A Progressive Viewpoint on Standardized Testing

One of the most common ways that people judge the strength of any school is by looking at their standardized test scores. Because St. Francis is a Progressive school, we choose not to publish our standardized test scores because scores alone are neither an effective or helpful way to measure the overall strength of a school nor the full abilities of its students. Research indicates that the two factors most highly correlated with standardized test scores are the income level and educational level of the parents. Therefore, most private schools, as well as public schools in wealthier districts, have high standardized test scores. Certainly this the case for St. Francis. However, because we don’t publish our scores, coupled with the fact that St. Francis students are generally so happy, people wonder if what we are doing really “works.”   I can assure you what we do in our classrooms works. And there is one type of standardized test score that we do publish because both the school’s teaching and the students’ efforts play significant roles in these scores: Advanced Placement (AP) exam scores. AP courses are overseen by the College Board (the same organization that administers the PSAT and SAT). AP teachers submit syllabi to the College Board each year, and the School also sends faculty to an intensive AP Institute for each subject before they teach that course. St. Francis offers the following AP classes regularly:  English Literature, US History, European History, Calculus AB and BC, Statistics, Computer Science Principles, Biology, Environmental Science, Chemistry, Physics C: Mechanics, Physics C: [...]

2019-10-11T16:16:28-04:00October 11th, 2019|Downtown|

Lunch, the Sign-Out System, and Safety

What do our high schoolers do for lunch? What does a sign-out system mean? How does it work? Do they just wander around downtown? Is it safe? These are all good questions that we want to answer. The idea behind our lunch and sign-out system is that going to high school downtown and using the city as our campus help teenagers learn how to navigate the world and become independent young adults. In four years (or three, or two, or one), you’ll be dropping your kids off on a college campus -- perhaps in a large city -- and expecting them to know how to handle it and navigate life. Our open campus provides students a small step toward that, with a big safety net underneath them. Our sign-out system is philosophically fundamental to the High School, because when we talk about being college preparatory, we mean students not only being academically prepared, but also becoming personally ready to be on their own in college and beyond. In addition to helping students learn to manage their time, the sign-out system and downtown location enable students to gain independence and take responsibility for themselves as they become familiar with and thrive in an urban environment. Many St. Francis students go on to colleges in bigger cities, and their understanding of how to handle themselves in those environments is extremely valuable. The possibility of purchasing lunch out also provides an opportunity for budget discussions between parents and students, another important topic during the high school years. We know that it can [...]

2019-10-08T15:30:12-04:00October 8th, 2019|Downtown|

How to Have Difficult Conversations

It is an understatement to say that we at St. Francis are big on conversations. From exchanges between four-year-old friends over a toy to lower school conflicts to middle school peer mediation to some of the bigger issues of high school, we are constantly sitting down with students to have conversations about the impact of their actions on themselves and others. In recent months, we’ve also been focused on the concept of finding ways to help students appropriately negotiate hard conversations with one another. We wanted to create a framework that is consistent with the school’s Mission and values, and a set of tools that students can use to be truly in dialogue with one another. Compassion is at the forefront of our Mission statement, which begins, “St. Francis School cultivates a joyful, compassionate, intellectual community.” Embedded as students are in a society of TV talking heads and blistering social media posts, they need this kind of education now more than ever. This work takes different approaches, of course, at the different levels.  At the High School, we recently unveiled a poster entitled “How to Have Difficult Conversations.” You can take a look at it here. Adapted from resources from Spalding University and the Teaching Tolerance website, the poster was introduced at a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training we brought outside facilitators in to do with our students two Fridays ago. Students then had the chance to break into advisee groups and do some practice work. “How to Have Difficult Conversations” is divided into two parts. The first [...]

2019-09-13T08:41:50-04:00September 13th, 2019|Downtown|

Fostering Healthy Habits

And we are back! What a fantastic first week it's been. We kicked things off with 9th Grade Orientation on Tuesday, welcomed 157 students to the new school year on Wednesday, and sent the Class of 2020 off on their senior rafting trip on Thursday. Now it's Friday and the general theme settling in among students is exhaustion - everyone is ready for the weekend! Speaking of exhaustion: We all know that teenagers don't get enough sleep; parents don't always, either. But as we get back to school, having healthy sleep habits can have a significant impact on students. Our Wyverns SFS alumni Facebook page had a question posed this week asking for words of wisdom for our current students, and several alums emphasized how much sleep is needed, including, "If you want to actually get 8 hours, you better be in bed 9 hours before you have to get up."  It's challenging for teenagers to do this, with activities, homework, jobs, and other commitments, but getting enough sleep is really foundational to students' health, well-being, and academic success.  Another important foundation to the work we are doing with our students at St. Francis is encouraging them to advocate for themselves. Particularly as they transition from middle school to high school and then prepare to head off to college, teenagers need to foster self-confidence, self-reliance, and autonomy. When a concern arises, with a class, for example, parents can help by brainstorming the conversation that the student might have with a teacher. It can be tempting to just send the [...]

2019-08-16T14:49:43-04:00August 16th, 2019|Downtown|

Advice to a Graduating Senior

Each year at our Graduations, students choose a member of the faculty or staff to speak on their behalf. This year’s seniors chose College Counselor Leslie O’Connor. You can read Leslie's speech below. A warm welcome to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, faculty, staff, administration, Board of Trustees, and the wonderful Class of 2019. I am deeply humbled and honored to be standing here today to address the Class of 2019, my first class as a College Counselor at St. Francis. It is truly a privilege. Recently, I came across a TED Talk by Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston’s College of Social Work. Dr. Brown is a prolific author who has spent 20 years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. This particular TED Talk was so compelling that my husband actually sat down and watched it with me, a rare occurrence in our house, as sitting is not really his thing. The topic that Dr. Brown addressed was on what she calls; courageous vulnerability. Dr. Brown’s research of this concept was inspired by Teddy Roosevelt’s historical speech from 1910, “The Man in the Arena.” I will read an excerpt of it now, with the preface that I took poetic license and will say woman along with man for the obvious reasons. The reality is that Eleanor Roosevelt most likely wrote the speech anyway! And I quote: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man or woman who points out how the strong man or woman stumbles or where the doer of deeds could [...]

2019-05-31T09:12:11-04:00May 31st, 2019|Downtown|

Saying Goodbye to the Class of 2019

It's surreal to be writing my last newsletter article of the year. Somehow, as the year goes on, time speeds up and these last weeks simply fly by.   We began the process of saying goodbye to the Class of 2019 last week: their last Morning Meeting, the last classes, Prom. This week brought the emotional, joyful Senior Luncheon (at which faculty and staff read a speech written for every senior), and next week, of course, is Graduation. Juxtaposed against this are the visits in recent days from young alums who are back home from college and stopping by to say hello. I am so proud of our seniors, of all they have learned both in and out of the classroom over the past four years. And I cannot wait to hear about their adventures in the coming years! Then I turn to look at the students who will be returning next year: unbelievable that these fresh-faced 9th graders are about to become worldly sophomores, the 10th graders are halfway finished with high school, and the 11th graders are rising to the top and finally abandoning their beloved first-floor locker hallway. I'm so excited about all that 2019-20 will hold, with our new retreat program, a just-announced musical production of Chicago, some already-booked speakers, the usual array of athletics and extracurriculars, and the leadership that the Class of 2020 will undoubtedly provide.   First, though: summer break! Time for all of us to recharge, reflect, plan. I will miss all our Wyverns and can't wait to see everyone in [...]

2019-05-17T15:14:42-04:00May 17th, 2019|Downtown|

Big Week for Wyvern Athletics

It’s been a big week for Wyvern Athletics! Highlights include: Senior TJ Richardson signed to play tennis with Tiffin University (and plans to play basketball, as well).  Senior Caleb Mason won both the 100m and 200m and junior Ben Cornett broke the school record for the mile (5:12) at the Louisville Small School Championships track meet. The tennis teams celebrated Senior Night with decisive match wins against DeSales and Mercy.   The baseball team notched its biggest win in school history, dispatching Western 25-0.   Tennis and track regionals are next week, as well as the Spring Sports Banquet, and the baseball district tournament is the following week. Congratulations to our spring sports Wyverns on some fantastic accomplishments this season! I will send an email to parents over the weekend as another reminder, but for planning purposes: This Thursday, we hold our awards assembly in the morning (which is just a student-faculty event) and then celebrate our Class of 2019 at the Senior Luncheon, which is off-site. Because of the Senior Luncheon, 9th, 10th, and 11th graders are dismissed at noon and they do need to leave the building promptly at noon, as all the faculty and staff will be leaving to attend the luncheon. Students should be aware of this, and we will continue to remind them about it, as well as encouraging them to use this free afternoon to study for their exams! The exam schedule is listed on the School Calendar and in School Notes, elsewhere in this newsletter.   Awards Day and the Senior Luncheon [...]

2019-05-10T12:43:04-04:00May 10th, 2019|Downtown|

End-of-Year Events

We celebrated the Class of 2019’s official commitment-to-college day on Wednesday with a class photo and a congratulatory cake! Next up on the seniors’ calendar (besides AP exams; more on that below) is Prom. Some important Prom details to share, for all parents: This year's Prom is next Friday, May 10th at C2 Event Venue, 225 E. Breckinridge Street (very close to the Salvation Army/Old Male gym where we play volleyball and basketball), from 8:00 - 11:00 p.m.  All students, grades 9-12, are invited to come (and may bring a date or not). The junior class is selling tickets at school to 9th - 11th graders (seniors attend free) and will keep those funds to roll into their budget for next year’s Prom. Each year, students raise money (through bake sales, car washes, the Wyvern Store, the Senior Auction, etc.) that is banked for their senior year, when they then are able to plan the Prom they want (and make a class gift to the school). The Class of 2019 has been working hard on this event and we're all looking forward to it! We ended up with a beautiful day for Advisee Games last Friday, with students enjoying relay races, tug o’war (with the crown taken home by the Trent Apple/Alissa Shoemaker advisee group), the ever-popular costume contest (won by the Tony Butler/Terri White advisee group)  and a new addition this year: kickball games featuring 9th vs 10th graders and 11th vs 12th graders. My advisee group notched the overall win, bringing the trophy back where it belongs [...]

2019-05-02T14:54:08-04:00May 2nd, 2019|Downtown|

One Eventful Week!

It's been a full and exciting week of Advisee Games (I'll report on that next week), the always-fabulous Student Art Show & Senior Project Showcase, field trips to the Festival of Faiths (thanks to the Sacred Space Committee) and Brasserie Provence (for the upper-level French classes), fundraising lunches by the 11th grade and the We Act Club ("Gumbo for Ghana"), and more! Perhaps the most important thing we did all week, though, in terms of student well-being, is the Distracted Driving presentation for the full student body on Tuesday. Our Counselor Terri White shares more on that below:    This week, the entire student body attended an assembly on the dangers of distracted driving. Jay Vaughn, a trial attorney and Goshen parent who travels around the country with other colleagues volunteering their time with the organization EndDD.org, presented to parents Monday evening and students Tuesday morning. The presentation included personal stories of lives lost and forever changed due to distracted drivers who were talking on the phone, working their GPS, texting, reaching for an object in the car, etc. Students were actively engaged throughout the presentation and horrified by video footage they viewed of teens and other drivers veering off the road or speeding through intersections completely unaware of the dangers they posed to themselves and pedestrians around them. The videos did not contain graphic content, but did show how in "just a few seconds," cars can be out of control and off the road from distractions. The students also learned vital information such as:  car crashes are the [...]

2019-04-26T16:30:24-04:00April 26th, 2019|Downtown|

St. Francis Has Got Talent!

We enjoyed another fabulous Talent Show yesterday afternoon! Joke-telling and lots of music were on the agenda. Students played and sang songs from the likes of Carole King, Taylor Swift, Chicago, and the musical Waitress. What I always love most about the talent show - even more than the amazing skills and passion on display - is the students’ appreciation of each other, as evidenced by copious applause at the conclusion of each performance. A late entry by Señora Angela Katz and some of her Spanish II students, performing a song, even had students waving their uplifted iPhones with flashlights on, as the kids do these days in imitation of the cigarette lighters of yore.  Next week brings a distracted driving presentation for parents on Monday night and students on Tuesday morning, our annual Student Art Show & Senior Project Showcase on Thursday, and our final Community Service Day with Advisee Games following on Friday! Other exciting events include a Flamenco dance demonstration with Señora Angela Ponzio from the Goshen Campus; fundraising lunches hosted by the 11th grade and the We Act Group (the latter dubbed “Gumbo for Ghana”); a field trip for upper-level French students to Brasserie Provence; and an opportunity for students to meet and talk with University of Louisville professor and Thrivals founder Nat Irvin. The beautiful weather must be helping energize the students, with teachers holding class in the Courtyard and students spending their free time there as well. Here we go into May!

2019-04-19T15:18:49-04:00April 19th, 2019|Downtown|
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