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The Warrior•Opinions February 24, 2010

In Our Opinion...

by Alicia Romero ‘10

Recent Steps Toward Success Have Been Treading Between Encouraging and Imposing Achievement

Religion Part of Life and So Part of School

Students will find some interesting changes to the course selection offerings for the 2010-2011 school year. First, and perhaps foremost, is the introduction of Academies to Sherwood. Also, On-Level English 11 will not be included in the course offerings for next year; instead, all rising juniors will select either Honors or AP. And yet another noteworthy change: the school will be offering AP NSL for incoming freshmen. Each of the three changes has been made in order for the school as a whole to strive for excellence and uphold the MCPS mantra, “Success for every student.” However, unless some precautions are taken, the promising plans may simply do more harm than good. The Academies are intended to define a pathway for students early on and encourage them to pursue their possible career interests. The potential is undeniable. But instead of boxing students into categories which may inhibit academic exploration, the Academies need to be relatively flexible, allowing students to still “test the waters.” If a student finds that he is not enjoying or benefitting from his Academy, he should be able to switch to another pathway. And the requirements for completing each academy should also be flexible, transparent and carefully planned out. As of now, the capstones for each pathway are at best matters of speculation. Current freshmen have been told to choose a pathway for next year, but not clearly if they are required to complete that or any pathway before graduating. Furthermore, this isn’t something that can simply be bestowed upon students and then ignored until graduation. The presentation given to the entire freshmen class was only the first step. Counselors should hold frequent one-on-one meetings with

students to make sure that they understand the Academies’ offerings and are taking full advantage of them. Only then will they leave the intended positive impact on students. Even beyond the Academies, Sherwood is not just encouraging but stressing “success.” The removal of On-Level English 11 may give our school an initial boost in numbers, but might just come back to haunt students who didn’t receive the attention or support that they were promised. Forcing a student into a harder class isn’t necessarily motivating – it might just be a label change that’s setting them up to fail. And overall, if those students do not make the effort to actually improve upon their schoolwork, integrating On-Level students with Honors students will simply lower class standards and lower the value of the term “Honors.” Challenging all students to do better is commendable, but the students and the school must rise to the task. As far as AP NSL is concerned, it needs to be remembered that freshmen year is intended to integrate former middle school students into a high school environment. Pushing AP NSL has the potential to set unrealistic standards for many students who are not prepared to take a college-level course. For those few students who are capable, however, it’s an attractive option. But it needs to be an option, not an expectation. It has to be understood among parents, teachers and students alike, that AP NSL during freshmen year is the exception, not the rule. As Sherwood implements changes which strive towards excellence, it should also improve upon what it already has. High school should not be a race; it should be about preparing students for college, giving them a wide range of opportunities, and helping them to pursue knowledge on an individual basis.

Seniors Face State School Admissions In-State Students Should Get a Leg-Up

In the Defense of Equality

by Kim Wan ‘10

by Mellownie Ho ‘10 character or academics. Somedent, it is not fair to deny the in Most of the panic for college state students acceptance when The college admissions one from Virginia is not more or admission roots from the illusion their parents have been paying process is possibly the most less qualified than a student from that there are so many factors taxes. stressful, nerve-wrecking and Maryland just because they live against students being accepted. State tax dollars are allo- fateful time in a teenager’s life. in Virginia, so why should it be Because in times of economic cated to state colleges; there- Unfortunately for us, the whim- taken into account? duress, when colleges stress fore, the out-of-state students sical nature of admissions of- Judge me on my essays, more about their finances, they should not get the advantage fices doesn’t make life easier. grades and test scores. Look at increasingly accept more out-of- just because they will be paying Every year, the percentages my extracurricular activities and state students over in-state stu- a higher tuition to the school. of in-state versus out-of-state teacher recommendations; those dents. Through taxes each year, students accepted at public uni- are what show how qualified a At certain schools like Uni- parents have already made mass versities, such as the University student is for a certain school. versity of Maryland, The state that I College Park happened to University of Maryland: First Year Students (UMCP), be born n o t and only are raised admissions in shouldn’t showing prefereven be in the University of Maryland: Tuition ence for picture. out-ofEdustate cation students, should be they are also adsolely based on data from www.umd.edu and www.collegeboard.com mitting many in-state students merit and that only. for spring semester. This means contributions to the colleges of Maryland at College Park, This ensures that qualified, dethey can gain more money by within their state. The colleges are different. In-state accep- serving students are accepted, giving priority to students who in return should allow priority tance rates are usually higher and those that fell short are not. will pay more for tuition while in admission to the children of than out-of-state, but even these Equality is in our Constitution; it letting in students that will pay the taxpayers. After all, taxpay- percentages are prone to annual should be extended to our educain-state tuition at a later time. ers are already financially sup- changes. tion as well. The plan would most definitely porting the institutions. In fact, This means that someone When I get accepted, I want work to receive more money by the in-state student should be from one state who was quali- it to be about how well I did in allowing both in-state and out- granted priority for admission fied for a school could be cut high school and how well adof-state students to attend, but into a college as long as he has just because of his or her lo- missions think I will do in that nevertheless shows preference already proven that he is of that cation. The fact that we are college. The state where I live in for the ones who will provide school’s caliber. subject to different acceptance does not reflect anything about more funds. When the decision comes rates and standards due to loca- my personality or my creden Although UMCP might rel- down to two students of about tion is unfair. tials, so why should I get a disish the idea of getting an extra the same merit, the one who re- The state we were born in advantage or an edge over my $15,937 from an out-of-state stu- sides in-state should be chosen doesn’t indicate anything about competition for that?

70% In-state

30% Out-of-state

In-state $8,053

Out-of-State $23,990

As is so often mentioned, America is the land of the free. People are free to do as they please, eat what they please, live where they please, and perhaps most importantly, believe what they please. Every American can choose what religion he or she believes in, or if he or she believes in any religion at all. As stated in the first amendment of the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” In short, there is a separation of church and state, and it is everybody’s right to choose their religious preference. But with this freedom comes a challenge; the challenge of people who can’t seem to understand or accept the fact that the United States is a country that is a melting pot, having 150 different ethnic groups, more than nine main religions and people from all over the world. This being the case, the idea of separation of church and state is often misunderstood, because there is no way religion could never come up in school because it is a part of history, some people’s cultures and everyday life. Religious groups and non-religious groups who challenge everything about religion in a publicschool setting have no real concept of the reality that religion, no matter whether one is religious or not, will always have some place in American life. We cannot control everything in our lives, nor can we expect everyone else to live the way we do and think the way we do. We cannot walk on egg shells in fear of religion clashing with what we learn and discuss in school, or in any other aspects of our lives. It is a fact that, in our classes, we are often learning directly or indirectly about religion. In English classes, we read stories set in historically religious time periods and poems with religious allusions and imagery. In history classes, we learn about past and current conflicts that are steeped in religious differences. At every point in our lives we will read about religion, learn about it, and hear peoples’ opinions about it. And that’s not necessarily a thing to be avoided. Schools have gone too far in their concerns about separation of church and state when they practically outlaw critical discussion of religion and religious beliefs. Just as with the controversies surrounding “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, people can agree to disagree. That is the great thing about living in the land of the free: if you personally do not want to say those words of the Pledge, you’re not required to. Nor should anyone try to make you, and this is the essence of what is religious tolerance…even in a public school.


The Warrior•Opinions February 24, 2010

15

T h e W a r r i o r Stress-Induced Nocturnality enters the boxing ring

Round 1

Watching Jersey Shore Becomes ‘The Situation’ by Kim Wan ‘10

Increasingly more television viewers indulge in tasteless television. MTV’s reality show “Jersey Shore” is a prime example of what Americans find entertaining. A record number of viewers tuned in each week just to watch characters like Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino go to the club every night and party. These personalities have easily risen to celebrity status and have been booked on various talk-shows. Even celebrity A-listers are declaring how they are big fans of “Jersey Shore.” Such quick advancements for shows without substance only proves how easily viewers can become entranced by the ridiculous and trashy behavior of hormone-driven young adults who perpetually search for fun. Though they have become America’s latest obsession, they are hardly worth all the hype. Nothing fresh or valuable can be gained from such a program; even though millions are being swept into a “Jersey Shore” craze, it does not mean that viewers should be caught in a mindless undertow.

Round 2

Hundreds of Thousands of Haitian Orphans Have Bleak Futures Ahead by Ariana Rodriguez-Gitler ‘10

With conditions in Haiti still tragically abysmal, it seems almost irresponsible of its government to restrict all new adoptions of the more than 300,000 orphans. The Haitian government has slowed down the adoption process, allowing only the 11,000 adoptions that were already underway before the earthquake hit to proceed. The government understandably wants to reorganize and get a handle on the situation as well as prevent child trafficking. However, as seen by the recent arrest of 10 American missionaries who tried to move dozens of orphans out of the country, the government needs to step up its efforts to clear up the chaos and allow adoptions to take place much sooner than the estimated two years. There is no question that in the case of these missionaries, who did not have the required paperwork, what they did was illegal, but their intentions were pure: rescue children who would doubtlessly get lost among the thousands of orphans needing a home.

Round 3

Sixteen Years of Discrimination? … Don’t Ask by Kevin Hogan ‘10 In his first State of the Union Address on January 27, President Obama pledged to work with Congress to abolish the 16-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allows homosexuals to enlist in the army on the condition that they do not identify their sexual orientations. But despite support from the nation’s top defense officials, the initiative to repeal the policy has met strong opposition from some member of Congress. What is the rationale for discouraging the enlistment of homosexuals who are willing to risk their lives to protect their country? And how can the military expect enlisted homosexuals to keep quiet about their sexual orientations when honesty and integrity are fundamental in the service? Don’t ask the supporters of this outdated policy; they won’t tell you.

Letters to the Editor

Articles and editorials written by students, faculty, administrators, alumni and community members are greatly encouraged. The Warrior reserves the right to reject, edit or condense any submitted content.

Email letters to Peter_J_Huck@mcpsmd.org

cartoon by Anne Marie Salter ‘10

Eight Years Too Many for Too Many Families by Devin Cornelius ‘12 I myself have felt the uncertainty and worry; my heart racing at every report of another roadside bombing or military base attack … me and the other 154,000 families with U.S. military servicemen who will be serving in Afghanistan by year’s end. In March, it will be the U.S. military’s eighth year at war in Afghanistan. Eight years of our families being separated, eight years of one parent struggling to support family while simultaneously raising children, eight years of children not understanding why mom or dad can’t be there for their birthday. In hopes to finally end this calamity, President Obama ordered 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan on December 1, 2009, adding to the 124,000 already there. This makes the number of overall troops deployed to the entire Middle East now exceed two million. Obama aims to strengthen Afghanistan’s security forces to make the U.S. withdrawal faster and more efficient by July of 2011. Obama unintentionally is also causing 30,000 more families to have financial and emotional hardship for the next year. When Congress was debating whether they should deploy more troops, little consideration was given to what that expansion might do to families of those deployed, the people this war was supposed to be protecting in the first place. Studies from RAND Corp, the Army Reserve Family Program, the Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Veteran Affairs have all shown the same result: deployment of a spouse or parent significantly damages family life and stresses both those

serving and their family. Children of those deployed feel this stress the most. Thirty percent of military family teens live with anxiety disorder while their parents are deployed. Over the past eight years, teens of those serving have sought mental health treatment two million times. Much of the stress is caused by having more responsibility at home and having to miss school activities. The more stress the single parent has and the harder he or she is handling the deployment, the more the child’s feelings will mirror his or her parent’s. Girls especially have a difficult time coping with deployment and consequently find it harder to reconnect with the parent once the father or mother returns from war. Teens often show academic decline and rapid mood changes that cause actual physical pain, such as stomach aches. But it’s not only children and teens who are being affected deployment. Spouses of deployed soldiers are also being pushed down under the weight of large amounts of anxiety. They often times have to balance multiple jobs to support their children, leaving them little time to listen and talk with them. USA Today reports the divorce rate between military families has risen 78 percent since 2003. The divorces are not just due to separation, but also because of the struggles that occur when the couple is finally reunited. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the not so silent killer of many military families. PTSD is an anxiety disorder associated with serious traumatic events such as survivor guilt. PTSD affects one in eight returning veterans in the first three months at home. Veterans with this condition commonly develop eating

disorders, alcohol abuse and other addictive behaviors. Sufferers also show severe mood swings of hostility and fear. Their behavior, though unintentional, generally alienates their family members. President Bush, who was president during the majority of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, cut $1.5 billion in military family spending. Recently under Obama’s administration, weekend marriage retreats have been introduced in the hopes of reducing the growing military divorce rate, and in his State of the Union Address Obama promised an 8.8 billion dollar increase in military family spending. Still, even more should be done. The government needs to make more widely available support programs for children of those in the military or other government agencies. Whole family guidance with veterans could also help to lessen effects of PTSD and to initiate reconnection. Families, minors especially, need to be aware of why their kin are at war, how to handle their feelings and who to go to with questions. The President needs to spend this budget increase wisely and put the families of those who are serving in the forefront (to help not only them, but the men and women who risk their lives every day in war zones) by making professional help and support more plentiful and easily accessed by the public. I want to know that the government is trying to help the growing number of families like mine. I want to know that I have someone to talk to when the road side bombings and military base attacks happen.

Cornelius is currently enrolled in Journalism


The Warrior•Opinions

16

February 24, 2010

Should Teachers Who Teach Well Be Paid More?

PRO:

Maryland schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick has proposed altering teacher compensantion, tenure and evaluations in order to reform the system and make the state better able to win $250 million in federal money. Her proposals include connecting teacher evaluations to test scores. Governor Martin O’Malley now supports these proposals in an attempt to secure federal funding. Two Sherwood social studies teachers have opposing viewpoints on this merit pay issue.

Incentivize the Profession: Pay Teachers to Get Better by Michael McCabe

Think of the best teacher you have ever had. What made them so good? What did they do differently than your other teachers? What did they do better? Now think of the worst teacher you’ve ever had. Why were they so bad? What did they do differently than other teachers? I’m certain the differences between these two teachers, these two experiences, could not be starker. In one class, you had a positive attitude. Maybe you were more likely to do your homework because you actually cared. For once in your life, you didn’t MIND going to class. You learned. In the other class… well, in the other class let’s just say, “not so much.” Want to know the difference between what these two teachers get paid? If we hold all other factors constant, the difference is zero. Ms. A and Ms. E get paid the same. No matter how many students sing the praises of Ms. A, and no matter how many students fail for Ms. E, they are paid the same amount. This is the travesty and failure of teaching in the United States. If we can do only ONE thing to improve education, we should create an incentivized pay structure that rewards the teachers who do their work so well, and offer no such reward for teachers who do not. In other words, let’s reward good teaching. Think of it. Paying and rewarding teachers for their hard work. Creating a system where ALL teachers have to do more than simply show up to earn a pay check. They not only have to show-up, but they have to show up and BE GOOD! We do live in America, so for most this concept is hardly revolutionary. This is how our market system works after all. We reward people for their hard work. If you do a job and you do it well, you get paid more money. But teaching is fundamentally different. Unionized labor (like teaching) believes that we should treat every worker “fairly:” a noble cause to say the least. However, in fighting for this cause they have actually created a system that is fundamentally flawed and unfair. In the current system, the longer you work, the more you get paid. All teachers who have worked one year get paid one rate, and all teachers who have worked 20 years get paid another, significantly higher rate. Unions have done an admirable job in raising rates for all teachers. They do an admirable job in protecting teacher rights. But they have also unintentionally created a system that is systematically unfair. Should the teaching profession simply reward experience? Or should we reward the best instruction? I wonder how Mark Zuckerberg, the 25-year-old creator of Facebook (recently valued 15 billion dollars) would answer that question. Think you’d be posting pictures and updating your status updates today if we paid Mark the same salary as every other 25-year-old? Now imagine what you’re NOT doing in your classroom because we’ve failed to create similar incentives for teachers. The point here, is that our current system rewards longevity but not quality. It breeds complacency and not excellence. And if we want it to change, we have absolutely got to change how we reward highly skilled teaching. Some will argue that there is no “fair” way to reward teachers and to rely on testing data in particular will create gross injustices and externalities that will destroy the educational system as we know it. Yes, it is true, one could compose an argument that some people make a lot of money in a market economy who do not deserve it. However, the question is not whether imperfections and injustices will result from an incentive-based pay structure for teachers. The true question is which system, the current one, or one based on incentives, will produce higher quality instruction.

CON:

No Merit in Merit Pay by Joyce Saadi-Allen The Obama Administration has budgeted billions of dollars in education grants to reward states that implement certain education reforms. One of the reforms is merit pay for teachers that link to student test scores. The state of Maryland has yet to apply for this grant money; it is still studying the issue of merit pay. With the current budget shortfall, one thing should be obvious: a merit pay system would not be designed to add additional dollars to the budget but rather to save the state money. Merit pay would therefore not be a bonus incentive plan but rather a pay raise plan to supplant the current system of rewarding teachers for years on the job. Is a merit pay system for teachers a good idea? In short, no. 1. Merit pay would gut a rich curriculum. If student test scores become the determining factor for teacher pay, teachers will not just teach to the test, they will be sorely tempted to teach the test itself. Interesting digressions, curriculum extensions, added experiences, group projects, creative explorations would be deemed not worthwhile if they didn’t lead to enhanced scores on the testing documents. School systems have seen a preview of this “movie” already – the “No Child Left Behind Act” required states to develop annual testing instruments in elementary, middle and high schools. Not only has curriculum narrowed to reach testing targets, but valuable instruction time is given to test preparation. 2. Merit pay would reward teachers whose students have a high skill set. Students are not interchangeable robots; each has his/her own interests, talents, skills, motivations, struggles. In a merit pay system, high student achievers would become the valued currency for teachers. There would be competition among teachers for students who already have a high skill set and strong educational motivation. It would become increasingly difficult to attract teachers to remedial classes, or classes where behavior issues present a challenge to learning. 3. Merit pay would make schooling less rigorous. The testing requirements mandated by the “No Child Left Behind Act” have paradoxically led to less rigorous instruction. Tests have become easier as school systems face the prospect of significant numbers of students unable to pass tests. If student test scores become the determinant for teacher pay, thereby adding increased significance to testing, there will be enormous pressure to craft tests that are easily passable. School systems have already succumbed to pressure to inflate grades at the expense of achievement: witness Montgomery County’s grading system (i.e. the “50% rule,” the “percentage round-up rule,”and the “retake rule”). 4.Merit pay would hurt teacher collegiality. Good teaching involves collaboration. Merit pay would foster competition. 5.Merit pay would unfairly penalize teachers for actions outside his/her control. Teachers can control certain aspects of teaching: knowledge base, lesson preparedness, meaningful feedback on student assignments, availability for extra help, willingness to participate in extracurricular student activities. Teachers can’t control if or how much a student studies for tests, whether a student does his/her homework, if a student is serious about schoolwork, how much support a student has at home, or how a student reacts to problems in his/her life. Basing teacher pay on factors outside his/her control is unfair. (Think of doctors: their pay is not based on whether or not a patient takes his/her medicine, or follows the doctor’s instructions, or even whether the patient gets well.) The goal of merit pay – to reward good teachers – is laudable. There are, in fact, certain incentives already in place. Teachers earn more money for additional coursework. Some teachers receive stipends for sponsoring after school activities. Teachers earn more money with more years experience. A merit pay attached to student test scores is a bad idea, though – for teachers, for school systems that would have to administer it, and most importantly, for students.

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