Why Palm Springs High and All Kids Need Latin

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My son wearing his Latin laurel wreath on graduation night.

The reason I’m reminiscing about how much my kids loved Latin and Mrs. Lazarova is that the administrators are threatening to shut down the Latin program. There is a meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 12) at the Palm Springs Unified School District meeting at 6 p.m. with many people attending in support of the PSHS Latin program. I’ve heard that Mrs. Lazarova was not given a single Latin class to teach next school year. Here’s a link to the Facebook Page that was started by former students of Mrs. Lazarova (Save Latin at Palm Springs Highschool). 

One of the best things about Palm Springs High School, if not the best thing, is the Latin program. Both of my children took four years of Latin from Svetlana Lazarova, who is an outstanding teacher because of her passion. She cares about each student and teaches them not only Latin, but history, grammar, Western Civilization and the importance of being good people throughout their lives.

I was amazed when my son asked us to attend Latin Night at the end of his freshman year. I had no idea what to expect, but after the first year, I looked forward to the evening as a highlight and culmination of all their hard work. Not only were the National Latin Exam awards handed out, but each class made presentations from short plays to reciting Cicero. The senior class always put together a tribute to Mrs. Lazarova and it would be side-splitting funny or so emotional I would wipe tears from my eyes. At the end, before cake, Mrs. Lazarova gave each senior a laurel wreath and a hug. The Latin seniors would proudly wear their laurel wreaths at graduation night.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to cut such a valuable program. Latin is sometimes called a dead language, but the study of Latin offers so much more than language. Latin is critical to the root words of our English. If your kids want to be doctors, attorneys or earn a degree in any science, they’ll need Latin.  If you Google “why should my child take Latin” you’ll find countless articles like this one posted by Thought Co:

The Benefits of Learning Latin

I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent.
— From the National Review.

Latin Helps With English Grammar
While neither the language nor grammar of English derives from Latin, many of our grammatical rules do. For instance, since you CAN’T have a dangling preposition in Latin, certain purists consider it bad form in English (see Latin Grammar: Comparisons Between English and Latin).

Latin Makes You More Careful in English
In Latin, you have more to worry about than whether a plural pronoun refers to a singular noun (as in the politically correct – grammatically incorrect: each student has their own workbook).

In Latin, there are 7 cases with which not only pronouns but adjectives — not to mention verbs — must agree. Learning such rules makes the student careful in English.

But more important is the fact that traditional study of Latin starts out with a grammatical framework… As American students begin Latin, they become acquainted with the “Latin grammar” system, which they can indirectly transfer to their work in English. What it gives them is a standardized set of terms in which to describe words in relations to other words in sentences, and it is this grammatical awareness which makes their English writing good.
–William Harris

Latin Helps You Maximize SAT scores
This sells Latin programs. Through Latin, test takers can guess at the meanings of new words because they already know the roots and prefixes. But it’s not just enhanced vocabulary. Math scores also increase.

Latin Increases Accuracy
This may be due to the increased accuracy Professor Emeritus William Harris notes:​

“From another point of view, the study of Latin does foster precision in the use of words. Since one reads Latin closely and carefully, often word by word, this focuses the student’s mind on individual words and their usage. It has been noticed that people who have studied Latin in school usually write quite good English prose. There may be a certain amount of stylistic imitation involved, but more important is the habit of reading closely and following important texts with accuracy.”

I asked my children what they learned while taking Latin and they both said it helped them with their SATs, vocabulary, understanding literature, grammar, mythology and learning about the beginning of Western Civilization. Mrs. Lazarova taught them about the culture and included art and food in her program. My kids are smarter and more intelligent because of their years with Mrs. Lazarova. They are also better people, because of Mrs. Lazarova’s emphasis on character and being a caring member of society. It’s so competitive to get into colleges these days, why wouldn’t you want your kids to study Latin, increase their SAT scores and show on their transcripts that they studied Latin for four years?

One study I read states that only 18 percent of public schools offer Latin while more than 80 percent of private schools do. So, is it the point of our Palm Springs school district to restrict the ability of our public school children to compete with those in private schools? What is the purpose of canceling the Latin program? If our children continue with Latin, why wouldn’t want the best teacher there?

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My son and friend at high school graduation.

What do you see as the major benefit of studying Latin?

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Parents are helping kids cheat on SATs

 

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Move-in weekend for college.

 

Here’s a strange trend, The number of parents asking for special accommodations for their high school kids taking the ACT and SAT has more than doubled in recent years. In “Rich parents are using doctor’s notes to help kids cheat the SATs” by Doree Lewak in the New York Post this trend is discussed:

“The ACT says that roughly 5 percent of students taking the test receive accommodations, most commonly for extra time. Prior to 2003, it was less than 2 percent. The College Board, which administers the SATs, along with the PSATs and AP exams, says that it’s also seen an uptick in accommodations in recent years — from 1.4 percent in 2012 to 3 percent last year.”

Some parents, who aren’t able to pay $4,000 to $6,000 for a psychological evaluation and the coveted doctor’s note, are calling foul. One mom named Kim Gronich is considering suing her teen daughter’s school.

“She’s coming up against all of these kids who bought extra time from a doctor’s note. It’s outrageous and it’s rampant,” says Gronich, who is considering filing a lawsuit against her daughter’s school for helping so many get special treatment. “The other kids are there for hours more … These are the children who are cheating and getting away with it.”

When it comes to getting into top colleges, well-heeled parents will do anything to give their kids a leg up on the competition. An increasingly common tactic is getting kids extra time on the ACTs and SATs because of a psychological diagnosis that may or may not be legitimate. Previously, the testing companies alerted colleges when students received extra time, but they stopped doing so in 2003, opening the door for abuse.

“Parents with means will stop at nothing to get their kid into college — that’s what they do,” says Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, an education lawyer and staunch opponent of the accommodation abuse.

I find these tactics so discouraging. Are parents today not learning anything? Can we not let our kids be kids? I’m sure these doctor’s notes are in addition to paying for SAT and ACT tutors or expensive prep classes, too. When we were kids, we showed up on a Saturday morning to take a test completely unprepared. The test score was what it was. A test score. Also, not that many students bothered to take the tests in the first place, only those applying to colleges that required a test score.

What type of diagnosis can give students accommodations on the test? And are they guaranteed to get more time? From the article it states:

Both the ACT and the College Board say that more than 90 percent of those seeking accommodations are successful. To get extra time, parents can pay thousands of dollars to have their child evaluated for a learning disorder by a private neuropsychology evaluator, typically a psychologist of some sort. If they’re not successful, they’ll often try a different psychologist, ponying up thousands of more dollars. Common diagnoses include ADHD and processing issues. The evaluation is sent to the school, where it’s typically accepted. In the unlikely event, it’s not, some parents hire a lawyer to appeal. When it comes time for a student to register for a standardized test, the school usually sends out a request on behalf of the student.

“More and more people are claiming to have these disabilities,” says Sam Abrams, a Manhattan academic and professor at Sarah Lawrence College who closely follows this issue. “Diagnoses can be trumped up. Severe anxiety disorder is ramped up like nobody’s business. It’s a catchall that nobody can argue with — it’s self-reported. If you don’t like the diagnosis of one person, you’ll find someone to find another therapist to diagnose your ‘anxiety.’ It’s so easy to get those diagnoses today.”

My son scored very high on his tests—without a prep class or tutoring—or special accommodations. Even with a perfect 800 in English and high 700s in Math, he didn’t get into an Ivy League school, which was his dream. I think we’re putting too much emphasis on test scores because they don’t really determine a thing. We need to back off and not try to fix everything for our kids. Also, my daughter, who was diagnosed with Scotopic Sensitive Syndrome, which is a sensitivity to light, could have gotten more time. There was no way she wanted it. Why on earth would she want to be stuck in the test for more than three and a half hours, was her take on it.

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One of my favorite pictures when they were young at Aliso Beach.

 

What are your thoughts about parents going the extra mile for special accommodations for the SAT and ACT?

Tips for Parents About the SAT, ACT and AP Tests

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Testing, Testing, One, Two Three….

The two big tests needed for college admissions are the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Testing Assessment (ACT.) How much time and effort your kids put into preparing for these tests is up to you and your kids. Some kids are great test takers while others are not. I have one of each in my family and our approach to test prep was based on their individual needs. In my opinion, too much emphasis can be placed on test scores. A perfect score doesn’t mean your child will get into the school of their dreams, and likewise, a low score doesn’t mean your child can’t get into college.

Here’s a simple checklist of what to do to prepare for the tests:

1. Take the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) the sophomore year. This is a good practice for the SAT. Plus, they’ll take the PSA again in their junior year in October to qualify for honors in the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.*

2. Check out sample questions on the SAT website (collegeboard.com) and the ACT website is actstudent.org.

There is a question of the day for the SAT, which if your child answers starting in their freshman or sophomore years, they’ll get plenty of test practice.

3. Plan when to take the tests during the junior year. Most people take tests a couple of times. If your kids are happy with scores the first time around, don’t take it again.

SAT tests are offered in August, October, November, December, March, May and June.

ACT tests are in September, October, December, February, April, June.

For example, if your child takes a SAT test in November, you may want to wait several months to retake the test, like in March, so your child has time to get their results and take some practice tests.

4. There no longer is a penalty for guessing. It used to be that if a student guessed on an answer and got it wrong, they’d lose .25 of a point. That’s no longer the case and it’s okay to fill in answers and guess. There’s a 20% chance of getting the answer correct.

*The National Merit Scholarship takes the top scorers in the PSAT their junior year and sends out commendation letters to about the top 3 percent. The very top kids move onto semifinals and finals, and the finalists, selected by their high schools, then submit applications and enter into competition to be named National Merit Scholars.

From the website National Merit Scholarship Corporation History and Facts:
National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) was established in 1955 — a time in which there was concern that the United States was lagging behind in the cold war scientific race, but the public was indifferent to rewarding intellectual accomplishment. In response, the National Merit Scholarship Program was founded to identify and honor scholastically talented American youth and to encourage them to develop their abilities to the fullest. Through this nationwide competition, National Merit Scholarships are awarded to program Finalists and Special Scholarships are awarded to other high-performing participants who meet a corporate sponsor’s eligibility criteria.

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After the tests are done–graduation.

AP TESTS

Should your child take AP Tests? There are only two choices to answer this question. Yes and no.

One reason to take AP tests includes saving money in college. Each AP test costs upwards of $80, but if students score a 3 or higher (AP Tests are scored 1 – 5), they may earn college credit and not have to take that class in college. Please check with each college to find out how they treat AP tests. If a quarter tuition costs $5,000, say for three classes, then your student will save more than $1,500 per class if they score a 3 or higher.
Another reason to take the test is if your child scores a 3 or higher on three or more AP tests, they’ll earn an AP Scholar award. That will look good on the college application.

More information about AP Scholars can be found on the college board website.
Why wouldn’t your student want to take an AP test? Two reasons. First, it may be too expensive, at $80 a test, and second, they may not be prepared. If they struggled with the AP Class, the last thing they may want to do is take the test and get a lousy score. It can be time-consuming to study for the AP Test, and if they didn’t cover the material in class during the school year, it can be very difficult to get a 3 or higher. There is no shame in getting a poor score and it won’t reflect badly on your child, but then neither would not taking the test. My best advice is to talk it over with their teacher and your child.

imgresWhat advice do you have for parents of kids taking the big tests?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Tips for Studying for Finals

images-1My daughter, who is a freshman in college, is facing a lot of stress. It’s finals week coming up, plus she’s getting ready to move out of her dorm into a house with new roommates. Add to these stressors the fact that she’s gotten sick with a sinus infection and is struggling physically. That’s a lot to handle in one short week.

I offered to visit and be there for her. I don’t know what I would do for her, but somehow my presence might make some of this go away? She said she can handle it on her own.

imgresMy advice to her was to focus on her school work. Get lots of rest. Don’t get caught up in anxiety and drama.

Part of her stress is facing four finals to study for at once. It seems overwhelming. I gave her the following three tips to break it down and make it easier—after all, “how do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time.images

1. Block out time. Make a calendar, mark off the time for classes, meals, and swimming. Then you’ll get a clear picture of your available study time.

2. Take frequent breaks. Schedule your study time in half-hour to hour blocks. Drink plenty of water during your breaks.imgres-1

3. Write by hand. Don’t type up notes. I found through my years of studying there is a direct connection between handwriting to the brain. This is anecdotal, but I could always remember things better when I wrote notes as opposed to staring at and reading, or typing them. I would take out a notebook, or note cards, and hand write everything I needed to know. It sticks in your brain.images-2

I hope my tips help her, and that she makes it through the finals week in one piece. 

What tips do you have for finals week?