Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Screen-Free Challenge Day Recap

On Wednesday, December 21st, Hazen held its first Screen-Free Challenge Day. The challenge was optional, and asked students and teachers to attempt to go screen-free for the day. A “device hotel” was created in the middle level lab where students could store their personal device for the day. About 28 students chose to take advantage of this option. In return, they earned a raffle ticket for a drawing held at lunch the next day, with incentives that included books, a backpack, chocolate, and more. Raffle tickets were also earned by going screen-free through an entire class, and by watching the documentary Screenagers.

This event was designed to educate students about the effects of screen time on their developing brains, as well as to encourage them to consider how screen time affects their social interactions. Some comments from students included: “Without my phone I could really hang out with friends instead of texting,” “The one thing I noticed was how hard the classes were to do without our iPads,” and “It forced us to have discussions face-to-face and I really liked that.” The day had students and teachers engaging in meaningful conversation about screen-time and the choices we make around it.

After the success of Hazen’s first screen-free challenge, another is being planned for March 20th. We hope to build on the experience of the first, adding more information and challenges. In addition, another screening of Screenagers will be held in the Hazen auditorium on Tuesday, January 10th at 6pm. We hope you can join us.

Friday, December 16, 2016

What's the Story!?

Two Hazen high school students are participating in an exciting opportunity at Middlebury College with students from around the state. Read about it here:

Hi! I’m Clara Lew-Smith, a Hazen junior, and I want to tell you about a learning opportunity that’s interesting, relevant, and challenging. “What’s the Story?” is a social justice and action class through Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English, unique both in its content and form. Another student, sophomore Sidney Carr, and I are participating, and so far we’ve attended one day-long meeting and two retreats spanning a day and a half over weekends in November and December. The course is student driven, so the year starts with every student spending time exploring an issue which they perceive to be affecting Vermont communities. This year, these ranged from environmental issues involving pollution in Lake Champlain, to sexism and the perpetuation of the gender binary, to educational progress and equity. Once they have spent about a month and a half researching, exploring the depth of the issue, and blogging about their progress in response to different prompts every week, every student creates a short presentation on their topic to be pitched at the November retreat. We spent a weekend hearing about each others’ work and then undergoing the messy and complicated process of grouping ourselves into teams with one common goal. In those teams (there are five or six, each one with 1-5 members), we planned our goals for the intervening month until the December retreat. In my team, we created a shared Google Folder to hold our progress, including the notes and resources we’d drafted in our first team meeting. We planned to meet once a week via Google Hangout to stay on the same track, and we have a document on which we record our meeting notes and our plans and action for each week. This helps us not only divide the work, but stay unified, especially since our team members live in four different places around the state.

Every team will have a final project, most likely a documentary, so our most recent retreat was focused on preparing for interviews (although we also reevaluated and set new goals and explored topics such as our own limiting political bias). We learned how to operate multiple pieces of equipment (each team gets a “media kit”), navigated the various facets of intentionally planning and filming an interview with a Middlebury film professor, and practiced using our new skills. We meet again in January, and the intervening period is to be used to collect as many perspectives as possible through interviews.

“What’s the Story?” is incredible in that in order for students to succeed, they must develop not only the passion to make positive change, but the mature communication and cooperation skills to work within their team and to convey their message. The process allows for students to decide how and when they communicate and what they’re responsible for, and every student has a blog to record their learning, the obstacles they face, and their development both as an individual and as it pertains to their individual topic. My topic this year is Equity in Education for New American and English Language Learner Students, and if you’re interested in learning more about my work so far, feel free to contact me or read my blog: http://whatsthestory.middcreate.net/vermont/category/clara-lew-smith/

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Screen time is becoming a topic of concern for parents as their children spend more and more time in front of screens at school and in their free time. Screen time can affect a child's health, disrupt sleep patterns, and cause anxiety and attention problems. As parents face these issues, they need to be informed in order to make the best decisions for their children and themselves.

To bring about more understanding of the issue, Hazen Union School will be hosting a screening of Screenagers, a documentary focusing on how to navigate the digital world with teenagers. "...With surprising insights from authors, psychologists, and brain scientists, SCREENAGERS reveals how tech time impacts kids’ development and offers solutions on how adults can empower kids to best navigate the digital world and find balance." This event is a lead up to Hazen's Screen Free Challenge, which will take place during the school day December 21st.

Hazen invites the communities served by Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union to this screening being held Monday, December 19th at 6:00pm in the Hazen auditorium.

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/705269449636184/

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Advisory, Survey Results, Next Steps

Our school community prides itself on relationships. Our three tenets are: be respectful, be safe, and be engaged. One goal that remains constant is that students feel that they have trusting relationships with at least one adult in the building. We have several systems and supports in place for this to happen.

One initiative that we have implemented to meet this goal is our advisory program, where students meet with their advisory on a daily basis for support. To understand how we are meeting our goal on relationships, we provided students with a survey to assess our school climate. After the survey was complete, we asked faculty to look at the data and develop some short term goals based on their takeaways from the survey. Below are the survey results:

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Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 9.10.59 AM.pngScreen Shot 2016-11-14 at 9.11.14 AM.pngScreen Shot 2016-11-14 at 9.11.27 AM.png

Teacher observations, reflections, and goals:
  • On average most students feel: Safe recognized for good behavior have a good relationship with teachers and TSA advisors feel like their voices are being heard.
  • It sounds like teachers have built strong relationships with their students.
  • Our school climate, on average, seems positive. However, academic settings/ academic climate seems to be a struggle. Next year, have a more deliberate, positive and quiet roll out of this survey.
  • More emphasis needs to be placed on creating a positive ACADEMIC environment. Improve the number of students that feel safe (strongly agree) by 40% by winter survey. Attempt to understand why students do NOT feel safe. Work to improve PBIS so more students feel recognized for good behavior (strongly agree) to 25%
  • We would like to be more cognizant of placing TSA students with teachers in the future. We could utilize prior relationships with prior advisers to help place students in a more appropriate or non-triggering environment.
  • All students need to stay safe. Every other student we meet in the hall has felt unsafe. Moderately safe is not good enough. We can reinforce this message in our teaching by restating safety concerns.
  • We need to make sure that we are making a concrete effort to reach out to all students in TSA; help them to make a connection.

While we feel positive overall about the results of the survey, we do recognize that there is more work to be done

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Note on Report Card Grades

In the fall of 2016, Hazen Union School moved to a proficiency-based model of instruction and assessment. We are excited about this shift and are confident that it benefits all of our students. Here is a breakdown of what your student’s report card grades mean.

  • Majority of standards are Exemplary.  
  • No standards are Developing, Beginning, or No Evidence.
3.4 - 2.7
  • Majority of standards are Proficient or Exemplary.
  • No standards are Beginning or No Evidence.

  • Majority of standards are Proficient or Exemplary, but some are Beginning or No Evidence.
  • Majority of standards are Developing, and more are Proficient or Exemplary than Beginning or No Evidence.
1.6 - 1.0
  • Majority of standards are Developing and/or Beginning.
  • Majority of the standards are No Evidence.

What is the 1-4 scale and how does it work?

The smaller the scale, the greater the accuracy and consistency among teachers. As with most schools in the nation that have moved to Proficiency Based Learning, we have chosen a four point scale for its ease of conversion to the traditional college GPA scale, and for its clarity.

The keys to reliable scales are clear, well-defined descriptors of each of the four levels. Teachers have been working on writing quality Essential Learning Outcomes (ELO’s) and will continue to do so. Each ELO has language specific to the targeted content skill or understanding. Teachers score student work using a 1-4 scale for each ELO where a 3 represents proficiency in the articulated target. When scores from individual targets are combined in Powerschool or Schoology at the end of a period of learning, this will result in composite scores to the tenth place (i.e. 3.1, 2.6, 2.8).

For the 2016-17 school year a score of 2 will equal a passing grade in the course.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

One to One Device Initiative Update

After last year’s successful pilot of a one-to-one device program in Hazen’s middle level, this year Hazen made the commitment to one-to-one for the entire school. Every student at Hazen now has access to their own personal learning device, either an iPad or a Chromebook. In addition to each student having their own device, after completing digital citizenship lessons, getting parental permission, and agreeing to appropriate use, students are able to take their device home, promoting digital equity and access among Hazen students. Students have reported that their device helps them with organization, utilizing apps to acquire new learning, and creating collaborative presentations.

This year Hazen has also adopted the use of Schoology, a learning management system that supports blended learning. It enables teachers to post information, assignments, and assessments to their classes in an online portal, where students can access them anywhere, anytime. Students say they appreciate the use of Schoology for the way it organizes their classes and assignments, and reminds them of upcoming due dates. It also gives teachers a robust tool for differentiating instruction based on student needs, and supports targeted practice and timely feedback. 


The adoption of a one-to-one program along with the use of Schoology is giving students new opportunities and changing the learning landscape at Hazen. No longer confined by outdated textbooks and school walls, students are able to interact with real time world events, communicate with students on the other side of the world, and create meaningful connections to life and learning.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

What's Happening in Humanities?!

Last year our 9th and 10th grade English Language Arts and Global Citizenship teachers took on the task of rethinking the proficiencies, content, and delivery of their courses. Have a look at this quick guest post from Kyle Behrsing:

The main goal in our Humanities planning this year is to blend learning of history and culture together. We want students to gain historical knowledge through studying culturally relevant literature, and think critically about problems posed to them. Students have studied the beginnings of history and civilization, and looked at the problems in decoding history and the lack thereof.

In the 9th grade, students have been tasked with deciphering the history about Ancient Greece. They are currently attempting to answer the question: What was the story of the Trojan War? Students have read some of the first historical writings from Herodotus, some of the epic poem The Odyssey, attributed to Homer, and are trying to piece together the evidence that they find into an explanation of the event. In the 10th grade, students have analyzed Plato’s allegory of the cave, Plato’s Theory of Forms, and incorporated philosophy into their historical context.

Students have been challenged with classic materials, and are being pushed to connect the material to modern skills and cultural ideas. Throughout the year we hope to continue with a theme based approach, and connect historical eras to modern culture.