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Grey Matters, March 3, 2014; Volume 2, Number 24

posted Mar 2, 2014, 9:45 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 26, 2014, 11:10 AM by James Marcotte ]

Thankfully, reports last week of a major snowstorm for this past weekend were amended to predictions of a “dusting” of snow.  That good news notwithstanding, I have continued my personal efforts to leave this bitter cold and move to lovely San Diego (all of you are still invited). Thanks to the prevalence of online real estate sites, I’ve found two possible homes that could house the Shen family, and welcome a steady stream of guests from New England.  The first is this understated 5 bedroom home for a paltry $5.6 million, the other a cozy 6 bedroom home for $6.5 million.  Take a look and tell me what you think, but know that each of your votes must come with a $50,000 contribution to my home-buying plans, since I am currently several million a few dollars short of the funds required for the down payment on either option.  

Willy Wonka opens this week!   There are still tickets available, and I encourage everyone to find an opportunity to attend at least one of the performances.  This year, the performances will be on March 7 (7pm only), March 8 (2pm and 7pm), March 9 (2pm only), March 14 (7pm only), and March 15 (2pm and 7pm). Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Red, White, and Brew (in West Acton), Donelan’s Supermarket, at the RJ Grey main office, and at the door.

The schedule for sign ups and tryouts for spring sports (baseball, softball, track) is now available on the RJ Grey website.  Please click here to visit the athletics page, and note the dates and times listed on the site - things don’t kick off until late March so there’s time to figure out schedules, etc..  Also keep in mind the “Green Form” requirements and review the other relevant information listed on the athletics page.  

The primary focus of this week’s Grey Matters is on the upcoming MCAS assessment dates.  If the weather cooperates, we begin the English/Language Arts portions of the MCAS state assessments on Tuesday, March 18th.  Specifically, this is how our upcoming schedule currently looks:

Tuesday, March 18th:               7th Grade (ELA Long Composition)

Wednesday, March 19th:     8th Grade (ELA Reading Comprehension)

Thursday, March 20th:             8th Grade (ELA Reading Comprehension)

Monday, March 24th:             7th Grade (ELA Reading Comprehension)

Tuesday, March 25th:             7th Grade (ELA Reading Comprehension)

If your child is absent for one of his/her testing dates, there are a number of make-up dates that we have already scheduled, and we will coordinate those make-ups with students.  Also, a friendly reminder to the small cohort of families whose students are part of the PARCC pilot that those assessments are scheduled for March 24, 25, and 26.  Finally, the Math and Science portions of the MCAS assessment takes place in May, and I’ll be sure to send out a reminder at that time that addresses the schedule for those days.  

At RJ Grey, we want to continue to express and balance two messages to students about the MCAS.  First, we hope that students do take their participation in MCAS seriously, where they try their best and respond to the questions thoughtfully and to the best of their ability.  At the same time, we want students to know that how they perform on these tests does not define them as individuals, and as students.  It’s one type of measure (given at one point in the year), and like any single assessment, can not truly capture all that there is to know (and needs to be known) about a student’s growth as a student, and all of their other talents and strengths.  

MCAS results are provided to individual families to be reviewed; and as a school, we are responsible for addressing areas of concern that the state may identify based on our results.  So we certainly pay attention to, and we work hard to prepare students for the MCAS, along with our other assessments. However, we never want students to experience anxiety or distress over the MCAS, and to know that there is much (much) more to one’s development as a thoughtful individual than is reflected in this particular set of assessments.  To that particular point, I greatly enjoyed reading an article the New York Times published last week entitled, “How to Get a Job at Google” (click here) that highlights Google’s approach and philosophy to recruitment and hiring. Summarizing an interview with Google’s head of People Operations, the article starts by citing the company’s de-emphasis on test scores and GPAs as a predictor for the qualities that they seek, and ends with the following takeaway: “ an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, [Google] also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.” While the article wasn’t directly about standardized achievement tests, and while I think our role as a school goes well beyond helping students be “employable”, its overall message seemed to be one worth sharing as we enter MCAS season.  

In an effort to support students during these testing days, we hope to work with families on establishing some routines that will deliver that dual message that I describe above.  In previous years, we began MCAS sessions shortly after homeroom.  Starting last year, we now begin MCAS testing about 15 minutes later so we can provide some time to make sure that all students have a chance to settle down and, quite frankly, have the chance to eat something.  If you have time at home, please think about making sure your child has a good breakfast before leaving -- taking a 2+ hour test on an empty stomach can be tough for some (count me as one of them).  If you don’t have time, please feel free to send your child in with some food that they can eat during that brief period before testing begins.  To repeat my plea from last year, in the interest of avoiding a mess, please don’t send your kids in with a Grand Slam Breakfast from Denny’s, but some water or juice, a muffin, fruit or yogurt.  We will also be providing each room with enough food (juice boxes, fruit, breakfast bars) for students who didn’t have the opportunity to eat at home, or able to bring something on their own.

Finally, an RJ Grey Twitter feed update - we’re up to 94 followers.  Still a few million followers behind Justin Bieber (who probably owns both the homes in San Diego that I mention above), but making progress.  Help us reach the 100 follower threshold - go here to follow us on Twitter.  

Next week, I will share some important information about the course recommendation process for 8th grade students and their families, and some of the conversations that teachers will have with students as part of the process.  

Have a great week, everyone.