PARCC Test Dropped by Ohio, Replaced with AIR

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Illustration by: Madison Krell.

It was no walk in the PARCC, but now it’s over.

The 2014-2015 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests have been removed across Ohio, changing the face of Common Core testing.

In the Spring of 2015, Mason was introduced to a new state test set to replace the Ohio Graduation Test. The online assessment called for students to take End of Course Exams in English, Math, and Physical Science.

After the conclusion of the school year, talks about replacing PARCC as the state test arose. Dr. Heather Sass, Chief Academic Officer of Mason City Schools said with the signing of the state’s budget bill came the removal of the tests.

“Because of the law that was passed in June, Ohio is now no longer apart of that partnership (with PARCC),” Sass said. “That left us with English and Mathematics testing needed, so we sought out the American Institutes of Research (AIR) to facilitate the development of our own test.”

The majority of PARCC testing was done online, quickly making issues with technology evident. According to Sass, PARCC was deemed unfit for state testing after schools expressed concerns with technology and the amount of testing.

“PARCC had some aspects of its registration and technology platform that were very awkward and cumbersome,” Sass said. “Our legislators also listened to the fact that having a performance-based and an end-of-course part of the test made for too many testing sessions.”

The Class of 2018 in Mason will be the first class not to take the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) their sophomore year. Last year, freshman students worked towards the new graduation requirement, sitting through 12 days of 90-minute testing sessions. Initiation of the PARCC tests immediately sparked frustrations with students. According to sophomore Gabi Renshaw, the extensive testing seemed out of place due to the outdated test material.

“The tests that we took—we didn’t do any of that stuff in school that year,” Renshaw said. “It wasn’t assessing us on what we learned freshman year when we took it.”

With the implement of AIR, improvements from PARCC are expected to be made. According to MHS Principal, Dave Hyatt, AIR’s two 90-minute testing sessions won’t require students or teachers to miss as many classes.

“It is less intrusive; you will have less instructional time lost,” Hyatt said. “Our teachers will be able to teach more, test less, which is a good thing.”

According to Sass, many aspects of last year’s testing will remain the same; however, the new science exam will assess students on biology, not physical science.

“Last year students may have taken a physical science (exam) and that test is no longer. It’s switched completely to biology,” Sass said. “But if you took the physical science test last year (the points) will count.”

Students are set to take the tests from April 4-May 13. Sass said she is pleased with what AIR has accomplished for the state, and expects the new tests to continue to be a part of Ohio’s state tests.

“I think it has a very good chance (of staying in the long run),” Sass said. “In Ohio it’s really good for us to have tests that are targeted towards our standards by our educators, and I think that’s what AIR has accomplished for us. In that way I think AIR is a good move for us.”

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Lakota East outlasts young Comets in five sets, takes first in GMC

The Greater Miami Conference has a new leader, but it’s not Mason.

The Comet volleyball team took on Lakota East last night in a match-up that would determine the new conference leader. After five sets with scores of 25-17, 23-25, 25-23, 17-25, and 15-8, the Thunderhawks emerged victorious.

The Comets struggled to find their rhythm during the first set, resulting in a series of dropped balls and hits into the net. While the girls eventually tied it up, it wasn’t enough to make up for lost ground: East gained seven consecutive points, and the first set was theirs. According to head coach Tiann Myer, nerves and the team’s inexperience led to a shaky start.

“I think that they were a little nervous coming out,” Myer said. “We’re a very young team, so starting off they know that it’s a big hype.”

During the second set, things started to turn around for Mason. The athletes were more aggressive at the net and forced East to use both timeouts. According to Myer, the change can be accredited to the girls being more focused.

“We bounced back because we realized we could play with them,” Myer said. “We started focusing a little bit more on our game versus what they were doing, and things just started coming together for us in that second game.”

Mason hung with Lakota throughout the third set, but a few controversial calls ruled in East’s favor allowed East to take it 25-23. The two teams were point for point during the fourth set, but Mason pulled away after a series of kills and ended the set 25-17 with an ace. The deciding set was all Lakota. Mason exhausted both timeouts, but the breaks weren’t enough to prevent Lakota East from taking the match-deciding set, 15-8.

Myer said she was impressed with her team’s performance, and with only four returning varsity players, her young team has a lot of potential.

“Overall, it was a really good night,” Myer said. “I know the potential’s there; the talent’s there and they really showed that, so I was extremely happy with how we played.”

With the defeat, Mason’s undefeated GMC record is no longer intact, but Myer said with more than a month of volleyball left to be played, nothing is set in stone.

“If we keep playing the way we do, they might end up losing one; we could tie,” Myer said. “We’ll put together what we need to and then focus more on the post-season.”

volleyball

Photo by: Blake Nissen

Church vs. State: Davis Defies the Supreme Court

Love may have won, but Kim Davis refuses to stop fighting.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, legalizing the practice nationwide. Despite the ruling, the nation remained divided on the issue prevalent in the 5-4 ruling.

This Tuesday, same-sex marriage supporters received new opposition: Kentucky’s County Clerk Kim Davis.

Davis, an Apostolic Christian, says she was acting “Under God’s authority” when she decided not to issue a marriage license to any couple; gay or straight. There have been many protests to the ruling, some Christians saying the bible clearly states marriage should be between a man and a woman.

By refusing to issue David Ermold and David Moore a marriage license, Davis blatantly defied the Supreme Court. This encouraged people to speak up and tell her to either carry out the law, or find another job.

While Davis just recently started making headlines, the issue has been ongoing for weeks. Davis has been defiant of the new law from the day it was passed. District Judge David Bunning initially ordered that Davis remain in jail until she agreed to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples but reconsidered, landing Davis a court date for earlier this afternoon.

Davis being a county-clerk had employees under her–one of whom was her son. She ordered the six deputy-clerks to follow her lead and refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. When brought before a judge, all of the deputy-clerks said they were afraid of defying Davis, and that they would issue the licenses without further complication–well, all but one of them. Davis’s son Nathan, 21, refused to issue the licenses just as his mom had done before him.

As a result of the many conflicts, on September 3, Kim Davis was found in contempt of the court and was ordered to spend the night in jail. Prosecutors agreed to let Davis off with a fine, but Bunning didn’t think ordering her to pay a fine would be enough, and there was a lesson she needed to learn.

“I myself have genuinely held religious beliefs, but I took an oath,” Bunning said. “Mrs. Davis took an oath. Oaths mean things.”

Religion aside, Kim Davis works for the state. Whether she agrees with the ruling or not, she is required to issue a marriage license to any couple that walks through the door. On June 26, David Ermold and David Moore were granted the right to marry whomever they wanted. On September 1, that right was taken away from them.

LGBT supporters demand equality outside Ashland federal courthouse and Kim Davis’s hearing before Judge Bunning

(Video Credit: KENTUCKY.COM)

Students shed public speaking fears, build skills in MHS Speak Week

Fifth to ninth graders will be smooth-talking by the end of this week, thanks to coaching from Mason High School’s Speech and Debate team.

From July 27-31, the team is continuing their annual tradition of Speak Week, allowing students to practice public speaking skills.

According to rising senior Dominic Peraino, Director of Metrics for the Speech and Debate team, attendees will work on four main skills in classes throughout the week, building up to a final test of their new knowledge.

“Argumentation Refutation is one (class), Research and Speechwriting, Physical and Verbal Delivery, and Limited Prep,” Peraino said. “Every day, they rotate through one of the classes, and on the fifth day, there’s a tournament where they put all of the skills they’ve learned to the test.”

According to rising senior Andrew Gao, co-captain of the Speech and Debate team, the basics that students learn this week can be applied to settings beyond a heated debate.

“I’m pretty sure every single skill can be applied to (outside settings),” Gao said. “The ability to make a strong argument–the ability to persuade somebody about a topic–that’s a skill you can use in class presentations, jobs, when you’re trying to convince your parents. It’s everywhere.”

In addition to preparing youth for a lifetime of presentations, one of Speek Week’s benefits is the additional aid in funding it gives to the Speech and Debate team, Gao said.

“(Entrance costs) $110, and the money goes to the actual funding of our team,” Gao said. “When you want to fund clubs to pay for bus transportation to go to different tournaments–just paying the fees for tournaments–you have to raise money somehow, so in a way Speak Week is our creative way of raising money.”

According to Gao, if students showed interest in the activities throughout the week, there is a club for them at MHS.

“If the kids liked Speak Week, they should join Speech and Debate Team,” Gao said.

Yes Mr. Conner, Times Have Changed

The number of times my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts have uttered the words: “back when I was your age”, is immeasurable. The differences between our generations are unfathomable, but those changes are still prevalent among the slightest of age differences.

In April, Mr. Conner commented on the noticeable differences in photos found in newspapers and magazines today, versus decades ago–specifically in the New York Times.

Well, I’ve noticed that the resounding differences don’t just stop at magazine photos.

With new technological innovations and fashion fads and recent precedents in music, I think there are obvious changes between today’s elementary school kids and when I was there.

So, shall we begin?

Technology:

Some of my older family members would always comment on how their phones used to be the size of bricks with those six inch antennas. They would joke about how spoiled we were having a phone at the beginning of high school, when they didn’t get one until the end of college. Well, I hate to break it to you Nana and Papa, but the craze of cell phones have reached a whole new age group. My first cell phone was a free black flip phone with limited minutes, meaning that every time I sent a text message or called someone, a number in the corner of the main screen would get smaller. When that number hit zero, the phone was merely a decoration; useless. I was ten when I received this starter phone, it came with no data, WiFi never even crossed my mind, and the fact that it could take pictures was the coolest thing to me–camera phones were all the rage then. Now, I see seven year olds with their “starter phones”, and it’s certainly not a flip phone, I doubt they have a steadily decreasing number in the corner counting down to the phone’s demise, and they have the ability to take hundreds of pictures. Yep, that little seven year old booger eating child had an IPhone. I’m fourteen and I do have an IPhone, something my sister wouldn’t even be able to say, so maybe some of you older kids even think I’m crazy, but really, a seven year old? What do they even need it for?

Clothes:

Whether you’re fifteen or fifty, modeling up to date fashion trends always seems like it’s the only way to fit in with the “in-crowd”, but I remember when it didn’t matter what you were wearing if you were under the age of ten. I don’t know about everyone else, but when I was a fourth grader in 2009, silly bandz were the hottest accessories you could wear. They were colorful pieces of rubber, but in my nine year old eyes, they might as well have been diamond bracelets–okay maybe not diamonds, but you get the picture. We didn’t care if we had the latest Air Jordans as long as we had one more accessory in the holes of our Crocs then our peer next to us. In 2009 we raved about Justice and Aeropostale, in 2015; Victoria Secret’s Pink.

Toys/Games:

Moving to 2011–also known as the start of my sixth grade year–we were obsessed with a plastic Japanese toy called a Tamagotchi. Basically you had this virtual pet, and you would feed it virtual food, and play with it using virtual toys. Trust me it was harder than it sounds. You used to be considered babysitter material if you could keep your pet alive for more than 24 hours. My point? Something as simple as a plastic egg game on a key chain kept us occupied throughout all of elementary school. Those games: Flappy Bird, 2048, and Trivia Crack, kept us occupied today for about two weeks. We want constant upgrades in our Play Stations, Xboxes, IPhones. Simple is no longer good enough.

Times have changed. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but we’ve changed. We’ve changed how we dress, how we speak, how we act. However even five years later there’s still one thing that remains the same, it is ridiculously hard to keep that Tamagotchi monster alive.

Aspiring actors take first steps onstage in MHS Drama Camp

This week, aspiring actors, singers, and dancers began to train in their craft.

From June 8 — 12, the Mason High School drama department continued the annual tradition of organizing a drama camp for rising kindergartners through eighth graders, exposing them to the inner-workings of a theater production.

Allen Young, theater director at MHS, has been organizing and volunteering with the camp for 14 years. He said the camp provides the basic knowledge necessary for auditions or pursuing a role.

“It lets our kids teach the things that they’ve learned through our program,” Young said. “And then (it) also teaches younger kids some of the basic fundamentals that they’re (going to) use when they’re auditioning or working backstage.”

The camp offers seven classes to pass on that knowledge, including: Selling the Song, Acting, and Dancing–available to all participants–and Improvisation, Make-up, and Technical Theatre–available to campers ages 10 and up.

Throughout the week, participants focused on two classes in preparation for the camp’s showcase for all the parents. MHS alum and Big-Kid Acting instructor, Katey Henry, hoped to prepare her group, so they felt comfortable acting and performing in front of a crowd Friday evening, while still having a great time.

“We want them to learn to be comfortable in front of an audience, and learn acting skills so that they feel confident,” Henry said. “But mostly (we want them) to have fun.”

Come Friday, June 12 at 6:00 p.m., the stage was set to show parents what their kids had been learning for five days.

The Little-Kid Acting class taught by Collin Aldrich and Sheila Raghavendran performed an original skit titled “The Princess Camp.” The Big-Kid Selling the Song class performed the songs “Cups”, as seen in Pitch Perfect and “Be Our Guest”, from Beauty and the Beast. The Technical Theater class showcased miniature square flats painted by each of the students.

According to Young, the skills these students are taught in drama classes are skills they can carry with them in the future.

“I think theater helps you do a lot of things,” Young said. “Theater classes aren’t just about performance. It teaches a lot of practical skills that will help you no matter what you’re (going to) do.”

A Tolerance for Tardiness

We all have triggers. In one moment we’re fine, but within five minutes that little vein in the side of our necks slowly begin to make an appearance.

While some people can wait in lines for hours at Kings Island, or walk behind couples in the hallways too busy confessing their love for each other to walk up the steps, I cannot.

I can’t, I just cannot do it. My threshold of patience only allows me to stand in a line for about thirty minutes, leaving no room for tolerance of the “No you hang up” lovebirds.

My preference for fast-paced everything–plot lines, waiting lines, videos–has caused me to develop a pet-peeve for tardiness. I hate being late for things, and I hate it when things start late.

While you would think this would be the general consensus–that people would prefer to be ten minutes early rather than the opposite–that’s not always the case.

This year the state of Ohio required all freshmen to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which is just a fancy name they created for a standardized test that earns groans from both teachers and their students. (Totally off topic, but my teacher pointed out to me that the acronym spells CCRAP backwards which I personally think is more fitting). Anyway, in the midst of this prolonged assessment, I received an article discussing different cultures’ perception of time and timeliness.

The author documented his experiences while travelling and noted that while in the foreign country, he would often show up for events scheduled for one time that wouldn’t actually start until approximently an hour later. When he asked the locals about their tardiness, they responded saying they’re not late, Americans are just acustomed to a more strict time schedule.

This idea can be illustrated among different cultures in social settings such as restaurants or parties. In an American restaurant the waiter seats you, takes your order, delivers the bill, and pushes you out the resturaunt within the hour. In contrast, when I travelled to Paris over spring break, they would bring out your food and would refuse to give you the bill until after you ate everything and discussed world events from the 1700s until present day.

My friends whose families are of Middle-Eastern decent always joke about parties their parents throw where people don’t even show up until what was supposed to be an hour and a half into the festivities.

With everyone adjusted to their own cultural clock, who knows? Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not late, maybe we’re just early.

Journey Thousands of Miles

I travelled 4,130 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to find myself in a capital rich with culture and historical architecture: Paris, France.

Everything from the way locals were dressed to the way they got around the city–and obviously the way they communicated with each other–was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

Within the compact city stood buildings hundreds of years old. Museums showcased detailed images that most would need a camera to portray today. Foods whose names I couldn’t even begin to pronounce were the common street snacks in the hands of local Parisians. I journeyed a few thousand miles and found myself among a culture completely foreign to that of my own.

The first things I noticed when I arrived in the heart of the city were the iconic structures–The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe–but the architecture in general is in a league of its own in comparison to what I’m used to seeing in Mason, Ohio. The amount of detail seen in every building always had me wondering: Who has this much time on their hands? From all of the individual structures carved into Notre Dame, or each of the heads along the bridge stretching across the Seine River, each of the buildings, bridges, and even roads didn’t lack any detail.

A day trip to the city of Versailles brought all the knowledge I crammed into my brain during the French Revolution unit right before my eyes. A tour through the Palace of Versailles allowed me to see where famous monarchs such as King Louis XIV, King Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette spent their days as they ruled over France.

The local food and restaurants aren’t the same major restaurant chains we have here in the States. The only restaurant I saw that was also in the United States was McDonalds. Most of the time you’ll find small cafes–probably family owned–that specialize in just a few items. When you think of the French you probably think of berets, mimes, and baguettes, strangely enough the latter isn’t entirely false. It wasn’t very odd to see people walking in the streets with an approximately 2′ long baguette in their hands or smaller ones shoved in their bags and purses. The small cafes and bakeries added to the already close feel of the city, something I don’t see everyday.

In Mason most people get around the city by car, in Paris public transportation and walking are key. Like New York City, Paris has a metro (subway) system. The metro runs through the entire city and is probably the fastest way to get from place to place, otherwise walking and riding a bike or motorcycle are options as well. Considering driving in Paris is quite the headache and terrifying experience (it’s more like a big game of survival of the fittest) we stuck to the metro and our feet to get us around.

Being someone who’s only ever lived in the same house and attended the same school, seeing a city like Paris was like walking into a new world. A world where you can’t understand what people around you are saying. A world where you gasp every time you walk another block. People all around the world journey thousands of miles to see the incredible sight that is Paris, France, and I’m thankful that I was one of them.

The 22%

Twenty-two percent. That’s how many students at Mason High School have the label minority tacked onto their name.

According to the Public School Review out of the 3,246 students at MHS, only about 714 of them walk through the hallways and rarely see someone who looks like them–racially speaking of course. To put this into perspective, the minorities at Mason High School don’t even make up one graduating class. Along with the challenge of being an outsider, comes the challenge of changing preconceived ideas about you and your race.

Hispanics, African Americans (Blacks), Arab Americans, and Muslims are a few targeted groups in a society where stereotypes dictate the thoughts and feelings towards a particular ethnic group. These groups have often had the misfortune of being associated with the titles: illegal immigrant, thug, and terrorist, and social media has done nothing but fuel the flame.

Racist Twitter PostRacist Twitter PostRacist Twitter Post

The problem is that I’m guessing at least one person reading those tweets laughed, smiled, or thought so true! Social media allows users to post any comment that pops into their heads regardless of how derogatory. While some may find these stereotypes humorous or playful, racial attacks effect minority groups outside of the Twitter app on their phones.

Senior and Board Member of Mason African American Students for Change, Ayianna Alatishe, recognizes there are stereotypes she’s faced with as an African American.

“As a Black woman [common stereotypes I’m affected by are] I’m loud and I’m boisterous” Alatishe said. “In classes I’ll be seen as not as smart as my white counterparts.”

These stereotypes as expressed by Alatishe, tend to make their way onto the big screens, as Hollywood tends to stick with the portrayal of stereotypical minority characters.

Asians in television shows and movies often have strong accents, and are sometimes shown speaking such poor English, that subtitles are needed to understand them.

Movies and TV shows written with stereotypes and prejudice in them, cause unfair conclusions to be drawn about particular groups. However in the media outside of TV shows and films, the same conclusions are being made based on the actions of a small percentage of a race.

Arabs and Muslims are often too quickly labeled terrorists. With old and new world crises, the assumption is sometimes made that all Muslims act in a threatening and suspicious manner.

The Huffington Post comments on the portrayal of Arab Americans and Muslims in the media:

Not surprisingly, a majority of Americans receive information about Muslims and Islam primarily from the media. As Jack Shaheen, a leading writer on Arab and Muslim media stereotypes has documented, more than 200 movies have portrayed Arabs and Muslims in prejudicial scenes, often when the plot has nothing to do with Arabs or Muslims since 9/11. When Hollywood blatantly excludes multi-dimensional portrayals of Muslims, it can lead to harmful stereotypes in the real world.

Biased depictions of ethnic groups cast a negative light on minority races, and impact students such as Alatishe and other minorities at MHS.

Almas Malik, a freshman at MHS, has dealt with being labeled an aggressor as an affect of stereotypes towards Muslims, but in reality, seeing terrorizing attacks around the world hurts her just as much as it does any other American.

“There’s a lot I want people to know, but the biggest thing is that it’s hard for us to turn on a news channel and hear about all the evil that is going on around the world.” Malik said.

The problem with stereotypes is, they cause people to judge a group before they get to know them. Someone may see Alatishe and her dark skin and assume she’s unintelligent, when she could possibly be a straight ‘A’ student. Someone may see Malik and assume she plans to harm them, when she could possibly be an advocate for peace.

This goes out to everyone, not everything you see on the big screen or in your Twitter feed is fact. Whether you’re 1 in 2,532 or a part of the small 22%, it’s time to ditch the stereotypes and start to get to know the kid in your science class who doesn’t have the same skin tone as you.

MHS Collaborative Musical Performance

Tonight, they made history at MHS.

On Monday, March 23, 2015, Honors Symphony Orchestra, Honors Wind Symphony, and Honors Concert Choir, came together for the first time at William Mason High School, to preform the finale of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Together the groups blended their grand sound to create a melodious piece of music to honor the City of Mason’s Bicentennial.

With the accompaniment of featured vocal soloists: Laura Adkins (Alto), Andrew Jones (Tenor),  Peter Keates (Baritone), and Linda McAlister (Soprano), this group of talented musicians left a lasting impression on the stage.