March 2008 Issue

Piloting a new MCAS

By Denebola | Published: March 2008
By David Han The sophomore class will take a pilot U.S. History MCAS test next week, adding to the total number of standardized examinations administered by the state, and further cutting into classroom time. South faculty and students strive to adapt to the changing MCAS testing requirements. For the past two years, South has shortened terms one, two, and three to compensate for MCAS testing days. This year, 11 days will be dedicated to MCAS testing. Whereas in previous years only math and English were required for graduation, the history pilot marks an attempt to increase educational standards. “Testing requirements for kids to graduate and pass have been increasing, Assisstant Principal Purnima Vadhera said.

Uncovering the Origins of the MCAS

By Denebola | Published: March 2008
By Gabriel Schneider The state's MCAS testing methods have been widely questioned regarding their purpose in the school curriculum. Many students and teachers feel that the tests, which are required for graduation, are an impediment to the learning system. Yet at the root of the MCAS test, are visions with much different intensions than those of the current assessment. Today, teachers fear they are building a curriculum around the MCAS, as opposed to one based on their own teaching styles and criteria.

Widening the gap

By Denebola | Published: March 2008
By Sarah Pincus Redbud Elementary School in Louisiana does not have a library, playground, hot water, or any art classes. Its school district, however, spent $85,000 on software to prepare for high-stakes standardized testing. Struggling schools are essentially becoming test-prep centers. When teachers just drill for the tests, the students don't truly understand the concepts involved or learn how to solve problems on their own. As two teachers said, “the use of high-stakes testing is changing what goes on in classrooms to the detriment of the arts, problem solving, creativity, and the joy associated with learning and discovering. These tests also widen the very socioeconomic achievement gaps that they are supposed to close. If tests are given to all students in a state and they are expected to receive equal scores, schools should receive equal funds.

Success in the Inclusion Program

By Denebola | Published: March 2008
By Helen Tian Principal Brian Salzer called Newton South senior Chris May into his office a few weeks ago to deliver the exciting news: Chris, after four years at South, passed the MCAS. Chris, a student with down syndrome, participates in the Inclusion Program at South. The program allows students with special needs to learn in the same classroom as other students. Although learning at the same pace as his peers is difficult, Chris finds the experience rewarding, having made the Honor Roll every term. His greatest challenge is finishing his homework after track practice, a common difficulty that many of those on the team experience.

Acheivement through standardized testing

By Denebola | Published: March 2008
By Idun Klakegg Despite mixed feelings among students and faculty toward MCAS, passing the test is a state-wide requirement to graduate high school and access certain scholarships. According to South English department head, Fran Moyer, the MCAS is a necessary requirement to graduate as it is “a way to encourage students to take the test seriously, and to make sure students receive training in basic reading and writing skills. She adds that the MCAS measures only “one part of a student's abilities and that there are other extremely important skills that are important in the 21st century, like “artistic, creative, technical, critical thinking, interpersonal skills. English teacher Jeremiah Hill, also believes the MCAS graduation requirement is a valuable motivational tool, but adds that because of the graduation requirement, the MCAS “acquires a stature it does not deserve.

Old Possums’s Book of Practical Cats

By Denebola | Published: March 2008
By Amy Richard When asked to write about a book of poetry, I instantly thought of my favorite book, T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. I was initially introduced to these poems through the Broadway musical, Cats, which is based on Eliot's collection of poems. After enjoying the melodic drama on stage, I went straight to the source. The book begins with some practical information about the naming of cats and continues to describe how a cat has three names: an everyday family name, a particular name, and then a name that only the cat knows and will not reveal. Eliot sarcastically illustrates the pickiness, secretiveness, and unusual habits of cats, citing specific ones with examples. My favorite is Mr. Mistoffelees because he reminds me of my own cat and all the trouble she gets into.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

By Annie Orenstein | Published: March 2008
Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends is a collection of poetry that many children have come to adore. Silverstein addresses common childhood concerns like monsters under the bed while portraying a fantasy world full of dreams and, of course, unicorns. While aimed at children ages four to ten, Where the Sidewalk Ends is an enjoyable read for all ages. Whether it is learning the right way to fake being sick in order to avoid school, or obtaining that forbidden cookie after dinner, this laugh-out-loud, rhyming poetry is sure to grab your attention.

Selected Poems of Emily Dickenson

By Denebola | Published: March 2008
Every year for my birthday, my grandfather sends me a book of poetry by Emily Dickinson. As you can imagine, it is alittle tough to muster enough enthusiasm for that “thank you so much, just what I've always wanted, when faced with 200 pages of 19th century literature – especially when you are nine years old and what you actually want is an Easy-Bake Oven.

Cien Sonetos de Amor

By Zoe Geller | Published: March 2008
Pablo Neruda's Cien Sonetos de Amor is a collection of love sonnets written in Spanish. Translated into English by Stephen Tapscott, it contains poems inboth languages.

An Interview With Marcella Pixley

By Elisa Spinner | Published: March 2008
Denebola: What inspired you to write this book? Marcella Pixley: I was a strange kid. When I was in middle school (Brown Jr. High), I was proud of being different. I used to wear buttons with slogans. One of them said, “Dare to be Different, and  another said, “I am a Carbon-Based Unit. I loved science fiction and fantasy, and was an avid player of Dungeons and Dragons. When I walked down the corridors and saw all of the other girls in their designer jeans and perfect-feathered hair (it was the eighties), I felt like a different creature. I didn't pay any attention to my clothes or my hair. I was sort of greasy and my clothes all came from the local second hand shop. Plaid shirts. Jackets with rainbows and unicorns. I wrote in a journal'€a yellow, spiral bound notebook, which I took with me everywhere and scribbled in madly whenever I was uncomfortable.

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