Intentionally Misleading, or Poor Choice of Words?

My children have been reading The Giver this summer, and the focus on precision of language got me thinking this morning.  So often, it seems these days, we read or learn about programs or products whose reality differs greatly from what was described.  It’s the supplements that claim to help you control your appetite, that in reality do absolutely nothing.  

The College Board is the entity that governs Advanced Placement, or AP, courses.  It articulates the standards those courses must meet, provides or endorses training to certify teachers for AP courses, and administers and grades the AP exams.  Students who take a certain number of exams and achieve scores of a certain level are eligible for awards from the College Board.  These awards are called AP Scholar Awards, and they are an internationally recognized award of achievement that students can attain.    

What does this have to do with precision of language, or lack thereof?  

It’s because of the AP Scholars program that PWCS offers.  

The AP Scholars program is available to PWCS High School students taking at least 2 Pre-AP or AP courses in the current school year who plan to complete at least 6 AP courses before graduation.  Students participating in the program must maintain a C average in all classes, must complete community service hours each year, and must complete a research paper.    In exchange for doing all of that, students participating in the program are supposed to receive peer tutoring, instructional support from the school counseling department, free on-line SAT prep and practice AP exams, and special recognition at graduation.  

The AP Scholars program, offered by PWCS, is in no way, shape, or form affiliated with or endorsed by the College Board, the organization that administers the AP exams and awards the AP Scholar awards.  Students who complete the AP Scholars program in a PWCS school aren’t AP Scholars unless they take the required number of courses and achieve the scores required for an AP Scholar award.  In fact, students who don’t participate in the AP Scholars program can achieve the AP Scholar distinction, if they take enough AP classes and achieve the necessary scores to receive the award.  

See how that might be confusing?

This shouldn’t be construed as criticism of the AP Scholars program, as it sounds like an interesting program,  though some parents have indicated to me that the promised benefits of additional instructional support and peer tutoring have not been delivered.  My criticism isn’t with the AP Scholars program, but rather with the name.

No Colleges and Universities are aware of the AP Scholars program that PWCS offers, but they are aware of the AP Scholar distinctions the College Board awards.  Students who complete the AP Scholars program in a PWCS high school aren’t AP Scholars; they are only AP Scholars if they earn that distinction and are awarded it by the College Board.    

I’m quite certain PWCS officials were ware of the AP Scholar awards when they designed the AP Scholars program here, so why they would have chosen to give the program the same name as the award, is beyond me.  It’s confusing, implies that some level of support or endorsement has been received from the College Board, and ought to be changed.  

Back to School 2014 – 2015 School Year!

Welcome back for the 2014 – 2015 school year!  I hope everyone had a fun and relaxing summer.  

The Va Dept of Ed released SOL and end of year exam scores yesterday, August 28, 2014.  That is one of the latest release dates I recall.  

History has taught me that the greatest indicator of student academic success is their parent’s financial stability.  For more decades than I care to count, it had been observed that students from economically disadvantaged families tend to underperform relative to their peers from financially stable families.  Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent, the “achievement gap” has remained steadfast and consistent for as long as test score data has been complied.  

PWCS has one of the highest percentages of economically disadvantaged students in northern Virginia.  I believe only Arlington, Alexandria, Manassas, and Masassas Park have a greater percentage.  I mention that because in years past PWCS has cited demographics as the reason our student test scores lag those achieved in neighboring counties.  PWCS does have a point, our school division’s demographic balance does affect our overall scores, however, demographics aren’t the only reason. 

For the last couple of years I’ve been compiling test score reports for economically disadvantaged and not economically disadvantaged students, and comparing those scores.  PWCS student scores are consistently in the bottom 1/3 of northern Virginia counties in every subject tested at the high school level, except Reading and US & Virginia History.  This is for both economically disadvantaged and not economically disadvantaged students, so, while the demographic balance of our students does account for SOME of the deficit, it doesn’t account for all of it.  

Below is a link to the report on high school scores (High School SOLs – 2010 to 2014).  I’ll be cobbling together test score reports as I find time and posting them on the Test Scores Page.  Until then, enjoy, and welcome back to school!

VA SOLs Versus the Common Core State Standards

Should Virginia continue its long tradition of local control over what our children learn, when they learn it, and how they’re evaluated, or should Virginia cede that to the federal government and become a full participant in the Common Core State Standards initiative?

That’s the question panelists for the Prince William County Committee of 100 will consider Wednesday night.

Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Pi Day!

In honor of real math enthusiasts everywhere…

Happy Pi Day

For you Investigations and Connected Math fans who have no clue what I’m talking about, Pi, Greek letter (pi), is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi = 3.1415926535…Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th.

What should PWCS do with $39,725,000?

Rumor on the street has it that the Prince William County government expects to receive $70,000,000 more in tax revenue next year due to the tax increases the state passed.  $39,725,000 is the school division’s share of that money.

money

I don’t know if the $70 million is true or not.  I’ve heard it from multiple sources, with each asking whether PWCS would get its cut.

Let’s play pretend.  Assuming it’s true and the PWC Government is willing to share, what do you think PWCS should do with the $39,725,000?

  1. Use all of the money to reduce class sizes.
  2. Split the money into two parts and use half to reduce class sizes and the other half as a bonus to our teachers to make up for the past few years.
  3. Spend $10 million building the pool in the 12th high school and use the rest for class size reductions and teacher bonuses.
  4. Split the money evenly among our school Principals to use however they deem necessary.
  5. Send every graduating senior to Disney World for a week.
  6. Pay me to move someplace far far away with no internet access.

Postivie or Positive?

Many thanks to those of you who notified us of the typo in the title of recent article – Accentuating the Postivie, or Misleading the Public. I’ll be sure to add positive to this week’s spelling list!

Student May Have Been Assaulted at SJHS

Inside NOVA is reporting that an 18 year old  SJHS student has been taken into custody for allegedly sexually assaulting and raping a 14 year old student at the same school.  The assault  allegedly occurred several times between April 11 and April 14 and was reported to school authorities on June 1.  The alleged suspect was charged with sexual battery, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and carnal knowledge on June 2.

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and there are some questions about this case which Inside NOVA’s report leave open.  However, based on the charges filed,  it is quite evident that this case was not mere sexual banter or play between two students.

Parents need to demand that district officials investigate the incident immediately.  District officials need to address the level of security provided in stairwells and hallways during school hours, both during and between classes, to determine whether that level of security is adequate.  District officials need to address after hours access to the building by students and the public to determine whether the level of security provided after the school day has ended is adequate.

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