A parent shared this article with me. It makes some interesting points about the most effective level of involvement in school for parents. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/opinion/sunday/raising-successful-children.html?_r=1
Welcome to the HSPVA family! Besides being an amazing arts school,we pride ourselves in offering rigorous college preparatory academic programs as well. Students who do not ultimately pursue an arts career after their PVA experience also find themselves well prepared for the next level.
On this forum, I (Bingham) post the regular emails I send to parents. In this way you can keep up with deadlines, class topics and common issues in helping your student succeed academically.
In addition, this is a great place for you to ask (publicly) questions about the class, grading... whatever. I check regularly and reply within a day or two. Also, feel free to interact with other parents as the issues are often similar.
You may find it useful to look through the archives to get a feel for past goings on and communications.
As we move forward into the testing season and the end of the 5th six week marking period, I wanted to make sure that the happenings in Geography were as clear as possible. Dates and the sequencing of assignments gets tricky as we compensate for altered schedules and missing days this time of year. So here are the rough outlines.
Foremost, your student should be clearly focused on the English/Language Arts End of Course Exam (EOC) to be administered next Monday and Tuesday morning. This is the first year that 9th grade students in Texas are taking a high stakes, graduation-connected, exam. At this point, the best we can do as our student’s mentors is to make sure they are well rested, fed and confident in the knowledge that we believe in them and their ability.
Before Spring Break and through this week, your student took a practice End of Course (EOC) Exam in my Geography class. You can see the assignments (but not the score yet) in GradeSpeed. This is for extra credit only. Students may earn points on their six week average grade based on their score as follows: 49 or below, no extra credit; 50 – 59, 1 point; 60 – 69, 2 points; 70 – 79, 3 points; 80 – 89, 4 points; 90 - 100, 5 points. The main purpose of this exam is not however the extra credit, but to give me data to guide instruction from the beginning of the 6th six week marking period through the actual EOC Exam in May. Students will take one more of these for me later to give them additional practice with the exam length and type. That test will be for a traditional test grade and will be our last indicator of their potential success on the actual EOC.
An additional extra credit opportunity is up in GradeSpeed and on the class calendar. This involves students learning vocabulary words, terms, book titles or names. They will take a short quiz with a sample of ten of the 57 “words” in which they must match each with both an example and a definition. This is a fairly challenging exercise, but very “do-able” for any learner if they make the appropriate effort. Because many students are seeing the “formative” (quiz) category making the most damaging impact on their grade, this assignment will be for extra points on their formative average for the six weeks. I’ve attached a copy of the assignment and your student received a copy in class.
I am very pleased to tell you that Dr. Allen purchased for the school the latest edition of Jean Kilbourne’s award willing and academically acclaimed documentary, Killing Us Softly, a sobering look at they was in which advertizing and the media’s use of female stereotypes is having a serious and damaging impact on women’s self esteem and body image. This is a serious issue in American society making an impact on both women and men. We will watch and complete a viewing guide on that after the EOC either Monday or Tuesday. You may wish to discuss this issue with your student, especially if your child is a girl.
For Pre-AP students, the pace is picking up, as advertized! They will take an additional reading check, this one on Chapter 3 of Harm de Blij’s, The Power of Place. The indications are that while students are learning to identify important points from this challenging read, they still have some difficulty expressing that understanding. We are however moving in a positive direction and I’m confident the next reading check will be a more successful one. Successful that is, if they put in the effort needed.
Pre-AP’s next essay will be a comparison essay addressing de Blij’s treatment of language and religion as they relate to globalization. Deep understanding will be needed. On the subject of essays, I must tell you I am very encouraged. Almost all students seem to have overcome the challenge of thesis statements, the first big hurdle in learning to write academic essays. This class as a whole is further along in this regard than any I have seen at this stage in their high school careers. The outlook for the future is very encouraging in this regard.
As always, feel free to reply to this email if you have questions; and as always, thank you for the privilege of helping to guide your child’s education.
Let me begin with a couple of reminders. All students will take a quiz this week on the video, “Cry Freedom”, a dramatized but accurate account of the efforts of Steven Biko and the white journalist Donald Woods to end the repressive South African apartheid regime during the 1970’s. Their efforts, along with those of Nelson Mandela of course, led to the eventual fall of that government and the installation of a true democracy. You may want to discuss with your student the inclusive approach to change Biko advocated that was later reflected by Mandela. Also thematically tied to this film is the idea of transformations. We discussed in class not only the change in government, but also the evolution of Donald Woods’ understanding of the situation.
This idea of transformation is the subject of our next unit which we will begin this week. Please keep your eye on the class calendar and insure your student keeps up with the handouts related to this unit. The pace will be fast and there is little time for students to make errors of organization.
Pre-AP students will take a quiz on the last reading from Goldstone’s, Why Europe?; Was the Rise of the West a Temporary Phase? A simple read through will not be sufficient to analyze this text and pass the challenging quiz.
Since my last message we have engaged in two non-traditional exercises. The first involved simulating the relative size, population and resource supply of five world regions. The idea is to help students understand disparity in a visual way. The second was the now famous China Rap Songs. This allowed students an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the content in a fun and unique way. For most students the process was enjoyable and they saw a significant improvement in their grade. I attribute this to the general talent level of HSPVA students and their love of performance.
As before though, our primary emphasis is on preparation for the end of course exam. This necessitates returning to more traditional learning styles and all that tough stuff like reading, paying attention, note taking and staying organized.
As the end of the marking period approaches this Friday, please take a moment to check GradeSpeed for incompletes. These must be made up before Friday.
As always, thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your child’s education.
Things have been hectic as we roll in to the new year, but I wanted to be sure to remind you if you haven’t been able to check the class calendar, that all student have a test over the “Legacies” unit on Tuesday for Red day students and Wednesday for Grey day people and first period. Students should have three packets correlating to the Legacies outline provided in class and also available on the Legacies page of the web site.
As we move forward into the second semester, I have some commentary to pass along. As I’m sure you have heard from your student, each class is now divided into two groups. The adjustment has been fairly smooth as both the students and I adjust to a somewhat different arrangement of the room and the allocation of instructional time. I’m very proud of the student’s willingness to accommodate a few changes with consideration for others and basic courtesy. This freshman class is showing strong signs of genuine progress and adjustments to big shifts in their school environment. The expectations are high at HSPVA, but students are meeting that challenge.
For both people pursuing academic geography and those taking the Pre-AP route, the primary focus is now on the End of Course Exam. I’m not normally a guy that gets worked up about these standardized assessments, but my approach is by necessity somewhat different this year. Because we are facing an unknown level of difficulty for these exams and in light of the warnings from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that the standards are much higher, AND considering that the stakes are even higher with regard to a student’s path to graduation – it is my duty to your child to make very certain this class is laser beam focused on the standards (TEKS) communicated to us this year by the people administering the exam, the TEA. This is the only way I can be absolutely certain that your child has the best opportunity of excelling on the Geography End of Course exam and moves on smoothly to the next level.
To that end, I have performed a detailed deconstruction of the standards, the new TEKS, and created five outlines matching them. These outlines will serve as a roadmap to the instruction for me, you and your student. The Legacies unit represents the first of these.
I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, please contact me if you have questions or concerns.
As things wind down on the semester, I thought I’d send along one last update on the class.
The Power of Place assessment went very well and those scores should be in GradeSpeed by the end of the day. This was a difficult go for students, as I’m sure you know. But they were able in the end, for the most part, to master the text. Not only were the lessons from Harm de Blij important ones, this was a great opportunity for your student to become familiar with elevated, scholarly writing – writing of the type they will be expected to manage in Advanced Placement classes. The re-test opportunity for this assessment is this Wednesday at lunch.
We are wrapping up with a lighter approach watching the video series on Jared Diamond’s seminal work, Guns, Germs & Steel. This is a continuation of our investigation of why the world is so unevenly balanced in terms of income, technology, health and opportunity. Each of the three viewing guides counts as a quiz grade and the test is this Thursday or Friday.
Some students come to HSPVA not having done cumulative final exams for a semester. However, this is the expectation at the high school level and students should be prepared to do some review work to prepare for next week’s final. If you student has not kept all the class material through the semester, it is all downloadable on the class web site. Watch for a review sheet listing the topics to be found on the final at the “Unit Info” page of the web site.
I’d like to leave you with some thoughts from a colleague of mine working at Rice in the Entrepreneurship Education Program. He makes some great points about the nature of education and the difficulty for all stakeholders in children’s education with regard to intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. The place of education in our society is changing in spite of our best intention. I think you will find it both interesting and relevant. Occupy Education: Good Luck Finding a Room.
I’d like to wish your family a happy and restful holiday season. I think you and I; and especially our students, have earned one!
I’d like to wish you and your family a happy and restful Thanksgiving holiday.
I have just a couple of notes for you before the holiday begins.
Please note that extra credit is available for your student for this six week marking period. If they need the grade help, now is the time to act. A file on the “Unit Info” page explains a wide range of options. Students must email me by the 28th though to let me know of their intention to do extra credit work and which assignment they selected.
The reading checks for Harm de Blij’s The Power of Place were a strong learning experience for students about the nature of AP level course work and the gap they may have between their current ability and where they will have to be before taking on the Advanced Placement challenge. This will be valuable information for you when course selection time for next year comes around.
I am not assigning homework, but if your student has had a rough time with this reading and less than desirable results on the reading check scores, this holiday may offer a good opportunity for some catching up. The week we return, students will take the second test of the marking period on chapter one of The Power of Place. Taking some time to prepare a study guide of the key points in the chapter would be a wise use of time.
I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know your child and guide his or her learning.
All the best,
The test, “Intro to Human Geography” based on Chapter 4 of the textbook is scored and in the grade book for the 3rd six week marking period. This was an open ended test (no answer choices) and most students really stepped up to the challenge. They are climbing a tough hill, but the view from the top will be amazing. A re-test is available for that on Thursday the 17th at 3:45 or by appointment at “homework lunch” before that date. Your student must have completed the “post test analysis” form and bring that with them in order to be eligible to re-test.
We have finally come to the point that we are ready to take on Harm de Blij’s outstanding contemporary analysis of geographic systems and the meaning of globalization, The Power of Place. We will break the book down slowly in class, but my expectation is that students will have done the small chunks of active reading I have assigned on the class calendar. Each day will begin with a reading check. These do not test conceptual ideas, simply content knowledge they will have if they have diligently read and looked up words that they do not know. In class we will break down de Blij’s argument. All the reading checks will be in open ended format as will the culminating test on Chapter One just after Thanksgiving.
Please encourage your student to spend a few minutes with the book each evening and to take active study measures such as outlines, Cornell notes, webbing, reading out loud, flash cards, self quizzes and the like. 10 minutes each day should do the trick.
Attached you will find the game plan for this week. This assignment is being given to your student today or tomorrow (Red/Gray) and they will have the 90 minute period to work through the steps. (Remember, students have had these packets for more than two weeks and plenty of class time to work with them. Your student is already very familiar with them.) What they don’t complete in class is home work (the first assigned this year).
This material will be assessed on Wed/Thurs. (test grade).
Please help me remind your student that this assignment must be turned in at the beginning of the period on the test day and that the assignment is designed make them successful on the test! Some learning would be great too.
I’ve included a couple of files that may be of some help.
Feel free to email me with any questions.