Contest W5: News Writing

ASSIGNMENT

You will be writing a news story. The story should be approximately 400 words. With the aid of computers this year, we are able to enforce this. Please do not write longer than the word limit.

Please use the information provided below. The writer should determine which information is relevant and important to the story. Students may use dictionary, thesaurus and/or the Associated Press style manual. Only entries submitted online will be accepted. No exceptions will be made to this rule.

When you submit, you will simply be submitting plain text. Formatting such as italics, bold and underline will not transfer. Also, paragraph breaks will not transfer. To show the judge your intention to create a paragraph break, please use this double-backslash symbol: //  For instance, a passage with two paragraph breaks would look like this:

The school board reversed the policy with an 11-1 vote. // “I disagreed with the decision, but I lost this time,” said board president Yvonnes Nulton. // The policy will go into effect at the start of next school year.

TIMELINE

 

DIRECTIONS

This contest is meant to be completed individually. Please refrain from seeking help from others while completing this contest.

Failure to follow these directions may result in disqualification from the contest without refund. Please read and follow carefully. 

  1. Read over the prompt presented below. The writer should determine which information is relevant and important to the story.
  2. While writing, you may use resources like the AP Stylebook, an online style guide or a dictionary/thesaurus. 
  3. Use whatever technology works best for you while writing your draft. This could be pencil and paper, your cell phone, your computer, etc. Do whatever you’re most comfortable with.
  4. Do not include your name or your school’s name anywhere on your final draft.
  5. Type up the final version of your story and submit it.
  6. Please do not share your draft, notes or ideas about the prompt with others until after the competition deadline.

Here is a link to this contest’s judging rubric.

DESCRIPTION

You are a member of Sunflower High School’s journalism staff. Your editor has asked you to edit the following story and coverage.

SCHOOL INFO

  • Name: Sunflower High School
  • Location: Clinton, Kansas
  • Mascot: Mighty Buffalo
  • Enrollment: 800 (grades 9-12)
  • School colors: yellow and brown
  • Yearbook: The Sunflower
  • Newspaper: Sunflower News

Contest Info

  • This is an on-site contest. 
  • Do not put your name on the entry. If you do, your entry will be disqualified.
  • Students must not request help or advice from any person other than the KSPA Executive Director Eric Thomas at [email protected], and that advice must be requested before the start of the contest.
  • All work must be solely that of the contestant.

Prompts will be visible at 3 p.m. April 16

Contest W5

Sunflower High students recently completed a standardized test and received results, which will be the topic of your article. 

Facts from your research: 

  • Every two years Sunflower High School has its student body take the Kansas Assessment Test (KAT) to evaluate their students’ math, science, reading and literacy comprehension as compared to the state average. 
  • The test took place at 9AM on Monday March 1st at Sunflower High School and lasted approximately 2.5 hours. Each section was timed and students were not allowed to answer questions in that section after the time limit had passed. 
  • Students were not allowed to bring backpacks or any personal electronics besides a calculator into the exam room. 
  • The test results came Thursday April 1st. Each grade’s results were averaged and scored on a scale of “below average”, “meets average”, “above average” and “exceeds average”. The results showed that the Sunflower High School student body was below the average education level in the State of Kansas 
  • Here is the breakdown of the 2021 assessment scores by grade:
    • Freshman
      • Math: Below average 
      • Science: Meets average 
      • Reading: Above average 
      • Literacy: Below average
    • Sophomore
      • Math: Below average 
      • Science: Meets average 
      • Reading: Above average
      • Literacy: Exceeds average 
    • Junior
      • Math: Below average 
      • Science: Above average 
      • Reading: Meets average
      • Literacy: Below average 
    • Senior
      • Math: Below average 
      • Science: Exceeds average 
      • Reading: Below average
      • Literacy: Meets average 
  • Here is the breakdown of the 2019 assessment scores by grade. It showed that Sunflower was on par with the average education level in Kansas.
    • Freshman
      • Math: Meets average 
      • Science: Meets average 
      • Reading: Below average 
      • Literacy: Above average
    • Sophomore
      • Math: Meets average 
      • Science: Meets average 
      • Reading: Meets average
      • Literacy: Exceeds average 
    • Junior
      • Math: Meets average 
      • Science: Above average 
      • Reading: Exceeds average
      • Literacy: Below average 
    • Senior
      • Math: Above average 
      • Science: Above average 
      • Reading: Meets average
      • Literacy: Meets average 
  • There was an unexpected storm the day of the test. It was not severe enough to cancel school, but many students showed up late for the test. Those students were given extra time to complete the test. 
  • Following the results, many parents called for a regraded or for the content of the test reevaluated, blaming the administrators for giving a faulty test. Some of these parents expressed concerns in emails to teachers and administrators or on social media. Here are some specific Facebook posts from parents:
    • From Lillian Mikaelson, mother of senior Corinne Mikaelson: “Thank goodness Corinne is a senior. I don’t think we could do another year at that school with the current administration. I’ve been saying Principal Kim has questionable judgement for the past four years and now everyone can see why!!! I can just tell these kinds of things about people!”
    • From Frank Daily, father of freshman Logan Daily: “The Dailys will no longer be a part of the Sunflower High community. We have made the thoughtful decision to transfer Logan to Clinton College Preparatory School starting in August. He will continue to pursue golf and lacrosse, but in a more academically rigorous environment with a better equipped administration.” 
    • From Gal Forbes, mother of junior Juliana Forbes: “I’m so proud of the group Juliana started to work towards better standardized testing! She is always thinking of ways to support her fellow students. #StudentsAgainstKAT <3” 
  • A student group has formed, called Students Against KAT, following the results to bring up issues they have with teachers they feel have not adequately taught their classes or prepared students for the state test. Many students have also taken to Twitter  to express their concerns and complaints. Here are some specific Tweets from students: 
    • From junior Juliana Forbes, “Join the Students Against KAT organization if you want to work towards better standardized testing for Sunflower High and the entire state of Kansas!! DM me for meeting times!”
    •  From junior Juliana Forbes, “The Students Against KAT group had a really productive meeting with the administration today! Happy to say we’ve opened up conversations about better ways to evaluate students than standardized testing. Let’s work towards reform TOGETHER #StudentsAgainstKAT”
    • From senior Corinne Mikaelson, “Stressed out from that test?? Check out my newest smoothie recipe and favorite yoga routine to work towards a happier mind, heart and body 🧘‍♀️”
    • From freshman Logan Daily, “Sad to say I won’t be returning to Sunflower next fall. All this test stuff wasn’t a good look. I just want to say I had a rad time with all the lacrosse guys and hope I can keep playing with the golf guys in the off season.” 
    • From sophomore Callie Wiggins, “That test sucked! Huge shoutout to Mr. Denning for keeping it positive. He really is the best teacher at Sunflower! Not sure if I have good things to say about the rest of the teachers…” 
  • Juliana Forbes, the founder of Students Against KAT, is currently the top student of the junior class with a 4.0 GPA. 
  • Parents, students, teachers and administrators held an assembly on April 5th at 7 p.m. in the Sunflower High auditorium to discuss the results of the test and how to move forward. 
  • Teachers have sent a formal request to the administration to provide better counseling services and programming about the impact homelife can have on a student’s academic performance. 
  • Administrators are conducting a formal review of each teacher’s performance, as requested by the student group, and have begun research into providing a better learning environment for students.

Quotes

From Sunflower High School Principal Kaiser Kim

  • “While it is disheartening to see the results from the Kansas Assessment Test, my team has done an extensive investigation into the test and its administration, and have concluded there was not a flaw within the test. It appears we will have a lot of work to do within our school.” 
  • “My hope for this school is that it provides a great learning environment for our students and can be a place where they feel comfortable and confident. Unfortunately, the results of this test have shown that we are not excelling at this.”
  • “I believe that a factor of the poor test scores has to do with lot of our students not taking advantage of the academic resources provided for them. We have plenty of tutors, study groups and teachers who want to offer them extra help. If the students choose not to utilize those resources, that’s on them. We can’t force them to spend less time on TikTok and more on studying. It’s evident to me this could be the first time they’re facing real consequences from their poor choices.” 
  • “I think we can expect big changes at Sunflower High after this year. We need to structure our school to provide the best learning environment possible. If that means longer classes and less free periods, we’ll adjust to that. We haven’t made any final decisions yet, though.”
  • “I have met with the student group, Students Against KAT, and have heard their argument against certain teachers and subjects where test scores were lowest. I understand their frustration, but must advocate for our teachers. They go through an intense hiring process and each year are reviewed by the administration. We wouldn’t keep around teachers who can’t do their jobs.” 

From Taylor Fox, junior math teacher 

  • “I teach a range of math subjects to the junior class: Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Pre Calculus for the advanced kids. The test showed that the junior class was below average in math and I’m not convinced that is entirely my fault. They came into my class not knowing the necessary skills from their sophomore year teacher so we had to spend time re-teaching most of it and have barely had time to move into the more advanced concepts.”
  • “I do my best to hold the attention of the class, but math just doesn’t captivate the kids like it used to. I spend more time telling the class to be quiet or get off their phones than I do actually teaching.” 
  • “I believe that the lack of attention in my class was a big contributing factor to the poor test scores, but I can’t blame the students. Behavior problems in the classroom start at home. I would call into question the discipline from parents before I question my students’ capabilities.” 
  • “I decided to conduct an assessment of my own in the class after we got the results back and it showed that the students are struggling with concepts from my class. I’m going to restructure our schedule and send a strongly worded note to the parents about reinforcing good studying habits at home.” 
  • “Some of the other teachers are pretty proud of how their students performed in their subjects. That’s great for them and they should be proud of that. I could do without the constant bragging, though. We get it, you have an easier subject than math, be quiet about it.” 

From Shawn Denning, sophomore literature teacher 

  • “I can’t complain about my students’ test results in reading and literature. They did very well and I’m really proud of them. I told them we could take one day off and have a celebration in class. I brought donuts and told everyone to come prepared to talk about their favorite book. I think they needed some positivity following that test.” 
  • “I would consider my teaching style very go-with-the-flow. I know what we need to get done, but I move at the students’ pace. If they’re really interested in a story, we’ll spend more time on it. If they’re bored with a book, we move quicker through the unit. It allows them to devote more time to the things they’re passionate about, and I think that’s a really important life skill.” 
  • “I think the other teachers might resent me a little for how well my students did. I don’t let it affect me too much, but the icy stares in the break room are getting old.” 

From junior Juliana Forbes, founder of the Students Against KAT group 

  • “Seeing the average test results broke my heart. I love school and it comes really naturally for me. Seeing the way these results impacted my fellow students made me want to do something to help.” 
  • “I don’t believe that all students learn the same way and that standardized tests only show the academic potential and capabilities of one type of student. So many other students have talents that they can show in ways other than a timed test. That’s why I founded Students Against KAT. We need a better way to evaluate the academic capabilities of students.” 
  • “The mission of Student Against KAT is to get the administration and hopefully the state to recognize we need to reform standardized testing. We’re not looking for immediate change, but just hoping to start that conversation.” 
  • “As much as I resent the test, I also believe that our teachers did not prepare us well enough for the test. We never had practice tests or review sessions. If they wanted us to succeed they didn’t lay out a clear path for success.” 

From senior Corrine Mikaelson 

  • “I’m not gonna lie, schools just like not my thing. Like it comes really easy for some people and that’s just not not me. I understand why it’s important but like I’d rather be doing other things with my time than homework.” 
  • “I don’t really understand the point of the whole test thing. Like is it just to see if we’re as smart as other schools in Kansas? Who really cares, like, we’re all just doing our best out here, isn’t that enough?”
  • “I think we might have done better on the test if our teachers would have taught us better, you know? Like how can we be expected to do well if we aren’t prepared well or, like, taught the information on the test? Just get better teachers. What is so hard about that?” 
  • “I’m graduating this year and don’t really think college is for me. I want to go to a culinary school, though, if I can find a good one. Someday I want to open up a vegan cafe where you can bring your dog and study or work.” 

From Lillian Mikaelson, mother of Corinne Mikaelson 

  • “My Corrine is an exceptional young woman and I will not let the results of this bologna test make anyone think otherwise. She is extremely talented at cooking and has over 100,000 followers on her lifestyle, fashion and cooking Instagram, @ContentFromCorinne. She has done collaborations and sponsored posts for HelloFresh, a meal kit service, and Gymshark, an athletic clothing brand. I bet they don’t test for that on the KAT!” 
  • “This test is ridiculous and I really question Principal Kim’s judgement if he thinks it can accurately tell the true intelligence of his students. Throw out the results or the parents will take action against the administration!” 
  • “At the end of the day, the administration is to blame here. They’re the ones cultivating an unsuccessful environment for our children. Between the incompetent teachers and lack of adequate study spaces, how can we expect our students to succeed?” 
  • “I’ve been at odds with the administration ever since they told me Corinne needed a higher GPA to make the dance team her freshman year. What does GPA have to do with her ability to dance? What a bogus rule if you ask me!” 

From Frank Daily, father of freshman Logan Daily 

  • “These test scores are absolutely unacceptable in my eyes. How can an entire school be below the state academic average? I don’t care who you blame, but I will not have my name, or my son’s name tied to this organization. I am pulling Logan out after he finishes freshman year and enrolling him at Clinton College Preparatory School. He’ll never get into a good college at a school like this.” 
  • “The only thing that might change my mind about pulling him out of Sunflower is if they had a complete restaffing by next year. Clear out the administration and replace them with people who know how to run a school. Maybe they’ll hire some teachers who actually know how to handle a classroom.” 
  • “Logan has enjoyed his freshman year and made some good friends. He made the varsity golf and lacrosse team as a freshman, but unfortunately sports and friends won’t get him into college.”