Friday, December 16, 2016

COMING SOON: Carson Middle School Hydration Stations


I wanted to be the first to let the Carson Middle School community know that we have purchased three filtered hydration stations that will be installed at CMS over the upcoming winter vacation.  The picture above is the exact model that will be installed in three central locations:  1) main hallway outside of the gym, 2) between the restrooms outside of the cafeteria, and 3) between the restrooms in the main office.

In addition to providing fresh, cold, filtered water for our school community we are excited that we will be doing our part to prevent disposable/recyclable plastic water bottles from filling up in local landfills.  Our CMS Recycling Team does an excellent job and has has even expanded operations over the last year but we still find plastic bottles throughout the building on a daily basis that end up in our trash cans.  Did you know that in 2012 only 9% of all plastic waste was recycled?  That means that 91% of plastic waste ended up somewhere other than a recycling plant.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR CMS?
Starting Tuesday, January 10 (returning from winter vacation) we will start imposing a ban on all disposable/recyclable plastic bottles.  Our goal is to encourage all staff, students, parents, and visitors to take advantage of our hydration stations and to enjoy the benefits of the delicious water they will produce while doing our part as a school community in reducing plastic waste.  We will have a "phase out" during the month of January in which we will be phasing out all disposable/recyclable plastic bottles as we begin communicating with all students, staff, and families about this new initiative in our school.  During the phase out we will not collect any of the water bottles that are visible, but rather we will communicate information about our new hydration stations and request that re-usable containers be utilized in the future.  We will continue with the phase-out until we have developed and established a culture supporting our new water initiative on campus.

Stay tuned for a school awareness campaign concerning water bottles and be on the lookout for official CMS water bottles that will be available as incentives for students.  We are excited to bring these hydration stations to our school and look forward to establishing ourselves as leaders in responsible water consumption and plastic reduction.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Grading and Academic Achievement at CMS: 100% Accountability





Part II of II

Carson Middle School has supported a shift in grading practices that are driven by a standards based mindset and implemented practices that support standards based assessment of learning. Our vision for academic grades at CMS is reflected in the following statement: Carson Middle School will report student grades that are accurate, consistent, meaningful, and supportive of student learning. To define what exactly this means to students, parents, and teachers we have established the following definitions in relation to grading:

Accurate: By basing a student’s grade on solely academic factors, the teacher creates a clear picture of what the student has learned without the influence of other factors. These other factors, such as effort and attitude, are still essential, but are not part of the student’s academic grade and are communicated separately.

Consistent: For each unit, the teacher will provide a student learning guide that describes exactly what the student will need to master. Using student learning guides establishes clear expectations for mastery up front and applies them consistently throughout the unit and semester.

Meaningful: A meaningful grade is one that clearly communicates what learning has taken place. Scores are recorded by the essential standards rather than by type, such as assessments or homework, making it easier to identify areas of strength and to address areas of concern for each student.

Supportive of learning: Grading supports learning by focusing on the material that has or has not been learned rather than on accumulating points to reach a certain total. The reassessment policy also supports student learning by allowing new levels of learning to replace old when a student shows improvement on an assessment.

In a nutshell, our grading practices are geared towards academic progress reporting (grading) being reflective of what students have learned, according to what the standards say should be learned. When considering that 95% of our students passed all classes last school year, it may appear that all of our students are high achieving. When you consider roughly 80% of students at CMS reached mastery on all common benchmark assessments, it may appear that our students are making great progress in mastering all standards. When considering our latest student data component of standardized testing scores from last school year (discussed below) you might wonder what in the world is going on at Carson Middle School.

Last week I attended a Carson City School Board workshop in which all elementary and middle school principals discussed and answered questions regarding our Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) results. As you might recall, the State of Nevada aligned with the SBAC as the assessment arm in rolling out Common Core State Standards in 2010. The SBAC is the official state assessment that, for our middle schools, replaced the Criterion Reference Test (CRT) which was last taken by Carson Middle School students in 2013. During our school board workshop there were many relevant questions asked, "Why are our scores so low? Why are some other states higher than Nevada? How do we compare with other states? How do we compare with other districts in our state? What are we going to do about these low scores?” among many other very good questions.

As with any student learning and/or performance data point it is critical to first understand exactly what the data represents. It may seem fairly obvious that our student proficiency ratings speak for themselves: 22.87% of CMS students were at or above proficiency in math and 49.49% were at or above proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA). I agree with a few of our board members that these numbers are not acceptable and that we need to do something to improve our scores.  As I stated during the workshop, I own these scores and take 100% responsibility for them, so should everybody in this school and community.  There are no excuses, however, it is important to point out that these numbers represent our first look at student assessment through the SBAC lens as we have not had any student data (CRT nor SBAC) for the previous three school years. While our student scores did not meet our expectations, particularly in math, having student performance data will now allow us to answer some critical questions as we identify gaps in achievement. Do we need to consider curriculum adjustments? Common assessment (benchmark) adjustments? What are instructional adjustments that we need to consider? As my colleague Mr. Jeremy Lewis (middle school ELA implementation specialist) pointed out the SBAC math assessment does not simply assess math skills, rather, the assessment includes reading, critical thinking, problem-solving, strategic thinking, deductive reasoning, writing, and logic reasoning.

There are many additional considerations in seeking solutions to increasing student achievement and our SBAC data is an important consideration as our starting point in guiding school improvement moving forward. We will be carefully evaluating our performance indicators as a school to suggest and implement adjustments that will increase student achievement on SBAC and benchmark assessments in the future. Perhaps most importantly, we now have specific student performance feedback that will allow us to make important decisions in supporting our school vision: a culture of shared responsibility to engage, empower, and inspire successful lifelong learners.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Grading and academic achievement at CMS


Part I of II

Last week I highlighted just a small handful of some incredible innovations that are taking place at Carson Middle School.  Innovation is often thought of as something “new” but I like to think of innovation in education as something that allows us to apply different solutions to support or adjust to changing needs.  At Carson Middle School we are constantly considering ways in which we can innovate.

One of the innovations that we have spent a lot of time working through to support at Carson Middle School is student grading.  At the end of the 2013-14 school year we had a record number of students fail one or more classes with only 79% of all students at CMS passing all classes.  In terms of student numbers we had 869 students passing all classes and an alarming 231 students fail at least one class.  As we looked closer at our student pass/fail rates it became clear that student grades were not always reflective of what students were learning in classes.  What we noticed is that some student grades were inflated because of extra credit being assigned for non-academic assignments (i.e. brining in Kleenex boxes, being a hard worker, being nice, etc.) and some student grades were being deflated because of non-academic assignments (i.e. being late to class, not having a pencil, not turning in a permission slip on time, etc.).  As a staff we could all agree that we wanted to support having extra Kleenex in classrooms and could all agree that it is important to work hard, be nice, turn your work in on time, and be prepared for class the truth of the matter is that these were all non-academic grades that were significantly impacting student achievement within our school. 

Over the past two school years we have spent a significant amount of time learning how to implement standards based academic grades at CMS.  Our goal has been to promote student learning by reporting student grades that are accurate, consistent, meaningful, and supportive of student learning.  We created a citizenship grade to allow for behavior based grades that are still significant, but separate and not specifically related to standards based academic content (i.e. being prepared, being on time, etc.).  As a result of studying our gradebooks, from 2014 through 2016 we were able to raise our academic achievement levels significantly from 79% of all students passing to 95% of all students passing all classes. 

Think back to when you were in middle school.  Think about your experience as a student and how you were graded as a student.  What stands out to you about how you were graded?  Were you graded fairly?  How do you know?  Were you graded according to how well you learned the material?  How did you know what the expectations were about how you would be graded?  Think about how much has changed in the world since you were in school.  Often we hold the same expectations for our schools currently that we did when we attended schools.  In reality, it is a completely different world - both inside and out.  Academic grading is something that we all have experience with as a student, but very few of us really have experience and training as educators to truly understand what exactly the academic grade represents.  What goes into the academic grade and what exactly does the academic grade communicate to the student?  The parent?  The teacher?  There is a lot to consider in determining answers to these questions. 


Our teachers have been extremely innovative in building a complex system to support student learning that includes curriculum, assessment, and instruction.  As we are in the process of transitioning to support Infinite Campus as our student data management system I would ask our entire school community to be patient with the transition to a complex data system.  While we are going through some growing pains in our transition, I am confident that we will continue to create meaningful conversation between our school, students, and parents regarding academic achievement.  We are on the cusp of our SBAC scores being released and while I know our student achievement data won’t be what we would like to see as a school or community, it is a data point as we consider how to best support the learning needs of our students.  Please ask your students about Mastery Connect and how it supports student learning.  Please monitor Infinite Campus and ask your students about their academic progress.  Please communicate any questions that you have about learning at CMS to our school staff.  Most importantly please continue to build relationships with students to support academic achievement.  I will continue the grading conversation here next week – for now thanks for stopping by and please let me know if you have any questions.  Thank you!





















Wednesday, September 28, 2016



The POWER of INNOVATION (use the force!!!)


Carson Middle School is a learning community that is at the forefront of creativity and innovation in education.  I wanted to take a moment to highlight just one of many incredible innovations that is taking place right now at Carson Middle School.  Through the outstanding leadership of Mr. Rob Hostler (7th and 8th grade Technology and STEM teacher) our students have launched a school media production laboratory called "CMNEWZ."  In the short time that we have been in school (since August 22) nineteen students in Mr. Hostler's advanced multi-media class have created a school media website, linked our social media accounts, created a YouTube channel, and have begun production as a fully independent news media channel.  We are so excited to see what this wonderful group of learners and leaders bring to our school and community.  Please take a moment to explore the work that they have created so far this school year.  What they have created and achieved in such a short amount of time is truly incredible!  I am so proud of the effort and passion that Mr. Hostler and his students are pouring into this project and can't wait to see the positive impact that they are going to have on our school culture.  As we launch this project we want to make sure to highlight students, staff members, community organizations, athletics, academics, clubs, extra curricular activities, and all of the wonderful things that are taking place at CMS and in Carson City School District.  This is where we need your help!

We have created an e mail address for you to send information to be considered for our communication and media news networks.  Anything related to CMS that you would like to highlight, celebrate, or communicate in a positive manner will be considered.  All you have to do is send an e mail message to:  CMNEWZ@carson.k12.nv.us. That's it - it's that easy!  Please make sure to send as much information as you can, as well as a contact name and phone number or e mail address so that we can follow up with questions.  You can also contact the CMNEWZ CREW directly.  Check out their links below.  They are still building the media network before officially launching next Monday, October 3.  A huge thank you and congratulations to Mr. Hostler and our CMNEWZ CREW for supporting innovation in our school and community!  Congratulations on a successful launch!!!


http://www.cmnewz.org/

https://twitter.com/cmnewz2016

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqBF71uB4__BW6wNqfD296YwkPjBoQv2g


DON'T FORGET TO LIKE US ON FACEBOOK:

https://www.facebook.com/cmssolons/






Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Welcome!

Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year!  Actually, we are already completing our fifth week of school if you can believe that!  Fast and furious has been our pace so far this year and the forecast shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.  Anyhow, welcome to my first blog post for the 2016-2017 school year.  I will be using this site weekly to increase communication with staff, students, parents, and community members.  Thanks for stopping by!

With the quickened pace of opening the school year and implementing a new student information system (Infinite Campus) it has been critical for us to remain focused on our task at hand: student learning.  During the 2015-2016 school year our staff (along with parent input) met numerous times to craft a vision and belief statements to assist in guiding our school and clarifying our purpose as a learning community.  It was important for our school community to craft a vision that was clear, concise, easy to communicate, and most importantly meaningful and relevant.  Every decision that is made at Carson Middle School is filtered through our vision and beliefs.  Here are our statements:

Carson Middle School Vision:
Carson Middle School will create a culture of shared responsibility to engage, empower, and inspire successful lifelong learners.  

We believe:
All students are capable of learning.
High expectations for learning are reasonable to ensure academic success.
Every challenge is a learning moment and an opportunity for re-teaching.
All students and teachers deserve a chance to work and learn in a safe and respectful environment.
All students deserve to be challenged in a way that empowers them to take control of their own learning.
All staff, students, and family members hold stake in the educational process through shared responsibility.

As a school community we will continue to monitor, implement, and adjust our vision and belief statements throughout the school year and into the future.  These statements are not just words on a page, rather, they are directions and guidance for our moral compass as a school community in supporting our school motto, "Learners today...leaders tomorrow."  I would like to thank all of our staff and parents that assisted in creating our vision and beliefs and look forward to working with all of our school community members as we implement, instill, and adapt our vision and beliefs in the future.

This is already shaping up to be a wonderful school year at CMS!  We have some exciting new projects underway including a student run news network, remodeling and addition to our STEAM facility (science/technology/engineering/arts/math), new Chromebook devices for all students, increased technology integration, updated communication systems (Facebook, Twitter, school website, etc.), just to name a few.  We will be focusing on increased communication, innovation in learning, and building relationships with our students and community throughout the school year.  Please stop by on a regular basis to see what's happening at CMS!  I look forward to working with all of you throughout the school year!

Regards,

Dan Sadler, Principal
Carson Middle School
dsadler@carson.k12.nv.us

cms.carsoncityschools.com