MVMS Pride Newsletter

July 2018

Sweet, Sweet, Summertime

Greetings! We hope you are off to a happy and restful summer. It's hard to believe we are already halfway through summer. Hopefully you have had the chance to get outside enjoy some of New Hampshire's beautiful summer weather!


The purpose of this newsletter is to apprise students, families, and members of the MVMS community of some exciting changes that are in place for the 2018/2019 school year. We hope that providing you this information early will allow you to digest the information, process with your student(s), and reach out with any questions you have prior to the start of the school year. We feel strongly that all of the changes outlined in this newsletter will greatly benefit all of our students by offering them unique and challenging courses while providing the necessary supports to make them successful. We are excited about the upcoming year and look forward to introducing students to several new staff members as well as continuing to build positive relationships with existing ones.


Another newsletter will go out toward the end of August. This will outline the first day procedures and other important information. Mrs. Lamontagne and Mr. Lynch are available throughout the summer to answer any questions or provide clarification as needed.

Welcome New Staff Members

MVMS is excited to welcome many new faces to the building. Some have been with the district for many years, while others are brand new to MVSD. Here is a brief introduction about each of our new staff members!

Ms. Bean - 6th Grade Special Education

Mrs. Bean-Warren or Ms. Bean, as she will go by, is beginning her third year in education as a Special Education teacher. She will be working in the 6th grade as a Case Manager and co-teaching various subjects. She spent the last two years as a Special Education teacher in the Life Skills and Transition program at John Stark Regional High School. Prior to John Stark, she was a paraprofessional at Bedford High School, where she also coached Nordic Skiing, and spent summers working with middle school students. Prior to completing her teaching certification, she worked in environmental consulting for five years.


She is married with a one-year-old daughter, Kinley. Her family also has two German Shorthaired Pointer dogs, and loves the outdoors.


Ms. Bean looks forward to making an impact in her community and being part of the Merrimack Valley school community.

Mrs. Dobe - 6th Grade English Language Arts

Mrs. Dobe is a seasoned educator who has been in the district since 2001 and has been teaching since 1985. Mrs. Dobe is returning to the middle school after teaching at Webster Elementary for 15 years. We look forward to the wealth of experience and knowledge she brings to the middle school as a 6th grade English Language Arts Teacher.

Mrs. Gaudette - Associate Director of Student Support Services

Mrs. Gaudette joins us from the Merrimack Valley Learning Center as our Associate Director of Student Support Services. Mrs. Gaudette has a tremendous amount of administrative experience from her work as the Building Administrator at the Learning Center. We look forward to Mrs. Gaudette joining our team and becoming a great resource and support for our school.

Mrs. Jeski - School Nurse

Mrs. Jeski will be taking over as our full-time school nurse. She joins us from St. Paul's School in Concord. Her energy and enthusiasm seem endless. We are excited to have her on board, as she is a great addition to our MVMS community.

Mr. Sargent - 8th Grade Math

Mr. Sargent is a familiar face to the middle school. Last year he finished up his student teaching in Mrs. Piroso's 6th grade class, and remained on board as a long-term sub for 6th grade Social Studies. Mr. Sargent will join us full-time this year as an 8th grade math teacher. Mr. Sargent brings a wealth of real world experience, as he worked for many years in finance in New York and Boston. He looks forward to beginning his second career here at Merrimack Valley. We look forward to him sharing his experiences and knowledge with our students.

Mr. MacNeill - 6th Grade English Language Arts

Mr. MacNeill is a recent college graduate, who recently taught in the Gilford School District. Mr. MacNeill comes highly regarded as an energetic teacher who connects with students. Mr. MacNeill has a passion for theater arts, and hopes to share his experiences in theater with students. Mr. MacNeill will join the 6th grade team as an English Language Arts teacher.

Mrs. Herrmann - Integrated Arts

Mrs. Herrmann joins us this year as the new STEAM Integrated Arts Teacher. Before coming to MVMS, she worked in the Media Center at Loudon Elementary School. Mrs. Herrmann is very excited to get started on some great projects with the students that will make them think creatively and work collaboratively in our new Innovation Lab. When she is not at school, her hobbies include skiing, boating, being outdoors, and watching her four kids play sports.

Making it Work in Middle School

Making it Work in Middle School is a new course offering that provides students with strategies, support, and guidance in navigating middle years. Adolescence is a dynamic, exciting, and influential time for students. We have created this course in hopes to provide students with the necessary tools to be successful at the middle school, as well as prepare them for future success in high school and beyond.


Middle School staff have been hard at work this summer designing and mapping out the class so that it meets students' needs at the three different grade levels. The class is separated into four different competency areas that match our students' needs. These areas are: Social-Emotional; Organization; Academic; and Technology. Classes will include lessons on important topics such as bullying, organizational strategies, and research methods.


Making it Work in Middle School will be taught by professional staff and will receive support from the school counseling department, library media specialist, and our technology integrator. This multi-faceted approach to the curriculum and instruction will give students the skills they need to be successful in the classroom as well as in their various social settings throughout the day.


Currently, all 6th grade students will be assigned to a Making it Work in Middle School class. We strongly believe that the foundational skills being taught are necessary for all incoming 6th grade students, as the class will provide transitional support to bridge the gap between elementary and middle school.


Seventh and eighth grade students who are not taking a full-year World Language course will also be enrolled in Making it in Middle School. The content will be adjusted based on the grade level being taught.


We are very excited with the possibilities of this course, as it meets a need for middle school students, and will put them on a path toward future success. We would like to recognize and thank the following teachers for their hard work throughout the summer with creating the curriculum for this course: Mrs. Searah, Ms. Dunn, Mrs. Ciarametaro, Ms. Deshaies, Mrs. Malone, Mrs. King, Mrs. Miller, Mrs. John - Thank you!

Unified Arts

For the past several years our "specials" were separated in to Flex and Unified Arts. Flex classes (PE, Music, and Computers) rotated every 36 days, while our Related Arts (Tech Ed, Art, and Family and Consumer Science) rotated with the trimester.


In an effort to provide more consistency within the schedule, all specials will now be called Unified Arts, and will operate on the same 36 day rotation. Students will be scheduled for two Unified Arts classes each day. They will attend these Unified Arts classes for 36 days, and then rotate to two different Unified Arts classes for 36 days, and so on.


On the schedules, you will notice the Unified Arts are placed under one of two categories, STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts, and Mathematics) and Wellness.


STEAM Unified Arts classes include:

  • Project Lead the Way
  • Innovation Lab
  • Music
  • Art


Wellness Unified Arts classes include:

  • Family and Consumer Science
  • Health
  • Physical Education
  • World Language - introductory level course for 6th graders only


* All 6th graders will be exposed to Spanish and French through the Unified Arts World Language. The 7th / 8th grade level World Language is optional, and will operate as a year long course.

Schedule

Most returning parents and students are familiar with our waterfall schedule and drop periods. For those unfamiliar, the schedule operates as follows:


  • On Monday, all classes (8 classes) meet for 45 minutes each
  • On Tuesday through Thursday, 6 classes meet for 60 minute each. Two classes will not meet, and are considered "dropped".
  • Throughout the week, each class meets a total of 4 times.


This year, the schedule will remain the same; however, instead of referring to days as Day 1, Day 2, etc., each day of the week will simply have its own schedule that will not change. This means that regardless of holidays or cancellations, the day of the week that we are in school, is the day's schedule which we will follow. For example, if we return to school on Wednesday, January 2, we will follow a Wednesday schedule. This creates more consistency for students so that they do not have of figure out what day schedule we are operating on.


Please click the included picture or below link for a visual of the 2018/2019 bell schedule.

Grading Changes

In January 2018, we surveyed parents and staff members in regards to their thoughts on our current grading practices. Based on the survey results, it was clear that stakeholders felt as if grading practices were not an accurate reflection of student performance. According to the survey, 88% of people supported looking at an alternative grading system.


After careful study and deliberation, MVMS has adopted a competency-based grading practice, beginning in the 2018/2019 school year. (For those of you with high school students, this system closely mirrors that of the high school.) The foundational idea behind the change is a departure from standards-based grading (1-4), and a move to competency-based grading, using traditional letter grades on a 100 point scale. This change allows teachers, students, and parents to obtain a more precise and accurate measure of student performance.


WHAT ARE COMPETENCIES?

Competencies are the essential skills, topics, and ideas that a course will focus on throughout the school year. Over the past year, the faculty at Merrimack Valley Middle School developed individual course competencies that reflect:


  • The most central, essential skills which a student must demonstrate to assess current knowledge.

  • Academic ideas /themes / skills that a student should demonstrate to be adequately prepared for future courses.

  • Common expectations for all courses including the rigor of assessments.

  • New Hampshire Common Core Standards and the NH Curriculum Frameworks.


A complete list of the courses and their competencies can be found here. Please note that while the competencies are finalized, some of the summative assessments listed are subject to change depending on pacing of the course. The competency areas are clearly established for each class. For example, English Language Arts (ELA) classes have identified the following competencies: Reading; Writing; Language; Speaking/Listening. These areas represent the major content topics and skills that will be investigated and practiced in this particular course. All assignments within this course will fall under one or more of these competencies.


WHY ARE WE USING COMPETENCIES?

The middle school has chosen to identify specific competency areas for each course in order to better inform our learners and parents of student performance. Competencies give a more detailed analysis of students’ specific strengths and weaknesses within each course. This allows teachers to differentiate instruction to meet individual needs and challenge students appropriately. The implementation of competencies also helps align our school to MVHS grading practices, aiding in the transition between middle and high school.


HOW ARE COMPETENCY GRADES DETERMINED?

The overall average of the “body of evidence” in each competency area (homework, quizzes, tests, writing assignments, projects, etc.) will determine each competency average. Every assignment will carry a maximum point value that a student can earn. Within each competency area, certain assignments will weigh heavier (summative assessments are worth more points than homework). For example, a unit exam (summative) may be worth 100 points, while a homework (formative) may only be worth 10 points. The total point value of all assignments within a competency area is the “body of evidence” which will translate into a numerical average. Summative assessments may carry points in multiple competency areas, as these are assessing multiple areas.


FORMATIVE AND SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENTS

Formative assessments monitor students’ learning as they progress through a given topic. These assessments will carry a lower point value, but are very important to the learning process as they demonstrate how a student is understanding a topic. Examples of formative assessments are homework, classwork, and quizzes.

The goal of a summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit. These assignments are given less frequently, but will carry a higher point value. Examples of summative assessments are research projects, presentations, labs, essays, and exams.


GRADE PORTAL (ALMA)

Parents and students alike are expected to regularly check their Alma portal to stay apprised of assignments and grades. Each student’s Alma login will be given to him or her within the first two weeks of school. If you do not know the login information or are having trouble logging in, please contact the office. If you have any questions on how to utilize the grade portal, please contact administration. This is an incredibly powerful and useful tool to help bridge the gap between school and home. We strongly encourage students and parents to be active on their portal, and communicate with their teachers as necessary.


*There will be much more on ALMA in upcoming newsletters.


GRADING

The move to competency-based grading will allow teachers and parents a more accurate picture of student performance. Competency-based grading combines the skill based grading concepts of standards-based grading with the numerical clarity of traditional grading practices. Point values will be translated to a numerical average based on a 100-point scale.


LETTER CONVERSION SCALE

The following scale will determine a student’s letter grade in a course:


A+ (98-100)

A (94-97)

A- (90-93)


B+ (87-89)

B (83-86)

B- (80-82)


C+ (77-79)

C (73-76)

C- (70-72)


D+ (67-69)

D (63-66)

D- (60-62)


F (0-59)


The student’s numeric grade in the course will be determined by taking the total points earned in all of the competency areas and dividing it by the total points assigned in all of the competency areas.


HONOR ROLL

Honor Roll is based on trimester grades. Students with all A's and B's will be considered on the Honor Roll. Students with all A's will be considered on High Honors.

Save the Date


  • School Board Meeting - 8/13/18 - 7:00 PM (MVHS)
  • First Day of School! - 8/28/18

Merrimack Valley Middle School

MVMS's mission is to promote an environment that teaches students to be active learners, critical thinkers, and responsible citizens in an ever-changing global society.