varied approaches to master an idea or concept.  Needing more time should not lead students to develop the misguided self-perception that they are dumb.  Nor should an ability to hit the mark on the first try lead to a sense of superiority.  My wish would be that the need for multiple tries be seen as a natural part of the learning process – and that our grading system honors the messy circuitous process learning can take. This is one of the reasons why so many teachers require work that does not yet meet expectations to be revised.  My hope is that mistakes and failure can be embraced and used diagnostically to determine next steps in the learning journey rather than seen as a verdict of one’s intelligence.  Thomas Edison certainly knew the value of failure, and we have working light bulbs to prove it. 

Perhaps Standards-Based grading can help us move towards the paradigm of grades as communication, supplanting that of grades as reward.  Last spring, I had the opportunity to join our entire math department for a two-day workshop with renowned national speaker Rick Wormeli.  Wormeli advocates for the nationwide trend of shifting grading practices away from a traditional A-F average structure that we grew up with to a standards’ based approach (Interesting fact: the entire state of Maine, grades K-12, now utilize standards-based grades).  In standards-based assessment, grades are short-hand reports of what one knows and can do at the end of the learning journey, not the path one takes to get there.  Assessing is done exclusively in reference to evidence of standards - nothing else.  Wormeli proclaimed, “If it is listed in the course curriculum, it can be evaluated and included in the final grade.  If not, it can be reported, but reported in a separate column on the report card or progress report” (such as homework production, or work-habits).  In standards-based assessment, grades are based on the most consistent evidence.  Teachers look for the pattern of achievement, including trends -- not the average of the data.  This means in standards-based assessment, we focus on the mode (data occurring most), not mean (average) for each standard, and that most recent scores may be weighed heavier than earlier scores.

Inspired by the possibilities standards-based assessment offered, the math department jumped in to pilot it this year.  Their desire to change was driven from their hope to communicate more accurately about student learning in a system that better matched their philosophical stance about learning.  Here is a bit more about their rationale: 

*  Standards-based assessment fosters growth mindset  - As growth mindset guru Carol Dweck writes, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” Students with growth mindset are much more apt to persevere in the face of challenge and ambiguity. 

Emphasis is on what is learned – rather than work completion - When teachers are working with students, the focus of conversation shifts away from completing a list of missing assignments and toward identifying which skills need re-teaching, practice and re-assessment.  Not every student needs to complete every practice problem to learn at high levels. 

Averaging doesn’t always tell the story - The single letter grade in a subject gives one less information that one might think.  For example:

The more we pool into the average, the less valid the grade is.  Once homework completion, participation, effort or extra credit is factored in the muddier the story is about what a student learned becomes. 

In our standards-based experiment this year, math teachers have poured hours and hours into re-vamping their assessments, to further tease apart learning by standard. They have created multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery of each standard and have reported out the mode of each strand to families. Despite the huge amount of work, teachers have been incredibly positive about the grading pilot.  One teacher stated, “I know my kids better than ever.  I have a much better understanding of skills in terms of strengths and weaknesses.  Standards-based assessment helps me support my students.”   Another noted that standards based assessment has helped students focus on learning rather than the grade.  She said, “The conversation has shifted from what are the five assignments not done, to what skills need more practice.” A third teacher shared, “It is helpful to go into an assessment with the words, ‘This is your first crack at it.’  Knowing that not everything hinges on one performance has helped.”  Finally one teacher noted that, “All students have the challenge problems and can try to work beyond the standard, without being penalized for trying.  It has really helped me stretch students.”  The feedback is promising. 

Change is messy and coming to understand the new process takes time for both students and parents. Teachers have been developing and tweaking systems throughout the year.  We rely on your feedback and that of your children to understand how the standards-based grading experiment has gone for you.  If you have not yet weighed in on standards based assessment in math, we invite you to do so at Parent Survey. 

I don’t know if standards based grades will ultimately help reduce the stress students feel about grading.  I believe a paradigm shift around how we as a society talk about and assign value to grades is needed as well.  I do hope, however, standards-based assessment can be a tool by which we can clearly communicate, non-judgmentally, what your student has learned. 


Betsy Gavron

This Week's Events
Middle School Musical!
Mar 16 at 2:00 PM   
Mar 17 at 7:30 PM   
Mar 18 at 7:30 PM   
Mar 19 at 12:30 PM
Tickets at the door: Students & Seniors $5 / Adults $10

This Tony Award-nominated hilarious, roller skating, musical adventure about following your dreams despite the limitations others set for you, is based on the Universal Pictures' cult classic movie of the same title, which starred Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. Xanadu is hilarity on wheels for adults, children and anyone who has ever wanted to feel inspired.

Xanadu follows the journey of a magical and beautiful Greek muse, Kira, who descends from the heavens of Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach, California in 1980 on a quest to inspire a struggling artist, Sonny, to achieve the greatest artistic creation of all time - the first ROLLER DISCO! (Hey, it's 1980!) But, when Kira falls into forbidden love with the mortal Sonny, her jealous sisters take advantage of the situation and chaos abounds.

8th Grade Parents: High School Information Meeting
Wayland High School
Tuesday, March 15, 7:00 PM

Come and learn what you need to know to help your child transition from 8th to 9th grade. 

Postural Screening Cancelled This Week

Unfortunately we will not be able to perform Postural Screening this week as was planned.  We will let you know as soon as possible, when the new Postural Screening dates will be held.


6th Grade to travel to MFA to study World Cultures
Friday, March 18th - Thoreau Cluster
Friday, April 1st - Henry Cluster

Following their objective to continue a year-long study of world cultures, the sixth grade will go to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to experience the MFA’s world class collections on Mesopotamia, Egypt, Asia, and Africa.

What to wear: Students will be doing a lot of walking, so sturdy shoes (sneakers) are encouraged. Shorts are not recommended for this trip. Students are also encouraged to dress nicely, as we are representing Wayland Middle School. 

What to bring  

  • Bag lunch (lunch cannot be purchased at MFA)
  • Snack 
  • Backpacks are not required on this day
* Please see your child's permission slip for trip cost.

Project 351
March 14th - March 28th

Please donate gently used clothing for children ages newborn to 12 years. A collection box will be in the main lobby of Wayland Middle School. Thank you for your support! 

This drive is being organized by 8th grader Jaya Mills for Project 351, a group designed to help communities in Massachusetts.

PTO News

Middle and More Coffee
Spotlight on STE(A)M at WMS
Thursday, March 17th, 8:45-9:45 am

We hope you can join us for our next Middle & More coffee Thursday, March 17th, 8:45-9:45 am, highlighting the use of technology and STE(A)M at Wayland Middle School.
How are students using Chromebooks in the classroom?  Are your kids really working when their heads are buried in their computer screens? Do you have questions or concerns about managing screen time? What are Assistments, Quizlet, Edmodo, Conjugemos, It's Learning...? How is the Maker Space movement influencing what is taught Art? What sorts of extracurricular activities are available to kids who are curious about technology? Come meet K-12 Technology Department Head Bethann Monahan, math teacher Michael Kotin, science teacher Stacy Reed, and art teacher Peter Curran and hear some of the ways in which computers and technology are changing how our children learn.

Student Competitions
WMS Student Musicians Shine at
Junior District Festival &  Concert

Congratulations to all of our students who went to the Junior District Festival and performed on Saturday, March 5, at the concert!

Band: Alex Ding, Flute; McKenna Kelemanik, Euphonium

Mixed Chorus: Quinn Fay, Tenor; Will Gardner, Bass;  Mingle Li, Tenor; Sidney Toga, Bass, Harrison Veal, Bass; Jack Wuerfl, Tenor

Orchestra: Samantha Baron, viola; Simon Fidlin, viola; Darcy Foreman, viola; Brendan Ho, violin; Lily Jenzeh, String Bass; Michael Lui, Cello; Connor Rader, String Bass;  Megan Sin, Violin; Jesse Wang, String Bass; Kevin Wang, Cello; Tristan Wolff, Viola; Elizabeth Zhong, Violin

Treble Chorus: Aarushi Aggarwal, Soprano;  Rebecca Patsenker, Soprano;  Samantha Potter, Soprano;   Madeleine Reck, Soprano

Congrats to our former MS students who participated as well!
Band: Andrew Briasco-Stewart, Flute
Orchestra: Clarissa Briasco-Stewart, Cello; Julia de los Reyes, Violin; Spencer Lee, Violin
Treble Chorus: Abigail O'Shaughnessy, Soprano

Science Olympiad
Scores at Tournament at Assumption College

The WMS Science Olympiad team had an impressive and respectable showing at this year’s state meet.  We earned 10th place out of 29 participating middle schools during the annual Science Olympiad tournament this past weekend at Assumption College! 

The team members included: 

8th graders Angela Chi, Manasa Rajeev, and Daniel Ryu; 

7th graders Areeb Ahmed, Lara Bencsics, Kristen Bestavaros, Kelvin Chirayath, Daniel Fuzaylov, Nicholas Lien, Zach Marto, Jack McCahon, Ryan Murdock, Ryan Lee, Andrea Shang, Adam Vizanko, Atharva Weling, Jasmin Wong, Aiden Zhang, Allen Zou; 

6th graders David Liu, Jason Shu, Jonathan Zhang, Kevin Zhao, and Ashley Zhu. 

Notable awards given: 

2nd place (silver medal): Areeb Ahmed and Ryan Lee in Dynamic Planet 

2nd place (silver medal): Aiden Zhang and Atharva Weling in Fossil

3rd place (bronze medal): Kristen Bestavaros and Jasmin Wong in Scrambler

4th place ribbon: Aiden Zhang and Allen Zou in Food Science

4th place ribbon: Aiden Zhang and Ryan Murdock in Meteorology

6th place ribbon: Lara Bencsics and Andrea Shang in Bio-Process Lab 

Congratulations to all the Olympians for a successful competition!

Parent Programs / Volunteer Opportunities
wayland  cares
Second Annual Project Resilience
HS Students share stories about middle school peer pressure 
7:00 - 8:30 PM, Tuesday, March 22,  2016
WMS Auditorium

Wayland High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions will hosting their second annual Project Resilience. WHS students will share their stories of how peer pressure affected them while in Middle School. Following the presentations, parents and SADD students will break into discussion groups to talk about ways to help your children handle the challenges life throws at them without turning to substance abuse. This event is sponsored by Wayland High School SADD and Wayland Cares.This event is geared for parents of Middle School children.

TEDx 2016 tickets are on now on sale! 
April 2nd, 5:00 -  9:00 PM
Wayland High School

The TEDx theme this year is Rising Strong and we have 10 dynamic student speakers and 4 outstanding performers. Speaking topics will range from net neutrality, overcoming adversity through fashion to myths about gamers, shyness to singing, mass incarceration, conquering anorexia through service and more.  The event will also feature a slam poetess, pianist, jazz quartet and performance-art troupe.

Buy your tickets at locations below. If you are interested in volunteering(which we need!), please contact Stephanie Galvani. 

Tickets: http://www.tedxyouthwayland.org/ for VIP tickets $25 or Middle School office for $10 donation seats

Questions?  Contact: Stephanie Galvani stephanie_galvani@wayland.k12.ma.us 

For Wellness Week
June 6th - 10th

Wellness Week is coming up June 6th-10th.  The goal of Wellness Week is to create an active and fun week that promotes Health and Wellness.  We would like to expose our students to new ideas, trends and/or concepts.  If anyone would be able to  volunteer their time to present to our students, we would greatly appreciate it! 
Please directly email   Natalia_Araszkiewicz@Wayland.k12.ma.us if you are able to participate in our Wellness Week.

Thank you! The Wellness Department 

Artist of the Week

Artist Name: Gabriel de los Reyes

Grade: 6

Medium: Paper & Wire

Reminders (from previous emails)

Spring Sports Registration
Sign up now!

Registration for Spring Sports is open.  Please click on the Family ID link below to complete our online registration.  If you have any questions, please call the Athletic Office @ 508-358-7488.

WMS Online Newspaper - new articles every Friday!

Don't forget to check out the WMS Newspaper! New articles are added every Friday. To read what's new, click here.

PARCC & MCAS Testing  Schedule
The complete 2015 PARCC & MCAS testing schedule can be found here

Upcoming Events
Upcoming Events .
Mar 16 at 2:00 PM   Middle School Musical: Xanadu
Mar 17 at 7:30 PM   Middle School Musical: Xanadu
Mar 18 at 7:30 PM   Middle School Musical: Xanadu
Mar 19 at 12:30 PM Middle School Musical: Xanadu
Mar 25 - No School / Good Friday
Mar 18  Thoreau Cluster to MFA
April 1    Henry Cluster to MFA
March 15 at 7:00 PM -  High School Information Meeting for Rising 9th GradersWHS
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