Sunday, August 19, 2012

Canterbury Middle School: 2012-2013 School Year Preview

2012-2013 Preview


As you all know, the 5th grade will be part of the middle school this year. We have been preparing for this move for over a year now, and are excited to implement the change. We believe this move is developmentally appropriate and will add a wonderful new layer to the middle school experience.

As part of this transition, we took the opportunity to look at our program and are set to implement some very exciting things. Fifth through 8th graders will all take a leadership course designed to have students think specifically about what leadership is and how we can live it out each day. We have a new Big Brother/Big Sister program between the 5th and 8th grades. We increased our composition offerings in all four grades to focus on writing across all subjects. We continue to research and implement best practices in education and, with the prospect of a new science and technology building on the horizon, we are preparing our program to offer the finest educational experience possible to all of our students.

There is one specific piece of the Reconfiguration work of which I would like to remind you: the new Middle School Grading Policy. This policy will go into effect at the start of this school year. Throughout the 2011-2012 school year, we discussed an approach to grading that acknowledges the need for 1) a logical progression of difficulty as it pertains to how much we weigh summative assessments, formative assessments, and student responsibility and 2) the need for consistent policies when it comes to re-tests, late or missing work, and extra credit. Attached to this letter is an outline of the new grading policy in the middle school. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.


We are very excited about the technological improvements to our program we will be implementing this year. They will certainly enhance the learning experience for your child. First, we will have another laptop cart in the building. With this additional cart we now have three laptop carts and a computer lab containing a total of ninety-five Mac computers. Along with this incredible hardware infrastructure, we will also be using Google for Education Apps, particularly Google Docs, extensively this year. This platform will augment the learning experience for our students through a significant and meaningful increase in both peer-to-peer and student-to-teacher collaboration, communication, and feedback. All of this software use remains under our Canterbury domain and security standards while allowing students to store and access work from any computer at any time through the “cloud.”

Finally, as I mentioned in the April Reconfiguration Report, we will be rolling out a Student and Parent Portal called NetCommunity that will allow an individualized look at your child’s school experience including announcements, grades, class schedules, assignments, and extracurricular activities and schedules. In tandem with our grading policy, this should provide very clear insight into your child’s progress in as close to real time as is possible. We know you will be excited to have this kind of access. You will be receiving more details on this new service very soon.


One of the hallmarks of the middle school experience is the trips we offer to our students throughout their time with us. Trips are a wonderful way to address the whole child through experiential learning opportunities. This year we will be discussing the nature of our trips and how to best maximize our resources to provide the finest educational experience. This will mean that trips will take on a different look in the 2013-2014 school year. I will be soliciting your feedback as the conversation begins and also keep you up to date with the conversation’s progress.

2011-2012 Year in Review

High School Placement

You will remember that we began a more formalized high school placement program in 2011-2012. The purpose of this program was to provide a one-on-one family approach to finding the right high school for each student at the school. We are uniquely positioned to offer this service because of two factors. First, as a small PreK-8 school, we know our students and families very well, allowing for a caring and informed perspective on all of the high school options out there. Second, as an academically challenging PreK-8 school, we have developed and continue to build strong relationships with prestigious public, magnet, independent, and boarding schools seeking students who reflect our Middle School Vision. We will continue this program next year under the direction of Kathy Durham, Director of Student Life and Unity in Diversity.

This year we are proud to report that the Class of 2012 matriculated to twelve different high schools including Page, Grimsley, Northwest Guilford, Northern Guilford, The Elon School, Weaver Academy, Greensboro Day School, St. Mary’s, McCallie, Deerfield, Christ School, and Baylor. Additionally, almost all of our graduates who will be attending Page or Grimsley selected the International Baccalaureate track. We are very proud of our newest alumni and wish them all the best as they approach new challenges in high school.

One last point as we move forward: for the eighth year in a row a Canterbury graduate was selected as a local public school’s valedictorian or salutatorian.

8th Grade Portfolio Program

Last year was the first year for the Canterbury Portfolio Program. The core purpose of the program is to incorporate the necessary skills for success in the 21st Century and is in line with our mission of educating the whole child. More directly, it provides a context for students to see that education is a continual, integrated, and relevant process.

Eighth graders spent the year developing a portfolio of digital products which proved they had acquired the ten skills of a Canterbury graduate. The skills are:

  1. Solve a real-world problem using concepts from math and/or science.
  2. Demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language.
  3. Clearly and concisely outline a position on a topic and be able to explain and compellingly persuade others of its implications through writing.
  4. Demonstrate a commitment to care for self and others the world over.
  5. Participate in and demonstrate your role as a member of a team.
  6. Demonstrate knowledge of your faith as it has developed in your life.
  7. Develop a fundamental understanding of emerging ethical issues and dilemmas regarding new media and technologies.
  8. Explore an understanding of either justice, integrity, mercy, or compassion through the arts or literature.
  9. Exercise leadership.
  10. Respond to an experience of failure in a way that acknowledges innovation, involves small successes, and frequent mistakes.

Projects varied widely from papers and paintings to PowerPoints and Prezis; from podcasts and iMovies (including videos of work with the Special Olympics and NCAIS Honor Band) to virtual models of lunar bases.  Students presented their portfolio to a panel of administrators, answered questions about their work and experiences, and received immediate feedback over a two week period in May.

Overall, the program was a success. It provided the 8th graders with a venue to reflect on their learning, a real-world experience in project and time management, and a serious and meaningful opportunity to analyze and concisely deliver remarks about the work they completed over their middle school career at Canterbury. These are essential skills for citizens of our world and the 8th grade class did a fantastic job of putting those skills to work this year.

Based on feedback from students, parents, teachers, and mentors, we have implemented changes to the program which should make for an even better Portfolio experience in 2012-2013. Some of those changes include:
  • Students will now meet in Portfolio class once a week instead of every ten days.
  • Thanks to the Class of 2012, students will have exemplars of each skill.
  • Students will have the opportunity to have up to two skills pre-graded.
  • The mentor training program has been enhanced through a Portfolio handbook.
  • The platform for the Portfolio will move from a blog to a Google site.
  • The presentations will last one week, instead of two, and grades will be delivered after all students have presented.

We believe this program is crucial to our mission to educate the whole child and fulfills its purpose to provide a context for students to see that education is a continual, integrated, and relevant process.

iPad Pilot Program

In November 2011, I wrote to outline the goals of our iPad Pilot Program. In summary, we wanted to measure the effectiveness of the iPad in a one-to-one setting. We used as our guideposts the following questions:

  • How effective can the iPad be in terms of organization?
  • How effective can the iPad be in terms of classroom note taking?
  • How effective can the iPad be as an e-reader?
  • How effective can the iPad be in terms of student/teacher communication and collaboration?

Over the course of the iPad Pilot Program, we found that it was effective if used to its capacity. In terms of organization, note-taking, and teacher collaboration, its use demonstrated the value fairly quickly. Unfortunately, we were only able to get e-texts for our literature class and while iBooks was exceptionally effective in terms of classroom use, home reading comprehension, and note organization, it was of limited scope because the rest of the classes still depended on hard copy versions of their text resources. Furthermore, the e-versions of texts or curriculum-based resources are not cost effective nor have they been developed to the point where it makes sense to put everything a student needs on the iPad.

So, at this time, we cannot confirm that giving an iPad to every 7th and 8th grade student would be beneficial. Each student would still require other textbooks and/or information. In the words of one of our 7th graders, “it isn’t worth it if it is just going to be another book I bring to school.” So for now, we will not be implementing a one-to-one model with iPads in the 7th and 8th grades.

We do feel that the software development is moving rapidly enough that we might be able to implement their use in the near future. Apple’s recent announcement of their partnership with three major textbook publishers, as well as their creation of e-reader development software, means we will see high quality resources at a reasonable price point to consider moving to a one-to-one model in the future. When that times does come, we will have the research and training in place to be able to move - if we choose - into that model quickly.

I am excited about how these three programs developed over the 2011-2012 school year and for what 2012-2013 holds in store. We continue to work to make them as effective as possible in developing the whole child by challenging the mind and nourishing the spirit in a diverse community guided by Judeo-Christian values.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!


David Skeen
Middle School Director
Canterbury School

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