April 12, 2017



AISB Newsletter

Vol. 12.7 | April 12, 2017

In this issue: 


From the Director

One of the things that attracted me to join AISB was its well-deserved reputation as a school with a strong, supportive and involved parent community. I know that the best education requires this and the research has been carried out to prove it. Student learning has been shown to increase with constructive parent involvement, whether it be by reading to your child, volunteering in the classroom, meeting with his or her teachers, attending a school social function, serving on a school committee or in other ways, all of which we encourage.

As AISB is an independent school that is governed by a parent-elected board of trustees, we offer even more ways for parents to get involved than many other schools. Many of you have stepped forward over the past year to support the board's strategic planning process by attending evening sessions to plan ways to improve our curricular and extracurricular programs, our facilities or our interactions with the broader community.

Run for the Board of Trustees
On May 9th we will host the AISB Annual General Meeting and Board Elections, in the school library. I will soon be sending a call for nominations out to anyone interested in putting their name forward as a candidate for the school's Board of Trustees. The call for nominations will go out next week, but please feel free to ask questions of any current trustee or me in the meantime.

Join the PTO
We are extremely fortunate to have such a dedicated and hard-working group of parents leading our Parent-Teacher Organization this year. These are the folks who pulled off the excellent Welcome Back BBQ, Hallowe'en Carnival and International Fair. Not to mention their great work supporting student initiatives through the PTO Student-Led Project Fund or the work they are doing in preparation for next week's Staff Appreciation Day. The bad news is that these folks will not be with us to make sure next year's PTO is as active. If you would like to make sure that the AISB community continues to have events that bring AISB families together please contact the PTO (pto@aisbmali.org) to let them know. In particular, they are looking for a team of pragmatic, fun-loving folks who will start planning for the Welcome Back BBQ, tentatively scheduled for September 9, 2017. Please drop them an email and volunteer for this so we can start next year off right.

Volunteer to participate in our accreditation self-study
International schools like ours participate in an ongoing process of reflection and self-improvement in partnership with regional educational accreditation agencies. AISB is proud to be accredited by the Middle States - the same folks who accredit AIS Vienna, AIS Johannesburg, IS Dakar, IS Brussels, IS Athens and AS Bombay. The 2017-18 school year will see us busily preparing for a visiting re-accreditation team in the fall of 2018. As part of those preparations we will bring together teams of teachers, parents, students and board members to look at all aspects of our operations and to assess our areas of strength and look for ways in which we can improve. If you would like to be part of this process, please email me (bwaugh@aisbmali.org) to get your name on the list.

Parents are an important part of our community; but of course, students are the heart of it. At AISB we do our best to honor and encourage student voice. This issue of the newsletter has a large selection of student writing, and I invite you to scroll down and check it out.

See you at school,



A Message from Your PTO

Dear parents,

The PTO has planned a special coffee break buffet for the teachers and staff of our school during the morning of Wednesday, April 26 as a sign of our appreciation for their efforts on behalf of our children. Also on that day the PTO will host an all school Teacher/Staff Appreciation Assembly in the MPR from 2:20-2:45pm. All parents are invited to attend this event.

We would also like to ask you, as parents, to help your children find a way to show their appreciation for their teacher(s). You could perhaps suggest a letter, a poem, a song, a dance, a drawing, a card or a small souvenir to say thank you to our wonderful teachers. We know children at AISB are very creative, so we hope to see a lot of nice, special ways to say thanks. These small signs of appreciation could take place on April 26th or any other day during the week.

Your PTO


Interested in Summer Camp or Swimming?

Is your child interested in an AISB summer camp or swim lessons?

We are still looking for a critical mass of students to join us this summer for a summer camp for AISB students (and others). Before going further with the planning we want to:

  • Know if there are sufficient numbers of families with a general interest to make such a camp feasible
  • Get an idea of what those families are looking for in a summer camp.

Please email the director (bwaugh@aisbmali.org) soon with your expression of interest and a few lines about what you are looking for, who would attend and which weeks (from June 23 to August 4) interest you.

Our initial thoughts about the camp are: 

  • The camp would run with kids from 6-13 years of age, as these are the ages our AISB summer teachers have experience with
  • The hours would be from 9am-1pm
  • The cost for a four-week program would be 250,000CFA and include snack and lunch
  • Activities would include swimming, sports, games and some crafts and building projects.



Understanding “Standards-Based”: an important movement in education

Education is always evolving, and for most of us, our children’s learning experience in school is quite different from what we experienced growing up. At AISB, we are continually examining our educational program in light of current research, with a view to providing the best learning experiences for our students.

An important current trend in education is the movement toward what is commonly known as “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. Students are better able to learn, and parents are better able to help them, when they are given clear information about exactly what students 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 usually averaged-- with other information such as participation to yield a percent score. The percent score is then assigned a corresponding letter grade. In this system students effectively gain points by getting things “right” and lose them by getting things “wrong”, or by handing in assignments late.

In this way, the final result -- say, a B, or 85% -- bundles up many different kinds of data into a single descriptor. Students are discouraged from experimenting or taking intellectual risks, since “getting it wrong” will result in points lost. “Re-takes” and “extra credit” may be offered, but students typically are not able to revisit their work to show greater understandings.

Traditional grading systems have further complication in that a student’s grade is impacted by how quickly she or he masters the material. Take for instance a hypothetical student in a beginner’s French course. The student struggles to master ‘er’ verb conjugations. He fails his first test with a 25%. Our student studies hard but, part way through the term, is still struggling to grasp the material; he scores a 50% on the next test. After more work and more time to consider the problem though, it finally clicks -- he has mastered the material and he “aces” the last exam with a perfect score of a 100%. He now understands, and can conjugate any regular -er verb correctly, forever.

Traditional grading would average our student’s three test results, yielding a 58% -- that is to say, an ‘F.’ This in spite of the fact that after several weeks of hard work the student has actually mastered the material to a high level -- and not only that, has developed valuable skills in studying and persistence that, in this traditional system, go completely unrecognized.

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
By contrast, in a “standards-based” reporting system, learning targets are clearly defined in terms of individual “standards”, or learning goals. Assessments may include one standard or several; either way, students are assessed on the individual standards, and a student’s progress toward mastering each individual standard is reported separately.

In this system, students know what the standards are and how to meet them, and they are given many and varied opportunities to demonstrate their growing mastery. Data on their learning is gathered continuously throughout the reporting period and is then combined -- not averaged -- to yield detailed information that offers the truest available picture of the student’s current 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, although we do continue to work for improvement of that system.

If you have a child in Secondary, you will have noticed last year the change in the quality of your child’s narrative; report card narratives now include specific information about what skills, knowledge and understandings exactly were assessed, and how; and about how your child performed in relation to those standards. Information about your child’s learning behaviors -- homework completion, engagement during class, organization, and so on -- is shared with you, but is not factored into his or her grade. Currently, 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 and learning standards, and less on the grade.

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!



From the French Department

AISB is proud and fortunate to be able to offer an unusually rich French program for a small school.

AISB serves a diverse community of French language learners, with widely varying needs: our student body includes beginners, intermediate and advanced learners, as well as heritage language learners, in every division. Our program provides three levels of French language instruction for students in all divisions, Kindergarten through Grade 12. Our High School program includes French and African Literature, Advanced Placement French and an elective course in French Cinema. Next year we hope to add an elective in French Drama.

We also offer after-school support for French first-language students who are in ESOL and consequently unable to study French during the day; this program also accommodates students simply wanting more practice in French or who are in need of remediation.

Serving a student body as diverse as ours requires ongoing evaluation of our program and our students' changing needs. The French Department is currently engaged in a complete review of its program and curriculum, as part of AISB's formal curriculum review process, and two members of the department, Mme Isabelle and M Barry, recently attended AISA's institute on Effective World Language Programs, in Nairobi. The institute was focused specifically on curriculum review to promote models of excellence in teaching and learning. The department is currently seeking a suitable external exam to supplement our in-house assessments (similar to the MAP and SAT in English), and to that end have recently piloted the ACTFL Assessment of Performance Toward Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL).


 Learning French the Fun Way!

AISB students have been proudly demonstrating their French language skills creatively during the Francophonie Week. The innovative Cinderella skit and music performance as well as the stories, slam and poetry recitals captivated us. We will never forget the discussions and laughter that followed the humorous videos we watched and the kahoot game which tested middle school and high school students’ knowledge of French expressions used in various parts of the francophone world. The French Spelling Bee was also an exciting way for elementary students to showcase their spelling skills in teams. The Francophonie Week was a lot of fun and we are very proud of the accomplishments of all the students.

When teaching French at AISB, we aim to provide an environment where students can take risks and feel confident to use the target language in a setting that is accepting and encouraging. By playing games and providing activities that engage and enthuse students, we try to make language learning an exciting passion both in and out of the classroom. Children revel in sharing their newly acquired language skills at home, so be sure to ask them what they’re learning and remind them that making the effort to communicate is often more important than communicating with 100% accuracy.

The French Department


Elementary School Spelling Bee

By Hussein Kone

On March 20th, all Elementary Students from three different French levels had the opportunity to participate in a French Spelling Bee. The kids were placed in five different groups of approximately five students a group. As a challenge the students were given words of different difficulties, which they had to spell out using various team building skills to all agree on how they were going to spell the words. Though all the kids would have wished to be rewarded with a lollipop, only the winners from the Group Five, which included Tiecoura and Thelma, were rewarded.

Some of the students mentioned that they really appreciated that this was organized a few days before our Francophone Ceremony, that the school will be hosting here at AISB on Friday, the 24th of March. This was a really fun and great learning experience for all of them. Not only did it have an educational purpose, which was to enhance their French writing skills, but it also showed that these kids can work as a team and get things done. This is something that we at AISB try to teach our students from a young age.



MUN Writeup

by: Gabriel Nzungize

MUN was a wonderful experience. The moment I stepped in the Social and Cultural committee which was full of respected delegates was nerve wracking. However, within a couple hours I had familiarized myself with a majority of the Social and Cultural committee members. This helped me be able to have the freedom to communicate my point of view on the topic.

The trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, pushed us to learn a lot, as every member of the conference was representing a country and the point of view of that country. This helped me learn a lot concerning the represented countries. The trip also contributed to my learning of Russian history, as we visited the most important sites of the country. The sites include palaces, churches, and historical monuments. Via this site seeing we learned what happened in those specific areas. For example we learned where Grigori Rasputin was killed and the story that goes with his murder.
During the stay in St. Petersburg we were able to access important buildings of the Russian government. An example of a building would be the Parliament, where the student ambassadors of each country participating in the MUN gave a speech. The official opening of the conference as well happened at Parliament.

Going on a trip to MUN was one of the best decisions of my life. It wasn’t only a wonderful experience, but it taught us a lot, and participating in another MUN conference would be really nice. 




by: Michael Nzungize

The NEVSKY MUN was my second MUN experience which was one of my best life experiences. MUN is a great experience for any teenager and would benefit them a lot. Preparing myself for MUN was a lot easier since it was my second MUN, but working hard was worth a lot.
The first day we met with all the other students where the conference took place, just like the past MUN. We all gathered together and got to know the other members of the committee. Knowing each other made the communication part easier. When you are already familiar with your colleagues, you are able to raise your point and share your point of view on the topic given. After the first day, I felt more confident.

The second day of MUN, was the day where we had to build up alliances with other students in order to produce a strong resolution. The process of building up alliances was easier since you already knew everyone in the committee. With a great team of allies, the debate got more interesting. The stronger the opposing teams are, the longer it takes to convince the committee and the longer it takes to get your resolution passed.

Thankfully I was able to pass two resolutions and get one passed in the General Assembly. After the three days of conference we had a little tour of the beautiful and cold city of St. Petersburg. We increased our knowledge of history by visiting the palaces in St Petersburg.

The most interesting thing I learned both inside and outside the model was that what matters about your work is quality not quantity. Having two pages with useful information is better than having a four pages full of nothing. MUN is a great opportunity for students because they get to apply what they learn in their daily life at school.


International Women’s Day

By Sainabou Conteh

International Women's Day is something we women are happy to celebrate on March 8th and this day is important because it has a history. I believe that this day is celebrated because of a very important reason. Everyone should be thinking about the things that have been changed from the past until now. Even though the system today is better, it still needs to change.

One inequality is how well women are paid compared to men. An African American woman gets paid 60% of what a White man gets paid and a Latina woman gets paid 55% of what a White man gets paid. That is not equality for me.
Women between 18 and 24 get paid 88% compared to men and women over 35 get paid 79% compared to men and that’s completely wrong. This inequality problem needs to be solved.

Today everyone should be thinking about how badly treated women are and from this thinking we should all, at the end of the day, agree that women have it much harder than men. Yes, men have it hard, but women worse. We all should agree that both genders should be equally treated. WE WOMEN NEED TO FIGHT TOGETHER AND CUT THE INVISIBLE CHAIN BETWEEN WOMEN AND MEN!


International Women’s Day Reflection

By Tristan Pelzer

On March 8th, we are celebrating International Women’s Day, and this day has a lot of reasons to be an important day. On International Women’s Day, we should think about the rights of women, the fact that women are not less than men, that we are all equal. We should be thinking about feminist movements and the benefits of these movements and think about how the rights of women changed from old times to modern times.

Women weren’t allowed to work in places for “men only,” or to vote. They barely had rights. Rights of women are what we are celebrating and manifesting for on International Women’s Day. Women like Katherine Johnson fought for women’s rights, and we should continue on their path.

Katherine Johnson is an African-American women who worked at NASA at the beginning of the 20th century. She was one of the most brilliant employees at NASA, and was the first woman who worked side by side with a group of all white men with the goal of launching a man to space. It was very hard for her during her start at NASA, and white NASA employees thought she was “less” than them. This woman is an example to follow if we want to achieve equality and we should fight for equal pay and equal rights.


It Is Our Day

By Nadine Iraguha

International Women’s Day is a very important day not only for women but for all people in general. This day is a really good day to appreciate the achievements that women have made throughout history, and will continue to make.
First, this day shows that every gender should have respect. Although not all women have the rights that they have fought for in the past, progress has been made. For example, before in Rwanda, no women were allowed to go to school but now they go to school. Also in Parliament, 61% of the representatives are women.

On the other hand, there are some countries where women and men still don't have the same rights. In Nigeria, the members of the Nigerian Senate have voted against gender equality.

I believe that as a whole community in order to succeed, we have to work together. Unity creates better opportunities for achievements. So why shouldn’t we celebrate this day which represents the unity and liberty of women, since in the past women didn’t have this opportunity?
It is very necessary to have this day every year and forever because it shows love and togetherness between people. A woman is not stronger or wiser than a man. Likewise, she is never the lesser. Therefore, happy International Women’s Day to all the women out there. Let’s make history!


It’s Easy to Keep Your Mouth Shut When You’re Benefiting from an Unfair System

By Abraham Diarra

In a patriarchal environment like Mali, it is hard to think about and to break out of the mentality that women have a certain role in society. These roles can be shopping, staying home and cooking, and sometimes can be taking care of the kids the entire time.
In Mali, women are rarely seen in positions where impactful and important decisions can be made. That is why men today should take up the responsibility to be able to break away from society’s beliefs and fight for what we think is right, even if everyone is telling you you are wrong.
As men, it is easy “to keep our mouths shut” and let the world continue to give us male privilege. But, it takes strength to stand up against something that is wrong for someone else, but good for you.

In the Unites States, White women will make about 80 cents on the dollar compared to white men. That means a woman would have to work three months more than a man to make the same amount of money. If you are a Latina women in America, you will make only 55 cents on the dollar compared to a White man. If you are an African American woman, you will make about 60 cents on the dollar compared to a white man.
In Mali we see male privilege and in the United States, we see it too. We need to make a change!


Should we be Thinking about International Women’s Day?

by Roman Pelzer

I think that we should be thinking about International Women’s Day because it is important. It reflects the history that made women suffer. In history, men have been mistreating women. Women were not allowed to vote or divorce. They were not allowed to wear pants like jeans either. Men thought that they should have power in the social hierarchy.

In some countries women are still not allowed to go to school. This is shocking because women are not less than us. Just because men want supremacy, they are making women stay at the bottom of the social hierarchy by taking their rights away.

We have to realize that women are discriminated against because of what gender they belong to and that this is not correct. The problem is that a lot of people think they are superior to women but if we can change that ideology, the future will be better for everyone.


The Importance of Women

By Chade Van de Fliert

Chade Image for article Women around the world are under appreciated and undermined. The suffering of women is a massive issue today just like it was centuries ago. Since the beginning of time women have been considered inferior to men. In different places around the world women experience different standards and expectations. For example, a women in Germany is expected to go to school and obtain a certain degree. In Mali, the majority of women are expected to obtain a husband and aren’t encouraged to go to school. Although equality between women and men has improved recently, it is still a tremendous issue around the world especially in less developed areas.

Due to the lack of education in some of these areas women are still mistreated by men and women can’t do anything about it. In some countries like Niger women are often objectified and treated as such. Women are commonly required to accomplish certain tasks such as cooking and cleaning. In other countries like Saudi Arabia women don’t have to right to drive. The women’s role is not to do these chores, because both women and men are capable of doing housework. Both women and men are capable of working in business or being an athlete.

March 8th is International Women’s Day. Its purpose is to honor and highlight the endured agony of women throughout time. Although this day is celebrated worldwide it doesn’t change the fact that women still experience hardship daily. Moving forward, we must remember the suffering of women and how with time we can ameliorate this issue.


What to Think About International Women’s Day

by Wouter Ensing

What I think we should think about when we celebrate International Women's Day are ways to improve working together as women and men. We should also think about how we can make the conditions better to increase equality between men and women. The reason why I think we should think about this is because the work we do together is not as good as it could be.

In the past, a lot of the women were suppressed by men, which is not good. Women have been fighting for their rights for a long time now. That is why I think that we should work together instead of separating each other by sex.

There should be more equality between men and women because there is equality, but not enough. Some women are still not allowed to work in the same category of work as a man and that is wrong. We should think about working together, not discriminating against each other, and making rights for men and women more equal on International Women's Day.



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