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Wisconsin Lawmakers Move to Protect the Rights of Student Journalists; Will Madison Schools Follow Suit?

by Sandy Flores Ruiz and Leila Fletcher

Bipartisan efforts to protect the rights of student journalists are moving forward at the Wisconsin Capitol. Meanwhile, school officials in Madison could move in the opposite direction. District administrators and school board members are updating their policies in collaboration with an Ohio-based company called NEOLA.

NEOLA’s standard media policies are known for restricting the press freedoms of student journalists.

According to the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau, Senate bill 571 would “afford certain rights and protections to student journalists who are public school pupils or students enrolled in a University of Wisconsin System institution or technical college.” [Read More]

Addressing Long-Term Effects of a Sustained Reading Crisis

by Leilani McNeal, age 16

Low reading scores cause concern and debate around our country. Central to this national discussion are questions about how reading is taught in our schools. In fact, growing numbers of literacy experts say the way reading instruction is implemented in some American schools is outdated and ineffective.

The data is pretty clear.

America’s low reading scores are alarming on many levels. Kids who don’t read at grade level are much more likely to be disengaged at school, drop out, suffer long-lasting low self-esteem, or become incarcerated. And as new Madison Schools superintendent, Dr. Carlton Jenkins, recently pointed out in an interview with Simpson Street Free Press, reading scores in Madison, Wisconsin are lower than those in Mississippi and Alabama. [Read More]

A Land and a Culture: Why I Love Eritrea

by Hanna Eyobed, age 15

If it is true, that home is where the heart is, then Eritrea is my rightful home. Eritrea is located on the Horn of Africa, along the Red Sea, and it neighbors Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Sudan. Eritrea became a sovereign country only in 1993, after a 30-year war for independence.

When referring to incredible places, many people tend to speak of big bustling cities or spectacular landscapes. I think of the interconnected community, the unseen martyrs who fought for our independence and the beautiful traditions and sacred entities that inhabit the country. Both my parents, Asmeret and Eyobed, are from Asmara, the capital and largest city in Eritrea. So, my family’s link to our home country is strong.

When it comes to national customs, Eritrean people are known for their gratitude and care of tradition. Even with simple things, such as eating, unity is a prominent character trait. When eating, Eritreans share a big plate and incorporate different dishes into a meal that is widely known as Injera. Conversations like marriage, religion, social issues, family, and everyday lives are shared. [Read More]

Restorative Justice Alternatives Keep Kids in the Classroom

by Kadjata Bah

The way that behavior is managed in schools can be crucial, especially in this time when “school-to-prison pipelines” are realities for many students. Schools are often quick to impose suspensions that leave students out of classrooms during school-day hours. This problem, however, does not impact all students equally. Across the country, Black students are three times as likely to be suspended than white students, according to findings of the Civil Rights Data Collection. Research shows that placing law enforcement officers in schools only adds to suspensions, expulsions, and even arrests. One way to challenge school-to-prison pipelines is to replace zero tolerance policies with Restorative Justice alternatives.

During the 2015-2016 school year, students in the United States missed about 11 million school days due to suspensions, according to an American Civil Liberties Union report, “11 Million Days Lost: Race, Discipline, and Safety at U.S. Schools.” Children are suspended for “offenses” including being tardy, talking back, or using “inappropriate” language. When students miss school for minor misconduct, they lose valuable class time, which lowers school performance.

In an article titled “Do Zero Tolerance School Discipline Policies Go Too Far?,” TIME Magazine highlighted the story of Janeisha, a ninth-grade student who fell behind in school. Her frustration grew, which made her more likely to act out. For many like Janeisha, after getting suspended even once, chances of graduating decrease, while chances of dropping out increase. [read more]

“Hold Me Accountable” – Joe Gothard’s Interview with Simpson Street Free Press

by Cris Cruz and Leila Fletcher

Following an introductory press conference at Thoreau Elementary School, new Madison school superintendent, Joe Gothard, sat down for an exclusive interview with Simpson Street Free Press.

Although superintendent contracts usually begin in July, Dr. Gothard pushed for an earlier start date. He will now start on May 20. Gothard told us he wants extra time to work with interim superintendent Lisa Kvistad and the Madison School Board.

“I know the board, but when you work with a board, you get to know the board differently. I want to establish the way we're going to work together. And already this week it's proven to be a good decision,” Gothard said. [Read More]

Joe McCarthy and the Red Scare: A First-amendment Case Study from History

by Sandy Flores-Ruiz, age 17

A recent column in The Capital Times reported that according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only about 22% of American students are proficient in civics. One good way for students in our state to study civics is through an infamous episode from the 1950s when a journalist stood up to a powerful U.S. Senator from Wisconsin.

Joseph McCarthy, Edward R. Murrow, and the Red Scare is a first-amendment case study from history. All Wisconsin students should learn the lessons behind this case.

Joe McCarthy was one of the most controversial politicians in American history. He served as a Wisconsin Senator from when he was first elected in 1947, until his death in 1957. He is known for declaring that communist spies and sympathizers had penetrated the U.S. federal government. During the early 1950s, few people dared to speak out against McCarthy as his accusations and tactics were so intimidating. For those who did criticize McCarthy, the consequences were often dire. He would dramatically denounce them and accuse the person of being a communist, often without proof. Jobs were lost and reputations were ruined. [Read More]

The Most Important and Most Common form of Writing: Expository Writing

by Yoanna Hoskins, age 17

Students are typically instructed to submit papers using one of the four major writing styles: expository, narrative, persuasive, or descriptive. Expository writing is one of the more commonly known forms of writing.

Expository writing focuses on explaining or exposing a topic; in other words, it is a piece of writing that is instructive. The goal of expository writing is to expound on an idea concisely and bias-free. This style is used throughout the world in a myriad of ways. It can be found in textbooks, directions, articles like this one, and other platforms of writing seen daily. When writing an expository piece, the author or publisher is not to state their own opinions on the topic. The piece should be neutral and inform a reader without attempting to persuade.

Analysis, juxtaposition, and cause & effect are not to be confused with persuasive writing. The first three all fit into expository writing because they logically explain topics without siding with one point of view of an argument. [Read More]

AP Classes: Beneficial or Harmful?

by Virginia Quach, age 18

A growing debate in today’s education system concerns the idea of Advance Placement (AP) courses and whether they are actually beneficial to students or simply funding College Board, the organization that founded the AP system, at the expense of student learning.

During the time I was enrolled in my AP courses, I never saw their benefits. I was constantly stressed over content and preparing for exams. It was not until recently that I discovered the importance of those AP courses. They helped me improve my study habits, prepared me for college-level work, and provided me with skills to be successful in multiple outlets of my life.

According to an article titled “Our schools will get rid of AP courses. Here’s Why,” The Washington Post highlighted how the initiation of AP courses in the early 1950’s came as a way to hasten college graduation by providing students with rigorous material and initial credit prior to the start of their college careers. However, recent data indicates that despite taking these courses, few students actually graduate in less than four years or stay aligned on a four year track. This raises the question: are AP courses actually helpful to students, considering that the initial rationale for providing these courses isn’t completely valid? [Read More]

J. Cole: From Trailer Parks to Platinum Records - A Rap Legend's Journey

by Zayn Khalid, age 13

Jermaine Lamarr Cole, also known as J. Cole, is considered by many to be one of the best rappers of all time. Cole uses rap and his platform to preach about racism, poverty, single-parent households, political corruption, and drug abuse.

Cole was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on Jan. 28, 1985, on a U.S. Army base. His father was an African-American soldier stationed there at the time. Cole's mother was a white postal worker. His dad left when Cole was a baby. Cole’s mother moved Cole and his brother, Zach, to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where they grew up often living in trailer parks. It was during this time that Cole fell in love with rap. [Read More]

A Reflection on Kobe Bryant

by Brandon Alvarez

Kobe Bryant died on January 26th, 2020. It's been a little over two years and I've realized it's still hard to believe. Not just because Kobe was among the greatest of all time (GOAT) in basketball. Kobe was also an iconic figure in modern sports and in our country.

Kobe Bryant was bigger than sports. His untimely death in 2020 stopped the world like nothing we've seen in decades. It stopped the world for at least one full day. Many people stopped their schedules and the world of youtube changed for at least 24 hours. Many others basketball fans decided to not upload on that day. This didn’t just happen on basketball or sports channels. Traffic on gaming channels slowed noticeably. Even the biggest news reporting channel on bodybuilding went all-Kobe all the time for at least two days. [Read More]

Editorial: Abolish the Death Penalty

by Amare Smith, age 15

Should we have the death penalty? The death penalty applies to a prisoner who has been sentenced to die, but has not yet been executed. Capital punishment is the execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction of a serious criminal offense by court of law. People with such a sentence sometimes spend many years in prison waiting to be executed.

People who support the death penalty often think that if someone takes a life, their life should be taken as well. However, that is not the message we should be giving to society. There are many reasons why the execution of people should not happen. If a person kills someone, that person should learn about how wrong their actions were, yet their life should not be taken away. Jail should be a rehabilitation.

The death penalty has been proven to be racist and discriminatory against low-income people who cannot afford an expensive lawyer. George Stinney, an African American teenager, was executed for being accused of killing two white children who were ages seven and 11. There was no proof that Stinney had committed the crime, but he was bullied into a confession and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. He was just 14-years-old; he was too young to die. He could have focused on other matters and lived his life to the fullest. Stinney’s family is still trying to earn him a retrial and clear his name. Nothing will bring him back though. [Read More]

Make Reading Support Madison's Out-of-School Time Priority

by Helen Zhang, Sarah Useche, and Taylor Kilgore

Our community is long past due and immediate action is required. Madison kids can’t read. We will not successfully address this crisis, or the disparities that define our city, if we don’t first bridge achievement gaps. We will not bridge achievement gaps until all students can read.

Somewhat famously, Madison School Board member James Howard recently said “all the data around kids of color shows we have not gotten it right. Every one of us has a part of getting it wrong for students of color.” [Read More]

Kids Should Get Outdoors More, Research Shows

by Valeria Moreno Lopez, 13

Technology plays a big part throughout humans’ lives, from young children to older adults. Kids are accused of being addicted to screens, but who gives them the example? Jaime Gonzales, Houston Urban Conservation Programs Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Texas, shares his childhood stories and his opinions with the world.

Gonzales has observed that kids are spending more time on screens rather than going outside. Schoolchildren play outside for only minutes a day, compared to the seven plus hours of being in front of a screen (computers, TV, phones). That doesn’t mean they don’t want to enjoy the outdoors, though. Parents are easily convinced it’s the child’s choice to not go outside, but they don’t stop to think that they themselves might have raised their children to think like that. [read more]

The Four Main Types of Writing – Write with a Purpose! — by Leilani McNeal, age 17

As an avid staff writer at Simpson Street Free Press, I believe it’s only fair to explore the four ways a writer can construct a story. Whether one chooses the complex, detailed route of descriptive writing, or the logical, clear-cut direction of expository, all writing styles contain their own unique purposes to both readers and writers. [Read More]

What it's Like Growing Up Mexican-American — by Carolina Cerpa Bastida

Growing up with two cultures or more is not easy. Often times there are people who pressure you to know more about your culture. There is nothing wrong about learning to connect with your roots. But sometimes the pressure can get overwhelming for those that are Mexican-American. [Read More]

Drake's Musical Journey: From TV Star to Global Rap Icon — by Zayn Khalid, age 13

Drake has been topping the charts for years, and unlike most artists, he does it across genres. Known for how emotional his music is, Drake is arguably the most popular artist in the world, dominating the rap and R&B industry for the past 13 years. [Read More]

Editorial: My Madison ACT Experience — by Amie Kabera, age 17

My spring semester focused largely on my three core classes—English, history, and science—and heavily on preparing for the ACT. I was also enrolled in a program called AVID (Advanced, Via, Individual, and Determination), a pre-college academic readiness program that allows students to visit colleges within Wisconsin. The AVID program also helps students develop organizational skills such as how to take Cornell notes. In college you must take notes in a clear, concise way. Eduardo Castillo is a senior at La Follete High School. He agrees that AVID has a lot to offer as a course. “It has given me a sense of direction when thinking and speaking about college readiness. AVID makes sure we as a class feel comfortable to use our resources.” [Read More]

Editorial: Let Athletes Protest — by Vieri Victor, age 14

The right to peacefully protest is protected by the first amendment, so why are people still getting backlash for exercising their constitutional right? Colin Kaepernick-a professional football player-kneeled while the national anthem was playing. [Read More]