Ryan Costella's conclusions that the quality of the senior project "is deteriorating right before our eyes" shows Mr. Costella's inability to form a proper argument based on facts and his willingness to attack one of the educational highlights of Carson High for his own political agenda.
First, Mr. Costella bases his argument on the words of Mr. Ginter. Unfortunately Mr. Costella erroneously sets up Ginter's quote. Barry Ginter did not "describe the project as 'Papers full of grammar and spelling error. ...'" He said that "other judges on my [Ginter's] panel" made these statements. Now Mr. Ginter admits this is his first year on a panel and has obviously a limited experience with the senior project, but even he saw "that the senior projects are good things for all of the students, but they're very good for the students who aren't stars." This misrepresented quote by Mr. Costella is the only evidence he uses to then create an argument leading up to his statement that "the system has taken a turn for the worse."
It is nice to have an opinion, but how much nicer to have an opinion backed up by facts. For example, this year community members were asked in a survey about the quality of the projects. These are some of their responses: "Those I saw impressed me." "The English teachers do a great job of giving each panel a balance from 'exceptional projects' down to 'needed to work much harder.'" "Don't Stop! It's the best academic thing that CHS has going!" "Best in my three years of experience. Each year it gets better." " "It seems to get better every year. The four [panels] I had were exceptional." "The quality of the projects presented by the students improved from last year." Out of the returned responses, 88 percent rated the quality of the project from good to excellent, 2 percent said the quality was varied and 10 percent said the quality was not as good as the previous years.
To my knowledge Mr. Costella has never even sat on a single panel for the senior projects; however, he alludes to being familiar with the projects from the late '90s of which he says people "commented on the high level of professionalism, strong writing and coherent discussions." What Mr. Costella fails to relate in his letter is the fact that those projects in the '90s were only completed by the students in college prep courses at the high school. So he is comparing the intellectual elites of the school in the '90s to the entire student body of today, including second language learners and special education students. Mr. Costella then misrepresents Cheryl Macy's, my wife's, quote. She did not say or even hint that this year's "higher level of community-projects justify the lack of quality." She instead said that this was a "positive trend." Mr. Costella does a nice job of backing up weak evidence with a dishonest manipulation of Mrs. Macy's words. Half truths and feeble evidence aside, what I also find "rather disturbing" about Costella's letter is that he attacks the senior project to push his own political agenda.
Based on what one man heard some other people say about one case out of a hundred, Costella pushes for a change in the school board. I would like to know in what way the school board is having an adverse effect upon the senior projects at the school.
Mr. Costella's conclusions do not even follow the scant evidence he provides. The biggest impact the school board has on the senior project is when they volunteer their time to come sit on the panels and celebrate the achievements of our students. Carson High School has over 400 students on 100 senior project panels viewed by over 350 community members each year. Will there be panels that have weaker projects? Absolutely. Will there be panels that will amaze, inspire and awe the judges? Absolutely. Each group of students who embark on the senior project are going to have different results, and each year, myself and the other senior English teachers strive to push the students to do the best they can.
Currently Carson High is one of only a few schools in Nevada that asks its students to stretch themselves to complete a senior project, a project that asks the students to explore some area of interest whether it is based on an occupation, a philanthropic endeavor or personal growth experience and then present that information to a panel of community members.
I urge Mr. Costella to volunteer next year to sit on a senior project panel. He can then see first hand the quality of the projects, and afterwards he can fill out a survey, which was given to every panel member this year, and state what went well and what needs to be improved. We will take that feedback, as we are doing this year, and start again the next year helping the students excel at their senior projects. Mr. Costella will then be constructively helping the educational process at Carson High and not just slandering a valuable educational program based on weak evidence and his own personal political agenda.
I would also urge Mr. Costella to come forward with which candidates he thinks ought to be on the school board. I am sure his answer would greatly illuminate his reasons for negatively viewing a very strong part of Carson High's educational program.
Jason Macy teaches A.P. Literature, Honors American Literature and Beginning Drama at Carson High School.