Hi IA Families,

I hope the weekend is treating you all well.

Rigor Meetings:

This week was fantastic. We are continuing to have our rigor meetings, and it’s been nice to meet so many families and have practical conversations about student course loads. I’d like to thank our counselors, teachers, APs, and graduation coach for taking on these hundreds of meetings to make sure our students are balancing their loads effectively. Thank you also to our parents who have taken the time to come out to meet with us and have these conversations. I know you are all busy, but I hope you’ll agree the outcome is worth it.

The information from students and teachers about anticipated hours of work for each class has helped us come to grips about the expectations our students are setting on themselves. One element I would like help reinforcing with our students: while we know so many of our students are looking for rigorous courses and support their efforts to perform at the highest levels, we also firmly believe that the differentiator for our students will be their ability to go in depth into their areas of study. Oftentimes, our students get caught in what I call the “Test Relay.” This is where a student gets caught in a cycle of cramming for the next test. We have a test for this class on Wednesday, so the student focuses solely on that test. Then the next week, the same thing happens for another test, and so on. This leads to a cycle of a student working to get a good grade on the tests, but they don’t have the time to really learn the subject. Unfortunately, this cycle means there isn’t as much actual learning happening in these classes. Reducing the level of rigor by maybe one less AP or Honors class, gives students more time to invest more into the subjects they are taking and therefore they retain more knowledge. They also then have time, for instance in 11th grade, to focus on their pinnacle project, which will be a clear differentiator for post-secondary institutions.

In the end, we know these are individual decisions for parents to make with their students, and we respect the tough choices you have to make to prepare your student for life. We just want to keep reminding families that the formula for college admission and college success is more nuanced than grades x AP courses = success.

Raspberry Pi Hackathon:

This week we had our first annual hackathon for our IT students supported by our PTSO. We had 370 students work with over fifty parent, community, and business partner volunteers  and dozens of teachers from all departments to solve real world problems with microprocessors. We’re working to share a virtual showcase with the community soon, so you can see all the incredible work our students did. It was wonderful to see many of our teachers who have never programmed before working side by side with our students modeling what it is to be an effective learner. I was also humbled by the work our students did, from setting up unix servers and handling client server communication to solve all kinds of practical problems, like tracking aircraft, monitoring restricted doors, to a sign for my office to let people know when I’m in a meeting (very proud of that group, as they just made my life a little easier!). We also had beginning students repurposing toys to be more interactive and creating life alert communications for elderly care. It was a great day with students energetically engaged throughout the day. We can’t wait to evolve this event next year.

Thank you again to all of you who helped make our Hackathon a success.

Calendar for Next Year:

We are continuing to work on presenting the community with a stable calendar as soon as we can for next year. This is a significantly more difficult process for us with a unique program of study and schedule, but it’s important to continue to refine the process to alert students and families as early as we can on what will be happening. We are being very intentional this year to ensure we do not have major events during important religious holidays, and we will be engaging all our communities early in the process to ensure we haven’t missed anything. I always am thankful of your patience and understanding, but I want to make sure we aren’t taking advantage of your support.

New Freshmen Class:

We are happy to announce that we have our full incoming freshmen class. We hope you’ll join us at Phoenix Fest on Thursday, April 13th from 4:15 to 8pm.

Scott Kent

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