NOTE: STORY UPDATES WITH STUDENT QUOTE, OTHER DETAILS
Whether you’re a good test-taker or someone who suffers from test anxiety, sitting in silence in front of a computer screen for 90 minutes of testing probably isn’t very appealing, especially when it feels like you’re doing it day after day.
And yet that is the reality at HHS and at schools across the state and country these days.
Supporters of mandated standardized tests like the Tennessee Ready exam say the assessments measure how much students have learned and hold schools accountable for performance, but many students and teachers -- as well as a growing number of parents and politicians -- think the testing has gone too far and become more disruptive than productive.
“It is a worthless piece of donkey poop,” said freshman Erick Morales. “It doesn’t help me expand my knowledge. I feel like it will decrease my knowledge by making me stress and overthink the questions, causing me to get them wrong.”
Indeed, The Durango Herald in Colorado reports that increased stress from testing has negatively affected students’ sleeping and eating habits in that city’s school district.
The Washington Post, citing a recent study by the Council of Great City Schools, reported that a typical U.S. student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten classes and 12th grade. By contrast, the article stated, most countries that outperform the United States on international exams test students only three times during their entire school careers.
The Post says the study, which came out in October and analyzes tests given in 66 urban districts in the 2014-2015 school year, “portrays a chock-a-block jumble, where tests have been layered upon tests under mandates from Congress, the U.S. Department of Education and state and local governments, many of which the study argues have questionable value to teachers and students.” Testing companies that aggressively market new exams also share the blame, the study said.
“The test (Tennessee Ready) is used to illustrate how prepared students are; however, from my perspective, some students don't always try their hardest, thus essentially causing inaccurate statistics concerning our readiness. It's a little annoying to me,” senior Autumn Eldridge wrote in her Black and Gold Blog on the HHS library website.
The over-testing problem has become significant enough that the U.S. Department of Education is recommending that states cap the amount of time devoted to test-taking to no more than 2 percent of class time.
“The old testing wasn’t good, but I hate having good class time being taken away,” said HHS history teacher and school teacher leader Thomas Spears. “It’s one of the inevitable things we have to deal with.”
One HHS teacher who did not wish to be identified estimated that her students have tested at least six hours this semester for one class, not even counting the new Common Assessment exams administered every few weeks in core subjects.
An informal poll of a half dozen HHS teachers found that most have had to adjust their schedules this semester, even skipping entire units of material because of all of the class time lost to mandated testing.
HHS Principal Bob Cotter said school administrators are simply following orders.
“The state came up with the new testing to align it with the new curriculum," Cotter said. “We are just working with what the state tells us to do.”
Article by Genevieve Corson, Matthew Robinson, Kelsey Dotson and Frankie Small
The HHS boys bowling team finished the season 16-0 and will play in the first round of the district playoffs this week.
The girls team also had a strong season, going 11-3 on the year, and will face Merrol Hyde Magnet School in the playoffs 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Strike & Spare in Hendersonville.
The boys play Thursday, same place and start time as the girls, and will face the winner of Merrol Hyde and Portland High.
English teacher Richard Zajac, one of the coaches, said this is the first time the boys have gone undefeated in recent years, possibly since 2005.
Report by Nick Kieser
The Ville News: Enter library drawing to win movie passes
The HHS library will hold a drawing before Christmas break for a $25 gift card to Regal Cinemas.
To enter, students must write a review of one of the books displayed on the library shelf labeled “25 Series to Read if You Love the Hunger Games.”
The quality of the reviews won't determine the winner of the gift card. Everyone who submits a review is entered into the drawing and has a chance to win.
“Two girls have entered already,” librarian Linda McDaniel said recently.
Report by Sarah Larson
The Ville News: Poinsettias going fast in greenhouse sale
This year’s poinsettia sale is quickly winding down.
The sale began before Thanksgiving break with 400 plants, and more than half have already been sold. The poinsettias go for $10 apiece.
The sale will continue until the bright, festive plants are all gone.
“That won’t be long, so hurry up and get your poinsettias now,” said Agriculture Science teacher Amy Garrison.
Jill Shrum’s greenhouse management students planted the poinsettias at the beginning of the school year, and wildlife management teacher Steve Stevens cared for them.
Report by Aubrey Garrison
Students in Lynn-nore Chittom’s Theatre 1 classes are running their mouths a lot these days, and Mrs. Chittom is just fine with that.
The students are finishing up a lip-syncing project to help them express themselves and overcome stage fright.
Chittom said the project, in which students had to choose a song to lip-sync on stage in front of their peers, has been one of her favorites of the semester.
“The students really got into it and it made me smile watching them express themselves and step into the songs they chose and really act,” she said.
The students were graded on their effort, emotion, choreography, gestures and line memorization.
The project relates to the Tennessee Theatre Arts Standard 2.8 ("To employ movement to express thought, feeling and characterization”).
"Lip-syncing helped me express my emotions without embarrassing myself in front of the class," said freshman Nick Krneta.
Hayden Bell, also a freshman, added, "I think it turned out pretty good. It helped me learn and know how it is to stand and perform in front of an audience full of critics."
Article by Kelsey Dotson
Dreaming of a white Christmas? You might have to keep dreaming.
The National Weather Service says this was one of the warmest Novembers on record for the Nashville area, and the NWS’s seven-day forecast doesn’t hold much promise either for “sleigh bells in the snow,” with temperatures reaching 60 by Dec. 10.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean a winter without white. The long-term outlook for our area is mixed, with the Weather Channel predicting temperatures colder than average in the South.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for below-normal temperatures and above-normal snowfall for Middle Tennessee. The OFA’s website even shows snow between December 22 and 24 - a dash of hope for a winter wonderland at Christmas.
If winter weather does arrive, the process for calling off class in Sumner County works like this: An inclement weather team checks the roads and reports conditions to the transportation director who then contacts Director of Schools Del Phillips, who makes the final decision.
The county has a stockpile of 13 snow days for the year. If it runs over the 13, the school calendar could be extended, which has happened before but not often.
No one knows what winter has in store, but you can bet most at HHS hope it will be cold and white.
Article by Frankie Small
If sophomore Maddie Kato has one of those faces you think you’ve seen before, it’s because you probably have – on TV and in magazines.
Kato is among a number of Hendersonville High students involved in modeling. She has recently been in an anti-bullying commercial for Cartoon Network and in a video for Tim McGraw’s song “Humble and Kind.”
“I was inspired by watching ‘America’s Next Top Model,’” Kato said of her decision to become a model.
Modeling can be lucrative for teens. Most young models sign with an agency to help them find work. Pay varies from job to job, but freshman Jada Douglas, who has been in magazines and on billboards, said it can reach as high as $1,000 for one event.
Douglas and Kato hope their modeling leads them to acting.
“I love modeling,” said Douglas, who recently did a photo shoot in California with supermodel Tyra Banks, “but if something takes me somewhere else, I’ll go there.”
Kato also is interested in the business side of entertainment and fashion. “I want to go into the business world,” she said.
Cassidy Howard, a junior who has appeared in Justine Magazine and in six or seven runway fashion shows, said she was reluctant to become a model and probably won’t stick with it after high school, partly because of the perception that models “rely on their looks.”
“I didn’t want to do it at first,” Howard explained. “I was a tomboy from kindergarten to eighth grade. Then I was shopping at Forever 21 and was asked to visit them at AMAX (AMAX Talent and Creative Management agency in Nashville). They were scouting at Opry Mills my 8th grade year.”
All three girls said there is much more to modeling than simply showing up and smiling for the camera. It is hard, tedious work, they said, with hair and makeup alone taking two or three hours.
“It’s a long process,” Howard said, “you have to do everything just right.”
Article by Seth Griffith, Sarah Larson, Jalen Sands, and Koy Skinner
What a difference a year makes.
Last year, classrooms were so cold that teachers joked about having to share them with penguins. This year, after a $7.4 million building renovation that included a new heating and cooling system, things are much cozier.
Cozier, but not perfect.
“Parts of the school are really hot and other parts are freezing,” junior Alexa Holleran observed recently.
Indeed, the temperature can seemingly swing wildly from classroom to classroom, sometimes even when the classrooms are right beside each other.
"When I turn down the thermostat in my room, it gets cold in the room next door. So they're always freezing, and I'm always burning up,” said HHS bookkeeper Lisa Lowhorn, who works in Principal Bob Cotter’s old office. “I have reported it several times, but so far nothing has changed.”
Be patient, says Cotter: "I don't think there are any problems. I think it’s a matter of getting used to the new system.”
The new system is awfully high-tech. Instead of relying on a loop of flowing water like the old one, the new one filters the air and moisturizes it to keep it cool and less humid.
Cotter is trying to address complaints. He recently took care of a hot, stuffy classroom in the English hall.
And for most HHS teachers and students, the new system is a leap over the old one.
"All our problems have been solved," said science teacher Lynne Martin, who probably still shivers at the thought of students sitting through class in coats and hats.
Article by Genevieve Corson