Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Test No One Is Taking

These past two weeks, my two younger sisters (seventh grade and freshman) both skipped numerous days of school. They weren't sick, they didn't have doctors appointments, they didn't go on vacation... they simply did not go because both their schools were administrating the PARCC testing.

A photo of students taking the PARCC test, which is administrated online in 75% of the schools.

The PARCC testing, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is the new test that replaces the ISAT and the Prairie State Achievement Examination. Before the PARCC testing, when the ISAT was still the standardize test of choice, everyone showed up for the test. Many students even loved ISAT week because the ISATs were not that difficult of a test and of course, no homework! But now, many people are opting out of taking this test. My mom said the superintendent at Winnetka schools even sent out an email explaining that if a student is too stressed out to take the exam, they could opt out of it. While schools can not reveal the amount of students who actually took this "mandatory" exam yet, many sources are saying the attendance is extremely lacking. Ellie, my seventh grade sister, said around half the students in her class are not taking it. An attendance record of fifty percent will not suffice for the success of this exam.

In other words, the lack of attendance will severely impact our state's education. The state could potentially lose funding, and we learned in class that state funding is crucial for schools (especially lower-income schools). Needless to say, New Trier and the Winnetka Public Schools will lose funding due to their failure to reach 95%.

I understand that standardized tests play a significant role in America's education, for they allow state's to measure the education students are receiving and show if a given school's methods of educating are sufficient. However, I think students are making a good choice in boycotting this exam. This test takes a total of thirteen hours to take and is shown to be far too difficult for the grade level the student is at. I was talking to some freshmen English teachers at the Northfield Campus, who took the test prior to the students, and they said some questions they even struggled with... and they majored in English in college! Additionally, this tests is mainly administrated online, which creates many technical difficulties and would be a challenge for students in low-income areas who do not have access to the superb technology we have at New Trier. Overall, the test is flawed and is not the best way to deal with education in America. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Unequal Funding, Unequal Education

In class this week, we discussed a lot about how Illinois schools are funded and how affluent schools are unfairly spending more per student than the schools in impoverished areas, who if anything, need even more funding. According to Mr. Bolos' presentation, Chicago Public Schools spend approximately $13,791 per student per year, while in contrast, New Trier, a school in an affluent area, spends $21,372 per student. This weekend, I came across an article that explained this discrepancy is not only apparent in Illinois. In fact, the funding is even more unbalanced in other states.

Right now, 23 states spend more money on affluent schools than areas of high poverty. While this is still less than fifty percent, this number is expected to rise. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan explained that the No Child Left Behind Act, which "expanded the federal role in public education through annual testing, annual academic progress, report cards, teacher qualifications, and funding changes," is actually giving more money to affluent districts.

This map explains the difference between the funding affluent schools receive in contrast with the funding high-poverty schools receive. States with a negative percentage (red, orange and yellow) provide more funding to affluent schools.

According to Mr. Bolos' percentages, New Trier spends $7,581 more on its students compared to CPS, a poorer district. This discrepancy is already far too large, but shockingly, it is not even the state with the largest funding discrepancy. Pennsylvania, a state I used to live in, has an appalling difference in the funding. The districts with a high poverty rate receive 33 percent less state and local funding than the affluent schools. Most schools get the majority of their funding from state and local, for only a small percentage comes from federal funding. Because these schools receive one-third less of what an affluent school receives in terms of state and local funding, the school is left with not enough money to provide a quality education to children who need it the most. There are far too many states on the map colored red, orange, and yellow, and it is time to erase the funding discrepancy and paint the United States map all one shade - a shade of equality.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Two-Women Job?

The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are easily two of the most popular reality shows in America today and while they are entertaining, they say a lot about America and what it values. We have already discussed in class how it has little diversity with the exception of a few TV "tokens" which consist of one or two non-white members in a cast of 30 contestants and the potential overweight contestant thrown in every once in awhile. However, diversity is not the only problem about this show - it also extremely objectifies women, especially with the new system of The Bachelorette that premieres in the spring.

Typically, The Bachelorette features one, single bachelorette who is seen as the "star" of the show. On the first night, she is greeted by 25-30 men vying for her heart. If she sees potential with a man, she will keep him on the show; however, if she does not see a future with him, she will eliminate him.

This season of The Bachelorette, that will all change. There will be two bachelorettes, Kaitlyn Bristowe and Britt Nilsson. The first night, they both will meet the men vying for their hearts and then men will choose, after seeing them, who they want to be the next bachelorette.

This new system is incredibly flawed in the way it portrays women, a theme already prominent in America today. A season of The Bachelor just wrapped up, in which there was only one bachelor. The bachelor, Chris Soules, was already guaranteed to be the bachelor; therefore, he did not have to "compete" with anyone to be it. Neither Britt or Kaitlyn are guaranteed to be the official bachelorette... the show is making these two women go against each other. 

Additionally, the bachelorette will be chosen on the first night, when the men have not yet gotten to know either Kaitlyn or Britt. Therefore, the next bachelorette will be chosen solely on their appearance, for they will know little about their personalities if they have not even known them for 24 hours. This objectifies women and presents them with an opportunity only if they are seen as "prettier" and "hotter" than the other.

To what extent does this new "Bachelorette" system represent America today, especially in regards to women?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Minority Emojis

Like most other iPhone users, I use emojis every single day in my texts; however, it was not until today when I found out that Apple was including a new set of emojis depicting minorities that I realized how they merely represent whites.

Appalled at this realization, I scrolled through my emoji keyboard and found that there were only two emojis that represent minority groups and both of these emojis were highly stereotyped by wearing hats that mirror their race.

A picture of the current two emojis representing ethnic groups -- an Asian wearing a Gua Pi Mao hat which is typically identified with the Qing dynasty and a man wearing a turban.

There are 722 emojis on the standard emoji keyboard, yet the company who designs emojis, Unicode Consortium, only designated two of these 722 to represent non-whites. Often times, people try to find emojis that look "just like them" to put next to their contact name in someone else's phone... What emoji would a seventeen-year old girl like me put next to her contact name if she was African American if there are no African American emojis to resemble her?

Minority groups are constantly being misrepresented in our country and the emoji category is just one of the many areas they are lacking representation (another being the Oscars which I blogged about last week!).  For this reason, I was ecstatic to find out Apple's plan to release culturally diverse emojis with iOS 8.3. This update will have the current favorite people emojis each available in six different skin tones. On top of this, there will be same-sex relationship emojis depicting two moms or two dads holding hands and 32 new country flags.

These new emojis are getting lots of positive press; however, there is still one aspect of these emojis that is controversial. Many Asians, understandably, are feeling upset by the fact the emojis that are supposedly meant to represent their race are bright yellow. They are channeling their frustration by tweeting things like, "Asian skin tone in the new Apple emoji set is bright yellow. That seems more racist than racially diverse."

Taking the initiative to add these emojis with different skin tones is taking a major step forward, but now that these minority groups are being represented, Apple needs to focus on how they are choosing to represent them.