West students win Science Olympiad

Bill Novak:

Science students from West High School will be competing against students from all 50 states in May after winning the 2006 Wisconsin Science Olympiad state tournament last weekend at the UW Engineering Department.
La Follette High’s A team finished second and its B team was sixth, while Memorial High was seventh out of 46 teams.
Students competed in 28 events at the state meet, ranging from food chemistry and nuclear science to astronomy and protein modeling.

4 thoughts on “West students win Science Olympiad”

  1. Congratulations to these students, their coaches, teachers and families. You make us all proud!

  2. I cannot resist noting the irony presented by the success of West’s talented science scholars.
    A recent thread, “MMSD Cross-High School Comparison — continued” (April 24) expresses the anxiety of parents who worry that their gifted children may be missing out on advanced and honors courses at East and La Follette that are not offered at West. Despite the long-standing academic dominance of West and Memorial, some prefer fancy course titles to West’s systematically superior academic results.
    I expect someone to argue that the science team’s 1st place finish was the product of their attendance at private elementary schools, and that the same is probably true of the champion rocket club and chess team. The revealed truth is that West is in decline, gifted students are bored silly, and their families are bailing out for private schools.
    For some, ideology and antipathy toward MMSD are more powerful than reality.

  3. The truth is that several of West’s academically oriented extra-curricular activities function like honors seminars or gifted classes for the kids who do them. They draw the brightest and most motivated students and they usually are coached (voluntarily) by some of the best teachers. That means that everyone involved very much wants to be there and everyone involved functions at a very high level. No time or energy is spent on discipline or remedial teaching. It’s pure intellectual bliss (not to mention a helluva a lot of fun!) for all. (For what it’s worth, I also strongly suspect that most of the Science Olympiad team members were in Accelerated Biology as freshmen.) The thing is, students shouldn’t have to depend on after-school clubs to get their intellectual needs met. Legally, after-school clubs are not considered by DPI to be part of a district’s plan for meeting the educational needs of their academically talented students.
    As well, please remember that many of the changes at West are either very recent or will be new next year (for example, the uniform curricula and complete heterogeneity of English 10 and Social Studies 10 will be new next year). That means that the students currently in these clubs have been largely — if not entirely — unaffected by the changes that are happening at West.
    Most of the outrage over the changes in the 9th and 10th grade curriculum at West has come from parents of younger students headed towards West because their children will be the ones most affected by those changes. Fact is, it remains to be seen if West’s Science Olympiad and other teams continue to perform at the same high levels. We will have to wait and see how rampant “bright flight” becomes — and whether or not the same number of students remain enthusiastic enough about academics to seek out additional opportunities after school.
    Finally, it should also probably be noted that West’s science and math-oriented teams are largely composed of kids who come from cultures where scholarship is highly valued and respected, kids who are getting a message at home about learning and intellectual accomplishment that is quite different from the one they are getting at school and from our culture, generally. When I interview applicants to Harvard, I typically ask them a question like “how do you understand your own success at school?” Almost to a one, the interviewees mention their parents’ support and expectations first thing — and with great appreciation.
    P.S. I do not appreciate your snotty tone.

  4. Neil,
    I remember in the Wisconsin State Journal doing an article last year about the West Chess Club which you coach did very well. Interesting that that article also stated that a 2nd grader also practiced with the West team.
    This child is probably in a higher level math group, or will soon be. The way West is heading with having all kids grouped together by age vs. having honor level courses available, by the time this child gets to West, he may have to take Math 9 and Math 10 in grades 9 and 10, because all kids do. There will be no skipping no matter what he can do, because there are “critical thinking skills and problem solving skills” he can work on. Also, we are working on self esteem issues, and we could hurt someone’s self esteem if the school allowed even one child to do any advanced work. We are working on team building, etc. Do you think he shouldn’t be allowed to take a math course at his ability vs. his age?
    I know this sounds ridiculous, but this is what is happening in some curriculums, and may in all curriculums in the next 5 years based on where West is going.

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