Posted in Colchester Middle School, Community, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Other Important Information, Personnel, Primer Series, Programs

Autism Awareness and Information About CSD’s Special Education Programming

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, faculty and staff at Colchester Middle School wore special T-shirts supporting raising awareness for this neurological condition.

The T-shirts have an autism awareness logo on the front and CMS’s name and location printed on the back. Principal Dawn Gruss and special educator Deb Gay spearheaded the initiative in an effort to celebrate all students’ unique individuality.

CMS faculty and staff wore autism awareness T-shirts every Friday throughout the month of April in a show of support.

Autism’s prevalence is increasing in the United States. “As a school, we are striving to learn more and better ways of serving, guiding, and empowering our students to live independent, productive, and fulfilling lives,” Ms. Gay said. “What better way to show that than by wearing the T-shirts each Friday in April?”

As we have discussed in the Spotlight before, special education—of which autism is a part—is a vast and complex subject encompassing a host of factors regarding specific classifications of needs—and the process of identifying and qualifying them—as well as the various approaches to instruction, specialized services, funding, and even legal issues. The school district tailors instruction through a variety of measures to students with identified, explicitly defined disabilities through alternative learning environments, individually tailored instruction, adaptive materials and equipment, modified curriculum, and so on.

(CSD’s special education program has received high praise from the state; please click here to read more about it.)

To read our primer about special education, please click here, and please click here to access the Vermont Agency of Education’s Special Education Rules document.

For more information about CMS’s celebration of Autism Awareness Month, please call (802) 264-5800. For more information about CSD’s special education program, please call our administrative offices at (802) 264-5999.

When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community! Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to the Spotlight.

Posted in Colchester High School, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Malletts Bay School, Other Important Information, Primer Series

Primer Series: Collective Learning Groups—The Importance of Teacher Collaboration and Its Benefits to Our Students

Collaboration allows teachers to capture each other’s fund of collective intelligence.
—Dr. Mike Schmoker

As a component of our educators’ ongoing professional development work, there is increasing emphasis on teacher collaboration as a means of enhancing students’ educational opportunities.

Why is teacher collaboration important, and how does it benefit our students?

  • Teacher collaboration allows teachers to share resources and exchange ideas about a variety of instructional approaches and ways in which they can help to further tailor instruction to meet the various needs of their students.
  • In addition to sharing resources and data, teachers can engage in discussions about methods that work well and ways in which methods can be improved. By reflecting upon their own practices, teachers can benefit from their collective wisdom and experience, applying that wisdom and experience for the benefit of their students.
  • It allows all teachers to share responsibility for the learning of all students; similarly, teachers share a greater sense of accountability for students’ academic achievement. In the same way, the collaboration provides teachers with a strong professional culture and a sense of teamwork.
  • It fosters greater uniformity in the application of school-wide procedures and policies.
  • It provides students with the additional benefit of granting them access to a wide variety of teaching styles.
  • It provides additional means through which students can make the most of their learning opportunities.

A recent example of effective teacher collaboration was at Malletts Bay School, where students practiced important twenty-first-century skills through hands-on learning projects.

As part of the district’s updated social studies curriculum, MBS third graders conducted a comprehensive study of Native Americans, making tribal-inspired traditional crafts and sharing them with one another during a potlatch celebration featuring foods from varying tribal regions. They later delved further into their research, preparing informational presentations and then breaking into groups to share their knowledge with other classes. This independence and sharing with one another created a very high level of energy and engagement for the students. Furthermore, these collaborative learning strategies, including those that involve speaking and listening skills, incorporate important elements of the new Common Core State Standards.

Malletts Bay School students enjoy a recent Native American-themed potlatch celebration as a component of their study
Malletts Bay School students enjoy a recent Native American-themed potlatch celebration as a component of their study.

Another recent example involved world languages teachers from Burr and Burton Academy visiting Colchester High School to exchange ideas around differentiated instruction. Following advanced preparation, the visiting teachers from Burr and Burton Academy observed Mary Romary’s French class and Carrie Robinson’s Spanish classes, after which the educators met to exchange ideas, establish beneficial connections, and cultivate colleagueship.

CHS's Vito Cannizzaro, B&B's Michelle Emery, CHS's Mary Romary, B&B's Katie Bove, CHS's Carrie Robinson, B&B's Sue Richie, and B&B's Chris Nolan.
CHS’s Vito Cannizzaro, B&B’s Michelle Emery, CHS’s Mary Romary, B&B’s Katie Bove, CHS’s Carrie Robinson, B&B’s Sue Richie, and B&B’s Chris Nolan.

At CHS, Principal Amy Minor and science teacher Heather Baron cofacilitate collective learning groups (CLGs) as a means of strategizing how educators can:

  • improve inclusive practices in their instruction;
  • collect and analyze data for the purpose of incorporating current research into their teaching practices;
  • formulate methods of using technology in transformative ways to better facilitate differentiated instruction;
  • identify gaps and devise solutions to them;
  • expand and enrich student learning opportunities;
  • develop methods of creating and incorporating authentic learning experiences into the students’ curriculum;
  • foster interdisciplinary connections and integration;
  • encourage critical-thinking and problem-solving skills; and
  • enhance creativity, accountability, organization, and more.

(It was not for nothing that CHS attracted the attention of the Vermont Agency of Education and the Vermont State Legislature, who have regaled the school as a model for other high schools across the state.)

The Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017 emphasizes a number of important pathways to foster excellence in our schools. We are working hard for our students and our community.

For more information about teacher collaboration in Colchester School District, please contact any of our schools.

Do you like CSD Spotlight? If so, please encourage your family and friends to subscribe! We are working hard to engage our community and keep everyone informed. Please help us spread the word!

Posted in Accountability, Community, General, Other Important Information, Primer Series, Programs, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

This Is Our 500th Post!

As is stated in the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017, we work to “generate positive awareness of school activities and services and to encourage effective dialogue within Colchester and beyond.”


CSD Spotlight is coming up on its second anniversary, and in that time, it has published five hundred articles—including photographs and videos—in an effort to foster the open communication, transparency, accountability, and community spirit that are so important to our students’ education. CSD Spotlight articles cover a wide variety of subjects in an effort to offer something for everyone. Just a sample of articles about your schools and other important education-related issues include information about:

We’ve also shared stories about important opportunities and initiatives in your schools, such as:

How are we doing with our communications efforts? We would love to hear from you to find out what else you would like to know about your schools and about education today. What other sorts of news and information would you like to see? What would you like to know more about? How can we better serve you?


And remember that, in addition to CSD Spotlight, we also use a number of other outreach strategies to enhance communications, including:

The Colchester School Board encourages community participation at their meetings; in fact, the board’s agenda solicits comments from the community at every meeting. (Join them at Colchester High School on the first and third Tuesday of each month beginning at 7:00 p.m. You can also watch them on Lake Champlain Access Television’s Channel 16 on Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 a.m.) We also host and encourage participation in numerous community events in all of your schools throughout the year to foster the collaborative spirit that is so essential to academic excellence.

Help us celebrate! We can better tailor our communications with our community when we better understand what our community needs. We hope to encourage dialogue that allows us to be proactive and that enhances our collaboration. Please send us your comments and suggestions to

Do you like CSD Spotlight? If so, please encourage your family and friends to subscribe! We are working hard to engage our community and keep everyone informed. Please help us spread the word!

Posted in Community, General, Primer Series, Programs, Union Memorial School, Videos, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan, Wellness

Beyond Mr. Yuk: DARE Officer Helping to Teach CSD Students Important Strategies for Staying Safe

Last year, we offered Part I and Part II of a primer entitled “Law Enforcement Presence in Our Schools and Why It Is Important,” and in that two-part primer, we discussed aspects of the DARE curriculum that is taught in our schools by specially trained members of law enforcement. The crux of that curriculum is a variety of ways to teach students about keeping themselves safe.

Colchester Police Department’s Corporal Fontaine, Colchester School District’s DARE officer, has been explaining strategies to students for identifying whether certain household items—cleaners, medications, and the like—are safe. Part of Corporal Fontaine’s strategy involves discussing different types of storage containers, various packaging labels, and where assorted household items are often stored in order to help students understand the differences between what is safe and what is best avoided.

This goes well beyond the Mr. Yuk of old.

Mr. Yuk, courtesy of Wikipedia
Mr. Yuk, courtesy of Wikipedia

Corporal Fontaine has also recently been working with students about various other strategies for staying safe. Here is a short video clip of a recent visit to Mrs. Howard’s class at Union Memorial School wherein Corporal Fontaine explains the Know! No! Go! Tell! strategy of personal safety for dealing with pressures from peers and adults in instances where students might be asked to do something harmful or unsafe.

The DARE curriculum is very extensive, and it includes interactive and age-appropriate education about a vast array of subjects, including decision making, information about where they can go for help for a variety of issues, methods and techniques for determining a person’s credibility, risks and consequences, maintaining responsibility and accountability for one’s actions, and a great deal more.

Partnering with Colchester Police Department for the benefit of our students in this way is another fabulous example of the ways in which CSD’s efforts speak directly to the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017—specifically with regard to Pathway E: Parent, Community, and School Partnerships Among Lifelong Learners; Pathway F: Wellness-Oriented, Balanced, and Healthy Learners; and Pathway G: Town + School = One Vision.

For more information about DARE, please call Colchester Police Department at (802) 264-5556.

Do you like CSD Spotlight? If so, please encourage your family and friends to subscribe! We are working hard to engage our community and keep everyone informed. Please help us spread the word!

Posted in Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, General, Grants, Malletts Bay School, Porters Point School, Primer Series, Programs, Union Memorial School

CSD Libraries Offer Highly Accessible Resources, Research Skills Development, and More

Colchester School District’s libraries are wonderful resources, and they are a great deal more than simply vast book repositories. Increasingly celebrated as twenty-first-century learning environments, school libraries serve vastly important purposes in education. Along with teaching and empowering students to distinguish relevant, quality information from erroneous materials they might find on the Internet, they also serve as powerful sources of technology implementation and investigative collaboration in students’ daily lives. Interested? Read on.

CSD’s Information Technology department installed and set up Destiny® Library Manager™—a software product from Follett Software Company—earlier this year. The program, which is called CSD Reads, replaced the district’s former library software, and it is used in all of the district’s school libraries.

Why is CSD Reads good for parents and students?

A significant advantage of CSD Reads is its accessibility to the entire community; it is an online catalog which can be accessed using any Internet-ready device—and this facilitates searching the inventories of any of the five schools’ libraries rather than having to contact individual librarians to request information about specific titles. This makes CSD’s libraries’ inventories considerably more accessible to parents and students; it is a great resource for parents to manipulate in order to have at-home discussions with students about book selections. CSD Reads further assists students in locating the books in which they are interested, and it is also further integrated with PowerSchool, which allows for more up-to-date information in patron records.

Why is CSD Reads good for teachers?

Teachers use CSD Reads from their classrooms as they prepare for lessons, quickly and easily ascertaining whether the books in which they are interested are available and planning their lessons accordingly. Teachers can also far more easily reserve books across all schools in the district, which in turn allows for improved use of the district’s library materials.

What are some other library-related resources and skills development opportunities?

CSD Reads is not the only fabulous library software in use in the district. At Colchester High School, librarian Christine Eldred uses an online research software widely used in colleges and universities called LibGuides that allows for the integration of a variety of resources to support assignments and projects, including embedded video, e-books, recommended websites, research databases, documents, images, maps, primary sources, RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, podcasts, current news, online exhibits, and more. The LibGuides software helps the library to further support curriculum and student learning while also connecting the library to the classroom.

In addition to the dynamic software programs is the educational component of their use; at CHS, for example, Ms. Eldred works with teachers to help students develop excellent research and inquiry skills, including basic research and online searching; media bias; using online databases and other specialized research tools; social bookmarking; creating citations; and understanding the differences between paraphrasing, quoting, and summarizing. She has also created a number of helpful guides to facilitate research; to view them, click here.

Colchester Middle School’s library is a buzz of activity, including a recently organized hands-on experience with civic responsibility.

Malletts Bay School’s library, with the help of librarian Lynn Hebert (read her blog here!) and a generous grant from the Robert T. Stafford Memorial Enrichment Grant, has acquired a number of NOOK and NOOK Color™ e-readers to facilitate special education initiatives. (If you would like to read more about our students’ use of NOOK readers and their associated benefits, please click here.)

Both Porters Point School and Union Memorial School’s libraries host the Red Clover event every year—an event cosponsored by the Vermont Center for the Book/Mother Goose Programs, the Vermont Department of Education, and the State of Vermont Department of Libraries that seeks to encourage young children’s appreciation for writing and illustration. More than twenty thousand K–4 students enjoy the annual list of nominated books. “My first goal is to help students become lifelong readers and find the library as an inviting place,” said PPS librarian Mary Ann Kadish (read her blog here!). “Another goal is to assist teachers in finding materials that can expand and enrich the curriculum to make lessons enjoyable and interesting for students.” Of PPS’s library, Ms. Kadish said proudly, “We have over nine hundred leveled, multiple-copy books housed in the library which are found in the catalog. These books are used by teachers for reading instruction.”

Second graders in Mrs. Bissonnette's and Mrs. Benjamin's classes learn to conduct and refine biography searches.
Second graders in Mrs. Bissonnette’s and Mrs. Benjamin’s classes learn to conduct and refine biography searches.

Union Memorial School’s librarian Judy Flanagan (read her blog here!) stepped up to help school libraries devastated by Hurricane Irene in 2011, coordinating the collection and donation of new or nearly new books to benefit Moretown Elementary School in a wonderful show of empathy and solidarity. (If you would like to read more about it, please click here.)

Annual book fairs held in our schools’ libraries are open to the public every year, as well; family members and friends can create and send wish lists to other shoppers through the online fairs, allowing shoppers to browse the selection from the comfort of home while supporting students’ reading and programs and materials for the libraries at the same time.

Our librarians work to create comfortable, inviting, and inspiring environments to help facilitate a love of learning and literacy, and they also host guest authors to meet with our students—author Margaret Peterson Haddix, author Mary Downing Hahn, and author Jason Chin are just some examples (author Robert Hunton has also visited with and even guest taught CSD students).

And did you know that CSD has access to the University of Vermont’s more than 1.39 million text and serial files—as well as a host of other materials—at no cost? (If you missed our September 20, 2011, feature about that incredible resource, you may read it here.)

If you would like more information about CSD Reads or about any of our schools’ libraries (Colchester High School’s Ruth B. Winton Memorial Library with Christine Eldred, Colchester Middle School’s library with Angelika Mahoney, Malletts Bay School’s library with Lynn Hebert, Porters Point School’s library with Mary Ann Kadish, and/or Union Memorial School’s library with Judy Flanagan), please contact any of our schools.

And if you’d like to read our five-part primer on literacy, please click here!

Do you like CSD Spotlight? If so, please encourage your family and friends to subscribe! We are working hard to engage our community and keep everyone informed. Please help us spread the word!

Posted in General, Primer Series

Primer Series: Vermont School Choice Legislation

You may have heard that the Vermont State Legislature recently passed new legislation regarding school choice. In this primer, we offer the highlights of this new legislation and provide access to additional resources about it.

While what was dubbed as the “school choice bill” originally aimed to offer students in grades 1–12 access to any public or approved independent school when it was initially introduced, the final result was an expansion upon regional school choice, known as Act 150. Historically, approximately 300 Vermont students in grades 9–12 have participated in regional school choice on an annual basis.

In essence, the new legislation removed the former geographic boundaries associated with school choice. The legislation includes limits on transferring students and addresses the application and notification process of interested students. It also discusses reenrollment of and tuitioning for transferred students. Because high school selections through the former regional school choice have already been made for the upcoming school year, the legislation will take effect for the 2013/2014 academic year.

About ninety Vermont towns participate in tuitioning, which has been an element of Vermont’s educational reality for nearly 150 years, and it only exists in towns without schools to serve its necessary grade levels. Tuitioning towns are not required to provide transportation for their students, and the same holds true for public school choice.

Proponents of school choice herald it as an opportunity to facilitate the best educational fit for students in order to maximize academic success. Parents and students can now assess factors like extracurricular offerings, school size and culture, proximity to parents’ place of employment, and many others to determine which high school in Vermont might be the most optimal fit.

Opponents of school choice are concerned that different standards of academic achievement eventually develop as a result of inconsistent standards across institutions, and they fear that school choice will promote social stratification.

To read the language of the bill (beginning on page 1828), click here.

If you would like more information about school choice options in Vermont, please contact Peter Thoms, a policy analyst with the Vermont Department of Education, at (802) 828-5104 or

Do you like CSD Spotlight? If so, please encourage your family and friends to subscribe! We are working hard to engage our community and keep everyone informed. Please help us spread the word!

Posted in Colchester Middle School, General, Malletts Bay School, Porters Point School, Primer Series, Union Memorial School, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan, Wellness

Primer Series: Inservice Days

Have you ever wondered about what takes place during an inservice day?

Inservice days offer important training and professional development opportunities for teachers and staff covering a vast array of topics—anything from new research in instructional design to technology implementation strategies … and from considerations for special needs students to information about the Common Core State Standards. The purpose of inservice days is to support our educators so that they, in turn, can best support our students. These professional development and ongoing training opportunities are vitally important for our educators in our efforts to provide excellence in our classrooms.

School administrators custom design their inservice days in order to best support their educators. This flexibility is important since each individual school may face different issues. Offering a wide variety of trainings ensures that educators are well positioned to work collaboratively to support their school’s overarching mission and offer the best opportunities for the students.

As an example, both Malletts Bay School and Colchester Middle School offered mindfulness workshops with Martha Whitney as a component of one of their recent inservice days. (Please see our November 4 article, “Mindfulness in Our Schools,” to learn about the benefits of mindfulness curriculum.) Mindfulness is aligned with the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017, which has a pathway dedicated to wellness-oriented, balanced, and healthy learners.

The mindfulness-oriented inservice is closely related to another example of recent inservice training, in which Porters Point School and Union Memorial School attended a Howard Center presentation about creating trauma-informed learning environments. Creating such environments for students who have or who are experiencing complex trauma can help them to better recognize and learn to alleviate their stressors. This, in turn, has positive implications for entire classrooms and the schools’ overall academic climate.

These are just a few examples of the wide variety of training and development opportunities that take place during inservice days. If you would like to know more, please contact Colchester School District’s administrative offices at (802) 264-5999.

Do you like CSD Spotlight? If so, please encourage your family and friends to subscribe! We are working hard to engage our community and keep everyone informed. Please help us spread the word!

Posted in General, Porters Point School, Primer Series, Programs

Primer Series: Law Enforcement Presence in Our Schools and Why It Is Important—Part II

Last Friday, we introduced Part I of this primer about Colchester Police Department’s extensive efforts and involvement with our schools. We are pleased to continue that discussion today in “Law Enforcement Presence in Our Schools and Why It Is Important—Part II.”

As a quick recap, Part I discussed a bit about how the program began, the specialized training that the officers must complete to prepare for and maintain their roles in our schools, and an introduction to some of the curriculum that the officers teach as part of the program.

Aside from organized curriculum, the officers participate in a vast array of ongoing in-school and community outreach efforts like reading aloud to students, participating in Red Ribbon Week, helping out with Malletts Bay School’s February Reading Week, attending PTO meetings when appropriate, liaising with a number of mentoring programs (including the Town of Colchester’s ACE Before- and After-School Program), attending student games and other extracurricular functions, and assisting with bus dismissal. (And officers who are not directly assigned to work in our schools on a regular basis still periodically spend time with our students; officers help with Porters Point School’s Project Inside Out every year, and students have had the opportunity to meet Officer Dewey and his police dog, Tazor, at special presentations. As mentioned in Part I, officers also sometimes assist with instruction about forensics, as well.)

The program is designed to serve as a piece of the first line of issue prevention rather than as a punitive system. Corporal Fontaine stresses that the program is really important because it also serves to strengthen relationships with students and allows the students and the community members to see law enforcement professionals in a different—and friendlier—light. “When you live in your community, the kids don’t just see you in uniform; they see you everywhere,” he said. “In some communities, students only see on-duty police officers when something is wrong. Our youth are less likely to see the police in adverse conditions, and it has enriched their relationships with the police.” He added, “The community is worth investing this time and energy.” Indeed, a number of other schools acknowledge this concept as a community initiative. Burlington School District maintains a police presence, as do schools in Winooski, South Burlington, and Essex to name a few. Fontaine said that schools with police presence typically have a lower incidence of behavior-related problems. In fact, a number of studies have pointed to police presence on school campuses as contributing to the following:

* a significant decline in negative behaviors, including violence, vandalism, bullying, underage drinking and drug use, and threatening behavior
* traffic calming near campuses
* a reduction in unauthorized persons on campus and a powerful deterrent for trespassing
* reduced truancy
* improved relations between students and law enforcement
* increased perception of safety for students, faculty, and staff
* a reduction in opportunities for crime
* immediate availability of law enforcement professionals in the event of an emergency

The police officers in our schools also collaborate closely with teachers and administration in a number of very important ways, as well, as they work to protect lives and property. They actively participate in the schools’ crisis management teams and work closely with administration to develop and expand crime-prevention efforts. They assist with the evacuation and lock-down drills, help to develop and coordinate incident response plans, and provide feedback and strategize methods for improved school safety. The officers also work closely with the district around other difficult issues like child safety protocols and restraining orders, and they partner with the state attorney’s office to ensure our schools’ compliance with state regulations.

But Corporal Fontaine stresses that the positive impacts of police presence in our schools need to be a collaborative effort—meaning that the students must also receive the messages’ reinforcement at home. “The more involved you get in your communities, and the more buy-in you have, the more sense of responsibility the kids will develop. The schools encourage resiliency of these kids, and these kids need it backed up at home. So keep the communication open, and keep that strong base open; it’s all-inclusive and can’t only come from one place. Stay involved with your kids, your schools, and your after-school programs as much as possible.”

To close, we offer these words from former Secretary of Health and Human Services and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Donna Shalala:

We know the parental support, community support, makes a difference. It’s not just the metrics of testing and putting pressure on the schools and on the teachers.

If you would like to learn more about Colchester Police Department’s involvement with our schools, please call (802) 264-5556.

Thank you for joining us.

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”

Posted in Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, General, Malletts Bay School, Porters Point School, Primer Series, Programs, Union Memorial School

Primer Series: Law Enforcement Presence in Our Schools and Why It Is Important—Part I

If your support the community, they will support you.
—Jerry Greenfield

If you have ever wondered why Colchester Police Department vehicles are so often found at our schools, this two-part primer is definitely for you. (Hint: It is a good thing.)

Colchester Police Department’s (CPD’s) regular involvement with our school district has been in place since 1989; the program was based upon a concept developed in Los Angeles in 1983 as a result of that city’s increase in violence and drug use. The reasons for incorporating law enforcement professionals into the academic environment are multifold and interrelated, and all of them have the ultimate aim of helping to foster and facilitate safe and healthy citizens and communities.

Specially trained police officers—specifically, a DARE officer and a school resource officer (SRO)—are assigned to the district on a full-time, in-school basis. CPD’s officers’ entry into the five-year rotation is optional, and it involves engaging very interactively with the students and teaching age-appropriate curriculum. The positions are cross-trained, and there are a number of Colchester Police officers who are trained for them. While all law enforcement professionals in the state of Vermont are trained at the Vermont Police Academy, interested police officers—who are first screened for suitability for working with this very specific population—must also complete specialized DARE training and receive specific certification in order to serve as DARE and SRO officers, including a two-week, residential class that involves modeling, role playing, research, and presentations. Evaluators are present for every aspect of the training, and candidates are required to pass multiple skills assessments along the way. Graduates are certified for grades 1–6, and still further training is required for higher grade levels. The officers must also routinely receive updated training in order to maintain their certifications.

The officers are in all of our schools throughout the week serving in various capacities, and teaching specialized curriculum in organized classes is the priority. For example, some of the police department’s efforts are incorporated into the health curriculum in order to accommodate the schools’ state and federal requirements. Much of the curriculum is designed to address the issues identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), which include but are not limited to tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use.

For example, part of the officers’ health-related curriculum includes such topics as drug use prevention, violence issues, decision making, and conversations about risks and consequences. The curriculum also includes conversations with students about where they can go for help for a variety of issues, methods and techniques for determining a person’s credibility, maintaining responsibility and accountability for one’s actions, and so on. Another frequently reinforced message is that it is far easier to stay out of trouble in the first place than it is to get out of trouble once one is already in it. The officers also occasionally step in and assist with law-related subjects, such as driver’s education and forensics. And CPD’s Corporal Hull, who is stationed at Colchester High School, works to manage the criminal aspects associated with the program—issues like truancy, vandalism, violence, threats, and the like. “And hopefully,” CPD’s Corporal Fontaine (the district’s DARE officer) said, “incidents that do occur in the schools will lend themselves to teachable moments from a humanistic, positive approach.”

We’ll continue this discussion in Part II of this primer, coming up very soon. Please stay tuned!

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”

Posted in Colchester Middle School, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Primer Series, Programs

Primer Series: CSD’s Literacy Programs—Part V

Let’s round out our primer series about Colchester School District’s literacy programs with a conversation about Colchester Middle School’s work in that area. (Hint: It is a lot.)

First of all, while we’ve already talked a bit about the Young Writers Project (YWP) in other articles, it is definitely worth mentioning again here because Colchester Middle School is very much involved with it. The Young Writers Project, which is provided to CMS by FairPoint Communications, is an organization focused upon aiding better student writing in Vermont and New Hampshire. It is essentially a digital classroom, and using it, students can post their projects—including multimedia files—so that they can easily work collaboratively with others on them. Additionally, students can comment on their classmates’ work and respond to teacher prompts. As part of YWP, students can also submit work to be considered for outside publication. Students use YWP, as well as other formal writing assignments, to practice their writing process skills (including pre-writing, drafts, gathering feedback, revising, and publishing work) as well as to develop their district writing portfolios through creative writing and on-demand writing projects.

CMS also uses Renaissance Learning assessment programs and products in its instruction, one of which is STAR Reading Enterprise. CMS students take the STAR assessment four times a year, and CMS educators analyze the results gathered from these assessments in order to strategize improved teaching practices and increase the students’ literacy skills.

Another component of the Renaissance Learning program used at CMS involves Accelerated Reader Enterprise quizzes, which are used in conjunction with students’ independent reading work and through which they can take comprehension, vocabulary, and literacy skills quizzes for each book they read. The program provides immediate feedback, which many CMS students appreciate. And the Accelerated Reader quizzes also offer a feature called Home Connect, which allows parents and students to view the students’ virtual bookshelf and track progress toward meeting their quarterly reading goals—all from the comforts of home.

And did you know that there is a way to view the number of reading quizzes that the students are taking? There are widgets on CMS’s literary webpage that publicize this information. For example, just during the month of October, seventh graders read and took quizzes on 371 books, with 310 for eighth graders and 294 for sixth graders. That is a lot of reading in a month!

CMS’s library—a hub of literary activity—is always abuzz. In addition to coordinating book fairs and announcing the “book of the week” during daily announcements, librarian Angelika Mahoney also arranges visits from authors and storytellers as part of her mission to generate student interest in literacy. This year, for example, James Bruchac—an author, cultural educator, and wilderness expert—and author Mary Downing Hahn will visit CMS students. And Mrs. Mahoney also organizes an annual Dorothy Canfield Fisher contest. As part of the contest, a master list of thirty books is compiled and made available to students, and students who read at least five books from the list may vote on their favorite. (And then there is the DCF breakfast party to continue the celebration!)

CMS was particularly fortunate to work with a writer-in-residence this year. Former CMS teacher and published author Robert Hunton worked with students in Mrs. Roberge’s and Ms. Garrison’s classes in October on developing interesting hooks, and he will return in the spring to work with seventh- and eighth-grade students around developing creative conclusions to their writing pieces.

And in the interest of further promoting student voice and vision, CMS’s student council members will develop a student newsletter this year.

For more information about literacy initiatives at Colchester Middle School, please e-mail teachers Jennifer Roberge or Aubrey Garrison or call (802) 264-5800.

This has been a really extensive primer series. You can read Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, and Part IV here.

Thanks for your interest!

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”