Nor can it write.
In response to a discussion among some residents of Hillwood about MNPS academic standards and rigor, I was directed to a portion of the Hillwood High School website dedicated to their Academic Scholars Program. There on the program's home page is a list of requirements including the "Academic Scholar Couselor [sic] Report." Thinking this misspelling might be an aberration or worried it was not I took a look at the Academic Scholars Application Form. There, under the section dedicated to the commitment necessary to participate is a sentence that would make my high school English teacher arise from the grave and go looking for her red pen. It reads,
[We the student and parent] understand that the student must sit for the PSAT during his/her 9th and 10th grade years as practice leading up to attaining the highest score possible on the PSAT his/her 11th grade year to possibly be recognized as a National Merit Scholar.Then there is this paragraph from another section titled "Academics."
The AVID program which students apply [sic] starting in ninth grade, provides special support, instruction on study skills, and tutoring for students who may be the first in their family to attend college. The AVID students classes [sic] for college prepation [sic], including honors and Advanced Placement classes. Many scholarships for college are available for these AVID students.
I could go on but it would be too painful for both of us.
Mistakes are made. I am sure I am committing a few crimes against Strunk & White in this post alone. You will be quick to point out my errors and I shall be quick to correct. But what does it say to our community that educators themselves appear unprepared for and uninterested in error-free spelling and grammatically correct sentences?
It does take a certain amount of pride to read and re-read what you write before publishing it to the entire world. Attention to the smallest detail in an organization as vast as MNPS means a high level of management discipline. It requires leadership to communicate to each member of that organization that every activity - from cutting grass to hiring teachers - must be done in pursuit of excellence.
Yet, two weeks after I alerted MNPS about the problem, poor "Couselor" stands still denuded of the requisite "n." The tortured grammar of the "Academics" section of the website remains intact. Humiliation and contrition have taken their leave from the Director, 6 Assistant Superintendents, 7 Lead Principals, 125 Principals and unknown number of Assistant Principals who in another era might have swiftly moved to correct. Resident no more is any sense that upper and middle management understand that their inability to sweat the small stuff is likely to translate into failure on much larger and more important efforts. The pursuit appears to be largely one of mediocrity.
On May 1, the Metro budget shall be presented to the public and the Council. There has been some speculation about a tax increase. Either way, in keeping with a long tradition, the budget presentation will lay aside calls for high standards, expectations and a pursuit of excellence in favor of lots of bright and shiny things for public education. Perhaps it will be the long yearned for gymnasium for Hume-Fogg High School or a raise in the starting salary for teachers. Perhaps we go a little crazy and propose a multi-year capital plan for school construction and renovation. Whatever is presented it will be designed as an emphatic "YES!" when we are asked if we have done enough to improve public education.
And we will be wrong. Again.
Update: From Alex Little courtesy of the Twitter stream:
Update: April 22, 2012 - What polite emails to the central office could not accomplish, a public twitter debate did. MNPS has corrected the errors that I pointed out. Several of the ones I did not discuss in the post above remain.
Update: April 23, 2012 - It appears that the Hillwood site has gotten the Ruth Katz treatment (my high school English teacher). Thanks to the editor whoever you are.
Also, I heard from the very lovely principal at Eakin Elementary who shared with me their utter mortification at the spelling errors on their sign pictured above. I gather a few parents are upset about this sign being used as an illustration on the blog. To those parents, I deeply and sincerely apologize. I did not intend to offend your work, your volunteerism or your school. You also found the tone of my post to be condescending and you are right. Before my tone shifted to condescending it was this:
Thanks for your email. I will track down the answers to your questions.
Hillwood maintains its own website. I will have someone on our communications team fully vet it and track down the site manager to make corrections. Thank you for your thorough email--we know it makes a difference.
Sent from my HTC smartphone on the Now Network from Sprint!
----- Reply message -----
I have had some questions come up this week regarding the Hillwood Scholars program.
Here are the ones they have sent me:
How many kids applied for the program?
How many kids enrolled?
What were the high, low and median AP scores for each test?
Was 2011-2012 the first year for the program?
What is the anticipated enrollment for 2012-2013?
Not to be too snarky because Lord knows the speed at which I travel some days means a trail of typos and misplaced modifiers but you may wish to have someone proof the Hillwood site.
Counselor is misspelled on the Scholars Program home page.
Also, the home page states the application should be submitted to “guidance.” I think the writer is referring to the Guidance Counselor’s Office. In that case “guidance” is a proper noun and should be capitalized or for the sake of clarity, replaced with “Guidance Counselor’s Office.”
Under the “Programs” and “Academics” link the copy needs proof reading as well. In the second paragraph “Councilor” is used instead of “Counselor.”
The first sentence of the third paragraph regarding the AVID program needs a re-write. It seems to be saying that students apply the AVID program but to what? I think the writer here means to say that “Beginning in ninth grade, students may apply for acceptance into the AVID program. The AVID program is specifically designed for the student who may be the first in their family to attend college. Etc…”
The Student Application’s bullet point on the PSAT test could use a little clarification especially the last clause regarding the National Merit Program.
That is all I saw in my very cursory review. I am sure there is more.
Councilmember Emily Evans
So, two weeks went by with no visible effort on the part of MNPS to correct the perception that this community, this neighborhood did not know how to spell or write. I think it is right and proper to be irritated by MNPS's ongoing indifference and the tone of the blog post is some measure of that.
I would hazard a guess that had I not published the photo that was distributed via twitter on Saturday, then the planet Earth would still think that the residents of the 23rd Council District had Guidance Councilors in their schools. It is tragic and an indication of greater problems that it took a very public display of snark to correct what could have been handled quickly after a private and sincere email.
Lastly, I will note that my blog post is directed at the upper management of MNPS, not the dedicated and hard working teachers and parents of our school system. I think you deserve better than broken smart boards, teacher-funded art supplies, leaky roofs and yes, poorly written and edited websites. And I have no apologies for that.