Secondary News

Lorne Bird


Secondary School Principal

International School of Dakar

Secondary School Retreats: Expanding Our Circle of Concern

posted Sep 29, 2017, 4:51 AM by Catherine KAZMIRSKI

We have now concluded the retreats in the Secondary School and they were a success. The Middle School retreat was on Monday, September 25 and the entire MS went off campus. Students were in their respective House Groups, which are mixed grade level groupings and they engaged in activities designed to connect students and build on the concept of Circle of Concern. Activities were geared towards building a sense of team and making connections at a person level. Students were prompted to reflect on key expectations of how we want our learning environment in the MS to be - kind, caring, and open.

The students did extremely well in demonstrated their understanding of the theme of expanding one’s circle of concern and this work will continue throughout the advisory program over the course of the year. The positive, caring, and safe social environment has been shown in both parent and student surveys in the past and the success of this year’s retreat will only further this.

In the High School the retreats were also geared towards building a positive culture amongst the students. The retreats took place over three days with Grade 9 going one day, Grade 10 another, and Grades 11 & 12 going on the third day. The theme of the retreat was chosen in response to survey data from parents and students last year, and it was also linked to long-term strategic goals of improving the Social and Emotional Learning in the Secondary School.

The focus of the HS retreat was grounded in challenging, clarifying, and expanding students’ views on gender. For purposes of building trust, allowing students to take personal risks and share openly, the male students and female students had separate sessions. The male students were led by Eric Rodine and the students’ male advisors, and the female students were led by Ms. Bishop and their female advisors. Each group looked at how societal pressures as seen through sports, the media, and other examples of cultural influence have come to shape certain perspectives of what it means to be a man or a woman. The sessions were geared towards getting students to become aware of what in their lives have shaped their view on gender, as well as the implications of their views.

The HS students exceptionally well in the retreat, with many students and teachers noting that this was the most productive retreat that they had been on. The efforts have just begun and the groundwork that was put in place on the retreat will be further developed in the advisory program throughout the year. As a way to bring the larger community into this endeavour, we will arrange for a screening of two videos relevant to our goals. The first is entitled, The Mask You Live In, and the Second is entitled, Miss Representation.

Middle School Dance: A Chaperone’s Tale

posted Sep 28, 2017, 4:51 AM by Catherine KAZMIRSKI

By Sitara Engelbrecht-Larkin

I arrived to a hoard of white and black clad teens clogging the reception area clambering to pay the fee to get in. I brush past them, apologizing for not being early to the hero of the evening - Mr T, the StuCo leader.

No matter who you are, the first thing you do when you arrive at an MS dance is look for your friends. I pressured my friend to chaperone the dance the same time as me. Even though we came in together, within moments of greetings from students we are lost to each other and I search for a corner to leave my bag and shoes and scope out the lay of the land.

The YumYum pizza boxes are stacked up and the soda is lined up and ready. Already the cash box is busy feeding the hungry masses. Before long the party takes shape - people clumping together, detaching from one group and joining another like electrons, each group buzzing with a slightly different hum. More a social than a dance. “I came to eat,” one student states matter of factly with pizza in hand. The balcony is as full as the mouths.

The dance floor is spotty - once in a while a scream will erupt as a popular song comes on and with it, the voices of countless mini-pop stars singing along at top volume. But not all: a small stream of people erupt, fingers in ears, pained looks on their face. “It is SO loud in there.”

“Yup, it’s a dance.”

I am greeted with a sceptical look. Often they soothe their eardrums with pizza or soda. “This is my third piece,” a waif of a girl tells me.

“Rock on.”

The teachers blend in seamlessly, backs against the wall scoping out the room and making plans of attack. It is funny how little some things change, how much we still have in common with our charges. After a while on the balcony I move to the dance floor - anything to escape the draw of pizza.

There is something timeless about a middle school dance. A crowd remains around the DJ. I lean against the wall with a few students and we share our best worst dance moves. It is early yet, so between those favorite songs the dance floor is sparse with more standing around awkwardly than dancing. Yeah, I know that game. I’m good at that.

As it gets darker, more and more people 
trickle in from outside. But still, there is no real consensus that dancing is what should happen. A chaperone leaves me to give her eardrums a break. “Send in another adult!” I beg - no one wants to be alone on the dance floor.
At one point a group of boys sit down in the middle of the “dance” floor to play a game - almost like a protest sit-in. Others stand around and chat - or attempt to, over the music - but slowly you can see the sugar kicking in and the toes start tapping.

Then BAM! THE song comes on - perfectly timed to the sugar pumping through the veins and the easing of nervousness. THE song - the one I have never heard before, but I am the only one who does not know all the words, and some choreographed dance moves apparently. The room comes to life - and that is it. People jump in unison, arms raised, shouting and singing. Then each starts to bring their own flavor of dance to the floor. Once the seal is broken, the dancing does not stop. By the time the Dabbing song comes on even the 6th grade boys are in the fray. Someone breaks out “the worm” with incredible skill. Circles form, break, and re-form in new groupings. The grades start to mix, brave souls step forward to show off their moves while others cheer - regardless of the actual level of skill of the dancer. And no matter the continent or year, in my experience every MS dance will eventually start up an unnecessarily long conga line.

The tide of the dance floor ebbs and flows with the song choices. The students rotate to ease their ears and get fresh air. I step outside to see the proud 3-piece-of-pizza eater sitting backwards with her head resting on the back of a chair. “You ok?” I ask.
“My stomach hurts. I ate too much pizza” she says with a shy smile. No surprise there - but we must give them a chance to make the occasional poor decision.

As the clock struck 7:45, my shift ended. The last ten minutes are always the longest. I grab my bag and head down the hall. “My time is up,” I gleefully state as I pass the water cooler. A student, glistening with the exertion of dancing looks up from her moment of hydration.

“Time is up?” she asks crestfallen. 

“No, just for me.”

“Oh, good,” she downs the last of the water and frolicks back to the dance floor.

Downstairs I meet my dad, who just happens to be visiting at the moment. A retired educator himself, he declined my invitation to the dance. “I’ve done more than my share of MS dances in my time.” As I walk out the door people call to me from the balcony. I turn and wave. Then, hand in hand with my father, I leave another MS dance. The soundtrack has certainly changed, but not everything does.

Perspectives of Percents

posted Sep 28, 2017, 4:37 AM by Catherine KAZMIRSKI

Teachers have traditionally used percent scores when assessing student work. And schools have traditionally used percent scores to determine letter grades that are reported out to students and parents. As more thought is given to percent scoring, however, many concerns arise that need to be addressed.
  • What is a good percent score, anyway? In softball, a batter is very successful if he can get a hit in 30% of his at bats. In basketball, a 3-point shooter is considered excellent if she makes 40% of her shots. In American football, a quarterback is elite if he can complete over 65% of his passes. So why does a student need a 90% score to be considered a top-level, high performing student?
  • Who determines the cut-offs that schools use for letter grades? Schools around the world use many different scoring scales. In French schools, 50% is used to determine passing or failing, while US schools use 60% or 65%. Many Canadian schools set 80% as the level to achieve a letter of A, whereas many US curriculum schools use 90% or even 93% as the score needed to earn a letter grade of A.
  • Why is the size of the percent category for failure so large? Typically, each letter grade reflects a percent score within a 10% band. At ISD, a grade of A is normally for a score that falls between 90-100%, a B is for a score from 80-89%, a C ranges from 70-79%, and a D indicates a score from 60-69%. That leaves a huge range of 0-59% for an F!
  • How much impact should a ‘zero’ have on an overall averaged grade? A zero can devastate a percent average when it is factored into an overall mean average. If a student has scores of 90%, 90%, 90%, and 0%, the mean average would be 67.5%. But if a failure is marked as a minimum score of 50%, the same student would have a mean average of 80%. Does this second score present a more representative picture of the student’s real overall performance?
Administrators and teachers at ISD are considering significant changes to their current grading practices. Middle school and high school students will experience this very soon, as the Language Arts department is already piloting a move away from percent scores and towards a model that incorporates rubrics, formative assessments, student reflection, and teacher professional judgement to determine the letter grade reported out to students and parents. This inquiry should prove to be a most enlightening and interesting process for all of us in our learning community - teachers, students, and parents.

Updates to MSSP and ASHS

posted Sep 14, 2017, 5:16 AM by Catherine KAZMIRSKI

The Middle School Student Success Program (MSSP) and the High School After School Homework Support (ASHS) are designed to help ensure students keep up with their ongoing homework and assignments.  If students do not complete work assigned for class, then they are required to attend an after school session to make up the work.  Further, students can voluntarily attend MSSP or ASHS if they would like a quiet place to work after school under the guidance of a supervising teacher.  MSSP helped improve homework completion in the Middle School last academic year, and helped provide dedicated support to students requiring extra help. 

This year, the High School is building on the success of the Middle School and replicating its structure.  Last year, for example, the HS ASHS program only ran two days per week.  This meant it was harder to get students to attend, and it meant that homework and assignments not completed may have remained so for an extended period.  Over the first four full weeks of school the High School program has been off to a good start.  At this point, we now want to make each program a little better. 

In order to further develop our ISD CORE value of responsibility, as well as ensure coherence across the school, there will be one change to the MSSP and ASHS programs.  In the Middle School last year, students took on the responsibility of informing their parents directly.  This year the Secondary Office emailed parents.  In order to help students further develop a sense of responsibility, effective Monday, September 18, all students in the Secondary School will be responsible for informing their parents if they are assigned to MSSP in the MS, or to ASHS in the HS.  Given the success of the MS students last year, this seems a fair expectation to move forward with across the Secondary.

Teachers will directly inform students in class if they are assigned to MSSP or ASHS for not completing assigned work.  All Secondary students will in turn inform their parents that they will stay after school from 3:30-4:15 if they are assigned to MSSP or ASHS.  If there is a legitimate reason that the student cannot stay (pre-arranged doctor’s appointment, or a significant pre-planned family even, for example) then the parents can inform the Secondary Office and the student will attend the next day. 

Thank you for your time and attention to this.  If you have any questions in regards to this, please contact the Secondary Office. 

Lorne Bird, Secondary School Principal 

Traxoline: Do We Care? Should We?

posted Sep 14, 2017, 5:14 AM by Catherine KAZMIRSKI   [ updated Sep 14, 2017, 5:15 AM ]

Tests, quizzes, assignments, essays, report cards, marks, and grades are all part of most everyone’s vocabulary as a result of having been through school.  What grade did you get? is one of those ubiquitous questions floating amongst students, teachers, and parents when conversations turn to school.  However, to what degree does a grade reflect learning?  Further, what does it mean to really learn?  Two weeks ago over 50 parents attended a presentation by the English Department in order to learn about the assessment changes they are piloting within the Secondary School.  Parents began the session with a quiz and were asked the following questions:

1.     What is traxoline?

2.     Where is traxoline montilled?

3.     How is traxoline quaselled?

4.     Why is traxoline important?

 As you would imagine, none of the parents present could answer the questions and each parent received a score of 0/10 on the initial quiz.  We then took around 8 minutes to review the text below:

The Montillation of Traxoline

It is very important that you learn about Traxoline. Traxoline is a new form of zointer. It is montilled in Ceristanna. The Ceristannians gristeriate large amounts of fevon and then bracter it to quasel traxoline. Traxoline may well be one of our most lukized snezlaus in the future because of our zointer lescelidge.

Following the lesson about traxoline parents took another quiz and each parent scored 10/10 – a perfect score for each parent.  Assume now that the lesson had been longer, and that there was a fair bit more information to learn, along the same lines.  Assume that a student had received the following grades:

 

 

Quiz 1

Quiz 2

Quiz 3

Quiz 4

Quiz 5

Final Test

TOTAL POINTS

FINAL %

FINAL GRADE

Total Marks

/10

/10

/10

/10

/10

/50

/100

72%

C-

Student Score

3

4

5

7

8

45

72


Based upon the assessment practices of many of our experiences in school years ago, and as has been common in ISD grading policy, final grades were typically determined via an aggregate of points across all assessments, leading to a total percentage that then correlates to an A-F letter grade.  Some assessment types may have been weighted more importantly than others, but learning was essentially broken down into the acquisition of discrete pieces of knowledge over time.  In the case above, our reporting system would have told the student, the parents, the school, and universities that the student was below average – as seen by the C-.

However, in looking more carefully above, the student progressed over the learning period; In fact, by the end of the unit the student has clearly come to learn what she should have – a score of 45/50 on a Final speaks clearly to a student who has come to understand what has been taught.  By analogy, if over a semester of learning to play the guitar, if a student can play a chosen piece of music very well on the guitar, why would be average in how well he did in the beginning when the song and the guitar were completely new to the student?  Or, if after mastering how to ride a bike, why would we penalize a student for having fallen in the beginning, or for having used training wheels?  We wouldn’t.

In the Secondary School we are moving towards an assessment philosophy and assessment and grading practices that reflect a longer-term view of learning.  Our IB Diploma Program final exams demand that our student, on the test, show their ability to be economists, literary critics, physicists, or historians.  The exams demand that they know certain key facts, terms, and skills of the discipline; however, they also demand that students are able to access, understand, process, and then critically apply the knowledge and skills of the discipline in order to solve real world problems contained within the discipline.  We fully expect a student not to be able to do this at the beginning of the course.  It is only through their exposure to the course that they come to learn.  Thus, we would we average in their initial levels of attainment when they are novices?  It would only be punitive, and discouraging.  We need to look towards the end of learning to see where our students end up.  In order to prepare students for the assessment expectations at the end of Grade 12, we need to develop and implement practices that purposefully build to this over grades 6-10. 

Returning to the montillation of traxoline, it becomes apparent that we need to not only change how we assess, but also, how and what we teach.  While the 50 parents each left the session with a perfect score and were able to explain what traxoline is, none of them actually knew what it was, or whether anyone should really care.  We learn for purpose – to deepen our understanding of the world, to gain new knowledge, to solve problems, to help others.  A grading system based upon the accumulation of atomized facts that can be represented by percentages down to 1/100 of a decimal point never really get the learner to the point of answering the questions, Why should we learn this?  How can this knowledge be applied?  Why should we care about this?  That is, if traxoline is important, then we need to ensure we teach students about its important in a way that they can relate to and build upon, and then we must assess in a coherent manner that shows we value this type of learning.  We must first frame the learning in an assessment system that coheres with this view of teaching and learning, and this is the work we have already begun in the Secondary School.

Middle School Dance, Sept 22, 6:30-9 pm

posted Sep 14, 2017, 5:13 AM by Catherine KAZMIRSKI

Saturday, September 22nd will mark the annual middle school "Welcome Back Dance" organized by student council.  The dance will start at 6:30pm and go until 9:00pm.  Dress code is standard attire for ISD middle school students, but students are encouraged to look nice.  Refreshments will also be sold at the event, so students should bring some money for pizza and soda, small change if possible.  The event will be held in the main office's conference room on the second floor with an admission price of 1,000 cfa.  

All profits from the event will go to the student-lead donation at the end of our academic year. 

Parents, please remember to pick up children promptly at 9:00pm -- the chaperones would appreciate it greatly.

Notes from the IB Office, Follow Up from Parent Meetings

posted Sep 14, 2017, 5:05 AM by Catherine KAZMIRSKI

As ever, it has been a busy return to School and it has been wonderful, on a personal level, to experience the warm welcome of Senegal, Dakar and the ISD community. Thank you.


As we move forward, it is important to also recognize the fantastic achievements of the class of 2017. It is with great pleasure that we can celebrate the fact the ISD average IB DP score for 2017 is once again above the world average at 31 points. Congratulations to the class of 2017.


In the last few weeks and days, Grade 12 students have viewed presentations on target setting, time management, and academic rigor. Grade 11 have also heard all about CAS and will have another formal assembly before October. Both presentations have similar messages and relate to organization, communication, and time management, beginning with end goals in mind. Thank you to the large numbers of parents who attended information evenings recently. Your support is invaluable and helps provide the home based support network that is essential for the ongoing development of the ISD student body.


It is important that all Grade 11 and Grade 12 students use the fantastic resources at their disposal to maximize their own academic and holistic potential over the next two years. We reiterate out that open, timely and honest communication with teachers and administration will also help them meet key internal and external due dates. All of the most relevant and recent information is in our IB information management system ‘managebac’. Please ask your children to show you the system.


Grade 12 students already have fast approaching due dates and we continue to encourage you to keep up to date with these. Extended essay work should be nearing completion and students should be meeting regularly with their supervisors. Hand in of first drafts was September 6th. Supervisors will provide detailed written feedback to students. Completion and hand in of the final copy is due on November 27th .


Theory of Knowledge presentations are also nearing completion and it has been pleasing this year to know students will performing these in October. Topics are as ever diverse, interesting and controversial, and presented in an atmosphere of critical, rigorous academic thinking. Thank you to our TOK & EE coordinator Ms. Leinbach for her tireless and inspirational work on both of these core components of the Diploma


Grade 11 students have been working their way into IB classes and although a number of students have made minor modifications to subject choices, the year has started in an atmosphere of professionalism and seriousness that we expect to continue and develop. Presentations have also been given to introduce students to the requirements and expectations of CAS, a core part of the Diploma program. We are delighted to launch the ISD CAS website (https://sites.google.com/isd.sn/dp-cas/home) and thank Mr. Gaucher for his detailed and collaborative work in helping to set this up. Finally, the internal due dates for 2017 - 2018 are also published for Grade 11. All this information was emailed to parents earlier this week.


University application procedures are beginning to approach and our counselling office, in collaboration with Mr.Lennon, should be used to its full potential. Remember ‘beginning with the end in sight’ is a key motto at ISD. Last year all of our graduating classes met the requirements for one of their top three choices of university or college and we expect that to continue with collaboration, teamwork and focus.


Finally, all members of our community are being asked to be mindful of our school mission, particularly the idea of “Create Challenge Change’. With this focus, we can work together and continue to foster an atmosphere of inclusion, open mindedness, and curiosity about our many differences as well as similarities in this diverse international community.


Mr. Paul Lennon

IB Diploma Programme coordinator


Indiana University-PUI College Talk for Parents: Sept 23, 10 AM

posted Aug 31, 2017, 1:45 AM by Catherine KAZMIRSKI

A college admissions representative from Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) will be at ISD for a parent presentation on US college admissions, student visas, and scholarships. Please join us on Saturday September 23rd at 10:00 am in the admin conference room of ISD.  There will also be an IUPUI talk specifically for students on Friday Sept 22 at 12:00 pm in the ISD Library.

This is a great opportunity for families wishing to apply to university in the US to learn more about the application process and have your questions answered before beginning college applications. 

Please contact Kayla Bishop (kaylab@faculty.isd.sn) if you have questions about the college presentation.  

Below is some information about IUPUI, and you can also visit their website at https://www.iupui.edu/.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is a large, public research university in Indianapolis, the capital city of Indiana. IUPUI ranks among the top 200 (or top 5%) of colleges and universities in the U.S., according to U.S. News & World Report, and offers degrees from both Indiana University and Purdue University on one dynamic and diverse campus. Due to the unique dual-university setup of the campus, students in our Schools of Science and Engineering & Technology earn a Purdue degree, while students in our Schools of Liberal Arts, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Informatics & Computing, Herron School of Art & Design, Kelley School of Business (to name a few) earn an Indiana University degree. 

IUPUI receives over $300 million in researching funding per year, and is a largely diverse campus with over 2,000 international students (~6.5% of the University's population) from 145 countries. On the urban campus, students benefit from nearby cultural and internship opportunities. For example, Indianapolis has a strong life health sciences sector (home of Lilly pharmaceutical company, Anthem Inc., and Roche Diagnostics USA) and burgeoning tech industry (including a large Salesforce office and an upcoming Infosys office, both in close proximity to our campus). ​

All international students are eligible for scholarships from 20%-60% of tuition, based on grades and SAT scores. For more information, visit iapply.iupui.edu.

Assessment & Homework in the Secondary School

posted Aug 31, 2017, 1:41 AM by Catherine KAZMIRSKI

ISD focused on evaluating our assessment practices during the 2016-17 school year; the result was a new policy. This year, ISD will continue to push forward and improve our assessment practices. We are honored to host Tom Guskey at ISD on September 4 & 5, to help us think through these issues even more. Dr. Guskey is a Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Kentucky, known throughout the world for his work on student assessment, grading and reporting, professional learning, and educational change. One of the many things we will be discussing with Tom is ISD's continued improvements to student assessment.


After this conference, and then throughout the year, we will refine our assessment practices and work to ensure that we as a school are on a common philosophical footing in terms of what we assess, how we assess, and more importantly, why we assess.  


Simply put, we assess to further student learning.  There are many secondary and tertiary goals for assessing, but our driving purpose of assessment is that assignments and the feedback on assignments further the academic development of our students.


Any discussion of assessment is necessarily connected to a discussion of homework.  Earlier in the year we sent out information about the After School Homework Support (ASHS) program we have in the High School and the Middle School Success Program in the Middle School (MSSP).  The premise of these two programs is that students need to complete their homework on time to further their learning in class.  Built into this is the expectation that teachers assign homework that is purposeful.  Any assigned work should be designed to build directly on previous learning and lead directly into future learning.  That is, we do not and will not simply give homework for the sake of homework.  

August 30, 2017 - JAG Journal   Assessment & Homework in the Secondary School  ISD focused on evaluating our assessment practices during the 2016-17 school year and came up with a new policy This year, on September 4 & 5, Tom Guske will lead the faculty on the professional development days in order to continue to move us forward.    During this year we will refine our assessment practices, as well as ensure as a school that we are on a common philosophical footing in terms of what we assess, how we assess, and more importantly, why we assess.    Simply put, we assess to further student learning.  There are many secondary and tertiary goals for assessing, but our driving purpose of assessment is that assignments and the feedback on assignments further the academic development of our students.  Any discussion of assessment is necessarily connected to a discussion of homework.  Earlier in the year we sent out information about the After School Homework Support (ASHS) program [insert link] we have in the High School and the Middle School Success Program in the Middle School (MSSP) [insert link].  The premise of these two programs is that students need to complete their homework on time to further their learning in class.  Built into this is the expectation that teachers assign homework that is purposeful.  Any assigned work should be designed to build directly on previous learning and lead directly into future learning.  That is, we do not and will not simply give homework for the sake of homework.    As such, it is actually much more appropriate to refer to what happens outside of class as home-learning, to help ensure that the message is clear - time spent on studies by students outside of class must foster learning.   We ask you as parents to monitor your child’s home-learning so that you are aware of what they are doing, as well as why they are doing it.  As a school, we are very much interested in hearing from you about what you see.      To help frame your look into your child’s home-learning, you are kindly invited to read and enjoy this article which appeared in The Atlantic several years ago - “My Daughter’s Homework is Killing Me”, by Karl Greenfeld, October 2013.  https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/my-daughters-homework-is-killing-me/309514/


As such, it is actually much more appropriate to refer to what happens outside of class as home-learning, to help ensure that the message is clear - time spent on studies by students outside of class must foster learning.


We ask you as parents to monitor your child’s home-learning so that you are aware of what they are doing, as well as why they are doing it.  As a school, we are very much interested in hearing from you about what you see.    


To help frame your look into your child’s home-learning, you are kindly invited to read and enjoy this article which appeared in The Atlantic several years ago - “My Daughter’s Homework is Killing Me”, by Karl Greenfeld, October 2013.

Photo by Charles Gullung, The Atlantic, Oct 2013

6-10 Grade Parents: English Classes Information Session

posted Aug 25, 2017, 3:02 AM by Catherine KAZMIRSKI

All 6-10 grade parents are encouraged to attend an informational session about the assessment changes that will be made to our Grades 6-10 English classes.   


Thursday, August 31

8:30-9:15

Admin building conference room


Based upon the progress made with the school’s assessment policy during the 2016-17 academic year, the English Department will pilot new programatic changes in regards to assessment.  This presentation will share key details and differences, as well as the rationale, and will give parents a chance to ask questions.


The presentation will be led by Adam Bishop, our English Department Subject Lead, and myself, and we will also have our IB Diploma Program Coordinator at the presentation to help speak to how the changes will allow for a better transition into the IB Diploma Program.


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