I am extremely happy to welcome you all to the 2018-19 school year at AISB. The school's numbers and program are growing steadily, the kids are glad to be back, and we're looking forward to a great year.
We are happy to welcome 42 new students and 26 new families to our community, in addition to new members of our staff, who you can read more about below.
There are a number of important announcements and invitations in this month's newsletter so please take the opportunity to read through it.
Re-Accreditation Update We are proud -- and relieved -- to announce that AISB’s Self-Study (all 230 pages of it, not counting supporting documents) is finished, and ready for submission to the Middle States Association. We are still awaiting final confirmation for the date of the Team Visit, but we expect to see a team of educators here with us sometime around the second week October. They’ll be looking forward to talking with all stakeholder groups -- you! -- as they build a clear and complete picture of our school.
We thank the many AISB parents and students who have contributed to this process, for your work in helping us to create the self-study and the objectives for growth, which provide AISB with a powerful vision for our next steps. You can view the student performance Objectives for reading and math here; our organizational capacity objective is there as well.
See you at school, Brad Waugh
Calendar of Important Upcoming Events
Monday, September 3
Q1 After School Activities (ASAs) begin. Sign up next week.
Thursday, September 6
7:30: Pre-K Back to School Open House
19:00: Kinder – Grade 12 Back to School Open House
Saturday, September 8
PTO Welcome Back to School BBQ at AISB
Friday, September 21
Secondary Community-Based Engagement Day
Monday, September 24
Teacher in-service day - no school
Welcome to new staff
Marylou Casillas comes to you from the Golden State of California. She is joining AISB as a Kindergarten teacher. Marylou received her Elementary Teacher License from Metropolitan State University of Denver. Her career as a teacher started in the United States before she decided to teach internationally. Since then her adventurous spirit has taken her to teach in Honduras and China.
One of the many things Marylou enjoys about being a teacher is witnessing those moments where her students are curious and completely engaged with the task at hand. She is looking forward to getting to know her Kindergarteners and their families this school year.
When she is not in the classroom, Marylou enjoys exploring nature, coaching soccer, and trying new things. She is excited to be immersed in the Malian culture and for the many adventures to come at AISB!
Famida Daud Aly joins us from Malawi with her husband and two boys. She is proud to call AISB her new home and looks forward to working with the PreK 4 class. She has been an early childhood teacher since 2014 with experience and training in Montessori. She creates a natural, fun and yet challenging way for the children to learn using hands on, individualized materials and methods that allow the child to understand classroom and real-world concepts.
Apart from early childhood education she has worked in administration, marketing and events planning. She has organized and led children's activities such as reading, dancing and cooking classes. When not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family, meeting new people, traveling, dancing, poetry and cooking.
Fernando García-Valiño Carbó is Spanish. He arrived in Bamako is September 2017 to take up a position as Spanish Teacher at the Université des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines de Bamako (ULSHB). He has Master's degrees in both Hispanic Philology and Teaching in High School and has been working as a Spanish teacher since 2011. He has taught Spanish as a foreign language at both the high school and university level since 2014 in various countries and environments and he will be teaching Spanish to AISB high school students.
He likes teaching, learning, languages, literature, cinema, music and practicing sports, and he is very pleased and honored to join the AISB team during the academic year 2018-2019, teaching internediate and advanced Spanish to high schoolers.
Vivek Gupta joins us from Nepal along with his wife, Kirti and son, Krishank; he will be teaching middle school math and sciences. Vivek holds a Bachelor of Education in Mathematics from Tribhuvan University. He has over seventeen years of classroom experience, including the last thirteen with Lincoln School, Kathmandu. Most recently he has taught Grade 7 science, exploratory science and tech classes for middle school and Engineering-Robotics to the seniors.
Vivek is passionate about teaching, and is excited to be the middle school math/science teacher at AISB. He is looking forward to make the academic year a fun-filled learning experience for the students. Apart from that, he is always on a quest to explore new places, meet new people and learn about their language and culture.
Moira Henderson is Scottish, and has been an international teacher for ten years. She is enthusiastically looking forward to teaching the grade 4/5 students. Moira has previously taught elementary and middle school students in American International Schools in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Egypt, Venezuela and Uzbekistan.She holds three masters degrees, including a MEd in International Teaching from Framingham State University in Massachusetts.
She enjoys learning about each country she lives in, and her main interests are history and politics. Having had several friends previously work at AISB, Moira is eagerly looking forward to her experience in Mali. In her spare time Moira can often be found walking her very well travelled little dog.
Rodney Hill joins us from the greater Washington, DC area. Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, Rodney attended Wilkes University in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania – graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a concentration in marketing. He will be assisting Moira Henderson in the grade 4/5 classroom here at AISB. Rodney has spent the last two years working for the administration at Washington, DC charter school with a classical mission and a focus on the Latin language and its history. While at Washington Latin, Rodney also assisted with classroom coverage and coaching basketball to middle school girls. Some of Rodney’s passions include writing, illustrating, and cultural exploration.
Rodney is looking forward to spending his time in the classroom and engaging with students from all walks. He is hoping that his experience with students in an urban environment will provide a new perspective for the students at AISB, while also learning about the many cultures associated with AISB. Rodney is also a trainee teacher, working towards his teacher certification.
Mariam Keita is a 33-year old Malian, married and a mother of two. She was born in Lome and moved to Orlando, Florida at the age of 9. She graduated from William R. Bonne High School and attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York before moving to Paris to learn French in order to pursue her studies in both French and English. She obtained her Master's degree in Advertising and Public Relations at an American-Moroccan school in Rabat. She has worked at Wani Tour Travel Agency, NSIA Mali Insurance, Lux-Dev, UNOPS, and has some experience working with the Ministry of Investment in Mali. She joins us in the office as the new administrative assistant and registrar.
Besides singing & dancing, Mariam has a passion for musical theater. She loves to read any book written by Amadou Hampate Ba or Danielle Steel and is a self-confessed cinema freak.
Mariam is so happy to be part of the AISB's family, she thinks the school is full of positive energy which develops a passion for learning. She agrees with Nelson Mandela, that: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
Dámarys del Rey Mustelier is from Havana, Cuba. She has studied music formally since elementary school and has taught music since 2005 - including a Montessori-based special introductory music course for children, choir and piano. She has also played in a number of Cuban pop, house, salsa, reggae and rap groups. She will be teaching secondary music at AISB. She makes use of a number of resources in her music lessons, from educational games to classical music, to help her students recognize and understand musical patterns and rhythms which, among other things, helps children to better understand Math.
Justin Sinkpon is Ivorian but has most recently been living in Thailand. He started teaching in Ivory Coast before moving to Gabon where he taught at Lycee de l'Amitie (Libreville). He also taught at Robert Goddard French Immersion School, Maryland for three years before teaching at Bowie High School, Maryland for seven years.
He began his International school experience in Cairo where he taught for two years before moving to Thailand. In Thailand, he worked at Chiang Mai International School. Justin joins us as our new K-12 Standard French teacher.
ES Assembly Calendar
Elementary Assemblies for Semester 1
September 13th: Grade 3
September 27th: Grade 4/5
October 11th: Grade 2
November 1st: Grade 1
November 15th: Kinder
November 29th: PreK 4
December 13th: PreK 2-3
Back to School Open House September 6 - All Welcome
This year’s Back to School Open Houses will be held Thursday, September 6. Parents and students are cordially invited to meet the faculty and staff, visit classrooms, and gather information about learning and curriculum at AISB this year.
Pre-kindergarten Back to School Open House Morning runs from 7:30am to 8:10am in the Pre-K classrooms.
Kinder-Grade 12 Back to School Open House Night begins at 19:00hrs, concluding by 20:30hrs.
We look forward to seeing you all.
Welcome back everyone! We have some important dates coming up in terms of standardized testing, which are important elements of the college application process. As well as preparing for the tests they will be taking, 12th grade students should also be looking up, and making note of, important deadlines for the universities that they will soon be applying to.
12th grade parents: SAT and TOEFL testing dates We will be offering two SAT exams at the school in 2018. The testing dates are Saturday October 6th and also Saturday December 1st. Students must log on to their college board accounts to sign up for the test.
The next two TOEFL testing dates are Saturday September 15th and Saturday October 13th. These tests are given at the test center in ACI-2000. Students must log on to the ETS website in order to sign up for the test. We recommend that students requiring the TOEFL take this test as soon as possible, as many of the universities that they will be applying to require it.
If you have not yet set up a meeting with Mike Knazek, our college counselor (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss your child’s college future, please do so at your earliest convenience.
11th grade parents: PSAT and NMSQT Testing
11th grade students will take the PSAT/NMSQT here at AISB on Wednesday October 10th, during the regular school day. This is an excellent opportunity for your child: a practice opportunity provided by the College Board, to give your child an idea of what type of score they can expect when taking the actual SAT later in the spring. Please note that the PSAT is not something that your child should be studying for -- its job is to help them know how to prepare for the SAT, later in the spring.
If you would like to know more about the PSAT please do be in touch.
The PTO Annual Back-to-School BBQ
On Saturday, September 8th the Back to School BBQ will take place - organized by the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). We invite you all to come and join us. The BBQ will start at 13.00 hrs and we expect it to end around 15.00 hrs. The Back to School BBQ is the time to welcome new families to AISB and to get reacquainted with the parents you met in years past!
Children attending AISB and their parents will receive food tickets free of charge. To have an indication of how many people will attend the BBQ we kindly ask you to confirm your presence with Mrs. Oumou Dramé. You can do that by phone (20 22 47 38), email (email@example.com), in person, or by returning the form we will send home on Monday, September 3rd. Please make sure you do it by Wednesday, September 5th in order to receive your free tickets. Tickets will also be available for purchase for food and drinks at the BBQ.
An event like this cannot be organized without your help. Please consider giving us 45 minutes of your time to help, in one or more of the following:
Sell food/drink tickets
Help to clean up
If you want to help, please tell Mrs. Oumou Dramé as well!
We hope to see you on September 8th!
Standards-Based at AISB: helping students, helping parents
At AISB, we are continually examining and improving our educational program in light of current research, with a view to providing the best possible learning experiences for AISB students.
An important current trend in education is the movement toward the “standards-based” reporting of student achievement, with the goal of providing students and parents with better-quality, more helpful information about students’ learning and achievement. In a standards-based system students are better able to learn -- and parents are better able to help them – because they are given clear information about their learning: what they can do now, and can’t do yet. But traditional systems provide limited and often misleading information about student achievement, that can obscure a student’s actual abilities and impede their learning.
The problem with “traditional” grading systems In traditional grading systems, a student’s various achievements -- including test scores, quizzes, assignments, projects and so on -- are combined and then averaged, often with other information such as participation as well, to yield a percent score. The percent score is then assigned a corresponding letter grade.
In this way, the final result -- say, a B, or 85% -- bundles up many different kinds of data into a single descriptor. This provides little useful information to parents or teachers, and makes it hard for students to know how to focus their efforts. Traditional grading systems have further complication in that a student’s grade is impacted by how quickly she or he masters the material. When performances are averaged over a period of time, low initial scores mask a student’s overall level of achievement.
Take for instance a hypothetical student in grade 8 math. The topic is linear equations, and our student is struggling. The whole concept is new for him, he’s not even sure what questions to ask yet, and he fails his first test with a 25%. Our student studies hard, and by part way through the term he is improving: he scores only 50% on the next test, though, because by now the equations are more complex and there are word problems involved. After more work and more time to practice and experiment though, it finally clicks – he gets it, he has mastered the material and he “aces” the last test with a perfect score of a 100%. He now understands, and can solve linear equations correctly and with confidence, forever.
Traditional grading would average our student’s three test results, yielding a discouraging 58% -- that is to say, an ‘F.’ And this in spite of the fact that after several weeks of hard work the student has actually mastered the material to a high level – higher, in fact, than most of the students receiving As and Bs. And not only that, our student has developed valuable skills in studying and persistence that, in this traditional system, go completely unrecognized.
Students who master the material quickly are also penalized by this system: they are discouraged from experimenting, taking time to think deeply, or taking intellectual risks since “getting it wrong” will result in points lost and a lower grade. Furthermore, in traditional systems, student are awarded (or lose) points for behaviors entirely unrelated to their understanding of the learning goals -- such as tidiness, timeliness, homework completion, effort, and participation.
In such a system, it is impossible to differentiate between a student’s behaviors and his or her actual mastery of the material. This can -- and does-- lead to confusion and misconceptions about the value or meaning of grades for students and parents alike.
What “Standards-Based” looks like: a truer picture of student learning
By contrast, in a standards-based reporting system, learning targets are clearly defined in terms of specific standards, or learning goals, and a student’s mastery of each standard is monitored and reported separately. Students are given many and varied opportunities to learn and demonstrate their growing mastery, and specific information about their learning and performance is gathered and shared with them throughout the reporting period. At the end of the reporting period grades are assigned using the best, most relevant and most current information about a student’s highest level of achievement –not an average.
In this system, students know what the standards are and how to meet them, and parents receive detailed information that offers the truest available picture of their child’s knowledge, skills and understandings.
Standards-based systems sometimes, although not always, use indicators such as “Meets the standard”, or “Approaching the standard” rather than a letter grade to report a student’s performance on individual standards. They may or may not provide a single “overall” performance grade. But regardless of its form, a student’s grade in this system accurately reflects his or her actual performance -- that is, his or her mastery of the standards.
Behaviors that impact learning, such as effort, timeliness, engagement, persistence, tidiness and so on are reported to parents, since changes in these learning habits will impact a student’s learning and performance. But these other attributes do not impact the student’s grade.
“Standards-Based” at AISB At AISB, we have been gradually moving towards a standards-based assessment and reporting system for some time. If you have a child in Elementary, you are already familiar with a standards-based report card: AISB Elementary has never used any other system.
Last year, 6th and 7th grade used a fully standards-based approach; this year the program will roll up into 8th grade as well.
If you have a child in Secondary, you have been receiving standards-based narratives for the past three years, that provide specific information about what skills, knowledge and understandings were assessed, and how; about how your child performed in relation to those standards, and suggesting next steps. AISB Secondary students still receive a summative grade that represents their overall performance, but our hope is that students and parents will focus more on the specifics of students’ learning and progress, and less on the summary grade. Information about your child’s learning behaviors -- homework completion, engagement during class, organization, and so on -- is also shared on the report, but is not factored into students’ grades.
These were important steps toward the realization of better, more transparent reporting, and AISB’s assessment and reporting system will continue to evolve, to better meet our students’ learning needs. We believe, and the evidence is strong, that standards-based approaches to assessment and reporting are helping our students to learn better, to take greater ownership of their learning, to be more creative, and more willing to take intellectual risks. A student who can say clearly, “Well, I can do this part, and this part here, already. I can’t do this other part yet -- but I know what to do and here’s how I’m practicing,” is an empowered learner, and empowering students is our goal.
Standards based grading and its relationship to more ‘traditional’ grading methods has become a common topic for discussion in education; even as this newsletter was under construction, we came across yet another interesting discussion of it, this time in a Wired magazine article. If you skimmed this article (we admit it’s a bit long) and would prefer just a quick introduction to the main points, check it out!
Theory of Knowledge I: “Teen Brain” at AISB
Educational research in the last twenty years offers compelling evidence that student learn better when they practice metacognition – that is, thinking about thinking. Increasingly, strong academic programs have students’ metacognition residing at the core of their approach to teaching and learning; because understanding how learning happens allows students to make informed decisions about how to learn better.
The philosophical discipline of epistemology, also known as Theory of Knowledge, is the formal exploration of how we think and how we know. During our strategic planning process, the AISB community determined that a curriculum strand in metacognition and Theory of Knowledge should be implemented as part of an education program fostering deep engagement to support lifelong learning. Last year, AISB offered a one-semester introduction to epistemology to grade 11 and 12 students, followed by a semester-long Independent Project. This year the program has expanded to include Cognitive Neuroscience of the Adolescent Brain, also known as “Teen Brain,” offered to students in grades 10, 11, and 12.
“Teen Brain” is a science-based overview course in brain and cognitive science, with a particular emphasis on understanding the young adult brain. The course is an introduction to the problem of knowledge at its most fundamental: students explore the role of brain function and development in shaping their perceptual, emotional, social and intellectual lives. Students also acquire a range of practical, brain-based strategies for improving their learning and building their intellectual and emotional well-being, and getting the best out of their teen brains. The course includes research and experimentation -- as you might imagine --and plenty of lively discussion. Understanding how their brains work has real impact on young people's experience of learning, and their interpretation of the world around them.
Ever wonder why your teenager can’t explain herself without getting upset? Ask a 10th grader about myelination and apoptosis, and what it has to do with verbal articulation. They’ll tell you -- and they might offer you some unsolicited practical advice about attempting to engage a teenager in rational discussion before 10am, while they’re at it!
If you'd like to know more about AISB's Theory of Knowledge strand, or the Teen Brain course in particular, we'd be glad to hear from you. Contact Renée Comesotti (firstname.lastname@example.org)