Category Archives: Editorial

Why should kids take the MCAS?

Do not disturb...
Do not disturb…

THE OPINION of this newspaper is mixed on taking the MCAS, which we are taking now.

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests us on English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics. It counts what we learn and compares how students, schools, and districts perform statewide.

We in the newsroom discussed our opinions about MCAS. Here are a few quotes:

• “MCAS doesn’t really matter. Different people learn different ways. You can’t have one test for everyone and expect them to sit down and do it.”

• “MCAS is meant to see how well the teachers are teaching us. They shouldn’t be pressuring us to do it well. They shouldn’t be forcing us with the practices.”

• “It’s good and bad because the state is giving the teachers stuff to teach that’s going to be on the MCAS that we have to learn. It’s stressful having math every day.”

• “I’ll tell you, it’s really stressful! But what’s on the MCAS the teachers have already been teaching us, so we’d know it pretty well. It’s kind of a waste of time to learn it all over again.”

• “I think that MCAS, if it’s a test that’s supposed to count how well the teachers are teaching us, then I don’t think they should be pressuring the kids. Maybe they can just can get a copy of some kid’s report card to prove they were taught properly.”

Sarah Jetzon, director of Curriculum and Assessments for grades 7-12, says a B in a class here might not translate to a B in another school, district, or state.

‘BSE has been working really hard on improvements…’

Sarah Jetzon, director of Curriculum and Assessments for grades 7-12, says a B in a class here might not translate to a B in another school, district, or state.

Asked for comment, Sarah Jetzon, director of Curriculum and Assessments for grades 7-12, told us schools are ranked at levels from 1 to 5 on how well they perform at MCAS, and that schools with lower-level scores get extra help from the state.

She said BSE is at level 1, the top of the scale, up from level 3 just a couple of years ago.

“That’s because of improvements they’ve made. They’ve been working really hard to do that,” she said.

She said the idea nationwide is to have an accountability measure for schools to make sure children are getting the education they’re entitled to in ELA, math, and science.

Jennifer L. Lagoy, director of Curriculum and Assessment, PK-6, thanked all the people who worked on this year’s ELA MCAS.
She thanked the students first:

“As I have visited schools this year I have noticed all of you working hard to prepare for the MCAS. I saw many of you learning strategies for taking the ELA MCAS and practicing them with your teachers and classmates.”

She thanked the teachers next for their hard work. She also thanked the principals, proctors, and volunteers:

“There were many people who gathered to serve our students breakfast and snacks on their test day. The work that you do is essential and appreciated greatly,” she said.


This piece emerged from a Flow workshop unit on editorial writing. The opinions belong to Flow staff; adviser John Snyder supplied additional reporting.

Minecraft, sports, vending machines needed here

Bennett-mugIN MY OPINION, as part of the district’s $18.1 million budget, the school should repair or replace all of the computers in the computer lab and buy a license for students to play educational computer games.

Other students have other ideas, but I’ll describe mine first: Minecraft, for example, is a somewhat educational game. My dad and I were in Foxtown Diner last year and we read a story in the newspaper about how teachers say Minecraft is great for kids. It teaches how to build things, how to multiply, how to use different metals and stones, and how to get more education in your life.

There is also a survival mode, so it teaches you about survival. And there is a community around Minecraft so it’s also about collaboration. Studies show Minecraft can make you smarter and it doesn’t hurt your brain. Well, sometimes.

We do have computers in school but some don’t work. We use the ones that do work for looking things up — debate topics, for example. My reading breakout group just looked up a debate around the question of whether television is a bad influence.

Type to Learn 4 (or TTL4) is another activity on the computer. Some kids, myself included, enjoy that.

That’s why, with the school district preparing its budget for 2016, we should include money for better computers and Minecraft.

Other budget ideas from our staff:

Kylie Lowell, our sports editor, says she wants to have field hockey and volleyball teams at BSE.

“That’s so that the kids will be ready for when they go to Mohawk, and so that they’ll be more experienced at field hockey and volleyball, be more active and have a better time through playing sports.”

She also says the school should install vending machines so that kids can have healthy snacks between classes.

Ainsley Bogel, one of our assistant editors, says she wants the school to provide pizza and ice cream for every lunch.

“Because then they would be giving the kids nice lunches, and the school would get a nice reputation because then everyone would know the school gives the kids awesome lunches,” she explains.


Bennett Snyder is editor-in-chief of this edition of The BSE Flow. Got an opinion about these ideas or anything else in our pages? Write letters@bseflow.com.

Wait, We Have a School Newspaper?

FLOW STAFFERS review their story budget in the newsroom in April. Third-grader Harper Brown, center, says our ideas are “amazing,” and is eager to introduce them at his school when he hits fourth grade.
FLOW STAFFERS review their story budget in the newsroom in April. Third-grader Harper Brown, center, says our ideas are “amazing,” and is eager to introduce them at his school when he hits fourth grade.
Flow 2
TOP ROW, left to right: Joy Bohonowicz, Arwen King, Ashley Wrisley. Bottom row, left to right: Anthony Snyder and Octavia Crawford.

THIS APRIL some of the most talented kids I’ve ever met signed up to learn a little bit of what it means to work at a newspaper and have fun doing it.

As their after-school spring enrichment adviser I wanted to see how far we’d get in six hours (one hour a week for six Mondays) by interviewing each other, asking follow-up questions, and talking about how and why news is covered in our larger community.

In our art room-turned newsroom we talked about times we’d appeared in a newspaper — whether in quotes or photos — and how that felt. We interviewed friends and family, came back with copy (with direct quotes, all attributed), and had fun talking about it.
We pored over the papers serving our region, discussing the elements of story, page, and section. We noted ads and comics. We began to think of ways to serve the reader.

budget
After talking about newspapers, interviewing each other and family members, and practicing asking follow-up questions, we worked up a list of story ideas. Here we see the outline for issue No. 1 coming together, including our first big feature: a profile of Cassidy, a teacher’s dog..

Everyone showed heartening enthusiasm.

When we could grab someone out in the hallway for a photo or an interview we did that too, and came back with a great profile of a school dog, a lively Q&A with patient school staffers, and a chat with our librarian.

We voted on a name for this paper — three contenders were proposed, and “The BSE Flow” won — and I thought we’d have fun opening a Word newsletter template and typing our stories in.

The kids looked at me like I didn’t understand.

“No. We want a newspaper,” they said. They pulled a broadsheet, with all the cool stuff in it, out from the pile of papers before us. “This.”

We'd spent weeks looking at how newspapers worked. Our students weren't going to settle for a anything less.
We’d spent weeks looking at how any why these newspapers worked. Our students weren’t going to settle for anything less than a paper of their own.

“Uh… OK,” I said. “Let me see how we would print something that large. I’ll get back to you. Hold that thought.”

And I checked with the Daily Hampshire Gazette, which owns just such a press, and they promptly offered to donate 250 copies of a four-page Flow, two pages in color. And then I reported to my bosses — all in grades three, four, and six — and they got to work.

Cassidy page
From story idea to research to interview to photographs to writing to editing to layout, this piece was a huge and exciting success! And doesn’t Cassidy look sweet!

They organized a list of story ideas and decided who would work on what. They wanted to explore, for readers, what it’s like to learn here, create here, contribute here.

We interviewed and photographed and asked ourselves what we can provide our audience...
We interviewed and photographed and asked ourselves what we can provide our audience…

They took the project seriously and laughed often, which in my opinion is the perfect balance of life skills.

The kids found stories everywhere...
The kids found stories everywhere…

We had planned to cover everything — all the other enrichment programs, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the eclipse, news from every class, and big events scheduled for May and June.

We worked on stories together; they voted on photos to use out of a dozen or so per subject we’d met.

I roamed the halls on their behalf, taking pictures, interviewing teachers, and … that was a problem. We’d run out of time. I wanted this to be their paper, not mine, so to finish now, without them, to get photos they wouldn’t get to see or vote on, to get quotes they wouldn’t get to consider for follow-up, would defeat the purpose.

I wanted them to lay the thing out, write headlines and captions, and proof pages. I’d help, of course.

Our first issue, with breaking news!
Our first issue, four pages, with breaking news! We printed 250 copies and gave them out in school. Families, teachers, and students said they wanted to see the project continue…

Then I learned Jacqui Goodman’s class won that prestigious award, our new lead story. Thrilling for them and for the whole school. This was news! A BSE Flow exclusive! We have such potential. (This also “bumped” other material we had planned for you. It happens.)

So the project ended, and work remains, and we can certainly do this again and build on our experience and add staff, as the kids asked me whether we might, way back on Day One.

I hope you enjoy reading this newspaper with your family. The one at home and the one we share as BSE.

Here’s to the conversation.

ELLEN ELLER of Sawyer News says folks love getting the Flow. Our distribution manager, Brooke, grade 5, gets our papers to their proper destination, and the students see how their work gets from the story pitch to readers' hands.
ELLEN ELLER of Sawyer News says folks love getting the Flow. Our distribution manager, Brooke, grade 5, gets our papers to their proper destination, and the students see how their work gets from the story pitch to readers’ hands.

— Words and pictures by John Snyder, publisher and adviser