This week, our sophomore writers have a lot to say and much of it is about MCAS, though they still have an eye on that outside world and one thing is clear — they love to learn.

— Elaine Cawley Weintraub, advisor.

A Necessary Evil?

By Jessica Kelleher>

This week we started our first season of MCAS, and although they were time consuming, they were not as difficult as I thought they would be. MCAS has been part of the yearly schedule since around the third grade, but more pressure has been added to the sophomore sessions, as it is a graduation requirement. It is absolutely necessary that everyone take the time to get the best results we can. This week was the English sessions, which consisted of a long composition and three sessions of open response and multiple choice. “It was pretty tough!” says T.J. Van Gervan when asked how he felt about the test. I think the entire sophomore class is relieved that our first of many tests are done with. On to math and science.

All It Takes to Fail

By Mary Louise Howell>

This week the tenth grade will be taking the MCAS reading comprehension test. The test is held over a period of three days and in May a math and science MCAS will also be held during school. This standardized test is designed to meet the requirements of the education reform law, testing all public schools in Massachusetts. Passing it is a requirement to receive a high school diploma but is this really a fair test? What about the students with disabilities and limited English who have to accomplish the almost impossible — pass the MCAS or drop out of high school? Shouldn’t the decisions regarding a student’s grades in school and graduation be made by those who know them best, teachers and family, and not by a state test score alone? What does this ultimately teach students? That all it takes to fail in school is to fail one test.

Not Fair

By Brian Montambault>

I don’t think that the MCAS is a positive thing for students. For one they are taken early in the morning, when most people are still half asleep. Also, all the teachers in Massachusetts don’t have the same teaching style, and some kids probably never learned some of the things that are on the test. There is a lot riding on this test because you have to pass it to graduate. All these factors put a lot of stress on teenagers, some of whom are not ready to handle this kind of pressure yet.

Not Necessary

By Chris Costello>

Starting on Tuesday, the tenth grade started the first part of the MCAS testing which was English. We still have to take the math and biology MCAS tests in about a month. If we are planning to graduate senior year, we are required to pass this series of tests. I don’t think it’s necessary to take MCAS at the high school level. In junior high, we take it so they can see if our teachers are teaching right, and if the students are actually learning. It’s too stressful for students to deal with again.

Are We Ready?

By Alicia Oliveira>

As you may know there were hostages taken in Binghamton, N.Y. last week; at least 13 people were shot on Friday morning. About 40 hostages were held at the American Civic Center in Binghamton, according to several news reports. The Binghamton High School and other work places were only blocks from the scene.

As the news broke, it made me think. Are we really prepared for this situation? I believe that we are prepared in the school system here on the Island. The high school and elementary schools have been practicing  lock-down drills, but I don’t believe the rest of the community is prepared. Many adults don’t practice dealing with these situations at work. Fire drills are common in most work places, but many people just know to get away from the fire. I think lock-down drills require more skill. Work places should take this practice into consideration.

Go Green

By Samantha Billings>

Our world is heating up in ways it shouldn’t. Many gases are being released into the air that are beginning to affect our lives and will affect our futures. More ice is melting and will eventually cause a shortage of water. Polar bears are swimming for miles in search of ice caps. We all love the planet we live on, however if we continue to allow the world to change like this, our children and grandchildren will not have a life as we know it. There are ways that you can go green and make a change. A small change can make a big difference.

Unplug cell phone chargers from the wall when not being used, recycle water bottles and cans, don’t leave the heat or air conditioning on when you’re out, turn off lights, wash dishes in the dishwasher, fix leaking faucets, take showers rather than baths, walk or ride your bike instead of driving, save leftover food, borrow instead of buying, don’t throw electronics in the trash.

You can help make our planet a healthier one.

Ocean Discoveries

By T.J. Van Gervan>

Recently a group of Australian and American researchers spent a month hundreds of kilometers southwest of the Tasmanian coast exploring the Tasman Fracture’s depths. The Tasman Trench drops more than four kilometers below the surface of the ocean. The researchers explored the fracture with Jason, a remotely operated submersible the size of a small car. On loan from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Jason carried a high-definition camera that weighed more than 500 pounds and beamed underwater video to the ship through a long fiber-optic tether. At 3,000 meters below sea level, the crew saw thousands of sea spiders. At 3,500 meters, they saw a single never-before-seen carnivorous sea squirt with a funnel shaped body that snapped shut like a Venus flytrap around any shrimp unfortunate enough to brush against it. The coolest thing the team brought back was 1,000 pieces of coral from the ocean depth. This new information can help to tell us about the history of our climate, and perhaps, its future.

Lacrosse Exchange: A New Tradition

By Niki Alexander>

This past week the Martha’s Vineyard girls’ lacrosse team had an exchange with a lacrosse team from England. The American girls hosted two English girls each. The exchange was followed by a scrimmage and a potluck supper. Two teams came to the Vineyard from England. The first team came from Cheltenham on Wednesday, staying until Friday. They beat our varsity team by one point. It was a very cool experience because some girls who were hostessing were guarding their guest. The junior varsity team lost but had a really good game. The second team, St. Katherine’s from St. Helens in Lancashire, England, came on Saturday and left the Vineyard on Monday morning. Our varsity team beat them, but our junior varsity team lost.

After playing against the English, we Vineyarders definitely took away some tips and observations about playing lacrosse. And I think that the English teams took away some tips and ideas from us. Everyone wishes that this exchange will keep going in the future as a Vineyard girls’ lacrosse tradition.

Caring About What We Learn

By Jocelyn Williams>

In our sophomore class, we have a project where we have to research something that we feel strongly about. I chose to do my paper about cruelty to animals in the world. Some things are being done to help animals but not enough. Doing this project helped me learn a lot more about the issue. I found out that so far in 2009, there have been over 220 cases of abuse toward animals. Those are the reported cases. There are many more that have not been reported. Along with the written part of our project, we have to take action and survey people for their opinions. I made a flyer to show people what this cruelty is doing to animals. I included pictures and facts and a Web site that people can go to help an animal today. For the survey part of the project, 20 students answered. An interesting result was that out of that 20, eleven students have helped an abused animal. That shows that there is some progress being made. We need more people to help out these animals that are neglected and abused. It’s important to remember to speak out about what is wrong: “To say nothing, to do nothing, stops nothing.”

Earthquake in Italy

By Alex Jernegan>

Two days ago an earthquake destroyed the city of L’Aquila in Italy. Yesterday Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the death toll had risen to a disastrous 207 people. L’Aquila is a medieval city with buildings made completely out of stone. When the quake came they fell, destroying the city. Some 15 people are still missing. Thousands of buildings were completely destroyed, leaving many people homeless. The prime minister is asking for financial support for his country. About 1,500 people have been treated by doctors so far, but the rescuers continue to pull many more people out of the fallen city. The magnitude of the quake was 6.3 on the Richter scale.  The severity of this quake even liquidated the ground.