Letters from Levin
Week of January 15th, 2018
Parent/Guardian of a Clintonian —
Hope you are somewhere staying warm as we live through the tail end of one of the colder NY stretches that I’ve experienced.
Slowly but surely, we are closing out the first semester of the 2017-189 school year. As we do, I’m hoping that your Clinton student is having a good, challenging first part of the year. Over time I have seen a tremendous strengthening of the academic profile of our “average” student. This means, of course, that teachers need to make adjustments to ensure that all students are supported in areas they struggle, and also challenged.
Continually to challenge all students is not easy. We are not so large that it is possible to track, putting the strongest students in one section and the rest in others. In fact, even if we were bigger I wouldn’t suggest we do it. There is strong research behind heterogeneous grouping, and the mixing of ability, talent and interest across our cohorts.
Although we don’t track, what I do expect of Clinton is that all students continue to believe that they are growing and learning. For some students, the struggle of school more goes to executive functioning, or the social and emotional challenges of dealing with conflict and the anxiety of not knowing exactly what to do in a given situation. But for other students, who are strong in all the contents, I want to ensure that their Clinton experience pushes them into new territory.
One of the mechanisms to do this is the extended essay.
Over the past two Wednesdays, all faculty have been learning more about the extended essay, and how to support students. Although we have about 9 teachers working in IB classes, we have close to half our staff acting as academic advisors for current IB students. The extended essay is a requirement of the IB Diploma Program, and required of all Clinton students, regardless if they are going for the full Diploma. Over time, I believe having the full school engage in the extended essay will help distinguish us as a community, one that truly prepares all students for college and beyond.
As an academic advisor for a group of current juniors in history, I have learned this means supporting them as they conduct research and write a 4,000 word argumentative essay. Freshman and sophomore teachers are preparing our upper grades students for this paper, with research papers, year long projects, and upcoming summer assignments.
For a bit about the IB Extended Essay, see:
http://www.ibo.org/programmes/ diploma-programme/curriculum/ extended-essay/
For an in-depth dive into the Extended Essay, see:
http://phsibsupport.org/wp- content/uploads/2013/04/ Extended-Essay.pdf
For the middle grades, over the course of the next few months, students will begin their work on an extended essay in triple e. We continue to look at how to refine this paper, and now that we have our first group of IB students, we know exactly what is expected of 16 year olds, we can work backwards and vertically plan a curriculum that will support them.
In short, for all students, the extended essay will allow students to work in a quasi-independent fashion, as they pursue learning about a topic that they are curious about, and may have touched on topically in a course, but did not go deeply into it. It will combine book learning, and internet research, and will force them to apply writing and research techniques they have been taught in the social sciences.
Some of my warmest memories at Clinton are watching 90 students share their topics and findings in an academic speed dating in the gym. To see peers sharing something that they have found intellectually stimulating, and were able to write passionately about, was amazing to behold.
Here’s to the extended essay, and warmer weather, ahead.
Important dates- (always see theclintonschool.net for latest dates/times)
January 8th- D Day, SLT!
January 9th- A Day
January 10th- WED Day
January 11th- B Day- College Awareness Day!
January 12th- C Day
January 15th- MLK No School