[Skip to Content]
  • Decrease Text Size
  • Increase Text Size

Our Year in Review – and What Lies Ahead

Each year, we speak about how quickly the year flies by. Suddenly it’s June and time for end of year field trips and graduations! 

I want to begin by thanking our teachers, administrators, and all of our staff members who have consistently been open to new ideas and new learning. Each and every one is always giving their best. It is because of our staff that we are able to grow, to create new pathways to learning, and try new approaches. We recognize that we are 19 years into the 21st Century and this new century presents new challenges that we had not before ever imagined, but now are our reality.

Our staff is learning more each year about how and why we aim to do more Personalized Learning. We understand that students need to be encouraged to explore and create and find their interests. Students need to operate within parameters, so that we know they are mastering content standards, but students should be able to select projects and have “voice and choice”, as teachers become guides to help students facilitate their own learning and lines of inquiry. Not every student has the same interest; however, they usually can find their own way to express what they have learned by tapping into their interests. We began a form of Personalized Learning when Maker Spaces began popping up in all of our K-8 schools, as students collaborate, plan projects, create, problem solve, and learn to work together and take a task to completion. That was a beginning.

As we work to integrate different ways students show evidence of their learning, assessment and grading are done differently now. How we measure learning should provide students different ways they can showcase their learning. We realize that accepting failing work does not achieve our purpose in education. Our job is to assure that we are providing every student the opportunity to learn. We do not allow a student the right to not do the work or to not try. And it’s not just the academic grade that students should be striving to achieve, but also the “learning practices”. For students in grades K-8, and next year in grades K-9, being timely, persisting, working well with others, and these kinds of work habits will be assessed, as well.

Analyzing reading and mathematics benchmark data and setting higher standards for what being a proficient learner is has made all teachers and administrators more aware of how our students’ are currently achieving and where we must improve. Because schools now study reading and math data much more frequently, we have learned that most of our elementary schools are in need of either an improved reading program and/or a new math curriculum in the coming year, as we recognize that there are better instructional programs and methods than we have used in the past.

A number of our teachers who teach science at various grade levels have been trained in the Next Generation Science Standards and the very different ways to teach science. No longer does a student read a chapter, memorize information, and answer the questions on a paper test. Instead, science is based on inquiry, wonder, asking questions about “why”, and then engaging students to set about trying to answer that “why”. 

Some of these learning practices that we are focusing on in the early grades will now be highlighted in the work that the High School is doing, through “Portrait of a Graduate”. The High School has established the most important characteristics that students, staff, and other stakeholders believe every graduate of HVRHS should have. These areas are being: A Communicator, A Problem-Solver, A Self-Advocate, Globally & Environmentally Aware, and Confident. These attributes do not begin at the High School, but need to be addressed in the early years and into high school.

Speaking of communication and being a self-advocate, Student Led Conferences have been an important way that students take responsibility to track their learning and progress over time, and communicate to their parents and teachers what they have learned. Students speak for themselves, rather than their teachers doing this. 

Professional Learning Communities, comprised of K-12 teachers and administrators, meet regularly to discuss Grading Practices, Student Led Conferences, Student Data and Its Use, and Personalized Learning. These region-wide meetings help everyone to see each school’s perspectives, challenges, and address concerns as a region.

Teacher observations and evaluations are also being conducted differently, as colleagues who have undergone numerous days of training are calibrated, so that administrators, who also conduct evaluations, are assured that teacher instruction and student learning are always reaching higher standards. A quality teacher in every classroom, one who knows their students and how they learn, is the most important factor in student achievement; therefore, ongoing professional learning is key to improving educators.   

We want all students to have extra-curricular opportunities, so Special Olympics began this year. Twelve athletes, ranging in ages from 8-19, participated in swimming, basketball skills, and track and field. They also had the very special assistance from a number of HVRHS student volunteers —a very clear demonstration of the caring community that we wish to continue.

An Inter-Agency Task Force was formed, with collaboration from many organizations focused on healthy behaviors, to learn and communicate with students and families about both prevention and intervention, to address what we perceive to be a problem among teens, and plan to put more programs in place to help students.

We have formed a committee with members from each town to study and consider more regional Middle School sports and activities and more will be decided in the year ahead. It’s also time again for schools to review their three year Strategic Plan and determine how further gains in student learning shall occur.

As we look to the year ahead, we will always be learning more to improve upon what we do. Education is never done changing, because the world is changing. We cannot expect schools to remain stagnant, with straight rows of desks, students doing all of the listening, while a teacher does all of the talking, and students doing similar projects. Students learn in different ways and we must adjust our teaching to meet their different needs and interests. 

We can’t “do school” the way our parents or we did. American philosopher John Dewey said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” If we believe that public education is the foundation of our nation, then we must change, for the sake of all students and their future.

We are looking forward to a new year, new ideas, and new learning! 

Congratulations to the graduating classes of 2019! We wish all of our students and staff a safe and healthy summer until we see you back again!

Dr. Pam Vogel, Superintendent