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Fort Kent schools now measuring work habits to determine who makes honor roll

FORT KENT, Maine — This school year, students and faculty at Valley River Middle School and Fort Kent Community High School are integrating a new “CORE Values” program that measures work habits as well as academics in an effort to get more youngsters engaged in their school and community.

“Were trying to do something outside the box,” said John Kaleta on Tuesday, who serves as principal at both schools. “It’s a big change.”

Kaleta said implementing the CORE program compliments other significant changes in the delivery of curriculum in recent years, such as the use of proficiency-based learning.

“We have infused the CORE Values of Respect, Honesty, Responsibility and Engaged/Invested Learner into classes and all aspects of campus life,” Kaleta said. “We want to improve school culture.”

How well students demonstrate these values are evaluated through a “Habits of Work” or HOW score for each class. A score of 3 indicates the student has consistently demonstrated the values, while a score of 2 means the student needs to address one or more habits. A score of 1 indicates more significant work is needed with this student, to help them integrate the values and develop better habits.

This year, students at Fort Kent Community High School who earned a spot on the Honor Roll were given “honor passes.” (Don Eno | SJVT/FhF)

Students are still given separate proficiency scores based on their academic instruction and what they are learning, but the new HOW scores are the sole component used to determine if a student makes it onto the schools’ honor rolls.

“If our learners are respectful, honest, responsible and engaged, they will be successful in their academic endeavors,” said Kaleta.  

In the past, academic grades were used to determine whether or not a student made the honor roll.

Now, if a student earns a HOW score of 3 in all classes, that individual attains High Honors. To make Honors, students must earn no more than one 2, and the rest 3s.

So far, the other St. John Valley school districts in the Frenchville, Madawaska and Van Buren areas have not adopted the CORE Values or HOW scores as criteria for inclusion in their honor rolls.

At Fort Kent, to be eligible to play sports or be involved in an extracurricular club, students must demonstrate proficiency or be on pace in a majority of the academic standards as well as in a majority of the habits-of-work standards.

“We, are looking to develop positive behavior and habits in the schools,” the principal said. “We want to give students some rewards for positive behaviors.”

To that end, the schools have created a sort of “honor card” that students can earn.

“We feel that learners who have made the honor roll embody the four values and will make excellent community members and employees,” Kaleta said. “In a sense, our honor card is our staff’s recommendation that the bearer is an honorable citizen.”

Kaleta has reached out to local businesses, asking if they would be interested in offering discounts or other incentives to students who earn an honors card. So far, 16 businesses in the Fort Kent area have taken Kaleta up on his request and are offering discounts on purchases or special rates.

“We also want our learners to feel affiliated with the community,” said Kaleta.

The schools will evaluate how this first year of using the CORE Values and HOW system works and make adjustments as needed.

“The kids have been positive about it so far, and the faculty are supportive,” the principal said.

“I think it works very well for the most part,” said Fort Kent Community High School senior Jared Chouinard. “It helps those who do work hard, but can’t quite get the high grades.”

Chouinard said the system does not really impact those students who would have made the honor role based solely on academic grades.

He does, however, think the new system should be looked at after this year, to make sure it is fair.

“I think aspects of it may be too lenient,” Chouinard said, “letting some students make high honors, who maybe should not have.”

Implementing a way for students to succeed in school, other than just academic grades, is important, Kaleta said. Not every student is able to get straight A’s, he added.

“It gives them something to strive for, other than perfect grades,” he said. It also gives teachers and prospective employers a better idea of the student “as a person,” rather than just looking at a grade point average, he said.

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