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Grey Matters, March 26, 2018; Volume 6, Number 28

posted Mar 25, 2018, 6:16 AM by Andrew Shen

Hi Everyone,

I hope you all had a good full week that was un-interrupted and free from snow days.  If you had any tough moments last week where things didn’t go exactly as planned, consider comparing your experience with that of a 17-year old Minnesota student who was taking her road test to earn her drivers license.  Parked in front of the driver’s examination office, she started the test by shifting the car into “Drive” instead of “Reverse” and subsequently drove straight through the storefront of the examination station office.  Fortunately no one in the car or in the office was injured and any grumbling or complaining on my part about this, that or the other thing that I was dealing with last week quickly softened in intensity. I am about to complete and submit my tax returns for this year, so I may stil soon be experiencing a feeling similar to driving a car through a wall.  As for any grumbling or complaining on my part last week, those moments mostly centered around our 1-year old black labrador puppy Bailey who has now eaten three pairs of my shoes. We also use a baby gate to restrict Bailey’s access to a few rooms in the house and yesterday I caught my foot in the gate while trying to climb over and fell hard onto the ground.  You can imagine in my moment of pain I was able to develop a perfectly logical argument that made the dog responsible for why I was lying temporarily motionless on the ground.  It’s a good thing that as the dogs ran over to see what generated the giant “thud” neither of them had any of my clothes in their mouths. I did end the week on a good note, celebrating another birthday, though would you all believe that I share a birthday with a certain shoe-eating puppy?  I was touched by the streamers and other decorations our kids put up the morning of my birthday, only to be reminded that “half of them are for Bailey, dad.” Speaking of milestones, later this week the school district is hosting an event celebrating staff members who are currently in their 20th year of working in our schools.  At RJ Grey, Jeanne Bouchard (7th Science), Mae Shoemaker (8th Science),  Caroline O’Brien (Counseling), and Brenda Geldert (Food Services) are all completing their 20th year of service to students and we look forward to celebrating this achievement with them.  

I’ve got some timely updates and reminders to put in front of you, and then I spend some time reviewing the upcoming arrival of MCAS testing, which begins April 9.  

A friendly reminder that Good Friday is on Friday, March 30 and we will not have

school that day.  

There is an 8th grade dance being planned by the Student Council, and scheduled for

Friday, April 6 from 7pm to 9pm. Stay tuned for announcements throughout that week

for purchasing tickets.  In June, we also have separate end of year dance/social for both

grades, and those dates have been changed as a result of the snow days.  The 7th grade

dance/social that was scheduled for Friday, June 8 will now be on June 15.  The

End-of-Year Celebration/Dance for 8th graders was scheduled for June 15, and will now

be Friday, June 22.  We’ll discuss those events at greater length once we get to the

month of June.

Don’t forget that Thursday, April 5 is the Junior High’s last early release day, where

students are dismissed at 10:40am and staff remain to participate in professional


I hope most families of current 8th grade students have begun to navigate the Parent

Portal as you complete the registration process for 9th grade courses at the High School.  

Please remember that the portal closes next Monday, April 2.  

The tryout and sign-up schedule for our Spring Sports programs are all set and an

update was sent last week as part of our Daily Announcements.  You can view the tryout

schedule by clicking here, and can also visit the Athletics Page on our website, which also

includes the medical Green Forms and athletic fee waiver request form.  The meeting for

the track program was last week, and baseball and softball start up this week (in the

gym given the snow on the ground).  Please remember that no student may participate

in tryouts without a valid/updated Green Form.  This is an MIAA regulation and no

exceptions can be made.  

A friendly and important reminder that we have students at RJ Grey who have organized a drive to support Cradles to Crayons with donations of gently used or new clothing and shoes to support programs that assist families that are homeless.  Please consider donating sizes infant to adult medium for clothing, and shoe sizes 0-10. The drive will start March 26th and go until April 6th, and bins will be located near the library entrance.  

For current 7th grade families, you should have received in the mail (the US Postal Mail not email) late last week the scheduling/registration form regarding your child’s 8th grade year.  This form includes math level recommendations, confirmation of current world language choice, and a space to indicate preferences for Grey Block. There is also a letter that provides important information about the adjustment we are making to the schedule for next year that involves all students participating in an elective during our Grey Block period, and how we’ll be providing a study period for students in a different part of the day.  Please be sure to review that letter carefully because it will provide important context for your children as they identify their Grey Block preferences. The registration forms need to be signed and returned to the Junior High by April 9.  For those who may consider an override request regarding math level placement, please make note of the process for doing so (which involves a separate form that can be picked up at the Junior High).  

As “veterans” now of the Junior High, I know that you appreciate how our team placement process focuses on creating teams that strive for balance and diversity in different academic and social areas, equitable class sizes, accounting for math level and world language choices, as well as scheduling for a range of services that students may require (to name a few of the dozens of variables).  While we are not able to build teams based on individual requests, we do understand that there may at times be information worth considering during the placement process. Should that be the case, you may pick up a Parent/Guardian Information Form at the Junior High main office anytime or download a copy of the form by clicking here. The Parent/Guardian Information Form is due back to the Junior High main office by April 10, 2018.  Please remember that filling out this form is not necessary nor is it expected.

MCAS! I am sharing with everyone some thoughts about MCAS, and a good portion of it is reused from the past few years, since my/our thoughts on it haven’t really changed, along with our suggestions for how families and students should view MCAS testing relative to other aspects of the educational process.  

This year we begin the 8th Grade English/Language Arts portion of the MCAS state assessments on Monday, April 9. Here again is a link to the RJ Grey-specific schedule for MCAS testing for April and May, and for both grades.  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.  As I mentioned in an earlier Grey Matters, MCAS this year will be computer-based for both 7th and 8th graders and we will continue to help students be prepared for that testing platform.

At RJ Grey, we are interested in continuing to express and balance two messages to students about MCAS.  First, we hope that students 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, nor 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 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 (so much) more to one’s development as a thoughtful individual than is reflected in this particular set of assessments.  Each year, I include a link to a 2014 New York Times article entitled,  “How to Get a Job at Google” (click here) that highlights Google’s approach and philosophy to recruitment and hiring, noting a de-emphasis on test scores and GPAs as a predictor for the qualities that they seek, and instead “cares about a lot of soft skills— leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and relearn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.” In a February 2105 article in the Boston Globe Magazine, a Williams College psychologist presented her ideas about how our schools’ efforts might benefit from a re-orientation of our standardized assessments around skills and qualities that, interestingly, have much overlap with the Google article.  While the author didn’t specifically make reference to Google, it was hard not to see the similarities found in her “7 Things Every Kid Should Master” (and should therefore be the focus of assessments) as she emphasized reading, collaboration, conversation, flexible thinking and use of evidence, inquiry, and well-being.  Just some food for thought as we enter this season of state assessments.  

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. We begin MCAS testing about 15 minutes after homeroom 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).   We will also be providing each room with some snack food (Goldfish crackers, fruit snacks) for students who didn’t have the opportunity to eat at home, or able to bring something on their own.

Finally, we had our latest installment of Poetry Fridays at the end of last week. Mr. Malloy selected “A Field of Roses” by Chris Corderly.  Click here to read the selection.  

Have a great week, everyone.