Monday, September 1, 2014


Hard to believe that the summer has already flown by and that school is set to start coming right up on Tuesday, September 2, 2014!  Already you can start to feel that fall chill at night, and soon we'll be trading in the t-shirts for sweatshirts and then inevitably the sweatshirts for thick winter coats, mittens and hats!  Gosh, I hope we have a little time before we need to worry about that for sure!

The 2014-15 School year is certainly upon us so I thought it would be good to update my blog for all of you so you can better understand what to expect for the 2014-15 School year.  I know I ended the year last year with a little projection forward, but even that has changed a little over the summer so here goes!

For parents of students in grades K-8, we'll be reporting out student learning in Trimesters this year (old hat for K-5 but new for 6-8) with progress reports going out every six weeks or so throughout the year.  We'll also be reporting out using our 1-4 grading scale this year, with .5 increments as suggested by our elementary parents during last year's feedback work.  Additionally, this year our student learning reports will include data that indicates where a student is in their learning progressions to better answer the question for parents around student pace and making sure your child is not only "meeting proficiency" but is also working at a reasonable pace.  Finally, our student learning reports will be open to all parents.  Yes, that's right - just like our Infinite Campus portal has been open to all parents in grades 6-12 for four years now, we're also going to open up our EDUCATE parent portals for all parents in grades K-8.  By using your parent portal login information you will be able to see your child's learning progress on a day in and day out basis which will help open up more communication between school and home.  We will be having parent nights sponsored by our school's PTO organizations to help parents better understand what our grading system means and also how to navigate the EDUCATE reporting portal so that you can stay informed and up to date on your child's learning progress - so stay tuned! :)

For parents of students in grades 9-12, we've made some changes to our work from last spring that I think you'll be pleased by.  First, the RSU 3 Board of Directors has approved seeking a ONE YEAR extension from the Maine Department of Education in order to meet the requirements of the state statute that requires us to issue a Proficiency Based Diploma by 2018.  What this means is that it will now be the class of 2019 that will be the first class projected to receive a PBE diploma.  By requesting this extension, the Board of Directors is basically "buying us" another year to figure out how best to move forward with our PBE work at the high school level in a way that makes sense to us without having to rush to meet the deadline of 2018.  Here are some specific things that parents of our high school students can be expecting for the coming year:

1.  We will use Infinite Campus for another year to track student learning and to report that learning to parents.
2.  We will use a 100-point scale to report grades to students and parents.  So, just like our old traditional system, students must have at least a 70 in order to be considered "passing" a subject.
3.  Because students either demonstrate proficiency in a particular skill, or they're not quiet there yet - only "Summative" assessments will count towards the final grade, so students must get at least a 70% on all summative assessments given by the teacher in order to be considered passing.
4.  Teachers will also give "formative" assessments to students. These assessments are intended to help students understand where they need to improve their work in order to be successful with the summative assessments.  Students are required to do this work as well, but it will not count towards the final summative grade.  When a student turns in a formative assessment and it meets the expectations of the teacher, that assessment will be marked "T" for Turned in.   Students who have not turned in work will have that worked marked as "I" for Incomplete.  Parents and students will need to go into the details of the Infinite Campus grades in order to see what work might be missing and how it is impacting the final grade.
5.  The high school grading and reporting committee will continue to meet throughout the course of this year to make decisions about how to continue to phase our PBE system in at the high school in a manner that makes clear our expectations that students graduate with a PBE diploma by the class of 2019, but also allows us the appropriate time to communicate changes to our system and the need for those changes to our students and parents more effectively.

Speaking of COMMUNICATION - that's something else parents of students in grades K-12 should be expecting more of this year!  We got lots of feedback from parents and students over the course of the summer, and much of that feedback suggests we need to DO MORE to help our students understand what is expected of them, and to help our parents understand so they can help us hold students accountable to their learning!  For example, if over the course of the year last year you heard your high school student say:  "We don't have to do homework anymore. . ." or "Our teachers don't teach us anymore. . . " well that just simply isn't true and we need to do a better job of informing parents what IS TRUE so that you can help us hold all students accountable to be working at their own individual MAXIMUM learning pace! We will be doing parent focus groups and student focus groups at all schools this year, we will be working with our PTO organizations to sponsor parent nights to help parents better understand our new systems, and we'll be reaching out to parents individually more often to touch base with you about your students so that we can build up those positive working relationships that will benefit everyone in the long run.  Finally, don't forget that WE NEED YOUR HELP in achieving our goal of improving communication by participating in forums and opportunities to give feedback,etc.  We are going to be working hard to offer multiple opportunities this year to learn more about our PBE system and its positive impacts upon our students but our efforts will be fruitless without all of you participating as well!

Well, this has gotten long enough. . . but before I go - I wanted to make sure to tell all of you that you can go to our district website to view all of our most up to date information on our PBE work.  That link is:  also, on that same page, but linked here for your convenience is a brand new Fact Sheet (FAQ's) that was developed over the course of this summer to assist in clarifying some of what our PBE system is: and finally (for now) - I wanted to share a link to a pamphlet (also created this summer and linked to our website) that outlines a brief overview of what our PBE system is:

Well, its time to start another great year here in RSU 3!  Be sure to say "hi" and introduce yourselves to our two new building principals when/if you get the chance. . . Quinton Donahue is our new Middle School Principal and Bill Tracy is our new High School Principal.  Both of these individuals are excited to join us and will be great assets to our district moving forward - of that I have no doubt! We also have several new staff members across RSU 3. .. so don't be bashful about introducing yourself to them either . . . I look forward to another exciting year!


  1. SIGN UP YOUR CHILD FOR FALL LESSONS NOW! Local music instructor Tom Ventura of is accepting students (ages 5 and up) and adults for music instruction on guitar, keyboard, ukulele, and percussion for FALL LESSONS! Tom has taught in Waldo County for the last two decades both privately and in the local school systems. Text Tom at 207-322-7898 or from the facebook site listed below. Tom teaches in downtown Belfast!

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  3. Dick, you can provide whatever feedback you'd like. . I'm always open to the "good, the bad, and the ugly," as there are often nuggets of great information to be found in each. Please know that since this is just our third year of actual implementation, we are now taking the time to identify key data points to collect to see just how "effective" PBE has been, or hasn't. .. we'll be collecting that data over the course of the year this year and will be ready to report by summer, 2015 with more clarity as to the "effective" or "ineffective" question. We will then continue to collect these same data points for the next few years to help track on a more longitudinal level.

  4. Heather- I hope this question is better than my last one, which I did not feel good about! But you did answer clearly anyway.

    Standard tests often repeat their format and a teacher can give clues about what kids need to look for and how to respond to questions without any concern for the content of the concept being taught. For example, a teacher might say, "If you see a graduated scale on a test, they are asking for a number and for a unit of measure." I guess they call this, "Teaching to the test." This practice does not help kids understand math but does help improve scores. You must know this is happening here. I imagine teachers are trying their best to improve scores. Comments?

    Yes, this gets filed under the good, the bad, and the ugly. ;-)

    With respect,
    Dick Fischbeck