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Why Writing by Hand Is Better for Memory and Learning

by Camila Cruz, age 16

There’s been evidence for years that it’s better to take notes by handwriting than typing. New research is finally giving us an answer as to why.

Handwriting uses more regions of your brain and builds connections between physical and visual parts of the brain. That makes it easier to learn and pay attention, according to a recent study in Frontiers in Psychology by Audrey van de Meer and Ruud van der Weel at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The two researchers dove into the intricate workings of the brain during note-taking by using helmets with sensors to monitor students' brains. The research builds on a study from 2014, which hinted at the lower effort of typing notes on a computer as compared to handwritten notes. Van de Meer and van der Weel found that handwriting produces higher levels of electrical activity across interconnected brain regions responsible for sensory processing, movement, memory, and vision. On the other hand, typing led to minimal activity in these areas. [Read More]

Joe Gothard Hosts Inaugural Press Conference

by SSFP Editors

Incoming Madison school superintendent, Joe Gothard, had not spoken to news outlets since his hiring was announced six weeks ago. That changed on Thursday with an in-person press conference at Thoreau Elementary School on the city’s southwest side.

Gothard, whose start date has been moved up to May 20th, answered questions from reporters and students for about an hour. While he has not started the new job yet, Gothard stressed his commitment to Madison.

“It's meaningful for me to return to Madison because Madison is a community that never gave up on me and believed in me at times when I didn't always believe in myself,” he said. “I'm forever grateful for the opportunities I had in our schools working as a staff member.” [Read More]

Edgewood College and Wisconsin National Guard Launch Accelerated Teacher Education Program

by Sandy Flores Ruiz, age 18

For almost a decade, our country has struggled with teacher shortages. In hopes of addressing the shortage, in August of 2023, Edgewood College launched the Accelerated Teacher Education Program. Edgewood College has recently expanded the program through a partnership with the Wisconsin National Guard.

The idea behind the Accelerated Teacher Education Program is to recruit and train new teachers. Through the new expansion, Guard members and their spouses can get master’s degrees and state teaching credentials at the reduced cost of $9,750, which is a nearly 50% reduction from the original price of tuition. [Read More]

Study at Stanford University Shows Steep Economic Costs from COVID Learning Loss

by Yoanna Hoskins, age 17

When the world shut down due to the pandemic, resources were ultimately lost, disrupting learning at all levels. However, K-12 students were the most affected by this learning loss, a study at Stanford University concludes.

Dr. Eric Hanushek, a Stanford economist, estimated that the learning loss might force the impacted K-12 students to earn $70,000 per student less than usual during their careers. Based on the results of eighth graders' national math test scores between 2019 and 2022, there was a 9% increase in failure to perform basic math skills. Furthermore, the scores created the greatest drop ever recorded to this date. Also, these scores translate to a learning loss of 0.6 to 0.8 years of school. If the estimate is correct, students educated during the pandemic will earn 5.6% less during their careers than those educated before the pandemic, adding up to more than $28 trillion lost throughout this century. [Read More]

Concerns Rise as K-12 Test Scores Hit Record Lows

by Jules Da Costa, age 15

K-12 scores fell lower than ever in 2022 according to studies from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The decline in test scores had many causes, but one of the main ones was parental ignorance. Many parents didn’t know how far their child had fallen behind and therefore couldn’t do anything to help. Parents also blamed schools for not informing them of their child’s shortcomings or learning gaps. Studies also found that students who spent more time learning online fell behind further.[Read More]

New Test Results Show Significant Declines in Math and Reading

by Devika Pal, age 17

Virtual learning has led to some of the lowest math and reading scores among elementary and middle school students in more than 30 years, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education. The study showed online learning exacerbated pre-pandemic difficulties for students who were already struggling. Learning losses also disproportionately affected lower-income and minority students.

Educators say this is especially alarming because reading and math are the foundation for all other subjects and predictors of high school success. After 30 years of increasing scores, they plunged. [Read More]

Movie Review:
The Right to Read

by Kadjata Bah, age 18

A new documentary film called The Right to Read adds to growing national debates about literacy and the science of reading. This timely and compelling film is streaming for free until March 9, 2023.

Directed by Jenny Mackenzie and produced by LeVar Burton, the film follows a long-time activist, a teacher, and two families as they navigate the future of education.

Kareem Weaver is an Oakland-based activist with the NAACP. He is an experienced educator, and his mission is to create a world where 95% of children can read. Working with Sabrina Causey, a rookie first grade teacher in Oakland, the two make a case for a new curriculum for their students based in the science of reading. [Read More]

How Schools in Dane County Address Staffing Shortages

by Moises A. Hernandez, age 18

In August of 2022, just before the school year started, many schools in Dane County were still trying to fill job openings. At the time, there were about 650 open positions for teachers, support staff, and administrators across twelve Dane County school districts. [Read More]

Rising College Debt and the “Parent Plus” School Loan Program

by Sandy Flores-Ruiz, age 15

Baylor University, based in central Texas, is one of the many institutions that use a federal loan program called Parent Plus. Among private schools with a minimum of $1 billion endowment, Baylor also had the lowest repayment rate for this particular type of loan.

The Parent Plus program offers federal loans to parents and allows them to help pay for their children’s tuition. Before the introduction of this program, undergraduate students were the largest demographic taking out college loans requiring payment. Now, in the Parent Plus era, parents and graduate students take out the most loans. [Read More]

Journalists Criticize Madison School District Handling of Open Records

by Yoanna Hoskins, age 17

The second largest school district in Wisconsin, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), which houses 52 schools and over 27,000 students, has been a hot topic of discussion in recent months. And not for good reasons.

In recent news reports, many members of the Madison community have come forward with stories about how MMSD hasn’t properly responded to open records requests. Specifically, journalists and community members who have submitted open records requests have yet to receive access to those public documents. [Read More]

Madison Schools and Libraries Host 2nd-annual ‘Batalla de los Libros’ Reading Competition

by Camila Cruz, age 16

Madison students in grades 4-8 recently met for a Spanish-language reading competition. The idea was to test student skills and knowledge in areas like studying, reading comprehension, and teamwork.

This event was the Madison Metropolitan School District’s second annual Batalla de los Libros. Teams of students from various elementary and middle schools in Madison gathered at Central Branch Public Library in downtown Madison. The event was sponsored by MMSD Department of Library Services.

Teams of students from four middle schools and nine elementary schools took part in the event. Parents were invited to attend. [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]

Wisconsin Students Could Return to School in August Under New DPI Proposal

by Jules Da Costa, age 15

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is proposing a policy shift that would allow schools to start before the traditional September 1st date. Current state regulations prevent public schools from starting classes before September 1st. The suggested rule change would modify existing legislation, enacted in 2002.

In recent years, more school districts have sought to start the academic year earlier. In 2023-24, over 100 districts asked to start the school year early. Just two years earlier, only 18 districts submitted such waiver requests.

Some exemptions already exist. School districts can start school early for things like construction projects, unexpected school closures, or transportation issues. The new exemptions proposed by DPI seek to help schools trying to improve attendance and student achievement. Schools offering special support in math and reading might also qualify for an exemption. DPI would also expand the exemption to districts looking to address mental health issues. [Read More]

Milwaukeean becomes first Black woman mathematician to have her papers in Library of Congress manuscript collection

by Hanna Eyobed, age 17

Gloria Ford Gilmer was an expert at ethnomathematics: how math manifests itself into the lives of cultures all around the world. She was a Black woman who dedicated her life to math: both the learning and teaching of it.

Gilmer received many of her accolades after her passing in August 2021. A historian of science and technology at the Library of Congress’ Manuscript Division, Josh Levy, reached out to Gilmer's family to uncover work that had been stored away. Gilmer left a legacy of success and transcending the odds; her files, documents, photographs, and VHS tapes were held in 64 bankers boxes and are now maintained in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, an honor that has not been held by a Black woman before her. Her work is now able to be examined and used for further research for other historians to explore for educational purposes.

Gilmer paved the way for Black intellectuals to follow. With her concentration in ethnomathematics, Gilmer taught all over Milwaukee, including the Milwaukee Area Technical College, the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, and various Milwaukee public schools. She was the first Black educator in many of the spaces she entered. There were many firsts in Gilmer's career, such as first Black person to earn a doctorate from Marquette University, first Black woman to sit on the Board of Governors for the Mathematical Association of America, and first Black woman to have her papers kept in the Library of Congress’ Manuscript Division. [Read More]

Complement vs. Compliment: What’s the Difference?

by Leilani McNeal

From grammar and punctuation to spelling and vocabulary, the complexities surrounding the English language can be difficult to digest. While several linguists and experts alike have unfolded its functions, there remain certain kinks and crinkles that are hard to iron out. Consider the words “compliment” and “complement” and their similar, yet contrasting meanings.

Misusing “compliment” and “complement” is a common mistake – however, a precise breakdown of these seemingly fraternal pairings will surely resolve your confusion.

Historically, these two words have the same etymology, hence why it’s no coincidence that both the spelling and meanings share similarities. Complement used to mean to compliment, but that definition has become obsolete. [Read More]

HBCU Makes History With New Ice Hockey Program

by Moore Vang, age 15

Tennessee State University (TSU) is one of the largest HBCU colleges in the U.S. and is widely known for its athletics. This includes sports such as basketball, football, tennis, and more. It has established the careers of many athletes such as Wilma Rudolph and Tiger Belle who both made track history. The university has also produced Super Bowl champion Ed Jones. TSU has established many sports for its athletes, however, they’re looking to make a huge change by becoming the first-ever historically black college to introduce ice hockey.

Earlier this year, Tennessee State collaborated with the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Hockey League Player’s Association, and one of the most well-known hockey teams in the United States: the Nashville Predators. Before this partnership occurred, the NHL, along with the players’ union, sponsored feasibility studies for U.S. colleges and universities interested in the addition of Division Ⅰ men’s and women’s programs since 2017. This idea for ice hockey came to fruition when Sean Henry, the president of the Nashville Predators, said there were discussions of helping raise $1 million in scholarship funds in a month. This turned into the idea of bringing up the subject of ice hockey in January 2020.

“The announcement gives him goosebumps thinking of how this could change hockey,” Henry states. Not only will this change the landscape of ice hockey, but also of HBCUs all around the U.S. For decades, HBCUs have mainly been recognized by their popular sports such as basketball and football. However, with the addition of ice hockey, it adds to the preexisting sports. The athletic director of TSU, Mikki Allen, expressed that the program will help diversify hockey and embrace inclusivity. [Read More]

World War Two Battalion Awarded Congressional Gold Medal

by Mahalia Pearson, age 12

During World War II, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion employed people of African-American, Caribbean, and Mexican descent. The women who worked in the Postal Directory Department were grouped in the Women Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and later were called the Women Army Corps (WAC) on July 1, 1943.

Unfortunately, in 1945, multiple warehouses in England had a large backlog of mail from soldiers that had not been distributed. Before it could be sent out, the mail would take six months to process first, and there were seven million soldiers and government workers waiting for their correspondence. This issue left soldiers upset since they were not receiving their mail. The 855 Black women from the WAC were granted the opportunity to go overseas, due to the support and pressure from different African American organizations. When arrived in Europe they started sending out mail. They worked seven days a week, circling through three eight-hour shifts per day. These women delivered more than 17 million letters in the last several months of the war.

These women were slandered by male soldiers based on their race and gender. Major Charity Adams, the female African-American officer with the highest rank, led her corps through a boycott against the facilities for being segregated. The reason for the discrimination they faced was because they were Black women in a primarily white place. As a solution, they decided to create their facilities such as hair salons, food halls, and refreshment bars. [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]

Student Proficiency in Math and Reading Falls below 40% in Wisconsin

by Sydney Steidl, age 16

During the 2020-21 school year, less than a third of Wisconsin youth were rated as proficient in both math and language arts on the Forward Exam. This was the first testing cycle since the exam was implemented in the 2015-2016 school year where student proficiency levels fell below 40 percent.

Much of this decline can be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic, which moved students to an online learning environment. Adapting to remote learning proved difficult for many students. But these adjustments tended to have a greater impact on lower income students. Also, some students have less access to resources such as tutoring, reliable internet, and library-quality work environment. Even with $2.6 billion for federal Covid relief funding allocated to education, these disparities have proved persistent. [Read More]

Wanted: Professional Airline Pilots

by Max Moreno, age 11

In fall 2023, Madison College will reach new heights never seen before with the implementation of its first aeronautics program, training students to become pilots. In partnership with the Wisconsin Aviation Flight School, Madison College will give their students an opportunity at a flying career through a new professional aeronautics certificate. After two years of ground courses and flight training, students will be certified as flight instructors. By completing the 1,500-hour requirement they will be eligible to become an airline pilot.

According to a Cap Times article, the program comes at an important time.``Pilot staffing issues have become increasingly dire as the demand for air travel has returned to pre-pandemic levels,” said Chris Johnson. With his knowledge as a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and to promote the field of aeronautics, he has helped develop the program at Madison College. There is a lack of flight training programs in Wisconsin. Due to this, ticket pricing will increase and there will be a shortage in air travel, to which Johnson responded by creating the Madison College certificate to increase the number of instate pilots. [Read More]

Researchers Find Students who Work Part-Time Jobs are Less Likely to Graduate on Time

by Kadjata Bah, age 18

Almost half of all full-time students in college work in addition to their courses. Students who work while in college are 20% less likely to graduate than their peers, according to a recent study in AERA Open, a journal published by the American Education Research Association. With the growing financial demands of college tuition and debt, students must balance their education and their livelihood. However, there are ways to mitigate the pressure of work and school.

The study was conducted in Tennessee from 2001 to 2017 and followed around 600,000 working and nonworking students from otherwise similar backgrounds.

The findings showed that working students enrolled for about one less credit per semester than those who did not work, possibly due to time constraints. Many of the students who worked had similar academic success compared to students who didn’t, but lighter course loads often slowed their progress to graduation. [Read More]

New Wisconsin Law Will Require Schools to Teach About the Holocaust

by Kadjata Bah, age 17

“History repeats itself”—a long-held caution for the world to learn from the mistakes of the past and make better choices for the future. Without education, however, this axiom becomes useless. How can people prevent history from repeating itself without properly teaching? Starting this school year, new state legislation requires all Wisconsin schools to teach about the Holocaust and other genocides.

The legislation does not include any specific guidelines about how or when the curriculum is taught. Some schools have opted for long and comprehensive classes, while others have adopted the curriculum into their classes for a day or two. Many schools are partnering with groups like the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC) which says teaching about the Holocaust is especially new for some schools in rural areas.

“They weren’t really doing it, not because they didn’t want to, but because they don’t have as many teachers, their school is small, and it just hadn’t been a priority,” said HERC Executive Director Samantha Abramson. [Read More]

New Reports Show Wider Achievement Gaps After Pandemic

by Sandy Flores-Ruiz, age 16

Reports showing achievement gaps widened after students moved from in-person instruction to online learning are no surprise. Virtual instruction caused learning loss in thousands of school districts across the nation.

The switch from in-person instruction to online learning produced negative results in student achievement. Several factors—including the disruption of school schedules, remote learning, social isolation, and health or family-related stress—have contributed to a reduction in math and reading test scores. Researchers report that low test scores are an unsettling prediction for the future. [Read More]

New UW Madison Transfer Options Available
for Wisconsin Nursing Students

by Melanie Bautista, age 16

Madison Area Technical College (MATC) and the University of Wisconsin - Madison have come to an agreement to let transfer students from MATC with earned associates in nursing to earn a bachelor's degree at UW-Madison.

The program BSN @Home was created in 1996 to address shortage of bachelor-degree nurses. According to David Wahlberg at the Wisconsin State Journal, “Wisconsin could face a shortage of about 11,000 nurses by the year 2030.” The agreement between both colleges will allow a smoother transition into online courses for the nursing program and for current nurses who want to pursue a higher position in the medical field. With COVID-19 occurring, nursing jobs have been in high demand; 10 percent of nursing positions have become unoccupied.

The highest role in healthcare, nursing assistant, has a vacancy of 17.2 percent, higher than previous years. Turina Bakken, a provost of MATC, says, “ This new nursing agreement adds to that legacy as we work together to meet the critical nursing demand in our communities and create meaningful career options for our collective students.” [read more]

Dane County Students Gather to Discuss Climate Change at Second Annual Conference

by Desteny Alvarez, age 17

For the second year in row, students from around Dane County will gather to address climate change issues. The second annual Dane County high school climate action conference will take place at the Alliant Energy Center on Saturday, November 12.

The title for this year’s event is Gen Z: Meeting the challenge of Our Changing Environment. Local student members of the Dane County Youth Environmental Committee are helping plan the conference. A range of speakers and climate experts will make presentations and address topics of particular interest to young people.

“I learned a lot at last year’s conference” said Devika Pal, a student at Madison’s Memorial High School. “Now, I want to know more. I’m interested in learning what actions we can take to make a difference.” [Read More]

New Bill Directs Unspent Relief Funds to Child Opportunity Scholarships — by Sydney Steidl, age 16

Utah Representative Burgess Owens Proposed legislation which would redirect unspent Covid relief funds to low-income families to further their children’s educations. [Read More]

Open Records Case in Montana Bolsters Public’s Right to Know — by Kadjata Bah, age 17

District Court Judge Mike Menahan of Helena, Montana recently ruled that state agencies are prohibited from charging fees for legal reviews of documents sought through public records requests. [Read More]

School Staffing Questions Spark Debate in Madison — by Kelly Vazquez, age 17

As inflation and staff shortages continue, it is no surprise that teachers are asking for a raise. And with the district unable to meet a 4.7% wage increase, some teachers are leaving the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) [Read More]

New Harvard Study: Remote Learning Significantly Widened Achievement Gaps — by Leilani McNeal, age 17

A recent report shows that students in school districts that relied on remote learning during the pandemic suffered much more learning loss than students who attended school in person. Education researchers say the limited success rates of remote instruction has widened achievement gaps nationwide. [Read More]

South Dakota Universities Offer In-state Tuition for Wisconsin Students beginning in 2023. — by Desteny Alvarez, age 18

In South Dakota, six public universities are offering in-state tuition to Wisconsin and Illinois students by the fall of this year. This offer is supposed to raise the population of young students in South Dakota. [Read More]

How the Chicago Defender Newspaper Helped Spark “Great Migration” — by Mariama Bah, age 15

Once known as "The World's Greatest Weekly," the Chicago Defender newspaper has been publishing news and information for nearly 117 years. Providing dependable and important news to the African American people of Chicago, it remains one of the most influential black weekly newspapers in the nation. [read more]

Alabama Invests in Summer Literacy and Science of Reading — by Sydney Steidl, age 16

Alabama policymakers, in a state traditionally known for poor education outcomes, are actively working to increase literacy skills—especially in early education. [read more]

Nuevo estudio de Harvard: el aprendizaje remoto amplió significativamente la brecha de logros de aprendizaje — por Leilani McNeal, 17 años de edad; traducido por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

Una noticia reciente muestra que los estudiantes de los distritos escolares que usaron el aprendizaje remoto durante la pandemia sufrieron mucha más pérdida de aprendizaje que los estudiantes que asistieron a la escuela en persona. Los investigadores de educación dicen que las tasas de éxito limitadas de la instrucción remota han ampliado las brechas de rendimiento en todas partes del país. [Read More]

To Address COVID Learning Loss, Arizona Plans Robust Summer School Options — by Dyami Rodriguez, age 17

Educators and literacy experts in Wisconsin are sounding the alarm about academic learning loss amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Research shows many students have fallen behind in subjects such as reading and math. One state, however, is planning to take action during 2022 by doing some rework on their summer school curriculum. [Read More]

New School in Fitchburg Uses Green Energy Technology — by Devika Pal, age 16

Forest Edge Elementary School in Fitchburg is the first Net Zero Energy school in Wisconsin. The school opened in September of 2021, and is part of the Oregon School district. The district’s Superintendent Dr. Leslie Bergstrom said the school’s goal is to create “the best design for student learning that also incorporated technologies to efficiently use and conserve energy.” [Read More]

Powerful Advocate for Education:
Our Interview with Dr. Willie Larkin — by Mariama Bah, age 15

Recently, a group of Simpson Street Free Press writers visited the school district’s Doyle Administration Building to meet and interview Dr. Willie Davis Larkin. We talked about about his career, life experiences, and his new position. [Read More]

Cómo las escuelas en el condado de Dane abordan la escasez de personal — por Moises A. Hernandez, 18 años de edad; traducida por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

En agosto de 2022, justo antes de que comenzara el año escolar, muchas escuelas en el condado de Dane todavía estaban tratando de llenar las vacantes. En ese momento, había alrededor de 650 puestos vacantes para maestros, personal de apoyo y administradores en doce distritos escolares del condado de Dane. [Read More]