At a recent Budget informational meeting in Belgrade I spoke about our work at Messalonskee High School and some of the offerings we provided our students with. After the meeting I was asked by two citizens to share the work we are doing so that people would understand the type of education we are providing for our students. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the great things we are doing at MHS!
First, here is the State’s view of Messalonskee High School:
As you can see, MHS is one of 28 schools in the state for 2014 that earned a B or higher. Our report card score placed us in the top 22 of the 122 High Schools scored across the state and the top scorer for schools in our area.
MHS Graduation Rates Significantly Outpacing State and National Averages
Messalonskee High School has done a strong job when compared to the state with a high graduation rate and a low dropout rate over the last five years.
MHS Graduation Rate: 90.06% (5 yr. avg), with a 2.35% dropout rate
State Graduation Rate: 84.48% (5 yr. avg), with a 3.18% dropout rate
The National Graduation Rate for the same period of time is 78.67% (4 year avg. through 2013 as the 2014 national cumulative data could not be found at the time of this writing).
Scoring and Reporting Proficiency: MHS is Keeping the GPA
One of the biggest areas of confusion is Messalonskee’s scoring system. At MHS we have a GPA, we provide course grades, and we certify standards. This is sometimes confusing as the elementary and middle schools score students only in a 1-4 proficiency scoring system. Our leadership team and staff intentionally, in coordination with feedback from our active Parent Advisory Group, decided to do a dual scoring system three years ago. Our approach is to recognize the attainment of standards for graduation in one program, while providing credit for and scoring each learning experience (class) in a 0-100 traditional scale. Students who graduate will receive a very traditional transcript as well as one that documents their progress through the standards.
Expanded Learning Opportunities for Students
Over the past year, we have worked to expand and create transparency with regard to our academic program of studies. In addition to a variety of online learning, students have access to over 150 learning experiences at Messalonskee. The teachers and staff at MHS have created a digital resource for all learning experiences (courses & seminars) that students in RSU18 can take advantage of. Check out our digital program of studies at the MHS website. In addition to the courses offered, students, parents, and/or colleges can access each course’s learning experience template which includes a course description, the standards covered, and the prerequisite learning that should take place prior to a student entering a class. This level of transparency allows us to keep a very traditional HS structure while providing opportunities to meet students where they are at in their learning and move them forward.
Meeting All Students Where They Are At: MHS’s Implementation of the RSU18 Vision
As part of our work to meet the district vision of “Meeting students where they are at and moving them forward“, we have expanded our learning experience offerings for students who are significantly ahead and behind of where we would expect them to be. As part of this effort, we have created a continuum of interventions that includes alternative education support and off-site learning for those with that need. Students are also given options of accessing learning experiences that go at a slower pace and are focused on building skills. For those students who are moving ahead more quickly, we offer 9 AP (Advanced Placement) classes on-site, as well as digital AP Courses through Maine’s “AP-for-All” and VHS programs. This year 128 students took 164 slots in AP courses at MHS! Amazingly, Messalonskee has consistently averaged over 3.0 on the AP Exams as a school resulting in our being named an AP Excellence School in 2012.
Earning College Credit While in High School
Another area of focus for us has been to provide our students with expanded options to take college classes while at MHS. This year we have doubled our dual-enrollment college options at Messalonskee. A dual-enrollment course is a college course taught by MHS teachers at the High School that allows students to earn college credits. Students currently can take College Algebra, College Composition, Human Anatomy & Physiology, and Plant Biology at MHS (for a total of 12 college credits!). We are working to expand these offerings through collaboration with Thomas College and KVCC for the 2016-17 school year.
In collaboration with the Mid-Maine Technical Center MHS was selected as a Bridge Site, allowing a cohort of MHS students to take classes at MMTC and MHS over their Junior & Senior years while earning college credits toward their associates degree (yes, yet again while still enrolled at MHS!) In addition to classes taught on-site, our students have earned nearly 600 college credits over the last four years taking classes at local colleges while attending MHS (resulting in a huge savings to our students and their families!).
Going Beyond the Classroom: Clubs & Activites
Messalonskee High School enjoys a tremendous suite of extra and co-curricular offerings. MHS’s music program is one of the strongest in our state and is regularly recognized for excellence. In the arts, students are afforded the opportunity to participate in multiple drama productions each year, a variety of select music groups including Men’s and Women’s chorus, Men’s and Women’s Select chorus, Jazz and Pep Bands, just to name a few. In athletics, Messalonskee boasts 24 sports programs. In addition to the success these programs have experienced over the past five years, the school is most proud of the large-scale participation that exists, with well over 350 students participating in at least one activity over the course of the year. Finally, our students are able to enjoy a wide variety of clubs and activities that tailor to their interests and needs. From our Bible Club, Gaming Club, Garden Club, Gay-Straight Alliance and Jam Club, to our more traditional Student Council, NHS and Key Clubs, our students are afforded the opportunity to take part in something that matches their interests.
Strengthening Communities Through Student Service
Finally, we have worked to encourage civic engagement on the part of our students through the implementation of a new graduation policy. The policy requires MHS students to complete a minimum 40 hours of community service over their 4 years at Messalonskee. High School staff have supported this effort by incorporating service into courses such as Civics & Government and seminars such Volunteerism & Leadership. Our student council has continued a recent tradition of adapting our “Spring Fling” in May to be half Spring Fling and half a community “Day of Caring”; a day where the entire messalonskee student body participates in service activities for our community. We believe that by setting an expectation of engagement for our students today will lead to higher levels of engagement and service in their future. (note: MHS’s Day of caring is Friday, May 15th!)
More to Do…
I recently wrote a piece for the Messalonskee Messenger entitled “Looking Back as We Move Forward” that highlighted the work we have done over the last 12-18 months. I wrote there that “At Messalonskee High School we apply the best practices in teaching and learning in the context of a high-performing high school. We will not throw away what we do well; instead we will reimagine how we can provide an even more vibrant education for our students.” As we move forward we recognize that there is much work to be done. As we work to tackle issues around raising our writing scores, fighting youth homelessness, further increasing student performance in ELA and Math, we recognize that we must hold on to those things that we do well and those things that make Messalonskee special.