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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Week Six Notes

Success Planner Added to Help Students Plan Successfully

  A couple of years ago, the Connecticut State Department of Education mandated that every high school in the state develop a student success plan that is designed for students to, well, be successful  in and beyond high school.  Whether mandated or not, it makes sense that students should put a plan in place that leads to a successful experience in high school and beyond.  And the EOSHS Guidance Department is helping students to do just that. 

Success Planner, a brand new feature in the Naviance suite of options, was recently added to the EOS Naviance Program.  Among its many features is the capacity to build electronic portfolios over four years, keeping everything in one place and making it accessible from any Internet connection.  Other features allow students to set goals, complete tasks assigned to them, create to-do lists for themselves, connect to-dos to goals, and add reflections on goals and tasks.

What's more, counselors and teachers can assign standard or custom  tasks, monitor goals and tasks, and comment on these goals and tasks.  EOS counselors have already assigned grade-level tasks for students to complete.

The focus initially will be on 9th and 10th graders as they begin to construct four-year plans and portfolios.  The department goal is for every 9th and 10th grade student to complete all tasks assigned to them by the end of this school year.  More about this will come in future "Notes".

If it wasn't such a cliche, I'd say that failing to plan is planning to fail.  But it is.  So, I won't.

What's a Transcript and How Do You Interpret It?

Let's begin with what a transcript is not - it's not a report card.  Whereas a report card "reports" grades at designated points in the school year, a transcript lists final grades issued at the end of semester and year-long courses -grades that are permanent.  Below is a very brief video made to help you "see" what a final transcript looks like and how you can make sense of it.  Know beforehand that the video is a collection of snapshots depicting the various parts of a real transcript, with descriptive labels attached to each slide.  It's not award-winning footage, but then again it's not designed as such.  Hopefully, though, it gives you a sense of what a transcript is and how to interpret it.  Stop it along the way if you need to view a part more closely.  Contact your counselor if you have additional questions.

The Difference Between ACA GPA and TOT GPA

If you're wondering what ACA GPA and TOT GPA mean and if there's a difference between the two, then know there is. 

ACA GPA represents the weighted grade point average a student earns on the basis of grades earned in courses at the various levels (A, B, G).  This academic (ACA) GPA is the one seen on transcripts and used with the bar graphs (see below) appearing on the school profile. 

TOT GPA is used strictly for honor roll designation and is based upon a traditional 4-point scale.  So, an "A" is worth 4 points regardless of the course level.  An A- and an A+, by the way, are both worth 4 points as well - there is no differentiation with a + or - in the grade.  So, an "A" is an "A+ is an "A-".

Rationale for Eliminating Class Rank

Several years ago, EOS began moving away from reporting numerical class rank (1, 2, 3...101, 102, 103...), first switching to percentiles (99th percentile, 98th, etc., where - in a class of 300 - three students would share the same percentile), then to deciles (first ten percent, second ten percent, etc.) and eventually to no rank at all.  Some have wondered why.  Here's an explanation.

Let's start with numerical ranking.  EOS uses a weighted grading system, as most everyone knows, with higher level courses offering "heavier" weight on grades earned in those courses.  Using this method doesn't accurately depict "ranking" and the following example shows why - if Sam takes the most advanced courses in the curriculum and Sally does the same, and if Sam earns an "A+" in each course and Sally does the same, and if Sam chooses to take nothing else in the way of electives but Sally takes a B-level elective, then Sam is ranked number one and Sally is runner-up in the ranking.  This is simply because she chose to take an elective.  I don't think anyone would suggest she skip the elective she wishes to take so that she can protect her ranking.  Do you?

With regard to decile rank, EOS students have occasionally been eliminated from scholarship competitions because they have not been ranked in the top ten percent of their class (sometimes a criterion for scholarships).  These same students could very well have been in the top ten percent at other schools.  When asked what they'd do if EOS didn't report class rank, college officials have said that they'd calculate a rank themselves.  So EOS decided that is the way it should, in fact, be determined - colleges could decide and EOS wouldn't do it for them.

EOS then moved further ahead on the issue and contacted fifty of the most competitive colleges in the country, asking each for feedback on the possible elimination of class rank.  Not one school said it would hurt EOS students in the admissions process.  Many reported it wouldn't matter because they re-calculate GPA anyway, and some said it could actually help EOS students because it would force admissions officials to delve more deeply into the application.  Based upon this feedback, the decision was made to do away with class rank.  EOS, by the way, is hardly alone on this.  The majority of secondary schools across the country have responded similarly to this issue.

In its place, EOS reports on its school profile (this accompanies every college application that leaves EOS) a bar graph that depicts the distribution of GPAs across a class, with each bar representing a .5 range of GPAs.  Doing it in this manner provides schools relative data, and it does so without giving up who is (or is not) in the top ten percent of the class.

Students are now free to choose electives for the right reasons.

Ninth Grade Appointments Begin This Week

Ninth-graders and their parents/guardians will begin their individual appointments with assigned counselors this week.  These half-hour meetings are the final phase of the transition program that was first launched back in March.

Counselors wish to make their first contacts with families a positive one and these scheduled meetings are designed to do just that.  They'll conduct a review of academic progress-to-date, summarize the results of a reading screening administered to every 9th grader, make reference to Naviance, take a brief peek into the next four years, and respond to questions/concerns that students and parents may have.  It's a worthwhile use of time for all involved.

Midpoint of Quarter - Changing Schedules

Having reached the midpoint of the first quarter, students (parents and teachers, too) have been provided sufficient time to assess course/level placements.  Students have until Wednesday, October 12th, to make schedule changes on semester courses (meaning level changes or drops) without any record of these changes appearing on academic transcripts.  After October 12th and before the close of the first marking period, changes made during that time will be noted with a "W" (for withdrawal) on the transcript.  Note that the "W" has no impact on GPA.  Also note that any change requires written parental consent  Contact your counselor for more information.

Articles of interest are updated periodically to keep this section fresh and up-to-date.  Added this week are The Learning Class (a piece about "open universities" and predictions on the direction of higher education), The University of Wherever (continuing on the previous theme), The Half-Baked Teen Brain (a view on the developing nature of the teen brain), and Study: An Early Bedtime May Help Keep Teens Fit (early to bed, early to rise...).

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