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June 21, 2005

CRCT Content Descriptors

Never before has testing been as important in education as it is now. This year is the first year that, by state law (which was federally mandated through No Child Left Behind), passing the 8th grade is directly linked to "passing" the CRCT*. We want every child at Mabry to do well on this state criterion referenced test.

As parents, you will want to be apprised of exactly what these tests will measure. I am including on the state Department of Education's website. For more information on the CRCT specifically and standardized testing in general, (which is located in the Curriculum section of MabryOnline).

*"Passing" is defined as a score of 300 or higher on the CRCT.

Posted by Tim Tyson at 09:28 AM

June 18, 2005

Attention Parents of All Rising 6th Graders & New Students!

If you will have a sixth grader at Mabry Middle School, or if you will have a new student to Mabry, you will want them to read Sixceed!, a website written by students (8th graders) for our new students. It is designed to help them know everything there is to know about our school from a student's perspective.

Mrs. Hartnett, one of our 8th grade teachers, came up with the idea back in 2003. Why not have all of the 8th grade students, at the end of their 8th grade year, tell our new students all about Mabry Middle School?! Brilliant! So, her students, as part of working on their expository writing, created this entire website.

This adventure was our first experience with having students post to a blog. I appreciate Mrs. Hartnett's pioneer spirit, her extreme patience in working through the many issues and glitches involved in this innovative (and at times problematic) process, and her caring about her students' writing skills as well as all of the new students to Mabry.

Much of the information the students have written may be a little out of date because of all of the new construction this summer. For example, the students wrote about the commons areas in each grade level. Well, those no longer exist. They mention where people's offices are located. Well, a lot of that has changed. So the good news is, if you have a student who will be new to Mabry, since so much will have changed, s/he will be learning where everything is located along with all of the returning students too!

And, naturally, you will want to read the students' work as well. I always find seeing the school through the eyes of students very interesting, even revealing. So, want a good read? Check out Sixceed!

Posted by Tim Tyson at 08:24 PM

June 12, 2005

Mabry Dress Code

Plans for a wonderful 2005-2006 school year are already in the works. As you and your students relax over the summer and then begin back-to-school shopping, the following information should assist you in our efforts to promote the most effective learning environment for our middle school students.

In middle school, students are making the transition from childhood to young adulthood. Hair styles and clothing should not draw undue attention so as to distract from learning. We want to have a dress code that is conducive to the formality of the school learning environment. Our primary focus is maximizing student academic achievement.

Unacceptable attire:

I appreciate your cooperation and support of the Mabry Middle School dress code. Again, middle school students can so easily be distracted from learning. Our focus in every regard must be academic performance.

Posted by Tim Tyson at 04:52 PM

For Rising 6th Grade Parents

Last Monday we had the Rising 6th Grade Open House for parents. I always enjoy meeting and talking with the parents of our rising sixth graders. We had several important things to share which I will include summarized in this post. Additionally, I am presenting a few other items for you.

As your principal, I consider safety as my foremost responsibility. I want to be certain that every child and staff member is safe at all times so that all of their attention can be focused on maximizing academic achievement. In this regard, I ask that every adult always sign in when arriving at the building. Please do not be offended if you are stopped in the building and asked to identify yourself and return to the front office if you inadvertently enter the building without signing in.

Naturally, since you are reading this, you are aware of my blog, From the Desk of Dr. Tyson. I will post to this blog throughout the summer and the school year to keep you informed of various important matters. Additionally, next year, all teachers at Mabry will have a blog to facilitate communication with parents and students.

At the beginning of the year I will host an evening meeting at Mabry to teach parents how to set up what is called an RSS feed for all of your student's teachers' blogs. Using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, you will be able to have any new information posted on a teacher's blog come to you. This should prove to be a convenient and effective way to remain "in touch."

Summer Camp
Because we will have a significant amount of demolition and renovation in our building throughout the entire summer, we will not be able to have our summer camp for rising 6th grade students. Hopefully, if funding allows, this wonderful program, which we started 2 years ago, will return next summer.

Construction Information
Once the construction project is completed at Mabry (about $8.8 million in work), our school's physical plant will have increased from 100,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet. The construction company has really done a very good job of minimizing disruption to the learning environment. They delayed doing all of the interior work until this summer. Additionally, this summer the back parking lot will be repaved and the front entrance and parking area will be completely redone. I am hopeful everything will be completed by the time teachers return from summer vacation.

Please visit my blog from time to time as I will keep you posted as to how things are progressing.

Charger Day
Last year, just before school started, we held Charger Day, a time for parents to bring their student(s) to Mabry to have their school pictures taken, purchase their school picture package, a yearbook, school lunches, school supplies, etc. We wanted it to be as much of a back-to-school, one-stop-shopping event as possible. Aside from having to manage in a large crowd of people, we received tremendously favorable responses to this event.

We plan to have this shop-till-you-drop event again just before school starts. I will share the date with you here on my blog, on the school website, and on the front sign (if it is still there) once we feel more confident that the construction completion dates will actually be met.

I also want to let you know that the school supplies made available to you for purchase from our PTSA during Charger Day are typically substantially less expensive than you will find in the stores. The PTSA purchases them in bulk quantities and passes that savings directly on to our school community. We know having children in school is expensive and want to help you in every way that we can. Several parents commented to me last year that they wished they had not already purchased their school supplies before Charger Day as they paid more for them.

Challenging Students
Before school starts parents of 6th graders often express a concern to me that they fear our 6th grade teachers will not adequately challenge their child. Let me allay your concerns. The transition to 6th grade is significant. The new 6th grade curriculum is rigorous, and the math curriculum is substantive. (See my previous post on the math curriculum.)

Our teachers will work diligently to help your son or daughter successfully transition into 6th grade. In the meantime, I hope you will join me in emphasizing to your child the need for him or her to do their best work. I will stress to our students on the very first day of school that each of them needs to do their personal best, needs to see how far they can go, and needs to attain more than they think is possible. Working together elicits the success we all want to see at Mabry Middle School.

Our mission here is simple and direct: maximize student achievement in a culture of caring.

No Child Left Behind
By now I think everyone is familiar with some aspects of this federal legislation. I want to be certain you are aware of some very important information related to the law. The federal government requires all schools in the nation to be labeled as passing or failing. Each state was required to enact legislation that met the federal criteria. In the state of Georgia every school must meet the following criteria or will be labeled a failing school:

Stealth Parenting the Adolescent
When students reach middle school they want mom and dad to give them more freedom and responsibility. In other words, they want you to "back off." What their peers think tends to become more important to them than what the adults in their lives think. If you don't believe me, just suggest to your child that you will be having lunch with him or her in the cafeteria one day. Most would rather die. Since we want children to grow into responsible adults, this is not necessarily a bad thing--as long as their peer relationships are positive, supportive, and deeply rooted in your families values.

Children at this age begin to search out their identity and form a sense of self. Often this is a time of experimentation. There are times when mom and dad need to say and mean "No." I can not suggest strongly enough to our moms and dads that you must be far more involved in your child's life, knowing who s/he is associating with, where s/he is, and what s/he is doing, than you ever have before. Simply give the appearance that you are giving them more "space," allowing them to make more decisions. I call this stealth parenting. Be especially attentive to the music they have playing through those headphones! Listen carefully to the words. Are they consistent with your values?

Research tells us that what (and who) they are listening to literally will affect how their little brains wire up--the neural connections that are formed. Years ago we called it: "Garbage in, garbage out." What they listen to and whom they associate with will affect how they think, what they do, and who they become. Adolescence is a critically important time in their lives.

Recently a mom said something I thought was really significant, "We need to remember that cell phones will only tell us one thing: they're alive--not where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. These cell phones are giving us parents a false sense of security." Appropriate supervision, especially after school, is essential. Too often my heart gets broken when I hear parents say to me, "Dr. Tyson, I just didn't see this coming."

OK, I'll get off of my soap box. I just want every single child at Mabry to have every opportunity for success. I want them to really be the bright hope of tomorrow. This necessitates more time and attention be spent with them today than ever before--from all of us. As the expression goes: "The future just isn't what it used to be." We accomplish our best work when we are all working together for these children.

If you would like more information on effective parenting strategies for adolescents, study skills parents can use with students, or have some specific concerns related to your child, I would encourage you to contact Mrs. Cindy Jackson, your 6th grade counselor for next year. She is wise and wonderful.

Dress Code
You should receive a copy of the Mabry dress code from your elementary school at the end of the year. We will also post it on the website. I involve students, parents, teachers, and administrators in providing me with input for the dress code. I want students to be comfortable at school, but our school dress code must reflect our commitment to maximizing student achievement, which requires a level of formality consistent with a learning environment that promotes attention to learning and academics. We enforce the dress code at Mabry Middle School.

You will want to carefully review the dress code, but here are just two items of note as you purchase for school next year: no flip flops at school, and no tummies showing. With hormones raging we want to focus on textbooks, not tummies, etc.

Join! Volunteer!! Make a difference at your child's school.

As I Close: School Mission Gains Increasing Recognition
I want to reiterate our school mission: maximize student academic achievement in a culture of caring. We are doing wonderful things here with students. Children are finding success, and people around the metro area, the state, and the nation are taking note of what we do.

From the over 3,300 schools who applied, Mabry is one of 60 finalists nationwide for the significant National Schools of Distinction Model Schools Award. I encourage you to read my post about the recent site visit. This is a significant accomplishment and recognizes the wonderful things our students and teachers accomplish.

The Georgia Movie Academy, a statewide competition for students and teachers, designed to promote technology and information literacy, was started because of and patterned after the Mabry Film Festival. They recently presented our students' work in the Best Picture Category at their statewide event.

This year we had a team of teachers and academic leaders from one of the most prestigious private schools in the metro area spend a day with us. They want to replicate in their school setting some of the innovative, highly engaging and effective programs we have in place here at Mabry.

And, finally, last week we were invited to be featured in the National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Conference next year.

The recognition is wonderful. But what really matters to me is that we keep our focus on what makes Mabry worthy of the recognition, working together every day as a team to achieve our mission: maximizing student achievement in a culture of caring.

I am delighted that you and your child will be joining us next year.

Posted by Tim Tyson at 03:53 PM

June 11, 2005

School Hours

Parents will want to know the following important information:

In this time of severe budget constraints (the "austerity budget" from the state), Mabry's resources have been significantly constrained. In the past, parents have been able to drop students off as early as 7:45, which was 1.5 hours before school started. Funding will no longer allow us to provide this service for this length of time. We regret the inconvenience this may cause some of our families.

Times and Locations for Early Morning Student Arrival

Morning Study Hall


Band, Orchestra, and Chorus Rehearsals or Passoffs

Early Morning Study Sessions with Teachers

School Hours: 1st period begins promptly at 9:15. School ends at 4:15.

Posted by Tim Tyson at 02:27 PM

Overview Information About Our New Website

MabryOnline is our new web presence. The site is really a collection of nearly 100 blogs designed with a front end that appears to be a web page. We have done this in the hope that our staff will more easily be able to keep information on the site current. Posting to a blog is substantially easier than having a web master who knows a lot about html, xhtml, css, asp, js, and blah, blah, blah. We don't. And even if we did, then the webmaster has to track everyone down to get their information to post it.

So, what is a blog? The term is an abbreviation for weblog and can be most easily understood as an online journal. Teachers post journal entries (or posts) to their site (or blog). The teacher assigns each post to a category that s/he has already created. When the post is published on the site, it is automatically linked to the category (listed in the sidebar on the right), to the date it was posted (via a little calendar in the sidebar on the right), and also is placed in a monthly archive (which, you guessed it, is also listed by month in the sidebar on the right).

Finding information in a teachers site could not be any easier. To read everything that has been posted to this blog about the Film Festival, simply click on the name of that category in the sidebar on the right. To read everything related to the Beginning of the Year, have the idea. You could also go to the archive links for July and August to read things that were posted in those months which might relate to the beginning of the year.

Aside from having a powerful organizational structure for content management, a blog also has a very powerful search feature. Each teacher's site (or blog) has a "Search this site:" area in the sidebar on the right side. Simply type in the string for which you wish to search, and the script will bring up everything in the teacher's site that matches your search parameter--powerful, fast access to content.

Every time the site is updated, the blogging system is programed to update the syndication files. You can setup an RSS/Atom feed reader to automatically notify you when new content has been posted to the site. Most feed readers provide you with a quick summary of the new information, which, if you find relevant to your need, can serve as a link to the entire post of new information.

We will find that RSS/Atom feed readers are going to have a huge impact on learning and research. Rather than going out to find current, relevant information, you can set up a RSS/Atom feed reader to have the most current information about a research topic come to you. Software is now coming available that will even automatically annotate in a bibliography the source from the major online libraries . This is cutting edge and very powerful! The digital divide between those who know information literacy skills and those who do not is going to grow exponentially in the next few years. And who thinks students do not need laptops?!

And don't miss the Calendar link that appears at the top of the "front end" pages. We will keep it current with important school-wide or grade-level wide information such as testing dates, picture days, holidays, early dismissal days, etc. You can read more about how to subscribe to this site (Mac users only) by clicking here.

Hopefully you will find our new site helpful. Visit us often.

Want to learn more? Read these links:

Posted by Tim Tyson at 01:43 PM

School Council

The School Council consists of 2 business partners, 2 parents, 2 teachers, and the school principal. The council meets 4 times per year. The dates for these meetings, as well as their agenda, will be posted each year to the Parent Information link of MabryOnline.

Posted by Tim Tyson at 01:03 PM

School Mission

Our mission at Mabry Middle School is to maximize student achievement in a culture of caring.

We have three school goals, two are focused on student achievement, and one on general school improvement. Our school goal is to promote teachers as instructional leaders. We have several strategies in place to accomplish this. The most significant areas of this goal include continued training of our teachers in the new state curriculum standards, the Georgia Performance Standards, which are being phased in over time. We are also continuing to train our teachers in technology implementation, data-driven curriculum planning, and vertical teaming through curriculum mapping.

Our two student achievement goals focus on increasing student achievement in mathematics, Mabry's area of lesser strength (which is a state-wide issue), and literacy (reading and writing). We will continue emphasis on the Accelerated Math program, a computer-assisted, teacher-led program that identifies individual student achievement gaps while continuously reviewing previously learned skills to make that learning permanent. We will also continue our emphasis on reading and writing across the curriculum, a school-wide focus on specific reading and writing skills, and increasing the number of students meeting the state expectation that all children will read 25 books (150 pages per book) or 1,000,000 words per year.

Our school improvement plan (SIP), which details the summary presented here, will be online when it is completed at the beginning of each school year. The link will be placed on this post.

Posted by Tim Tyson at 01:00 PM

The Mabry Film Festival

What is the Mabry Film Festival?
Each year each team in our school is required to submit a 2 minute i-Movie based on a theme. Our theme in 2004 - 2005 was Celebrate Achievement. Student participation on the movie-making team is completely voluntary. Once the movies are submitted in April, they are placed in categories, similar to the Oscars. A panel of judges determines what movie wins in each category. Our judges are not from Mabry Middle School and represent a significant amount of expertise in this area.

Individual students and groups of students independent of the 12 school teams may submit movies in the Independent Film category. Movies entered in this category are not eligible to compete in any other category, including the Best Picture category. However, all of these movies may compete for the iBook computer and digital video camera should one have been donated to the school for this award.

Because of the number of requests we have received, alumni of Mabry Middle School are also eligible to enter a movie. Movies submitted by alumni are only eligible to compete in the Alumni Category.

All movies must meet rather stringent criteria set by the school in order to qualify for the film festival.

Why Does Mabry Do This?
In 2001 Dr. Tyson began the Mabry Film Festival to increase the use of technology at Mabry. At that time Mabry only had 4 laptops and no digital video equipment. How things have changed.

The intent is to increase technology and information literacy skills, to make the use of technology transparent in the learning process. Just like placing a phone call, the user does not consciously think about the actual phone but uses the tool thoughtlessly to communicate. Dr. Tyson wants teachers and students to focus on appropriate use of technology to enhance the learning experience of our students--to use technology to learn, not to learn technology per se.

Research indicates that when students use digital movie-making in the curriculum, they don't initially really learn any more than students who do not. However, the retention of the material they learned is profoundly increased one year later. The overwhelming majority of the learning moves into long-term memory and doesn't just stay in short-term memory.

How Are Students Trained?
In late November each team selects one teacher, one student, and one parent to attend a one day training. The training is comprehensive and covers all of the requirements, timelines for project development, and expectations for qualification. The students seem to pick up the technical aspects of the project as if technology were second-nature to them.

All students who plan to use the digital video cameras must be camera-trained by their sponsoring teacher and earn their "camera license." Students may not check out a digital video camera without presenting their camera license to Mrs. Preston.

Throughout the 4 month project Mabry has been fortunate enough to have an actual director/producer come in and meet with the movie-making teams 5 times. He provides suggestions related to concept development, artistic merit, and technical skill development to the teams who may choose to take his suggestions or not.

When Do Students Work on Their Movie?
Most of the work is done before or after school. However, each individual project is designed and scheduled by the teacher sponsoring and the students participating in the project in any given year. In talking with students after they have submitted their movie, the average movie-making team member spends about 50 hours individually on this project.

May Students Check Out Equipment?
Yes and no. Equipment (computer and digital video camera only) is available for check out under limited conditions:

We have been very fortunate. No checked out equipment has ever been lost, damaged, or used inappropriately. As long as this continues, we will continue this practice.

Can My Child Participate?
Absolutely. However, participation is voluntary. Students who choose not to work on this project are not required to do so. If you want your child to participate, you should make sure his/her teachers are aware of your desire and that your child involves him/herself when the teachers start the project--typically sometime in November.

Posted by Tim Tyson at 12:45 PM

Charger Day

What Is Charger Day?
Charger Day is our effort to provide you the convenience of getting many of your beginning of school tasks done in one place at one time. During Charger Day at Mabry, you may:

When Is Charger Day?
We have tentatively scheduled Charger Day for Monday, August 8, 2005, from 11:00AM until 1:00PM. We coordinated the time so it will not conflict with elementary or high school events. Please note that this is tentative--pending completion of construction. Please continue to check this blog throughout the summer for confirmation of the date and time.

Where Is Charger Day?
Currently, we plan to host Charger Day in the Mabry Covered Play Area and the new Mabry Cafeteria. Parking is always an issue for school-wide events. Parking is available behind the building (entrance from Steinhauer Road) and limited parking will be available in the front of the building (Jims Road). I would suggest carpooling.

What Should I Expect on Charger Day?
The doors will not be opened until 11:00AM. Last year there was a long line to get into the building for those who came early. Toward the beginning of Charger Day there were long lines at each station (PTSA, Pictures, etc.). Those who came later had shorter lines or no lines at all.

The PTSA will have a checklist for each parent when s/he arrives with his/her student. The checklist will also be posted on this blog for download. The checklist will assist you in making certain you get everything done that is available to you. It will also help you find where things are located as we plan to spread stations out to avoid congestion and confusion.

The checklist will contain a list of the supplies you can purchase in the school store, which will be open during Charger Day. Additionally, information as to whom checks should be made payable and for what amounts will be on this sheet. Using the downloadable sheet as your guide, you may have your checks prepared in advance--made out to the correct organization (LifeTouch, Mabry Middle School, Mabry PTSA, etc.) for the correct amounts. Pre-prepared checks will speed up the lines and reduce wait time significantly.

Volunteers will be "labeled" so you can seek them out to ask for assistance if needed.

Students are not to be dropped off at school or left unattended. You will want your child to be dressed appropriately for school pictures. Only sixth grade students and students who are new to Mabry will have the opportunity to find their homeroom in the building.

Why Is the Date for Charger Day Tentative?
We are hopeful the construction inside of the building will be completed on time. If it is, Charger Day will be held as scheduled. Otherwise an alternate plan will be implemented.

Posted by Tim Tyson at 11:52 AM

Creating a New iParent Account

iParent Instructions for Creating a NEW Account

If you have had an account in the past, continue to use that account. All of your students will be listed for access. Accounts are established for families, not individual students

  1. Type in the web address: (site best viewed using Internet Explorer)
  2. Click on “PICASSO”
  3. Click on “login” under iParent (you may want to bookmark this site for future access)Choose “I haven’t registered yet”
  4. Enter district # 0633
  5. Enter access key exactly as written with NO SPACES
  6. Enter birth date of your oldest child currently enrolled in the school district
  7. Create your own user name (at least 6 characters)
  8. Create your password
  9. Answer password hint questions
  10. Log in

You should see a screen with all of your students listed. You will have the option to view attendance information, grade information, and the current schedule. These choices are listed on the LEFT of the screen. Information is available only for middle and high school students.

Be sure to always log out! (on the left)

After the above steps have been completed, you will need to do the following when you log in again:

Enter web address
Click on “PICASSO” then “iParent”
At log in screen, enter district # (0633), user name and password
Click log in

If you need assistance, you may contact the Cobb County School District’s Technology Customer Care Center via e-mail at


Posted by Tim Tyson at 11:51 AM

Tips for Helping Your Child Succeed in Middle School

From our counselors...

Middle School is a time of growth and transition, a time when students move from childhood to adolescence and toward a greater level of independence and self-reliance. They want their parent’s help, support, and approval, but may not want to be seen in public with them. They want to be different from their parents, but not too different from their friends. In this time of life that often seems like controlled chaos, there are many things you can do to assist your child with his or her success in school.

Posted by Tim Tyson at 11:43 AM

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