Words To The Wise

March Issue

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Principal's Message

The snow has finally melted (Oops! Or rain depending on where you live in Baltimore County!) and signs of spring are all around us. I have seen a number of robins in the schoolyard, the Orioles have played their first Grapefruit League game, I have already attended a JHU lacrosse game, and baseball, softball, and lacrosse practices are underway. Spring proves to be a very busy time for the faculty and staff at Westowne. Winter MAP testing has been completed by all students (with many make-up days due to snow days) and grade five students are preparing to take the Science MSA on March 14th and March 16th. Planning for spring events is in full swing as the faculty and PTA prepare for Literature Night, Kindergarten Round Up, Battle of the Books, PARCC Assessments, Pre-K and Kindergarten Conference Days, spring band and chorus concerts, and several grade level field trips. Thank you to the PTA Executive Board, all PTA members, parent volunteers, and community members who support WES during this very busy time.

Each year there is considerable discussion about placement of children in classes for the next school year. This is a matter that we do not take lightly at Westowne, as we will spend countless hours forming well-balanced classes in which all children will have the opportunity to learn and grow in academic and social skills. Many factors are taken into consideration in this thoughtful process. Classes are organized by clustering reading ability groups so that there is a range of reading abilities within a classroom to allow for groups of students that need opportunities to be challenged, as well as those who need occasional reinforcement of skills. Extreme ranges are avoided, while teacher judgment, classroom performance, test performance, MAP performance, PARCC performance, and learning and teaching styles are all taken into consideration. Additionally, we consider boy/girl ratios, specific services necessary (i.e. speech, ESOL) and student to student chemistry. As you can imagine, it is not possible to honor specific teacher requests. Based upon current and projected enrollment numbers, we expect some movement of teachers from one grade to another and several teachers new to Westowne. As new students register, this may also impact student placement. Therefore, although we usually assign students to a particular class at the end of the school year, their placement and teacher may be changed based upon the number of new entrants.

Arrival and Dismissal Reminders

The school building is open to students at 9:00 a.m. Due to safety concerns, unsupervised students are not permitted on the property or in the building prior to 9:00 a.m. Please do not drop students off early. The late bell rings at 9:15 a.m. At that time, all students are to be seated in their classroom and ready for morning announcements. If your child arrives after 9:15 a.m., please park and visit the main office to sign your student in. Late students will receive a late pass before moving to their classrooms. Dismissal will begin at 3:40 p.m. for walkers and car riders. Bus Riders will begin being dismissed at 3:45 p.m. All walkers and car riders will exit their classrooms when called and report to the main lobby doors for dismissal. Walkers will begin their trip home and car riders will move to the arrival/dismissal Lane where staff members will supervise the loading of vehicles. Each student will be released to his/her car after the car pulls forward and comes to a complete stop. Drivers in the carpool line may not park or leave their cars in the line. Do not exit your car to let your students out. Staff members and/or student safeties will assist with students exiting cars. Again, please do not pull to the side of the car loop to park and exit your vehicle. This slows down the line and may lead to an accident. Please do not meet your child at a different location. In the spirit of safety, car riders will not be dismissed from any other area. Car riders who are not picked up from school by 4:00 p.m. will go directly to the office and we will begin calling emergency pick-up numbers. For additional information about car rider procedures, please see the Westowne Elementary Parent/Student Handbook and/or the WES website (http://westownees.bcps.org). Please be considerate of those staff members on Car Riders’ duty and understand that the enforcement of this policy is to ensure the safety of our children.

Please, for the safety of the children, no cars may enter the bus loop during student arrival and dismissal. Please be considerate of those staff members on walker, car rider, and bus duty and understand that the enforcement of the arrival/dismissal policy is to ensure the safety of our children. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.

Construction Updates

Construction on the new Westowne Elementary School continues to progress as construction crews continue to wrap the building in brick veneer, complete the roof, install window and door frames, stair wells, and first floor plumbing, electrical, and duct work. Before you know it, the building will be complete! Please check out the pictures of the progress on the new WES!

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AP Message

Greetings, Westowne Families ~

It’s hard to believe that Spring is right around the corner. Teachers continue to work hard, designing challenging and engaging lessons for their students. Students are actively attending to lessons and are reading and writing/typing more than ever!

Please continue to reinforce what is taught in school by asking your child questions and encouraging her or him to read each day. You may also have the opportunity to connect to your child’s daily classroom performance through, Class DoJo.

Students and teachers have successfully completed the Winter MAP assessments, grades K-5th. The Office of Assessment will deliver Student Measures of Academic Performance sheets to the school house, at that time sheets will be sent home to families.

What is MAP?

ü MAP stands for Measures of Academic Progress and tests what a student knows and can do at the time of the test in reading and mathematics.

ü MAP is a pair of tests, one in reading and one in mathematics, which your child will take on a computer two or three times during the school year, depending on grade level.

ü The MAP narrows in on your child’s learning level by presenting questions based on how your child answers. This is called a computer adaptive achievement test.

PARCC Testing Information

Students throughout the State of Maryland will partipcate in the PARCC Testing Window, April 25th – June 6th. Grades 3 – 5 English Language Arts, and Grades 3 – 5 Mathematics. Specific dates will be fourth coming regarding grade level and subject area testing dates.



Later this fall/winter, families of Baltimore County Public Schools’ students will receive score reports from the first administration of the new statewide assessment, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam. These are the results of exams in English language arts and mathematics that students took starting in March 2015. Maryland students in grades 3-8 and some high school students took the PARCC test in two parts – the Performance-Based Assessment and the End-of-Year Exam – that used different types of questions to measure students’ knowledge and skills. The Performance-Based Assessment and End-of-Year Exam result in one score that helps educators and parents know how well students have learned the appropriate grade-level material to prepare them for the next grade and eventually for college and careers.

The PARCC exam is not an “additional” test but replaces the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) and the High School Assessments (HSAs) in Algebra 1 and English 10. It also marks a significant departure from these previous assessments. This change will produce much different test results that will give us new information about individual students and schools and their performance. The PARCC assessment measures students’ critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and writing skills, which are all essential for success in higher education and the workplace. Now students must demonstrate and explain their knowledge and understanding as opposed to simply reciting memorized facts or filling in a bubble for a correct answer. These changes mean that we cannot compare PARCC exam results to those of the MSA or HSA.

The PARCC score reports will show how a student performed on each portion of the PARCC assessment as well as the student’s overall score. This overall score will fall within one of five performance levels that indicate the extent to which a child demonstrated understanding of grade-level subject standards. Students whose scores fall within level 4 or 5 have demonstrated that they have a thorough understanding of grade-level content and are on the right track to being ready for college-level coursework. Students with level 3 scores are approaching expectations, but may need additional assistance mastering content. Students earning level 1 or 2 scores need greater supports and help to master content. The reports will also allow families to compare how their student is doing compared to others in his/her school, district, or state.

Results for schools and individual students will likely appear lower than what educators and families typically expect. The PARCC assessment sets new goals for our students using higher expectations that match the rigor and scope of the Maryland College and Career Ready Standards. Lower proficiency scores do not mean that our schools are performing worse or that students are learning less or are not as capable. The change simply reflects how statewide assessments have evolved to meet higher standards that promote college and career readiness in the 21st century for all students.

The PARCC exam provides an opportunity to better prepare students for the next step of their academic career at each grade level of their K-12 journey. While no single test can give a complete picture of achievement, the PARCC exam will provide more accurate information about how each child is performing against the Maryland College and Career Ready standards. This information will help teachers and parents determine if students require remediation or more advanced instruction earlier in their schooling, ensuring that they graduate from high school fully prepared for the demands of college and/or careers.

For more information about the PARCC exam and other statewide assessments, please visit http://marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE/programs/parcc/index.html or http://www.parcconline.org/.

Construction Update

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Cedar Run Apts.

The management of the Cedar Run Apartments has requested that parents do not use the parking lot across from WES to park and walk students to school in the morning or from school in the afternoon. All parking spaces are for those community members that live in the apartments and have their vehicles registered to park in these lots. We ask that you utilize the car rider line to drop off and pick up students that do not walk or ride a bus. Thank you for your flexibility and understanding with this request.


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Box Tops

Our PTA just submitted another $250 worth of Box Tops for Education. Thank you to all the families who participate in the clipping and collecting. We will be doing something a little different for our next collection sheet - we want you to design your own! Take some time this month to get creative with displaying your Box Tops on a sheet of paper. Please remember to only use tape or glue to stick down the Box Tops and be sure to sort out any expired Box Tops before you submit your sheet. Also, please do not put more than 50 Box Tops on a sheet and do not write on the Box Tops themselves. Don't forget to put your name and your teacher's name on the sheet. Every student that submits their own original Box Tops collection sheet will be entered in a raffle to win a Crayola art kit. Submit your original creation by Monday April 11th to be eligible for the raffle.


The latest addition to Westowne's recycling center is nylon tights and pantyhose. No Nonsense has launched the first recycling program for nylon fabrics, and we are excited to participate. If you have tights, pantyhose, or knee highs to discard, please place them in the labeled bin in our ever-growing recycling center. We'll ship them off for recycling, and they could be turned into items such as park benches and playground equipment!

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Nurse's Nook

It has been a busy couple of weeks in the health suite! I have seen many sick children. Here a few guidelines on how to decide whether your child should stay home from school.

A child should be kept home from school if he/she:

  • Has a fever of more than 100 degrees. It is important to have a thermometer to measure a fever – just touching a child’s head only tells you how warm the head is. You can purchase an inexpensive thermometer in most grocery or drug stores. If your child has a fever, please do not medicate him/her and send to school. The medication wears off and the contagious child is then infecting others.

  • Has vomited two or more times. A single episode of vomiting can be caused by a variety of non-illness related issues. However, vomiting two or more times is a sign of a contagious condition.

  • Has diarrhea. It can be difficult to know when diarrhea is more than a loose bowel movement. Parents should watch for two or more episodes of watery stools, particularly if the child also has nausea, a fever, or other signs of illness. A child with blood or mucous in the stool should be taken to the doctor for further evaluation.

  • Has live lice. A child with live lice should be treated with a lice treatment that can be purchased in a grocery or drug store. All live lice need to be removed from the child’s head before he/she returns to school. Please notify the nurse if you’ve found live lice on your child.

Also, please remember to send in an absence note when your child returns to school. If your child has seen a doctor for his/her absence, please provide a copy of the doctor’s note.

If your child has an upcoming physical or dental appointment, please call or email the nurse to get the necessary forms for the school health record. I can send home the physical and dental forms with your child so that you can have them completed at the appointment and then you can send them in to the nurse. I have many students who are missing physical and dental examinations from their health records. Please help me update your child’s health record!

If your child has come home wearing borrowed clothes from the nurse, please wash and return those clothes to the nurse. I cannot accept returned underwear, but, please, send back shirts and pants so that I have them available for the next student who may need them. Thank you!!

Please contact me at 410-869-0023 or jmartin13@bcps.org if you have any questions or concerns.

Best wishes for a healthy month!!

Counseling Corner

PERSEVERANCE is our character word for the month of March. Perseverance is to continue to do something in spite of difficulties; to never give up. Perseverance or “sticking to it” is the skill to keep trying even if it is challenging or frustrating. It is easy to see how the lack of this skill could affect a child’s success in the school setting where so many new skills are introduced.

How Can I Show Perseverance?

  • Try to teach yourself something new

  • Stick with a tough math problem even if you think you’ve tried your hardest

  • Choose a book to read that is just above your AR level

  • Study hard to bring up your lowest grade

  • Never give up, even the task seems impossible

  • Show a positive attitude when helping a younger sibling learn something

  • Be patient

  • Save up your money and do extra chores to be able to buy something special

    Ways to Help Reinforce Perseverance at Home

  • Regularly remind your child that you believe in him or her

  • When your child is ready to give up on something, tell him or her of a time when something else was ‘hard’ to do, but now seems easy

  • In a time of frustration for you, turn it into a teachable moment and model how you can show perseverance to get through the issue

  • Read an advanced chapter book together, little by little each night until you’re finished

  • Set a family goal and stick with it. Celebrate your achievements

  • Create a family motto such as “Miller’s aren’t quitters” or the infamous Nike “Just do it”

  • Encourage children to give things time. When a child wants to quit negotiate a reasonable ending point so they can have the experience of seeing it through.

    “It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get back up again.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Mindfulness – Brain-Focused Strategies for Learning… and Living

    The counseling team has been incorporating Mindfulness education and strategies into our counseling lessons this month. Here is a great article that helps give you an understanding of the importance of being mindful and how it can improve your relationships and stimulate academic growth.

    “What if schools taught kids mindfulness and empathy along with traditional academic skills?”

    This was the first line of an article called, “US Schools Encouraged to Teach the ABC's of Emotions” in Mindful Magazine’s recent newsletter. In fact, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)—author of “A Mindful Nation” and colleagues introduced the Academic, Social and Emotional Learning Act. Ryan commented, “These programs are scientifically proven to help students increase skills in problem-solving, conflict resolution, responsible decision-making and relationship building—these are the skills that will build the foundation for students to better perform academically and throughout their lives."

    And studies are beginning to show that Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programming can boost academic potential. "Self-awareness—turning our attention to our inner world of thoughts and feelings—allows us to manage ourselves well," says Daniel Goleman. "An inner focus lets us understand and handle our inner world, even when rocked by disturbing feelings. This is a life skill that keeps us on track throughout the years, and helps children become better learners." Here at Westowne the counseling team has been incorporating SEL into their curriculum and as a part of that, mindfulness.

    Mindfulness can be defined as “noticing; paying attention to the here and now.” Or as one of our students said, “being aware.” Jon Kabat-Zinn founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction has said, “Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives.” There are many ways we can and do practice being mindful! We can listen mindfully, move mindfully, taste mindfully, see mindfully, speak mindfully, and practice mindful breathing. In fact, it can be said that mindfulness is the foundation of other SEL skills. We practice paying attention and noticing, so that we can be thoughtful about the choices we make-- we can choose to act, rather than automatic reacting. Mindfulness helps us to insert the pause. These skills are important for emotional regulation as well as academic achievement!

    Mindfulness is incorporated into our lessons in many ways. For example when dealing with put downs, students have learned to try various techniques, not only “I messages,” but agreement, humor, and neutral responses (i.e. “oh well, sorry you feel that way.”) so as not to “get hooked” and react by giving more put downs. We are, also, hoping our students are learning to use movement and mindful calming breaths (balloon breath, “buddy” breathing, or simply noticing the breath) to calm down when stressed, nervous, overstimulated or angry.

    Body awareness, learning to identify the physical signs and sensations of emotions is an important first step. So when we do the “Emotions in Action” lesson, students identify how their breath is (shallow? fast?), what physical sensations arise (tight jaw? tummy butterflies?) and their self-talk (thoughts that go through their mind) in association with various emotions. With this awareness, students can choose to insert a pause-- deep full mindful breathing and/or movement to calm the nervous system before choosing an action.

    Other benefits shown by studies include that mindfulness spurs the growth of gray matter in various brain regions, improving learning, memory, and emotional regulation. Ask your student what parts of the brain controls these various functions! It is exciting to hear students tell stories of times they practiced their mindful breathing when it was needed.

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