Eighth Grade Times

Editors: Emma Davis, Nathan Poole

First Writing Marathon at Harper's Ferry is a Success

by Jessica Blevins

The eighth grade writing marathon at Harper’s Ferry was full of great writing, beautiful views, and long walks up and down steep trails. All of the eighth graders did a fantastic job writing. The writing varied between short stories, poems, and other pieces that, hopefully, someday make an impact in the community and on others.

The day started a little behind schedule, and it stayed that way, but the day was fun and successful nevertheless. Students stopped at three different stops throughout the two and a half hours that North Fork was there. The first stop was into town for the ice cream and gift shops. Most students got Hershey’s hand-dipped ice cream at one shops. However, some had sandwiches and coffee from another. That shop had sandwiches such as grilled chicken and coffee such as iced pumpkin spiced lattes. Another shop that students were fond of was the local vintage candy shop. There were giant jawbreakers from the 1800’s and Turkish delight made in the 1770’s.

The second stop was up to Jefferson Rock after a short, but sweaty, hike up a steep hill, which is a part of the Appalachian Trail. Jefferson Rock was visited on October 25, 1783, by writer of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the United States, and founder of UVA, Thomas Jefferson. It was not a national landmark until years later. Tourists are not allowed to stand on it because of safety precautions, but students had plenty of other rocks around the landmark. The third and final stop was The Point. This stop is culturally significant because of the placing of it. This spot overlooks two rivers and three states. At this point, the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers collide, forming one larger river. Also, a bridge crossing this river connects three states: West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland.

Overall, students had fun on this writing marathon and got a lot of writing done. Mr. Gesford even serenaded students at The Point with a song by Rancid! This trip was definitely a success. Another writing marathon (and math competition at VMI) in Lexington is planned for November 14.

North Fork Loses Accreditation: Superintendent Dr. Johnston Elaborates on Issue

by Emma Davis

On September 6, 2017, Shenandoah County Public Schools released the state-issued accreditation results from the 2016-2017 school year. On September 13, 2017, the Northern Virginia Daily released an article to the public about those results. This issue affects many people, including faculty, staff, students, and parents. Superintendent Dr. Mark Johnston came to North Fork on Tuesday to elaborate and shed some light on the subject. I had the personal honor of talking and interviewing him about this issue.

To start, I asked Dr. Johnston to explain, or define, what “losing accreditation” exactly meant. His response to that question was the answer to many. He further explained how North Fork has lost its accreditation, rather than defining the “fairly new term,” in his words.

“The state each year sets a benchmark for four subjects: English, math, science, and social studies. The benchmarks for math, science, and social studies have a pass rate of 70%, while the English benchmark has a 75% pass rate. All students must have that pass rate or higher to get our yearly accreditation, and what has happened is that North Fork over the past four years has not met all of those standards. We’ve worked to improve and have made improvements in Math, Science, and Social Studies (all subjects are at about 80%), but we still have not met the 75% pass rate for English. North Fork improved their English scores over the past four years, but didn’t improve enough to get full accreditation. We needed to gain four percentage points, but only gained three.”

While North Fork did not improve enough on English scores, Dr. Johnston did shed some light on the subject. “When I look at all nine schools’ SOL scores put together, English, math, science, and social studies, North Fork was the school with the greatest improvement.” Dr. Johnston also commented that the system that the state determined which schools did and didn’t get accreditation was “a bit arbitrary.” To define this word, it means “at random” or “without reason” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/arbitrary).

When asked about his personal thoughts about North Fork losing its accreditation, Dr. Johnston responded with words such as “disappointing” and “bureaucratic,” which is a synonym of arbitrary. He also said that the system “has no basis of fact.”

Dr. Johnston also embellished on what North Fork must do in order to regain its accreditation and tips on how to do those tasks. North Fork must “improve on reading scores, and that includes writing as well.” He also gave details about what reconstitution means and multiple ways to do that. One way was to replace administration and teachers, but “that is no issue at North Fork.” Dr. Johnston expanded on the topic and stated that he thought the problem involves the curriculum that was being taught.

“The easier topics are being taught at the beginning of the school year, and the more difficult skills are being taught at the end, when everything is being pushed together because of time limits and testing. Students don’t have as much time with the harder things and therefore have less time to master those skills. The benchmarks are also a great help because it tells us where students need to improve and how students are improving.”

Dr. Johnston's final remarks were about North Fork growing as an entire school. “I love how there are so many ‘Grass Root’ projects within the school. You have the sixth grade Net-Zero classroom, and the hydroponics. It’s making school more fun for students and teachers.” Dr. Johnston also stated that he “appreciates everyone working hard together, and keeping things in perspective.”