Mitch's Blog 7.0

Mitch's Blog


Saturday, May 28, 2005


Well, I graduated on Friday. Although I’m very happy to be able to hold my high school diploma, a document that I worked hard for, right now my life doesn’t feel all that incredibly different. Today, although uncharacteristically cold and dreary for this time of year, seemed like the beginning of just another ordinary summer vacation. I don’t think the realization that I no longer belong to Independent School District 181 or that I may never again see some of the people I’ve grown accustomed to seeing on a day-to-day basis for the last three, seven, and – in some cases – thirteen years will set in until I begin attending the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks 12 weeks from now on August 22.

I’m a bit apprehensive about the uncertainties of the future, yet I’m also excited to venture out of basically the only world I’ve ever known here in Brainerd and meet plenty of new people and experience (for complete lack of a better term) new things.

Congratulations class of 2005!

A sea of blue

The only picture of myself you'll find on my blog -- here I am in my graduation garb

Sunday, May 15, 2005

AP Tests (Continued)

I suppose I should continue with my discussion from last week relating to my Advanced Placement tests. So I will. Two Thursdays ago, like I mentioned, was the day of the German language examination. After this test, my next two, final, AP tests were the ones for both macroeconomics and microeconomics given on the 12th.

But anyway, about that German test. All in all, there was barely anything that I liked about it. I don’t think I did too poorly, but, compared to the released exams spanning the last 15 years that we took for practice, the test we got this year seemed to have less interesting and engaging of listening and reading passages. The listening portion of the test seemed to go okay; there was one of the longer dialogs that I’m not sure I completely understood, but, other than that, I think I put the best answers down for all the questions. The reading part of the test, though, was completely different. None of the five passages we had to read and answer questions about seemed to be ridiculously easy, as was the case with some of those that appeared on, oh, let’s say, the 2002 test. In fact, we even had this highly complex, highly difficult passage discussing Poseidon – yes, The Odyssey’s Poseidon. I don’t know if the text was taken directly from the German translation of The Odyssey or not, but, in any case, it was just as hard to read in a timed setting as the English version of the poem. I’m glad I knew that Poseidon was a Greek god, though, as not everybody in the room did. At least I had that going for me.

After the 50-minute reading portion, followed of course by a short break, we had the writing and speaking part of the test. The 20 question fill-in-the-blank reading selection wasn’t too bad, though I already know I missed two of the questions, since, after looking at the passage for another time on the College Board’s website yesterday, I realized forgot to umlaut the a in both gefährlich and fährst. Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about it now – I just wish I would have remembered how to spell on the test.

Then, we went onto the composition section of the test. This section is usually my favorite. For whatever reason, writing a cogent paper in German complete with the advanced grammar needed to get a 9 seems to come naturally for me. This year wasn’t so good, however, since I absolutely disliked our question, which, to paraphrase as best I can, asked whether we were for or against school uniforms. We were supposed to develop our argument with appropriate evidence, and reminiscent of the AP English Language test, discuss the validity of arguments that go against what we feel. Maybe it’s because I honestly don’t care one way or another about school uniforms, but, whatever the case, I had a hard time coming up with things to talk about for this deceptively easy question. I think I wrote one of my shortest essays of the year, but, in any case, it was over the minimum amount of words, and I did find a way to incorporate writing in the passive voice with helping verbs a couple of times as well as a writing in the subjunctive voice.

The speaking part of the test was next. This went all right, even though it got off to a slow start because I had to go through two cassette recorders before finding one that would actually function correctly.

In total, I’m predicting I got a 4 on the German test, which wouldn’t disappoint me at all. I just wish I would have taken the test in 2002, however, since we took that one as a practice and I easily ended up with a 5. Oh well, each year’s test is different.

And then, last Thursday, I took the last two AP tests that I will probably ever take. Macroeconomics, the first of the two tests, seemed to go okay. There weren’t too many multiple choice questions that I didn’t quite understand, and I’m pretty sure I did really well on the free-response questions; they seemed pretty easy, even though I wasn’t exactly expecting to see a question involving a Phillips Curve.

The microeconomics exam then followed in the afternoon. I thought the multiple choice questions were harder than the ones in the macroeconomics test, but this could have just been because I had the microeconomics class in the fall, meaning the material wasn’t as fresh in my mind. The free-response questions also seemed a little bit harder than the ones for macro, but I don’t really think I did too badly on them. Hopefully I’ll get at least a 4 on this test too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Monday's News

Newsweek, for the second year in a row, has come out with a ranking of the top high schools in the United States. Brainerd High School is on the list again, this time in 620th place, compared with the dead-last 800th place that it was ranked last year.

Actually, neither the 800th place ranking nor the 620th place ranking is all that bad, especially considering how many thousands of high schools there are in the United States, and how many suburban Minneapolis/St. Paul high schools Brainerd beat to come in at 620th this year.

How does Newsweek rank the schools, you ask? Well, the formula is quite uncomplicated and certainly should make the College Board – the company that oversees the Advanced Placement® program – proud. Newsweek takes the total amount of AP and/or IB (International Baccalaureate) tests given at a high school in a particular year and divides that number by the number of seniors the school graduated in the same year. In 2003, the number Newsweek got for Brainerd High School was 1.000, meaning that an average of one AP test (Brainerd High School does not have the IB program) was given for every senior at the school.

Last year, Brainerd’s number rose to 1.415, explaining why the school rose from the bottom of the list (Newsweek has set a number of 1.000 as being the minimum requirement for inclusion on the list) to 620th place.

To clarify some things, however, the ranking is based on the total number of AP and/or IB tests given to all the students at the school in the year being looked at. Besides the AP and/or IB tests taken by seniors, the ranking also takes into account the tests taken by freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. This is how it can appear as if every senior who went on to graduate took at least one AP/IB test, even though this clearly does not actually happen. In addition, the ranking only looks at the total number of AP/IB tests given, not the scores students actually receive on the tests. So, a high school with 100 graduating seniors that gave a total of 500 AP tests would end up with a very nice ranking on the list, even with everybody receiving scores of 1s on the tests. This is one of the most serious limitations of this ranking system, in my opinion.

I have two links you can check out to find more about the rankings. Click here and scroll down to ranking 620 to see Brainerd High School on the list, and click here to see the feature Newsweek article that accompanies the 2004 survey.

In any case, I guess the school so asininely stated as being "here in the conservative corn field of complete stupidity" seems to be doing all right.

While I’m on the topic of education, there was a highly interesting article in the USA Today on Monday regarding the nation’s high school system. I agree, for the most part, about the primary assertion – it is easy to not work very hard and still get more than acceptable grades in many mainstream courses.

Anyway, here’s the article:

Survey: High school fails to engage students
By Alvin P. Sanoff, special for USA TODAY
A majority of high school students in the USA spend three hours or less a week preparing for classes yet still manage to get good grades, according to a study being released today by researchers who surveyed more than 90,000 high school students in 26 states.

The team at Indiana University in Bloomington calls the findings "troubling." The first large study to explore how engaged high school students are in their work, it adds to a growing body of evidence that many students are not challenged in the classroom.

Just 56% of students surveyed said they put a great deal of effort into schoolwork; only 43% said they work harder than they expected to. The study says 55% of students devote no more than three hours a week to class preparation, but 65% of these report getting A's or B's.

Students on the college track devoted the most time to preparation, but only 37% spent seven or more hours a week on schoolwork, compared with 22% of all high school students. Among seniors, just 11% of those on the college track said they spent seven or more hours a week on assigned reading, compared with 7% of all seniors.

Surprisingly, 18% of college-track seniors did not take a math course during their last year in high school. That could help explain why studies show that 22% of college students require remediation in math.

The Indiana study also found that 82% of students said they planned to enroll in some form of post-secondary education, and most said they expected to earn at least a bachelor's degree. But the study says "a substantial gap exists" between what students do in high school and what they will be expected to do in college.

Martha McCarthy, a senior professor at Indiana University who directs the research project, says the results should serve as "a wake-up call. There is a need for students to work harder and do more rigorous coursework" if they are going to be ready for college. Research has found that one-quarter of students in four-year colleges require substantial remedial work.

The new study is part of a long-term project called the High School Survey of Student Engagement, a companion project since 2004 to the National Survey of Student Engagement, which has been administered to 900,000 students at four-year colleges since 2000. Both projects are supported primarily by schools interested in learning about the attitudes and experiences of their students.

McCarthy says many high schools have been surprised to find how little time students spend on homework and have instituted changes, such as brief quizzes based on homework assignments.

The study found that as students advance through high school, they are less likely to feel challenged to do their best work. Researchers also found that a higher proportion of students are likely to spend four or more hours a week doing personal reading online than doing assigned reading for their classes.

McCarthy says students' positive attitudes toward school were highly correlated with coming to class prepared, participating in discussions and getting prompt feedback from teachers. But 56% of students said they never or only sometimes get prompt feedback.

The results probably will provide momentum to a growing effort to reform high schools. In February, a survey of recent graduates found that whether they went on to college or entered the workforce, about 40% said they were not adequately prepared in school. That study was done in conjunction with the first National Education Summit, an event aimed at rallying governors around high school reform. A number of governors have pledged to make high school reform a priority.

And here's a data table that goes along with this article:
Not challenging enough?
Time high school students spend preparing for class:
Hours per week percentage of respondents, by instructional track
General Special ed College Vocational All
0 hours 11 26 4 18 10
1-3 hours 50 46 33 53 45
4-6 hours 23 14 27 19 24
7-10 hours 10 6 18 7 12
11-14 hours 3 3 9 2 5
15+ hours 3 5 10 2 5
Source: High School Survey of Student Engagement

I found the article here

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

AP Testing Weeks

Well, since I’m midway through my own personal AP – and that’s Advanced Placement®, in this context, not Associated Press® – testing schedule, with two testing days down and two more to go, I thought I’d write an update on how everything was going.

The Advanced Placement test for English language & composition was given on Monday. This was also the first AP test of 2005, as well, so I guess you could say that I felt a particular happiness in being able to get this test out of the way first thing on the first day of AP testing rather than having to wait until, oh say, late in the second week of tests. The multiple choice portion of this test seemed to go pretty well, although I can’t really elaborate on the specifics of it, because I’ve been notified, pursuant to the College Board’s rules, that I must never, ever, in my lifetime discuss any particular multiple choice passage or question. We didn’t get any passages that required a very thorough, multiple reading, however, since each of the four was fairly contemporary. I believe the oldest passage was written in the late nineteenth century, but, even so, the syntax of all of them was pretty clear and comprehensible.

Though I liked the multiple choice portion of the English language test, the free-response questions were, by far, the most enjoyable part for me. Two of the questions required me to write an argumentative paper, utilizing knowledge garnered from both other classes, besides English, I’ve taken in school, as well as information I’ve picked up from sourced outside of school, like newspapers or newsmagazines. Ever the avid world affairs junkie, I really thought I came up with some good stuff to talk about in these two essays. The other essay, meanwhile, required a rhetorical analysis to be written, based on reading a passage chocked full of the elements necessary to form a cogent satirical argument. Although I generally enjoy these rhetorical analyses just as much the other types of essays, I have to say, I really, really liked the passage I had to analyze for this year’s test. Not only was the passage taken from the charismatic The Onion, it was also so clearly dripping with sarcasm and satire, that it was hard not to find something to write. Indecently, the College Board has begun to post free-response questions for this year’s tests, and the ones for the English language exam will be found here. If you’re looking for something good to read, I’d mosey on over there and take a peek at the prompt for the second question, the one that used the piece from The Onion. It’s a great piece of satire.

Hmm, Tuesday, yesterday, was the day for my AP calculus (AB) exam. This test was so-so, since it seems as if some things were very easy and went quite well, and some things were pretty hard or tricky and did not go so well. I’d have to say the non-calculator multiple choice portion of the test was the hardest, because:
I. by the end of the section, I was pretty rushed and did not have quite as much time as I would’ve liked to have to be able to go back to look at questions I skipped over
II. There were just a few questions that I simply had no idea how to do and was forced to leave blank
III. There were a few questions that took quite a bit of time to figure out without the aide of a calculator to do the tedious adding, subtracting or multiplying required

The free-response portion of this test went pretty well, I thought. There was one question that I didn’t quite understand fully, but for the most part, I think I understood what the people who wrote the questions wanted me to. Although I don’t expect to get perfect 9s on any of the questions – well, except for maybe the first one, since it involved areas and rotational volumes and seemed really easy – I do think that I will pick up an adequate amount of points here and there. Since this test was so dependent on "indicating correct units," there will likely be at least a couple of points awarded just for coming up with the correct ones. And that’s always a good thing, since the College Board, when awarding points solely for units, doesn’t care what answer you came up with, so long as correct units are tacked onto the end of it.

My next text will be tomorrow; the Advanced Placement German test will begin in the afternoon, likely sometime a little after noon. I hope I enjoy this test, since I’ve been looking forward to it for awhile now. I really like German, and am anxious to find out if I can be one of the few students from the "standard group" (those who have not been in a German-speaking country for more than 4 weeks in their lifetime) to receive a 5.

My next AP tests after German will be the ones for microeconomics and macroeconomics. These, too, should also be interesting tests, since I don’t really think they’ll be too hard, but you never do know what will happen. Needless to say, I really should study this weekend. Hopefully the weather will be less-than-ideal this weekend, as I wouldn’t want beautiful, sunny skies to lure me into spending time outside (away from my studies).

Previous Posts

Four Years Have Passed
Winter of 2007-08 Musings
7th Annual Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials
Another Birthday
A Beltated Update
2007 Vacation: Day 10 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 9 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 8 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 7 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 6 Summary


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Mitch's Blog began on December 23, 2001