Monthly Archives: September 2015

From The “Fairy Tales Fractured” Files… “We Can Offer More Opportunity For Kids”

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Even if the inevitably broken promises of enhanced opportunity were truthful, the Board has failed kids with their indecision.  It is past time for policymakers to embrace their schools’ size, which we have shown to be ideal according to research.

Size is never an excuse to shortchange children’s education, and excellence is not about money.  The budget is ample to serve the needs of students better than the district is doing so.

“..Even the smallest schools (100-200 students) are able to offer core curricula comparable to schools of more than 1,200…” ~Jack and the Giant School by Stacy Mitchell

“…there simply is no reliable relationship between school size and curriculum quality. For one thing, researchers have found that “it takes a lot of bigness to add a little variety”—that is, “on the average a 100% increase in enrollment yields only a 17% increase in variety of offerings” (Pittman and Haughwout, 1997)…” ~Education on a Human Scale – Corbett

“…The effective characteristics
of small schools can be lost even in small schools if
school leaders chase the illusion that bigger is better….” ~https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/the-hobbit-effect/

“…the closure of schools on the basis of their size is not warranted in terms of academic achievement or community or other measures of academic quality. There is a lack of evidence to suggest that small schools are incapable of achieving the broad goal set out for public schooling….” ~Michael Corbett What We Know And Don’t Know About Small Schools

Decades of research on appro- priate school size fail to document anything like the benefits for large schools advertised during this century (Smith & DeYoung, 1988). More- over, evidence that small schools actually blunt the negative effects of educational disadvantage (variously construed) on academic achieve- ment continues to accumulate(Fowler & Walberg, 1991; Friedkin & Necochea, 1988; Howley, 1989; Huang & Howley, in press; Plecki,) ~The Political Economy of School Consolidation

“The percentage of student participation has been shown to peak in high schools with 61 to 150 students.”~http://www.schoolreport.com/schoolreport/articles/schoolsize_9_98.htm

“…A growing body of North American education research on the “dollars and sense” of school size is exploding the myth and now suggest that smaller scale schools are not only better for students but, more surprisingly, more cost effective for school boards…” How Big Is Too Big?

“In her review of more than 100 studies on school size, Mary Anne Raywid of Hofstra Universtiy writes that the relationship between small schools and positive education outcomes has been  “confirmed with a clarity and at a level of confidence rare in the annals of education research.””Is School Consolidation a Good Idea?

“…Those who say small schools are not “efficient,” or effective, need to cite the evidence, not just the rhetoric. …”~Size Matters

“We will save you money.”

That’s the bait that trolls in the suckers.

We grow old too soon. Smart too late.”

~The humble Farmer, on School Consolidation

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A Message From Superintendent Mike Hammer

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Hello all,
Feel free to forward this to whomever you choose, staff, town managers, friends, family, or local blog sites. This is part of the communication plan for the district, in my opinion, and the more people that know about what is going on the better off we all will be.

We are continuing the meetings with town selectmen in order to get out and have people put a name with a face. Island Falls and Crystal are slated for the first week of October. At these meetings we will go over the figures that have been put together on the state templates regarding the potential savings if their is a decision to close a building. I also answer basic questions about anything related to the district. I have enjoyed getting to meet the people that are doing the difficult work on the town side of government. I also offer an invitation to have us return as we go through the year.

I am looking at bus routing software that comes at no cost from the state. It is called Transfinder. I think it will help the board answer some questions regarding transportation in the event we relocate students on either side of the district. I will keep you posted on this as we move forward. To use it effectively we need very accurate and up to date student data to make this work.

The building and grounds committee has taken a look at SACS’s basic building and systems. We are scheduled to look at KES and KMHS on October 6th. I anticipate a preliminary report at our next board meeting.

I had a terrific time at the KES open house, I admit, I couldn’t afford the calories in the cake auction, but will somehow help with fundraising for the wonderful programs going on in the school. I believe KVHS matched donations to make the auction a big success.

Chris and Peggy attended a Habits of Mind workshop in Ashland last week. This was sponsored by Central Aroostook Council for Education (CASE) and the Northern Maine Educational Consortium (NMEC) two very important organizations supporting educational initiatives in the “County”. A reminder that the Habits of Mind/Work are the fundamental skills we need our students to have, perseverance, work ethic, self regulation, and grit are what it takes to succeed in any learning endeavor.

We had an early release day on the 23rd, the elementary staff was hard at work examining student writing samples and grading expectations. The high school staff was getting into Web to school preparing student grading for reporting out to parents. Some of this work is being facilitated by our own people including one of our literacy coaches Mrs. DiMarco.

We have a full day workshop on October 9th. Eric Herlan, Drummond and Woodsum’s top special education attorney will be with the whole staff in the morning. This is an excellent opportunity to gain first hand knowledge regarding a very important part of the work we do in our schools. In the afternoon our elementary teachers will be working on their literacy class and middle/high school will continue work with data, assessment, and instructional practice.

I will be headed to Augusta tomorrow for an MSMA professional development committee. Our committee will be putting the finishing touches on the October MSMA conference. Please think of attending this conference, it is a great opportunity to meet other board members facing the same challenges we are facing and to get to know your superintendent in an informal setting.

Have a great weekend.

Mike Hammer

Interim Superintendent
RSU 50
mhammer@rsu50.org

“Off The Table”? ..or “Under The Bus”?

Research; reality often flies in the face of our assumptions. We hope communities facing the loss of their infrastructure money and children will question everything…

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“Busing is expensive and affects students and their families in many negative ways. An alternate, beneficial strategy for using an existing large building is to reconfigure the grade span in the facility to include students from kindergarten through 12th grade. In rural areas, drawing students from a wider age range will increase the pool, narrow the geographic area in which they live, and cut their transportation time to and from school. In any area, there are many social and pedagogical benefits to bringing students of all ages together, as well as benefits from making the school more accessible to the community. The best SWaS will serve elementary, middle, and high school students within the same facility….”  Dollars and Sense

” I truly do not believe the combination of KES and KMHS is a viable option and would venture to say it was taken off the table. ” -RSU 50 Interim Superintendent Mike Hammer

“One More Nail…” Superintendent Hammer on Closing Katahdin

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Timbered Classrooms is grateful to our readers who shared the following letter from the Superintendent’s office in which Mr. Hammer projects consolidation cost “savings”.

It would be silly to pretend that Katahdin and SACS are in equal jeopardy here, so I won’t….

“…These are strong estimates, they do not include any necessary upgrades in infrastructure….”
-RSU 50 Interim Superintendent Mike Hammer

Projections that ignore costs are anything but “strong” for those who nonetheless must PAY them and for whom those costs erase those “savings”. 

His projections come from a State formula that ignores the cost of these “necessary renovations”  but these so-called “savings” WILL, nonetheless, appear on the ballot when voters decide whether or not to close their school.

In the event Voters elect to keep, Katahdin open, the district will levy that sum IN ADDITION to Katahdin communities’ share as determined by the cost-sharing formula.

The district is under no obligation to spend that extra money on Katahdin or for the benefit of its children whatsoever; protection from a continuing campaign of fiscal asphyxiation is virtually nonexistent.

Community members will continue to pay more for less under the current leadership and do to the inherent disadvantages of the RSU model itself.

Here is Mr. Hammer’s letter in its entirety:

“To All Staff,

At last night’s board meeting I presented to the board specific cost savings for the closure of KES, SACS 7-12, and KMHS. Specifically, closing KES and moving the students to KMHS, this would net 110,000 dollars annually. Secondly, closing KMHS and moving the students North as previously discussed (577,000 annually). Lastly, closing part of SACS and moving 7-12 students South with yield an estimated 515,000 annually. These are strong estimates, they do not include any necessary upgrades in infrastructure. We used formulas and background data provided to us from the state that we would use in the event of a vote to close a school. There were no decisions made on any of the information that I provided last night. My purpose was to give factual information to the board, I feel that they are at a point were something must be decided.

In either case of closure of a 7-12 scenario we save upwards of 500,000 unfortunately the savings come on the backs of lost positions, some of those could be presently unfilled positions. There is more information to gather in terms of what makes for the best scenario to put 7-12 students together and the ultimate intent is to provide the highest quality education. We are also planning for the long term, in order to remain a viable district.

There is more information that we will be gathering. We will need to inform the communities through forums and in one scenario the local voters would have to decide if they want to bare the burden of increased taxes to keep KMHS open. I truly do not believe the combination of KES and KMHS is a viable option and would venture to say it was taken off the table.

We hope to keep communication lines open, there will be many difficult decisions that will need to be made as the process unfolds. Please remember that when the dust settles there will be a decision based on what is best for students balanced with what this area can sustain for the long term. Students must be kept in the loop as well and ultimately will get to make decisions on what their future could hold.
Mike Hammer

Interim Superintendent
RSU 50
mhammer@rsu50.org
207-757-8223 (O)
207-944-7751 (C)”

Standardized Test Scores 2015-2015

standardized-test-6Substantive criticism abounds of the Smarter Balanced Tests for which our children sat last year, and of standardized testing generally.  Opposition is growing nearly as fast as the evidence that children are not well-served by the mindset that created these strategies.

The State was, indeed wise to scrap Smarter  Balanced, and would do well to further question Education Reformers’ motives and expertise.

That said, as these tests consumed precious class time, and, many would argue, caused a narrowing of the curriculum more weighted to reading and math than ever…. Our readers should have the results to determine for themselves their value or lack of same.

MDOE Standardized Test Scores 2014-2015

For an informative piece; one Diane Ravitch has called a “must read” giving context surrounding how these tests are scored; what constitutes “proficiency” etc. click here