Dear Students and Families,
School is off and running and we’re looking forward to seeing families at back to school night on October 4th. Personally, I’m still trying hard to hold on to that summer mindset with a commitment to get enough rest, not overwhelm myself at work, and spend time with my family whenever I can.
I wanted to write you this week to let you know our plan for how we will end the year at Wellesley High School. As a reminder, I thought I’d re-send the note I sent you this summer as part of my back to school letter. Feel free to skip down to “The Plan” below if you don’t need the review.
End of Year Work
I wanted to give you an update about the work we’ve been doing around how we end the school year. The administrative team and I have spent our June retreat going over feedback we’ve received from the student and staff surveys, as well as the many folks who chose to communicate with us. I want to share some of our findings and let you know our process for improving this coming year’s experience.
Process : The Administrative team is working on altering the end of the year to reflect themes that came up in the staff and then the student surveys. We will be working with the faculty in August so we have a completed draft. We will hopefully be letting students know the school wide plan early this fall.
Themes from the faculty. In no particular order.
- Confusing directions beforehand
- May was brutal because departments gave exams and then did final experiences
- The scope of some projects was too great and created a workload that was way more than 10 minutes a night
- Math would like to give their exams all on the same day in two hour blocks
- Tell the students and staff what to expect as early as possible
- Science would like to be able to count their IRP but are wary about moving it later.
- Many experiences were described as being much more meaningful and powerful than previous exams
- What works for one discipline doesn’t necessarily work for all of them.
- Fix the 504/IEP mechanism for extra time
747 students (of about 1100 students total without the seniors) completed the survey. The students offered some of the same themes listed above about the challenges of May and the amount of work sometimes being much more than the 10 minute per discipline guidelines. They were also asked if they preferred this year or last year (9th grade was excluded from this) and in English, Math, Social Studies, Science, and C&ML they responded overwhelmingly (the highest was a 5 to 1 margin, the lowest was 2 to 1) in favor of this (past) year’s new format.
The Plan for 2019
1. We are continuing forward with where we were SY17-18 with more discretion/flexibility for departments because we believe that what works for one discipline doesn’t necessarily work for all of them. All the disciplines are continuing with End of Year exams, papers, or projects like they used last spring and making improvements based on their learning.
2. Term weights: 25%x4 (with CML allowed to continue with progressive weights). We intend for this to help decrease the intensity some classes felt last May. In the past final exams were worth 16% of the entire years’ grade. Now the final will be a part of the fourth quarter grade. This will also allow for semester courses to operate the same way year long courses do.
3. The regular class schedule will run right to the end with no special EOY schedule other than makeup day as our last day. During this time can look just like homework during the year. The teachers had a desire to gain back curriculum time. For the disciplines working on projects, it will allow for more continuity than the old finals schedule. Projects will continue to be designed so that the vast majority of the work can be done in class. Teachers will continue with the same homework expectations we have throughout the year. Exams, where applicable, will be given during class.
4. Final exams/experiences will not end on the last class meeting. Time for feedback/reflection is built in.
The teachers will be talking to their classes about the specifics of their courses as they always have. We will continue to work as a faculty to make sure we are helping protect kids from being overwhelmed by having too many experiences at the same time. Courses are continuing to give the same end of year experience to their classes regardless of teacher.
We’re hopeful this is going to be an even better learning experience for kids that helps them prepare for what we know is a complex college landscape by giving them projects, papers, and exams. We also hope it prepares kids for life by asking them to learn rigorous content, to reflect on it, collaborate with it, and think creatively with their own voices about it.
Thanks for all your support in this work.