February 22, 2011
Dear Junior High School Parents:
With this note, I bring you updates and news about two topics: 1) revisions made to the schedule for the final week of school, May 23-27, 2011, as a result of the “snowcation” that occurred January 10-14, 2011; and 2) enhancements made to the event formerly known as “Junior High School Honors Day,” which is newly named “Junior High School Celebration.”
Final Week of School, May 23-27, 2011
As you know, because of icy conditions during the week of January 10-14, 2011, Westminster was forced to cancel school. While we have added Monday, April 25, 2011 to the school-day calendar, I do not believe that this single day can replace the lost instructional time as a result of “snowcation.” Consequently, after much discussion with the Junior High School PAWS representatives and the school administration, the Junior High is altering our spring “exam week” and reclaiming several more class rotations.
Below you will find the schedule for May 23-27, 2011, loaded into a Scribd viewing screen. Instead of using May 23-27 for traditional exams, we will use half-days, Monday through Thursday, to recapture lost instructional time. Essentially, we are adapting final exams to final tests, which will fit into 50-55 minute classes, just as tests normally do in the Junior High. We will take special care to space out these final tests, so that students will not experience more than two tests in a single day. Because we are adapting exam week, we will not need an extended “review week” during May 16-20. Review for tests will occur as it normally does. In other words, the week of May 16-20 will operate as does any other normal week of school. As an additional benefit of this adaptation of the final two weeks of school (in the Junior High alone), students will be able to review their final assessments to continue their learning. This is an improvement over taking a final exam and dismissing for summer. We appreciate your understanding as we implement such a creative solution to losing a week of instruction in January.
2010-11 Revised Schedule for May 23-27, 2011 (for JH)
[due to lost instructional time Jan. 10-14, 2011 – Snow Week]
Enhancements Made to Junior High School Honors Day and Junior High Celebration
In the Junior High School, we enjoy countless moments of informal recognition for the learning, growth, and development that our students experience and demonstrate. These recognitions occur daily as teachers, coaches, directors, and advisors provide students with positive feedback about good decisions, strong thinking, determined effort, and noteworthy achievement. Of course, we offer constructive criticism, too, so that learners can grow from inevitable mistakes.
Formally, we have a number of events and ceremonies designed to provide more public recognition for accomplishments we wish to celebrate as a community. One of these events has been known as Junior High School Honors Day, which has typically occurred in late May each year. After much discussion and thoughtful deliberation, the Junior High is making several enhancements to Junior High School Honors day, which is being renamed Junior High Celebration.
In the video below, I explain the three fundamental changes to Junior High School Honors Day, as well as the anticipated program for our newly formulated Junior High Celebration. Please take a few minutes – 5 minutes and 22 seconds, to be exact – to view the video.
Additionally, I am providing a description of the various awards that will be presented at the Junior High Celebration – these descriptions can be found in the Scribd document below. In coordination with the changes to the final week of school, Junior High Celebration is now scheduled for Thursday, May 26, 2011, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., in McCain Chapel of Pressly Hall. Parents are invited and encouraged to attend as we celebrate together as a community.
2010-11 Descriptions of Awards Presented at JH Celebration
If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please contact your child’s grade chair, or one of the deans, or Director of Studies Betsy Spruill, or me. As I mention in the video, the next Junior High School Parents Parley with the Principal is scheduled for Wednesday, April 13, and should afford us an opportunity to discuss collectively any questions you have about the final week of school or Junior High Celebration. As you may remember, I am embarking on a sabbatical from March 5 through April 10, so I will be excited to tell you about my experiences when we get together on Wednesday, April 13.
Thank you for your understanding and thoughtful consideration of these changes and enhancements to end-of-school schedules and events. What a blessing to be in partnership with you as we work together to create the most positive and profound learning opportunities for the Junior High students.
The awards ceremony was a bit over the top. Some of the speeches for JrH students seemed like they were written to honor Mother Teresa. However, now it seems like the emphasis is shifting more and more away from academics. Westminster is primarily an academic school, right? Surely there is something in between? It seems like the core academic curriculum in both JrH and HS is being whittled away. I’m a little wary about the Race to Nowhere message. In this economy kids need to get a top notch education, and if it means “eating their spinach,” then they should do it. Kids don’t always know what’s good for them. That’s why there are teachers and parents.
I endorse the changes to the final week of class, though my kids have already expressed some anxiety about the challenges of that week–e.g., finding time to study for “finals.”
I agree with Tammy’s post regarding mixed feelings about the “summa cum laude” distinction, and I think her suggestion name would be more productive and positive.
I apologize for the delayed response to your blog – just got around to checking my emails. I like changing the name of the program to Junior High Celebration. I also like the changes you and your team made to the awards. The numerous individual subject/teacher awards given, though I’m sure well deserved, often made the program extensive and drawn-out. My feelings are mixed about the Summa Cum Laude award – probably due more to the name of the award than its purpose. I thought Magna/Summa Cum Laude were typically associated with college. So, creating it as a middle school designation seems a bit over the top. Westminster has high-achieving parents and with higher-achieving students. I can see this award becoming the focus instead of the learning. “With Highest Honors” sounds like a good name for this award.
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