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Superintendent's Weekly Update - Friday 10/2/2020

posted Oct 2, 2020, 12:18 PM by Bruce Bailey

Friday, October 2, 2020

Dear RSU # 71 Students, Families, Staff and School Board, 

Today is the end of the fifth week of in-person instruction in the 2020-2021 school year, and students are continuing to do well with wearing masks, practicing hand-hygiene, and social distancing. In a conversation yesterday with one of our amazing and wonderful teachers, I learned that, in some cases, “the honeymoon is starting to wear off.” So anything that parents, grandparents, and guardians can do -- to gently remind their children and teens to continue to do their very best to fight the good fight against this beastly COVID-19 pandemic -- will be very appreciated by educators. One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been the ways that staff and parents are so beautifully partnering in the education of our youth.  Please know that we appreciate and do not take these efforts for granted!

NWEA - This fall, we have begun using the Northwest Evaluation Association’s MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) in RSU # 71, testing students in grades 2 - 12 in math, reading, and language. We intend to use the data from the three testing windows (Fall, Winter, and Spring) as a formative rather than summative assessment (I'm sorry for that jargon and will explain in a later newsletter the important differences between the two) as a flashlight, not a club, shining a light on student growth. 

As test-takers engage in the assessment it adjusts automatically to their level of learning, and scores are given immediately to students and teachers as soon as students have finished the assessment. This distinguishes the NWEA, which is nationally normed, from the Maine state assessment, the results of which are not known for many months and often after students have already moved on to the next grade level. In fact, the state of Maine is considering making the NWEA the state assessment, another reason I’m glad that we are getting a head-start on this in the present year. 

In my experience, the assessment has been very well-liked by students as it gives them individual reports that show them important information about their own growth over time, along with information about what they themselves can do to make strong growth.  We will continue to "triangulate” data -- that is, we will look at least three different data points to glean information about how well we are doing by our students and their education, and results will be shared by students with parents during parent-student-teacher conferences this fall and again in the spring. 

I want to give a huge round of applause to our teachers -- who are already straight-out and even sometimes overwhelmed with the responsibility of designing instruction during a pandemic -- and to our RSU # 71 Tech and Administrative Teams for the huge amount of work that has gone into launching NWEA this fall.  My hope is that it will help us to determine which students will most benefit from the CARES Act money we have set aside in order to provide additional direct instruction to students most in need, with the help of teacher volunteers who will be paid for the work-beyond-contract before and/or after school.

Remote Learning - Remote learning continues to go very well and we believe the needs of our students, parents, and teachers are being well supported.  That said, we have had requests from many parents for their children to come back to in-person instruction in school.  One of the reasons that we are asking everyone to try to stick with the plan agreed upon is that if we have very many more students return to in-person instruction K-8 we will need to move to the yellow-hybrid plan of students learning part-time in-person and part-time remotely.  This is because we need to keep a minimum of a 3-foot distance between students in classrooms, which we will not be able to do if many more students return to school in person, as we simply don’t have enough space. I’m just wanting to give our community a heads-up about this possibility.

Free and Reduced Paperwork - Many of the benefits and money flowing into RSU # 71 is related to our having more than 50% of our students qualify for free or reduced-cost meals. Even though we are providing free meals to all students regardless of income this fall we still need to ask you, even to beg you, to fill out the F & R paperwork as usual, so that these benefits will continue to come our way. This private information is kept strictly confidential.

Out-of-State Travel - Finally, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind families that if you travel out of state -- unless it is to the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, in which case there is no need -- you will need to quarantine at home for 14 days before returning to school or produce a negative test result.  Please let the school know if you are traveling to other states not listed above, and please contact your children’s school nurse for more information. 

That’s it for this week.  As always please feel free to be in touch with me and with other members of the administrative team with questions, concerns, feedback, and ideas.

With warmest wishes for a wonderful October weekend.

Mary Alice
Mary Alice McLean
Superintendent of Schools, RSU 71
(207) 338 - 1960