Wednesday, March 10, 2010

want more high school grads? easy peasy...

Oregon will test 11th-graders using 10th-grade tests

By Betsy Hammond, The Oregonian

March 03, 2010, 7:22PM
Oregon is moving its 10th-grade tests in reading, writing, math and science to the 11th grade, saying many students need another year of high school to learn the skills covered on the tests.

The tests were written for sophomores, and the minimum passing scores were set based on how sophomores performed on the tests. But, beginning next school year, they will be given to juniors, and the state's high schools will be judged by how many of their students pass the exams by the end of junior year.

Oregon got permission from the U.S. Department of Education to make the standard easier for schools.

When Oregon sophomores take the tests, a lot of them fail, particularly in math. Last year, 46 percent of 10th-graders flunked that test, 45 percent failed the writing test and 42 percent failed in science.

Low passing rates on the state reading and math tests are the main reason that Oregon high schools get worse ratings on state and federal accountability reports than the state's elementary and middle schools.

Educators are hopeful that, with another year of instruction under their belts, more high schools students will be able to pass.

The testing window now in place for sophomores runs from October through mid-May, meaning they must take the exam "when there are still at least four weeks of instruction left in their sophomore year," says McMinnville High principal Kris Olsen. "We want to ensure that all kids have an opportunity to be exposed to all of the 10th-grade curriculum before they have to take this test."

Most schools will continue to give the tests to sophomores, then focus on helping those who fail to learn the missing skills before retesting them as juniors, Olsen said.

Jack Jennings, president of the non-profit Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy, has tracked how states have changed their testing programs since the 2001 passage of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which increased accountability and sanctions for schools that post low test scores. Some states lowered the scores a student needs to pass the state test to help schools avoid low ratings.

Jennings could not recall another state moving its high school exams to a higher grade, and said it suggests Oregon may be lowering its expectations for its schools or its students.

"It does seem unusual to move a 10th-grade proficiency set of tests to the 11th grade," he said. "If you thought 10th-graders could do something, and then you shift the measurement of that skill to 11th grade, it at least raises the question of whether they have lowered the standard."

Schools will still be able to give the tests to sophomores, and those that pass won't have to retest as juniors, said Susanne Smith, communications manager for the Oregon Department of Education. But all students who have not passed before junior year will have to take the exams that year, and schools will be judged according to how many of their students pass by the end of junior year.

Students have always been permitted to retake state tests as juniors if they failed them as sophomores. But most students did not do so, state officials say. Of roughly 25,000 sophomores who failed at least one test, about 6,000 retook the math test and about 2,000 retook the reading tests as juniors, according to Jon Wiens, accountability specialist at the state education department.

The Oregon Board of Education decided several years ago that, beginning with this year's sophomores, students will have to pass the state reading test to get a high school diploma. This year's freshmen will have to pass the state writing test, too. And today's eighth graders will have to pass in reading, writing and math to get their diplomas.

Smith, the department spokeswoman, said the state is not lowering the standards on any of the tests, it is merely giving schools and students more time before the results count.

"The ultimate goal," she said, "is to get those kids ready to graduate."

-- Betsy Hammond

Friday, October 31, 2008

I came across this article by a person who makes money by writing term papers for university students. He/she ascribes this lucrative business to university greed, which encourages completely unqualified people to pay their money for a semester or so, before they flunk them out back into the street.

I would say, however, that the problem may lie before that, in the public school system. He/she quotes a request from one of his clients:

"i need you to write me two different story in all these listed under. The introduction of the story, the themes, topic and character, please not from internet, Or any posted web sites, because my professor will know if from internet this is the reason why i' m spending money on it.Not two much words, because i will still write it back in clsss go straight to the point and write me the conclution at end of the two story, the second story different introduction, themes, topic and character. Thank you God Bless."

Even the flake, the disinterested, the fool, would never ever have left Miss McMurphy's class writing like that poor soul! We were very lucky, back in the day.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More from Helen M

.... I saw her often in Atlin at my high school days, as my folks returned there every summer (my brother and I were born there). In that setting she was warm, witty and I came to cherish those times.

There is no doubt she made a decent writer out of me - I could not believe my first year at UBC when I would get A's for my essays. Never had more than a C+ with McMurphy but I certainly knew not to be TRITE and redundant. No "fleecy white clouds" crossed my skies. :))

And I recall being sent to the Stratford Festival, writing her postcards from there to finally admit that I was enthralled with Shakespeare.

I went to her retirement dinner and wish I had a copy of the speech she made that night, it was so perfect. ...

Do you remember Brian W. doing his impression of her entering the classroom. He would use that gigantic dictionary as a prop? I think we laughed heartily due more to his gall/bravery than anything else.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

and before we get too soppy, here

this is the face of Miss McMurphy that I, Heather, remember:

There was a great advantage in having Departmentals, made in Victoria and checked there by strangers.

Yet, unbelievably, I have heard a story from a friend here in Whitehorse who said she could be very funny. I suspect that when she drew a line through John C's paper and wrote "PRAY", she was chuckling. Maybe, just maybe, she thought we - all of us - were funny??? What a thought!

Ken E

I appreciate the note on Miss McMurphy. I too would have said that her first name was 'Miss' - although when I quoted her (frequently) in later life, I thought her name was 'Eleanor!' Doris sounds fine.

I do not recall her as having an impact on me in literature. It was in grammar and composition where she made her lasting mark on me. I still remember back in Grade 9 when I got a 53!!! in a test in grammar (Bonnie R that was got 85!) This was quite an epiphany for me as I realized that 1) I was not quite as smart as I thought I was and 2) I was not going to be able to learn everything in class, and would have to study.

I have never been a teacher, but I have had numerous interns who I have terrorized about the quality of their writing, citing various dicta of Miss McMurphy: "Due to" is a subjective completion; maintain the parallel structure of the sentence, etc.

I also recall that it was to her that somebody once ran for protection in Grade 11 when John C Forester-Greaves was on the warpath...

Bonnie R

... We always knew she was a legend in her own time.... I note you (Helen M) sent to John C and rightly so as he received the red slash across his essay with "Pray" inscribed...

I am sorry her last teaching days were not happy. She deserved more than that. But ... as you said, Helen, the parents and students did come to have all the power ... and (a) her reputation would have preceded her and (b) she would continue her relentless putdowns which would pay off only at final exam time ... I can see the "power" not putting up with her teaching style. Too bad, isn't it. There was much to be gleaned from her knowledge.

Helen M

... Was surprised to hear Les M wax eloquent about her. My memory card sees him differently re most teachers... D. Mc was a complex woman and not everyone found success in her classes. As counsellor, she channelled students into university or vocational programs based on her assessment of their Mmarks. Know a few who never forgave her for that....
I know I caused her much grief with my inability to properly parse complex sentences. Recall leaving the room in tears on day. :))

Having said that, I had a wonderful time with her when I returned to Whse. from my years in the wilderness aka Dawson City (63 - 68). By this time, the poor woman was an outcast (Bugara had left and a new principal was in charge). She sat in the staffroom by herself, newer teachers did not hold her in such esteem as was the case when we were in school. When I subbed there, I and Ben Sheardown would always sit with her at lunch and eventually bring a little smirk to her face. She had a lot of sick days and parents, with their newly found powers were merciless with their complaines. She, in turn, bemoaned the fact that sports took precedence over academics achievement. Few in her department supported her.... (MORE FROM HELEN'S NOTES LATER)

from Les M

... Miss McMurphy - I am not sure I ever knew her first name when I was going to school - certainly commanded our attention. She was an imposing figure who came north by choice - stayed - married - lived and loved the Yukon and left behind a legacy of English education that permeates the life of every student she taught.

She was born in Winnipege in 1910. As a youngster she wanted to be a veterinarian, but in those days, that was not a calling for women. So she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba and became a teacher. In 1947, she applied for a job in Fort St. John, but then the call of the newly opened Alaska Highway beckoned. In 1950, she arrived in Whitehorse to teach English and Latin. That year, she was introduced to Yukon culture when, at a party at the home of George and Martha Black, she first met a Yukon legend named John Stenbraten. To his many friends in the mining world, he was Stampede John.

To students, Miss McMurphy would always be - MISS McMurphy. So, imagine our surprise when, in 1961, Miss McMurphy became Mrs. John Stenbraten We all knew her as a quiet, dedicated, cultured English teacher with boundless enthusiasm for the great poets like Keats and Browning and writers like Shakespeare. Now we had to contend with the image of the prim and proper Miss McMurphy racing off in her trusty Volkswagen with Stampede John on another of his wild expeditions in search of the motherlode....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Making a scroll of memories of Miss McMurphy

In the Middle Ages, they would commemorate a person in this way: a monk carrying a scroll would trek to convent to monastery to church to cathedral. Wherever he stopped, people would add personal comments to the scroll. After he hauled the (by this time very long and heavy) scroll back to his own monastery, it would be put in the library and thereby cherished. I speak as an ex-librarian: it would be cherished!

Miss McMurphy has remained in my brain like a disapproving ghost ever since I left Whitehorse High School and my stories of her are in the nature of war stories. On the other hand, she taught me how to write a sentence and how to recognize the poetry of John Donne. I count myself very lucky that I had her as my English teacher.

This is a 'scroll' in her honour, and I invite comments from any of her former students. To do so, you can either email Helen Munro, or write something in the comments section of the blog. I will pick up these comments and add them to the scroll.

Also, I possess a couple of yearbooks (1959 and 1960), so your photo may appear with your memory.

Remember: "preview" is your friend. Let us not, however, obsess too much about grammar
(I have written and re-written this little essay oh, about 10 times so far...)!