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News and Notes from Mr. Cassie

Dear Shumate Parents,                        December 13, 2018

Over the last few months, I've had several conversations with parents who have expressed concern that their children's grades have slipped a bit despite working hard and completing their homework. While this has traditionally been the formula to earn "A's" in middle school, we have refocused our efforts to have grades more closely represent student learning.  As such, we have encouraged our teachers to build high, shared expectations with students and engaging activities that support students to find meaning and make sense of their learning.

The act of simply acquiring knowledge is no longer enough to prepare our students for the rigorous demands of assessments such as the M-Step, PSAT, and SAT, and ultimately to become college and career ready within a rapidly changing world. Education within the 21st century has shifted to helping students think critically and problem solve, so that we can help them to become innovators, creators, designers, and positive members of collaborative teams.  These skills will support the types of jobs that students will encounter throughout their lifetime, all of which require deep thinking that goes beyond the simple regurgitation of factual knowledge.

As we make these shifts in the learning experience we are providing, it's natural for students to struggle because they are being asked to think about school and learning in a new way.  In fact, it's only through such struggle that true, deep level thinking and learning can occur. This may result in a slight dip in grades for some students while our children learn to think more deeply in order to complete the complex work assigned to them. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but the more a student works to overcome challenges, the more prepared they will be for high school, the PSAT, SAT and beyond.

Through my perspective as both a parent of a middle school child, as well as a middle school principal, I can absolutely say that school is different than when we were students. With these shifts, the school experience may feel somewhat foreign to us parents.  Please take a look at the two lists below, which provide a brief summary of this shift in philosophy and rigor, and demonstrates how we're working to provide a significantly richer learning experience for our students.


a.      Rote memorization of facts and terminology

b.      Learning of ideas disconnected from questions about phenomena, real life observations, collaborative interactions, and other significant learning opportunities

c.       Teachers utilizing lecture as the primary instructional method

d.      Teachers posing questions with only one right answer

e.       Students reading textbooks and answering questions at the end of the chapter

f.        Pre-planned outcome for "cookbook" laboratories, hands-on activities, round-robin reading, worksheets, etc.

g.      Oversimplification of activities for students who are perceived to be less able to "do school" or participate at a high level


a.       Facts and terminology learned as needed while developing explanations and designing solutions supported by evidence-based arguments and reasoning

b.      Students conducting investigations, solving problems, and engaging in collaborative discussions with teachers' guidance

c.       Students discussing open-ended questions that focus on the strength of the evidence used to generate claims

d.      Students reading multiple sources, including content/topic specific magazine and journal articles and web-based resources to develop summaries of information and applying concepts to solve problems and/or create

e.       Multiple investigations driven by students' questions with a range of possible outcomes that collectively lead to a deep understanding of learning goals

f.        Student writing of journals, reports, posters, and media presentations that explain topics, argue claims using evidence, or communicate reasoning

g.      Multiple layers of supports so that all students can engage in high level, deep thinking activities

As always don't hesitate to reach out to your child's teacher or me so that we can help if something you are hearing or seeing is creating confusion.

Warmest Seahawk Regards,