From the Director



AISB Newsletter

Vol. 14.6 | April 16, 2019

In this issue: 

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From the Director

AISB enjoys a strong reputation in the international school world for the strength of its community.  This is one of the main features that drew me to come here and it was also one of the features that drew particular praise from the MSA Accreditation Team when they visited the school last October.  In his closing remarks, Jean-Luc Aupoix, the Team chair, commended the students, parents, Board, faculty and staff of AISB “for the degree of cooperation and cohesiveness you display day after day for the benefit of the students’ learning and everyone’s well being.

Teachers cherish this kind of collaboration and cohesion in and of itself and also because the research shows that student learning increases with constructive parent involvement. As members of an independent, parent-governed school each AISB parent enjoys the special opportunity to become involved in the governance of the school as one of seven voting members of the school’s Board of Trustees. The Board’s remit is governance rather than operations and consists of:

  • Reviewing, revising and approving the long term strategic plans and goals for school growth and improvement
  • Reviewing, revising and approving school policies
  • Approving and monitoring school budgets
  • Hiring and evaluating the Director
  • Monitoring school performance and student achievement
  • Actively listening and responding to constituents

A strong track record
During my tenure at AISB I have had the great privilege and good fortune of working with Boards that have governed with vision and dedication. The Board’s work was also  highlighted by Jean-Luc during his oral report. Celebrating the Board’s successes in the strategic and fiduciary realms, he wrote that “the school’s strategic plan has integrated a clever and coherent facilities plan that meets most of your current and future needs.” He also noted that “The school finances are very well looked after and all necessary tools are in place to ensure best practice and management. Money is serving the purposes of school and students’ learning. It is very reassuring  to see that all measures have been taken to secure the school’s operations, and factor in uncertainties connected to the volatility of the local environment, and yet  there is room to plan for growth, expansion and development.

Interested in nominating yourself for the Board of Trustees?

On May 7th we will host the AISB Annual General Meeting and Board Elections, in the school library. I have already sent out a call for nominations by email, and if you interested in helping build an even stronger school please do submit your nomination. If you have further questions about what the job entails, feel free to speak with any of the current trustees or me. The working language of the Board is English.

See you at school,


April 15: Fourth round of After School Activities begin (running until May 24)  
April 15: Second round of MAP testing begins (running until May 3)
April 18: Arts Career Day
April 19: Quarter 3 reports go home
April 22: Easter Monday - no school
April 27: Comic Book Day
April 30: International Jazz Day concert at AISB
May 1: May Day - no school
May 7: AGM and Board Elections
May 10: Student-Led Conferences (K-8) and Parent-Teacher Conferences (PreK, HS)
May 17: Science Fair
May 24:  Africa Day Concert
June 13: Graduation Ceremony
June 14: Last day of school

Welcome Nurse Djouma and Ms. Nene! 

nurse djoumaPlease welcome Djouma Drame, who joins us in the AISB Nurse's Office. Nurse Djouma is a French-trained and state-certified nurse with 7 years experience in France, and has lived here in Mali for 6 years. Nurse Djouma has held positions in nursery, elementary and college level schools, and has a particular interest in prevention and health education. Drop by Nurse Djouma’s office or catch her in the hall to say hi, and to welcome her to the school.

We said a sad farewell to Nurse Figne, who will continue her good work in Denmark, working with children undergoing bone marrow transplants. We are sorry to lose her, but happy for those children, who need her very much.

We are also very pleased to welcome AISB’s new Junior Accountant, Miss Nene Sy. 

We are very glad to have her with us! 

Nene Sy


Q3 Report Cards coming soon!

Understanding standards-based reports: more information, more clarity

AISB Elementary and Middle School students are now fully immersed in a standards-based approach for learning and assessment in all subject areas. High School students receive standards-based narrative comments in addition to their “letter” grades, and many HS courses are also, in practice, fully standards-based. In all divisions, in core classes and “specials”, students work with the standards to better understand the nature of what they are learning and recognize their achievements. Clear, specific feedback from teachers is allowing students to target specific areas for growth and improvement. And through guided self-reflections, students identify patterns in their learning across subject areas, which which guide their efforts and growth in more purposeful ways.

A standards-based approach allows students, teachers and parents to recognize exactly what students can, and can’t yet, do. This information is empowering for everyone.

But what is a “standard”, actually?
A standard has several components:

  • The Strand: The significant area of knowledge within the subject area into which the standard falls.
  • The Standard: The goal; the view to future learning; the essential skill, knowledge, understanding or disposition that a student will master by the end of grade 12. Since standards are developed over many, or sometimes all, grade levels, they help schools ensure that students build knowledge, understandings and skills in a coherent way over time.
  • The Grade-Level Benchmarks (which are also, confusingly, called “Grade-Level Indicators” in some educational contexts): The grade-level goal for the standard; the the particular contexts in which, at this grade level, the standard is learned, practiced and demonstrated. At the benchmark level, the standard is often broken into individual components that will be targeted individually in students’ learning experiences at a given grade level.

So for example, here is a complete standard from the Grade 7 Mathematics curriculum:

The Number System

Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication and division to divide fractions by fractions.

Grade Level Indicators

  • AERO.7.NS.1 Apply and extend previous understandings of addition and subtraction to add and subtract rational numbers
  • AERO.7.NS.1a Describe situations in which opposite quantities combine to make 0
  • AERO.7.NS.1b Understand p + q as the number located a distance |q| from p, in the positive or negative direction depending on whether q is positive or negative. Show that a number and its opposite have a sum of 0 (are additive inverses). Interpret sums of rational numbers by describing real-world contexts.
  • AERO.7.NS.1c Understand subtraction of rational numbers as adding the additive inverse, p - q = p + (-q). Show that the distance between two rational numbers on the number line is the absolute value of their difference, and apply this principle in real- world contexts
  • AERO.7.NS.1d Apply properties of operations as strategies to add and subtract rational numbers.

Some standards and benchmark indicators are taught and mastered within a single quarter. Others take much longer, and may play an important role in the course throughout the year. Standards may be introduced at the beginning of the year, or later; and may be taught and assessed throughout the year or for only a portion, depending on the curricular area and the needs of students. Regardless, standards “spiral” -- that is, they recur in the curriculum, year after year, at increasing levels of depth and complexity.

Teachers assess students’ learning of all the standards, formatively during the learning process, and summatively once the study of a given standard is concluded, gathering evidence of a student’s learning and performance and building a holistic picture of the student’s learning, identifying specific areas of growth, strength and challenge for each student.

The standards are quite comprehensive; for example, there are 6 strands, 20 standards and 52 indicators for Grade 7 Mathematics. But by the end of the year, Grade 7 students will have demonstrated learning in all these areas.

But...isn’t that too much information?
The challenge for educators is to provide students and parents with good information, that is, a balance: enough information to be helpful and specific, but not so much that they drown in detail. Students make use of the whole standard in their classroom learning -- strand, standard and indicators -- but not all at once. Standards are often re-written in student-friendly language for use in the classroom, and are sometimes abbreviated or paraphrased on report cards, to make them more usable for students and parents.

What you’ll see on the report card
For assessment and reporting, teachers target those “key” indicators and standards that will be most helpful in describing students’ learning. In addition to comments, students in Elementary, Middle and High School receive a summary grade, for each standard for which they have been summatively assessed this quarter. You’ll find more detailed explanations of the indicators forElementaryMiddle and High School by clicking on the embedded links.

By the end of the year, all students will have received a grade reporting their progress in all the target course standards.

When parents and teachers work together students learn better. For more information, contact your child’s teachers or Brad Waugh ( We’ll be glad to hear from you.


Student-Led Conferences are Coming

Once again, we are looking forward to Elementary and Middle School’s spring Student-Led Conferences. SLCs empower students to take responsibility for their own learning, and encourage students to reflect on their work and on themselves as learners. Our ES and MS students began preparing for the spring SLCs in the first quarter by setting goals; and since that time they have been collecting evidence and reflecting on their learning and growth, and discussing it all with their teachers.

An SLC is different from a traditional parent-teacher conference, because during SLCs, the student is the one “in charge.” Although teachers are present to support students if needed, the students themselves are responsible for the SLC, leading parents through the conference, showing work samples, discussing and reflecting on their growth as learners, and possibly demonstrating a new skill. Before SLCs, teachers may help students set or reflect on goals, but do not take the lead as they would in a parent-teacher conference.

Student-Led Conferences will look different depending on the age of your child, but at all levels you will see and hear students reflecting on their learning process and work. In the lower grades, SLCs may have stations for students to rotate through in a specific order, or the teacher may guide the student when it is time to move on. As students get older, they take more responsibility for the management of their time. All students will share work samples from throughout the year, showing not only the students’ best work, but examples of their strengths and target areas for growth. Parents may may be invited to participate in a demonstration activity, or may see their child present their learning independently.

About Parent-Teacher Conferences
Regular parent-teacher conferences are held at the end of the first quarter of each year, and thereafter as required. Parents who would like a conference with their child's teacher, now or at any time of the year, are encouraged to contact the school, or contact the teacher directly. We'll be glad to hear from you.

Likewise, teachers who feel that a students' learning warrants a parent-teacher meeting at this point in the year will be in touch with parents directly.

Teachers will send more information regarding SLCs coming in May. If you are interested in learning more about SLCs now, please contact your child's teacher or take a look at A Guide to Student Led Conferences.




College Counseling Corner: Important Information for 11th Graders and Their Families

Although the TOEFL is offered in two locations in Bamako, we recommend that students take the TOEFL iBT (Internet Based Test) at the ACI 2000 location. In the past, our students have had computer issues at the Badalabougou location and therefore, we do not recommend that site.

If you have not signed up for the TOEFL yet, do so as quickly as possible. There is a limited number of seats, so do not delay! Although the test is offered in the summer and will be offered next year, it is better to take the TOEFL as a Junior, to reduce the (significant) number of tasks to complete during your senior year.

The SAT exam is being administered on Saturday, May 4, 2019, as well as in October and December of the next academic year. Most of our Juniors are registered to take the exam in May, and should be working on the practice exams that have been shared with them.

On test day, students should arrive at school at 7:30. It is recommended that the students get a good night’s sleep and have breakfast before the exam. It is important to remember to always bring your passport identification and your ticket to a standardized test. You will always want to make sure that the name that is on your ticket matches your identification perfectly. We have had no problems here at AISB, and we expect to have none.

Please do not hesitate to email Mike Knazek at to make an appointment. Thank you in advance for your collaboration.


High School Grades: What exactly do they mean?

What do HS grades measure?
Many of of our high school classes now use a fully standards-based system to evaluate student progress. While many standards-based high schools use “word” indicators similar to those AISB uses in Elementary and Middle School, our High School program currently uses the familiar letter grade system (A, B, C and so on) to provide a summary grade for the course, with information about student mastery of individual standards in a narrative comment. In essence, the letter grade is a summary of the extent and quality of a student’s performance during the assessment period.

But what does a letter grade mean, in a standards-based system?
In a standards-based system we do not “average” student performances over the the quarter to calculate grades; rather, we look holistically at the student’s work in entirety, and assign a grade based upon the most relevant, most current and best information available. With each assessment, a student is able to demonstrate his or her mastery of the standards -- that is, of the knowledge, skills and understandings currently being taught and assessed.

How do we assign grades?
Students receive feedback on their progress, (often in the form of a formative “grade”) on an ongoing basis throughout the year, and they use this information to determine where to focus their energies and improve their learning. Towards the end of the assessment period (the unit or quarter) teachers look holistically at each student’s work and evaluate the extent to which the student has demonstrated mastery of the unit standards. Quarter and semester grades, like unit grades, are not assigned according to averages or “scores” but rather on a holistic evaluation of the student’s mastery of the standards and readiness to move on to new material.

What counts as an “Assessment”?
Everything that a student does to provide evidence of his or her learning counts as an assessment. This might include comments made during a class discussion or informal written practices, more formal assignments such as projects, seminars, presentations or essays, or traditional pencil-and-paper quizzes and tests. AISB students are encouraged to view their regular assignments both as opportunities to learn, and to demonstrate evidence of their learning. Furthermore, students are encouraged to take every opportunity to demonstrate where their mastery is improving, and may re-submit assignments or propose new ways of demonstrating their learning whenever practical.

What are Summative and Formative Assessments?
Formative assessments are those assessments that take place during the learning process. Teachers use formative assessments to gather information: to gauge students’ learning, to determine where students need more practice or re-teaching, where they might have misconceptions or are ready to move on to more complex work. Formative assessments are an opportunity for the teacher to provide feedback, and for the student to learn. Formative assignments may take the form of practice sets, discussions and classwork, assignments and “homework” of many kinds. Formative assessments are not used to determine a student’s grade, except where an assessment incidentally provides the best and most relevant insights into a student’s learning for that assessment period.

Grades are assigned based upon summative assessments. These are the assessments that take place after a student has had multiple opportunities to learn, practice and reinforce his or her learning -- typically at the end of a unit or set of units. Summative assessments are typically substantial, and ask students to apply all that they have learned in a unit or a given assessment period. In this way, summative assessments demonstrate the “sum” of a student’s learning for that period.

You will find summative letter grades defined for a standards-based system on this document. The descriptors are rather technical, although we have tried to avoid jargon; we’ve tried to strike a balance between accuracy, efficiency and clarity -- not such an easy task, actually!

Please don’t hesitate to come and chat with us about our standards-based approach and the ways in which it supports your child’s learning. We’ll be glad to see you.

 AISB Performance Indicators: Working for a delicate balance

The purpose of the descriptors is to support student learning and empowerment, and to summarize student learning as clearly as possible, for students and parents.

But there is no single perfect way to characterize a student’s learning using only one or two words! AISB’s indicators vary by division, and are designed to be reflective of the needs of our students. They are also more or less typical for international schools around the world. Our overall goal, through the indicators, is to help parents understand something about a) the way AISB teaches and measures student progress, and b) the way students of different ages learn.

We have provided explanations of the descriptors in the links below. Your child’s teachers will also be pleased to provide you with specific illustrations from your child’s work, to show you just what we mean. (Our ultimate aim is for your child to be able to do that, too; look elsewhere in this newsletter on Student-Led Conferences at AISB.)

Elementary has adopted the indicators Independent Performance, Instructional Performance and Introductory Performance to describe student performance of the standards. An elaboration of the Elementary descriptors may be found here.

In Middle School, student mastery of the standards is indicated using Proficient, Progressing Towards the Standard, and Needs Development. You’ll find an elaboration of the MS descriptors here.

High School students receive the familiar A-B-C “letter-grades.” You’ll find an explanation of those here.

“I can” statements: Empowering students to take ownership of their learning
You’ll also notice that in some subject areas, students’ mastery of the standards is expressed using “I can” statements. These statements capture the essence of learning in those subject areas using language that helps students recognize and take ownership of their learning.


Comic Book Day

Comic Book Day


International Jazz Day Celebration - April 30th



Holi celebration at AISB!

Holi is a Hindu spring festival, originating from the Indian subcontinent, celebrated predominantly in India and Nepal, but has also spread to other areas of Asia and parts of the Western world through the diaspora from the Indian subcontinent. Holi is undoubtedly the most fun-filled festival that brings in fun and joy, music and dance, and, lots of bright colors!

Grade 8 organized Holi at AISB this year as part of their CBE project. The event kicked off with an ice-cream and was picked up by throwing powdered colors at each other. Secondary students later enjoyed water relays and were set free to throw water balloons at each other. Students had lots of fun!


DSC 0396 Holi Celebration



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