Information on Cornerstones 9-10-14

posted Sep 10, 2014, 2:19 AM by Ted Hall

September 8, 2014

Dear YHS Students and Parents,

The purpose of this letter is to give you some information about a new component of our classroom assessments, called cornerstones.

For many years, our teachers have worked collaboratively so that students who take the same course with different teachers are taught the same material and assessed using common assessments that are tied directly to the standards of the course.  Since 2010, our faculty has worked together to more clearly define our school-wide expectations and learning area expectations for student learning.  Recently,  two outside influences have emerged that are consistent with this work:  accreditation through NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) and the recent state initiative on graduation by proficiency.  All of this work has pushed us to better define our academic expectations and how we assess these expectations so that all students who graduate from Yarmouth High School can be assured that they have met those expectations.

The process that has brought us to the use of cornerstone assessments began several years ago when the faculty identified our beliefs about teaching and learning.  Simply stated, we believe that the best learning occurs:

  • when positive relationships form the foundation for learning;

  • when students engage in high-level learning and access appropriate support;

  • when students have an active role in their learning and in the school community;

  • in a culture of collaboration;

  • when students and teachers extend their learning beyond the school;

  • in an environment of creativity and innovation.

The next part of the faculty’s work was to identify several overarching school-wide expectations for student learning.  The idea is that these expectations will come up for students in several areas of their high school experience, mostly through their classes but also through advisor-based activities.  The school-wide graduation expectations are stated as follows:  

As a Yarmouth High School Student, you will:

  • Communicate effectively;

  • Exhibit personal responsibility, civic engagement, and global awareness;

  • Work independently and collaboratively;

  • Demonstrate critical, creative, and innovative thinking;

  • Develop understanding through inquiry, research, and synthesis.

Once we established our school-wide expectations, each of the learning areas (English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, World Language, Visual and Performing Arts, and Health Science) began to work on their own specific graduation expectations.  These learning expectations are based on what we expect students to learn in the courses they take here.  You can find the learning area expectations at this link.

Since students do almost all their learning within their classes of various subjects, we felt strongly that the assessment of these expectations should take place within the classes, so we identified the concept of cornerstone assessments as a way of knowing that students have demonstrated their understanding and application of the learning expectations.  

What are cornerstones?  These are assessments designed by Yarmouth High School teachers that connect directly to the learning area expectations and the school-wide expectations.  Many of the cornerstones are assessments that have been previously used by teachers in their classes.  Most of these existing assessments have been improved by better aligning with the expectations.  In some cases, teachers have created one or more new assessments that will be their cornerstones. Every full-year course at Yarmouth High School will have between 3-5 cornerstones. Semester classes will have between 1-3 cornerstones.  Students will need to pass all of the cornerstones in a course with a grade of 80 or above in order to pass the course.   Students who do not reach that grade on the first try will have multiple opportunities to meet the required score.  You can find three examples of cornerstones at this link.

Students have already begun to hear about cornerstones in their classes and parents will hear more from the teachers at our Open House on Thursday, September 18th.  Like any change, cornerstones will become more clear when students experience these sometime later in the first quarter or early in the second quarter.

On Tuesday evening, October 7th, from 6:30-8:00 PM, all parents are invited to my first Parent-Principal Coffee in the YHS Library.  Please come if you would like to learn more or have questions.  And, as always, feel free to be in touch by phone or email with any questions, comments or concerns about any aspect of our school program.


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