Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Communication, Communication, and MORE Communication!

Hopefully, you have seen communication increasing across the district this year as "Communication, Communication, and MORE Communication" has been the theme across all schools within RSU 3!  So far, you should have noticed an improved website with frequently updated student spotlights focused on student learning, more frequent phone calls home by teachers, and the creation of new Facebook Pages for each school! Moving forward, we will be hosting parent meetings at all schools in grades K-8 to help parents learn how to navigate the new EDUCATE/EMPOWER grading and reporting system, we'll have parent/teacher conferences, we'll be launching our new district Facebook Page and the RSU 3 Board of Directors will be approving and implementing their very first district wide communications plan to maintain our communication focus year in and year out!

Parents of students in grades K-8 should have received letters from each school giving you an overview of login information for the EDUCATE/EMPOWER system and announcing on-site meetings for each school to help parents learn how to navigate the new system and all the great information about your child's learning that can now be accessed!  Additionally, our Assistant Superintendent, Deb McIntyre will be hosting an online Webinar on November 17 from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. for those parents who might find it difficult to get out to a face to face meeting.  If you are interested in participating in this meeting, please let Deb know by e-mailing her at if you are interested in participating.  If you miss the face to face meetings, and the online meeting we will be archiving the webinar and posting the link to our website along with our other EDUCATE/EMPOWER tutorials and tools.  That link is:  

Parents of students in grades 9-12 are still able to access your child's learning through Infinite Campus for one more year.  We have spent a lot of time this year in trying to make sure the information that you see on IC is accurate, timely, and a true reflection of your child's progress on meeting standards.  Although we are still using the 100-point scale to report grades to students and parents, there are very different things going into this calculation so its important to understand that although you still see a "82" or a "93" what's behind those numbers isn't the same straight average that it used to be.  

This year, our high school teachers are only "grading" what we call summative assessments.  This means that "formative" assessments, although still required, are not averaged into the grade as they have been in the past.  Before I go much further, its probably important that I define what the difference is between "summative" and "formative" - let's give it a try:

Formative Assessment

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning.  More specifically, formative assessments:

*  Help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work 
*  Help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately

Formative assessments generally have no point value and are not graded.  Examples of formative assessments include (but are not limited to) asking students to:

*  draw a concept map in class to represent their understanding of a topic
*  Submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture
*  turn in a research proposal for early feedback.

Summative Assessment

The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.  Summative assessments are what students use to demonstrate proficiency, and so they are what is "graded".  Examples of summative assessments include (but are not limited to):

*  a midterm exam
*  a final project
*  a paper
*  a senior recital

Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when students or faculty use it to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.

Research has shown that students achieve more when formative assessments are used by teachers to provide feedback to students in their learning.  This feedback, then is used by students to better prepare them for success with the summative assessments.  

So as you can see, the purpose of formative assessments are 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.  If you have questions about these new grading practices at the high school, please reach out to your child's teachers, or to Mr. Tracy and they can help.  

These changes in grading practices are just a few things we are doing to make sure that we are prepared to meet the requirements of Maine's PBE Diploma statute and to move forward with the class of 2019 as our first graduates from MVHS to receive a true Proficiency Based Diploma

The RSU 3 Board of Directors continues to work diligently to update policies and to provide direction for our continued work in creating a Proficiency Based System of Education right here in RSU 3.  A system that will make our Mission a reality for our students and ensure their future success! My next post will focus on those continued policy changes - stay tuned! 


  1. I have not had a lick of communication from the middle school at all. I have not been able to see my daughter's grades because apparently you switched over to a new system and I have not seen a thing about it. High school is a little better for my other daughter. She has one teacher who emails weekly, but no other communication from any of the other teachers. At least I'm able to follow along on Infinite Campus. I'm curious as to how many other parents know whats going on. My middle school daughter is failing, and I've been trying to put together a meeting with all her teachers, and its like pulling teeth. This feels a lot like last year, but with a much better principal.

  2. First, thank you Barbie for reaching out. I am sure that there are parents out there who are still frustrated with changes and communication, but please know we are doing a lot more than we have been to reach out to all parents/guardians. You should soon be getting a letter in the mail from the Middle School (if you haven't already) that gives you information on how to login to your middle school student's EDUCATE/EMPOWER account. You are right, this is a new system, and I am very sure you are going to like it much more than the old Infinite Campus because it will give you so much more information. As always, with any new system, there will be a learning curve for everyone - so I urge you to participate in the planned parent nights to learn more about how to navigate this new system. That information should also be contained within your letter. If you haven't gotten this letter yet - you may wish to give the school a call and find out what your login information is.

    Another change you should be aware of is that the Middle School moved to a Trimester reporting system - which means that your middle school student's grades won't be reported to you in the traditional paper/pencil method until later in November (November 21 is when trimester grades close to be exact).

    Finally, I would ask that if you are having difficulties communicating with your child's teachers that you reach out to Mr. Donahue. I am glad to see you think he is "a much better principal". .. he is a good principal for sure - so make sure you let him help you by communicating your concerns with him. I have no doubt he will work diligently to address them.