Peers, Are They Worthwhile? by K.P.

In an educational system where academic progress under high scrutiny, it’s fair to say that we know what progresses and slows the growth of a student.  We constantly hear about homework, sleep, different types of grading, etc, but what if we went broader in trying to answer that question.  What about our academic environment?  If we wanted to maximize the success of a student by putting them in the best physical setting, what would it look like. For me, I want to know if a student’s long term success is dependent upon their surrounding peers.  I know from personal experience as well as interviews from friends and high level academics that working together with peers will often short term success.  Jeremy Taylor, a 3.2 GPA student, responded when asked how much success working with peers had,  “I Feel like In the short term I have a lot of success when I work with peers.  I feel like it is possibility that I might not be able to work as efficiently on my own though if I am so used to working with others.”  Skyler Calderoni, a year round athlete and dedicated student was quoted as saying, “Initial collaboration is great, but after a long period of time, things start to break down.” These are the opinions of the very students around us.  The ones who are striving to achieve success in postsecondary education.

Off the top of my head, it’s hard for me to say which way I would prefer myself.  I can think of instances that support both sides.  Working alone, I have found myself to be more equipped for the next similar project.  When reading books for my L.A. classes in the past, deadlines within reading groups became more of a focus for me rather than understanding or even enjoying the material I was reading about.  Alone, I worked at my own pace, mostly through periods of lots of reading, and periods of hardly any.  A more dynamic reading style has helped me during my current year however.  A deadline to try to meet along with a more casual, “read what you can,” during that time.  I see many classmates that read at different levels around me, but similarly will thrive in the dynamic environment they’re in.  

So what if people like working together.  If it works, why worry about it?  Well I want to make it clear, students will find some sort of success under most standard conditions in schools.  I am simply looking at the effectiveness of various environments.  Per Elisha Joy Bryson of The University of Pennsylvania, sometimes, given certain conditions, it is hard for us to even conclude a difference between students effectiveness due to the amount of variance in students themselves.  Ultimately the question being asked may have too many variables for us to answer the broad overall question.  To truly achieve academic efficiency with every student, you realistically would need to cater to each of their learning styles, which isn’t out of the question, it would just take a lot of resources.

The Stanford University Newsletter on Teaching wrote a paper regarding group work and found that students worked more effective on large projects in groups of 4-6 students.  In certain situations, larger groups of 8-10 seemingly were just as effective.  Research from many different sources have pointed out that peer collaborative work is a largely situational subject that really doesn’t have a definitive answer.  The kind of work being done it that class should moreso reflect how students work rather than an overall trend in the student population.

So I guess one of the last questions here might be, what should we do about it then.  I mean, if there’s no real discernable difference between learning with or without your peers, why give this topic any thought?  The answer is, that we must always be collectively striving to improve ourselves.  Every student varies widely and it might be a mistake to try to generalize millions of students and decide that one certain learning style is more effective.  This means that the responsibility is on us students to take action on our own behalf.  We need to explore and understand where each of our strengths and weaknesses lie, and develop and learning pattern that reflects them.  


Feature by N.V.

The bell rings, and students begin their routine of piling into the choir room, but something is very different. Chairs are gone, the projector board that projects lots of funny Ellen videos are gone, with only a whiteboard left behind. The folders have disappeared, and the worst of all is the piano is gone. Many are confused, with some getting angry because they hate everything, but that’s a different story. The students take a seat on the hard ground, and the teacher goes to the front to begin class.

“Pull out you music.”

A student raises their hand, and continues to complain that there is no music. That’s the point! Good observation. I get up and explain that this is an experiment, showing people that this is what choir would be like if we only had the budget the district gave us. People were starting to understand. But then, a very special thing happened. We tried to sing without music, and believe it or not, we sang with beauty, and we still made wonderful music. And it showed great things. Music programs, specifically in high school, don’t have a lot of money to spend. But when so many people are passionate and care about such  thing as music, beauty can be created. So many programs can inspire students to great things, but I find the music program has the most heart to it. We can focus in on one program, the choir program at Fairview High School, run by Janice Vlachos. Throughout the years, this program has seen hundreds of students go in and out gaining new perspective on music and gaining wisdom beyond their years. Its one of the most successful programs in the state of Colorado. But, it is on the verge of possible cuts and struggled with the district for years. So why is it that even the most successful programs struggle. When can we instill in people’s head that music matters!

Beginning with the main issue, we can find great examples of music right in my home school of Fairview. Throughout the years, Fairview has had a reputation of having a very successful choir program. The program has won many awards, including the Downbeat award of best women’s jazz choir. It has also had the opportunity to attend many festivals, including THe National CHoir Association Conference in New York, and also the Jazz Educators Network COnference in New Orleans. The teachers have been recognized with many awards, including Bobby G awards. With all this success, the program still finds itself struggling to gain leverage in the district for support of the program. Most of the funding, in fact around 75% comes from fundraising by the students. Every Fall, the students are given the assignment to sell Christmas wreaths, which can be a lot of fun, but also fundraising is quite a pain. We ask ourselves, why do we continue to have to do this? It’s crazy how thing would be if we didn’t have it.

Every year, hundreds of kids are in the program, each with a unique talent, voice, and want to create beautiful music. To each and everyone of these kids, especially the upperclassmen, music is so important. Being in high school is tough, but to have a safe space for kids to come through during the day, that’s what it’s all about. For an hour, we can put aside our troubles and just make beautiful music together. It fuels the soul. It gives us new energy. But without all the opportunities we are given, I am sure our program would shrink. THe program is beyond lucky to have one of the best directors in the state, and to have one of the biggest music libraries in the state. We are set up for success. But we must ask, are we doing this just for fun, or is there a greater reason behind it. In many schools, kids are in choir because their parents signed them up. I’m not saying that there are no kids like that in our program, but when you get to the top choirs, everyone there has this eclectic taste for music and this zipping energy each day in class. Also, it’s not all fun and games.

A loud noise rings through his ears. Another alarm. He hits the off button and slowly rolls out of bed. The clock next to his bedtime table reads 5:30 AM. He wonders, ‘Do I really have to go to another day of school?’ But something is making him wake up this early. School doesn’t start till 8:05. But what does start soon is rehearsal for the top Jazz choir Excalibur. 7:15 sharp. To be in Excalibur takes so much dedication and time, but each student in there has the drive and commitment to do what it takes to make wonderful music. Everyday, he rehearses with Excal for an hour, some days an hour and a half. And he gets up Monday and Friday for a smaller rehearsal. All for singing jazz. Many would find this to be absolutely ridiculous, especially because he isn’t working out or doing anything “beneficial.” But he knows, music is so important to him, and seeing everyone in the group be able to come from all over the school and create beautiful harmony and change people’s perspective through music. Athletes, Academic geniuses, actors, artists, painters, all sorts of people are in this group, but we all rely on the program to give us the opportunity to provide us with the means to success. Without the success of previous successors, the program would not have the dedication it does. For years, many guys and girls have come through and been affected by this music program, and for most, it has been one of the most important parts of their high school career. So why does nobody else care? Why is it a program that keeps getting cut. When something so important to some if overlooked by the uppers, it’s a huge struggle to get support for what you believe in.   

When asking around to other teachers, it is clear to them that in most school environments, the arts, especially choir, are not a priority. In Fairview, most of the teachers are quite supportive, going to the shows and participating in the events with the students. But in other places, people aren’t as fortunate. The arts are looked at as a joke, with no benefit to the education system. No benefit? What a joke my goodness. When you are involved in the arts, you learn to think outside of the box and very creatively. In comparison to math, we are viable for much more options in the future because we are better prepared for certain circumstances. Not only do the arts teach you how to become great at singing or playing an instrument or acting, but it teaches you how to interact with humans in a way that math could never teach you. You gain these skills that allow you to immerse yourself in non traditional ideas, and to learn more about other cultures and other styles of life which may contrast that of your own. It isn’t all just cheesy singing and dancing. Its immersing yourself in a tradition that has been crucial to the development of the world, and something that has brought people together for centuries.

It’s the final concert of the year, and the emotions are running high. Nervousness, sadness, excitement, and just overall joy to be able to sing with the group you are in. It’s a Thursday night, and the audience is packed. 600 hundred eyes and ears open and ready to soak in the music that is about be thrown at them. To many, this is the most important concert. Especially for the seniors. Excalibur is finally ready to showcase the hours and hours of work they have put in to impress the audience. Just like your average team sport, after all the practice, the games are where you have the most fun, and same goes for the concert. As the set begins, Excalibur has a luscious sound with lots of blend and funky style. But the ending song “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, is an Excal tradition. Tears flow down the eyes of each member, as memories flood form the special moments of the year. When the concert is over, all those 530 am mornings are worth it. When the years past and the student head to college, many come back and speak about how choir was the most important part of their high school career. And with that said, you can just how important music is to all the students. Music has shaped society in ways no one can imagine. Even when you are just a dumb high school student, you can understand that finding something important to you and putting in the beautiful effort, promising results will occur.

“When words fail, music speaks.”

End The Cycle Through School by K.O.

These days college in America is outrageously  expensive. The people who end up going to college are the ones whose parents can afford to send them. It seems that the only people who can get into the good colleges have the money to spend to get there paying for classes such as ACT and SAT. America needs to change the cost of college and make it affordable for all. Doing this would increase the amount of students who would graduate high school and attend college. “There are lots of people out there with the desire to go to college…(saying it is too expensive)” says Jarratt Miller a college dropout.

A free college education would motivate more kids to graduate high school keeping them on a good path to success. In 2005, the Kalamazoo public schools in Kalamazoo, Michigan said that any student who had attended their schools since 9th grade could get a free or near free education to any of the public college in Michigan. The results from this showed that the average GPA increased .71 points and the days in detention and suspended dropped significantly. This showed that the student was much more motivated to graduate and get good grades if they knew that they would be able to go to college and get a further education.

There would also be a positive impact of the United States economy if America made college cheaper.  The US could save about  18.5 billion dollars in annual crime costs if  high school  graduation rate increased by only 5 percent (Moretti 27).  On average the murder and assault rate reduces by 30 percent for every year the person goes to school. So the crime rate would also be reduced meaning less would be in prison. It is also cheaper to send people to school than to prison. The United States spends around 12,643 dollars to educate one student for one year versus the annual cost of 28,323 dollars to house one inmate. Another thing is nearly 80 percent of inmates do not have a high school diplomas; if they had gotten them they would be much more likely to have a better life and not in prison.

Society would also have a great impact if college were cheaper. “The more people who go to college the less people are in poverty,” Maddison Mccambridge.   Society could save $209,000 in prison and other costs for every potential dropout who could be helped to complete high school. Also people without a high school diploma on average make 400,ooo dollars less in a lifetime than those who do graduate. The less people make the more people that need financial support. If there were less dropouts there would be more people who could get better jobs to support themselves. Also each class of high school dropouts costs the U.S. more than $200 billion in lost wages and tax revenues. This means that more people would need help with social support and money for food stamps. Society would have a greater impact and less poverty if more people could afford to go to college.

America should make college free to help the society, economy, and to motivate kids to graduate high school keeping them out of trouble. America would be a greater country with less people in poverty if this would happen. The economy would also rise and we would have to pay less for prison because, there would be less people in there. Overall, America would have more educated people and a better running country if we would just make college affordable for all.


Works Cited

Caplan-Bricker, Nora. “Some Cities Are Promising Free College to High School

Students. Does It Work?” New Republic. N.p., 21 Feb. 14. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

“Crime Rates Linked To Educational Attainment, New Alliance Report Finds.” Alliance

For Excellent Education Crime Rates Linked To Educational Attainment New

Alliance Report Finds Comments. N.p., 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

“Dropping Out, Again: Why So Many College Students Never Graduate.” Interview by

Michael Rubenstein. NBC News. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 18 Nov. 2014.

Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

Mccambridge, Madison. “College Costs.” Personal interview. 20 Apr. 2016.

Moretti, Enrico. “The Campaign for Educational Equity OLD » Teachers College.” The

Campaign for Educational Equity OLD » Teachers College. Columbia University, n.d. Print. 11 Mar. 2016.

Poverty and Education by H.L.

Education, we are told, can almost guarantee you a high paying job. This, for the most part, is true, so it should be obvious that everyone wants an education. The problem with this is that not everyone has access to a good education. On average, kids living in poverty will not receive as advanced an education as someone living in wealth. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that kids living in poverty are more likely to get a job before finishing high school.

For a family in poverty, getting as much income as possible is a must. Because of this, children may have to take up a job in order to help their families. Wealthy kids, on the other hand, can afford to not have a job until they graduate high school. There is a law which prohibits kids under the age of 16 from working during school hours, but the amount of money a kid who works only after school may not get them as much money as they want, so they may drop out in order to make enough money to support their family.

In addition to this, children living in poverty may not have educated parents, which means they may not be able to get the help they need in order to succeed (although, to be fair, you shouldn’t be relying on your family members to do well in school… how would you learn anything?). Those kids may not be able to do as well in school because of this, so they would have a lower chance of getting into college than, say, a person with substantial wealth.

Which brings us to the topic of college. Assuming that everyone has an equal chance of getting into college, there is the cost of college to worry about. For the wealthy, this is no problem, as their parents can easily pay the tuition, but for anyone who does not have extremely wealthy parents, paying for college may be a deterrent. This is a problem because it means that , in general, only the rich will be able to stay rich. People who have to pay for college will likely have to rely on student loans, and therefore will not be able to make a lot of money early on.

So, what can we do about it? Sadly, not much. The minimum wage can be increased so that kids in poverty would not be forced to work such long hours, freeing up time for school. College costs could also be decreased though I doubt the colleges would be okay with that. It looks as if this trend will continue, and the rich will become richer while the poor stay where they are. This cannot be a good thing, so something must change soon, before this becomes a national crisis (note that this is not as much of a problem in many other countries). Will this be fixed, or will our country fail?

The Right College by A.L.P

  Choosing a “good” college for you,  first of all, should be based on your personality and where you will learn best. If you go to a college for it’s reputation and fail because it’s not the best learning environment for you, that’s worse than doing great in a college with less of a reputation.

 A good college should not be based on the reputation of a school and your grade point average.

When I used to live in Brazil, I used to go to a super expensive school where people didn’t really care the grade you get in a test or where was your college dream. They would talk about every once in awhile though, but still was not something that mattered that much. When I moved here, things changed. I honestly feel like people at fairview are so smart and basically all the care about is getting in a good college. Sometimes though the college that they really want, is based on parents opinions or have a good reputation, for example Harvard. Here at fairview I feel like people are always judging you depending on the college you go to and they all have the stereotype of Harvard college type of thing, but there are families that can’t afford a good college because of it’s price. I sometimes feel intimidated to talk about those kind of things and college between my friends and that’s something that shouldn’t be a problem in our society, especially in our school nowadays.