Friday, October 28, 2011

A New Standard of Education

It was good to return to school on Thursday morning after spending several days at another high school in Massachusetts as the chairperson of a school accreditation team. As a member of the commission for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), I have the opportunity each year to lead of team of teachers and administrators in the process of evaluating the educational practices, leadership, and funding at another accredited high school. Each visit provides a great opportunity not only to provide professional service to another community, but also to work with educators from other school districts and to gain a deeper understanding of the standards by which NEASC accredits its member schools.

The accreditation process helps schools toward the achievement of high standards through a process of self-reflection, goal-setting, and peer review. NEASC has established seven standards by which they guide all aspects of school effectiveness, from teaching and learning to resources and funding. We are fortunate in that these standards are rigorous and require that schools are responsive to students' needs.

In 2011 the association updated its standards to address the obvious ways the world has changed and to meet the needs of 21st century learning. There are so many ways that the world has changed for our students' generation. The video below, put together by educational thinker Scott McLeod, shows the many ways technology has altered our global society.

In Thomas Friedman's book The World Is Flat he documented the way technology and social change have created a true global marketplace in which our students must compete. Likewise, in Tony Wagner's book The Global Achievement Gap he talked about the importance of teaching "survival skills" that can help our students adapt to the ever-changing workplace.

We are fortunate that NEASC has considered these changes in the most recent update of the standards for accreditation. The standards have placed an emphasis on 21st century learning, requiring schools to consider how to change their practices in order stay responsive to students' needs. Today's learners not only need the content knowledge to become socially literate, but also the skills that will allow them to use technology effectively, collaborate across networks, think creatively, and communicate with clarity and focus. As Karl Fisch, one of the co-creators of the "Did You Know" videos stated, "We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't exist, using technologies that haven't been invented, in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet."

When you think about schools in those terms, it can make the job of teaching and learning seem unattainable. Fortunately, the NEASC standards provide a framework by which schools can approach these challenges and set a new standard for public education.

At Nipmuc, we have begun the process of identifying our core values and beliefs as we prepare to determine our 21st century learning expectations. I look forward to gaining feedback from our entire school community as we hold true to the strengths that define our school while complementing our curriculum with the skills that will guide our students toward success.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Breakfast with Guidance

As a reminder, on Tuesday, October 18 the Nipmuc Guidance Department will run its first "Breakfast with Guidance" of the 2011 - 2012 school year from 8am – 9am in the Nipmuc PDC. Presenter Michael Delman will join us to discuss how to coach students to success in high school. Please see the information below for more details on the presentation. Space is limited for this opportunity. Please contact Ona Moore at or 508-529-2140 if you would like to attend.
Description of the Program:
Parents can't do it all. In fact, by high school, many parents are lucky if they can get a sentence or two across to their teen children without being seen as hopelessly outdated and receiving an eye roll. Thinking Outside the Classroom is an Executive Function coaching company that will share some of their tips with us on October 18 from 8-9 am. In their own words, "The 40 coaches in their company have the huge advantage of not being the parents of our clients, so even though our own kids might roll their eyes at us at times, other people's kids are willing to try our techniques. When they start getting results, we make sure that they know the tools are theirs now." The tools they will show us are ones that you can show your high school kids, and they will like most of them. The key is the word "show" … and to make sure that they don't think that the ideas came from you:) The focus will be on planning out long-term assignments (papers and projects) and on preparing effectively for school tests.

About the Presenter: After teaching in the Southborough Public School system, Michael Delman founded and served as principal for the McAuliffe Regional Public Charter School. As President of Thinking Outside the Classroom, he has created a dynamic, eclectic, and, above all, effective approach to helping students become more internally motivated and capable of attaining their goals. He received his Master’s in Education from Lesley University and his Bachelor’s degree from Brown University. Mr. Delman has been recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Education as a Distinguished Educator and received the Teacher Incentive Award from the Anti-Defamation League.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Taking on the AP Challenge

Juniors Krystina SanSoucie,
Meaghan Roche, Morgan Poe, and
Nicole Scott discuss a passage
in an AP Language and
Composition session.
As students registered for their classes during the spring of 2011, they were often reminded of the benefits of taking courses that would challenge them. Likewise, teachers and counselors also told our students that if they chose a rigorous course of study, they should be prepared to make a true commitment to those classes. On Saturday morning, 50 students in Advanced Placement English classes stepped up to that challenge.

Arriving at Nipmuc at 7am on Saturday morning, these students resisted the urge to sleep late or take the morning off in favor of taking part in a day-long study session. As part of the grant received from the Massachusetts Math and Science Initiative, students in Advanced Placement English, math, and science courses are offered three Saturday study sessions to help prepare them for the course-ending test. These sessions, provided in collaboration with Marlboro High School, Blackstone Valley Technical High School, and Milford High School, allow our students a chance to collaborate with students and teachers from different schools in an effort to improve their preparation for the test.

As we boarded the bus on Saturday morning to head to Marlboro High School, I was very proud to see the energy and determination of Nipmuc's students. Joined by English teachers - Mrs. Kyrka and Mr. Michael Clements - the students worked diligently through four sessions on topics ranging from test-taking strategies to rhetorical devices to writing an effective argument.

As always, I was proud of the way our students represented our school. The quality of their questions, the insight of their comments, and their willingness to collaborate were a great representation of the high quality work they do each day at our school.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blackstone Valley Youth Leadership Academy

The Blackstone Valley Education Foundation’s Youth Leadership Academy is in the process of recruting for the 2011-2012 school year. Over the years, Nipmuc's freshmen and sophomores have enjoyed this opportunity to develop and hone their leadership skills as part of this program.

Selected students will have the opportunity to work with approximately 25 students from other schools across the Blackstone Valley. Participants will complete nearly 35 hours practicing leadership skills and qualities while they create, manage and implement a community service project.

Every session is held at a different community location throughout the valley so students are exposed and learn the heritage of their neighboring towns. During this journey, students will meet and be mentored by community leaders, learn critical project management and presentation skills, decision making, problem solving as well as critical thinking skills.

The BVYLA program is an opportunity to forge new relationships and to experience accountability outside of the classroom, which can build self-esteem, self-awareness, and self-confidence amount those who have not yet experienced those milestones.

Applications for the BVYLA can be obtained in the main office or through the link below. All interested freshmen and sophomore students are encouraged to apply.

BVYLA Application

BVYLA Schedule of Events:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Boston College Splash

On Thursday of this week our guidance department will host representatives from more than 70 colleges and universities as part of our annual college fair. During this event our students have the chance to learn about schools that might interest them and to find out what makes each school unique.

This event provides a great chance for Nipmuc students to test the waters of the college search. For those looking to take the next step in their preparation for college, Boston College's Splash program may provide the chance they are looking for to plunge right into the college experience.

BC Splash is a free program offered to high school students that allows them to take a course taught by BC students in an area that interests them. The classes take place on the Chestnut Hill campus and give high school students the chance to work with current undergraduates on a topic that interests them. This year's offerings cover a range of topics including classes like "The Classics in the Modern World", "The Entrepreneur State of Mind", "Political Structures and Policies in the World of Harry Potter", and "The Chemistry of Cooking."

Shannon Guertin and fellow senior
Isabel Welch at the Spring 2011
BC Splash
Although BC Splash is only two years old, Nipmuc is fortunate to have some current students who took part in this activity last year. Current senior Shannon Guertin attended last year's Splash and found the program so meaningful that she signed up to be an outreach representative for the 2011 program. Shannon found the program worthwhile not only for the knowledge she gained in classes like "Miracles of the Human Heart" and "Successful College Essay Writing", but also for the chance to "explore the campus and get a feel for college life [while] interacting with students."

With Shannon's help, I'm hopeful to extend this opportunity to as many Nipmuc students as possible. As Shannon mentioned when we spoke about the program, "It can give an edge - especially to seniors - by giving them a chance to take classes and explore topics they want to study later." For other students Splash is "a chance to motivate them... and to see a college campus and get a sense of what they want to do when they get older."

BC Splash will take place on Sunday, November 13 beginning at 10am. Please check out the program's website for information about participation, parking, and FAQs.

You can view the program of studies for the day below:

Check out this video from last year's Splash:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Progress Reports/Guidance Updates

  • As a reminder, please be aware that we will send our students home with progress reports this afternoon. Should you have any questions about your child's grade, please feel free to contact his/her teacher.
  • On Wednesday evening (October 5) our guidance department will host a Senior College Planning Night at 7pm in the Nipmuc auditorium. Senior students participated in a student version of this presentation on Thursday of last week. Students are welcome, but not required to attend as this presentation is organized primarily for parents.
  • PSATs will take place at Nipmuc on Wednesday, October 12. All sophomores will participate in this test as well as any junior who would like to take part. All students need to stop by the guidance office to register for the test. The deadline to sign up for the test is Thursday of this week.
  • Nipmuc will host a college fair for students on Thursday, October 13 beginning at 9:30am. Representatives from over 70 colleges and universities will be available to meet with students.
  • The Nipmuc guidance department will host its first "Breakfast with Guidance" of the 2011-2012 school year on October 18 at 8am in the Nipmuc PDC. Counselors will welcome Michael Delman - President of Thinking Outside the Classroom - to present "Executive Functioning Coaching: How Your Child Can Have the Right Skills for Success in High School and Beyond." Mr. Delman will present on strategies and techniques that parents can utilize to foster the development of skills needed to complete tasks in all domains of student life. Space is limited for this presentation. Please contact Ona Moore to reserve your seat at 508-529-2140 or
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