I think this is something that anyone who lives in Idaho can appreciate. Quite funny and all true.
About two or three weeks after the school year started, Nampa High School held their annual open house. Unlike Orange Park, very few students and parents attended, and the ones that did didn’t follow any type of set open house schedule. It was approximately two hours in the evening on a drop-in basis. Parents came, saw who they wanted to see, and left. One good thing about Nampa’s open house is that it was much more intimate. I was able to talk about Timothy’s performance one-on-one with most of his teachers and work out a strategy with a few of his teachers to hopefully keep him on track.
In addition to open house, a few weeks later, Nampa High had a parent conference evening. Last year, they actually set aside an entire day with the students off school for the event, but this year it was just for an evening. It had a few more parents than the Open House, but it worked pretty much the same way, with parents and students walking in to talk to teachers on a drop-in basis. I was once again able to touch base with the classes he was having the most difficulty in and was able to set up a strategy with a teacher or two to help him in the classes he was falling behind in.
Nampa has an online grading program, like Orange Park, that allows parents to check out student grades, but I’ve found it problematic at best. It comes up on my home computer as having a virus and it is finicky when it comes to user names and passwords. Also, Nampa does not pass out paper report cards, so in many cases, the program is the only way to check grades. Needless to say, it’s been hugely frustrating.
Idaho’s standardized test is the ISAT - Idaho Standard Achievement Test. The test has been taken completely via computer for at least the last few years. The test, however, is going to be replaced within the next year or two by a test that goes along with the new Common Core Standards. The first year or so of the test will be a trial run and also used as a baseline to determine how scores fall. The new test is expected to be much harder and longer than the ISAT. Only time will tell.
And last but not least, magnet programs. Yep, Idaho high schools do offer magnet programs at least here and there, but at least in Nampa, the way they handle magnet schools is much different, perhaps because the actual schools are closer together. From what I understand, you still have to apply for and be accepted in to a magnet school, but when you are accepted to the magnet program, you do not attend that magnet school all day. Your home school, the school you are districted for, is still your home school. Instead of going to the magnet school all day, the school district arranges transportation for magnet school students for the specialized classes only. As a result, the students involved must leave a class at their home school early to get on the bus. My son was in such a magnet program, but due to having to leave his most challenging class early everyday and his obsession with time, constantly waiting for the time to catch the bus, it was not the best option for him.
Nampa High School
Keep in mind that my knowledge of the schools here in Idaho is still very limited compared to what I know about Florida schools. Much of what I know is passed down from my son, but I think I can still make an accurate comparison….it would be better to call it a contrast.
Nampa High School also consists of a number of buildings, several of them two stories with no portables in sight. They have a gym and a football field. I do not know if their band has a separate building and they do not have a ROTC unit from any type.
Nampa High School students take eight classes at a time on a rotating schedule equating to four extended classes of approximately 90 minutes each day. In Orange Park and I believe all of Florida’s schools, year-long classes are considered one credit while half year, one semester classes are deemed as half credit classes. Therefore, Florida high school students usually achieve six credits a year and need 24 credits to graduate. In Nampa, perhaps throughout Idaho, credits are based on the semester so the students can generally achieve sixteen credits per year. One stark breach of “Separation of Church and State” takes place at Nampa High. There is an LDS seminary right across the street and a number of students take leadership classes there as part of their curriculum.
From what I gather, Nampa High School offers breakfast free of charge to all students who attend, and lunch is either free, reduced, or full price based on income. They have a bank of vending machines in the cafeteria with a wide variety of teenage delicacies, and students are allowed to take their food and snacks into their classes with them. Nampa High School and I believe all of the schools in the Nampa area are called “open schools”. The students are allowed to eat food as well as carry and use electronics including cell phones with them pretty much anywhere. I was told that it was at the discretion of each teacher on what they allowed and I did see a few teachers with signs on their doors forbidding the use of cell phones in class, but most teachers do not seem to mind.
Like Orange Park, students at Nampa High pick their classes in the spring of the previous year, but unlike Orange Park, they are NOT considered automatically enrolled for the next year. The school opens several days the week or so before school for each student to officially enroll. In addition to enrolling, students can preorder yearbooks, purchase parking passes or passes to athletic events, and pick up schedules. They also require that each student, hopefully prior to this event, go online and officially register including updating information. Students, at least some of them, also receive their schedule after going the gamut of everything else at registration day. My son did not get a schedule though I know he picked his classes; I do not know why. At some point, I’m not certain if it was offered prior to school starting, the students can also acquire a locker. They were free of charge.
The students at Nampa do not have a homeroom. I do not know how Nampa High handles the first day of school without one, nor do I know if they do any type of official student count, whether mandated by the state or otherwise. They must have some system in place for students who don’t show up for the registration days to get their schedules and become “official”, but I do not know what it is. I DO know that Nampa High’s teachers each have the extraordinary challege of teaching a gigantic amount of students. When I went to Open House as well as a teacher’s conference, I asked how large the classes were just to see. Each of my son’s classes were between 35 and 40 students! I honestly cannot imagine teaching that many students. My son comes home almost every night saying he doesn’t have homework. I asked and he was telling the truth: he rarely does, but with that many students and the grading involved, I certainly can’t blame the teachers.
A few more things about Orange Park High School and Florida schools overall before I exhaust the subject.
During the first week of school, Orange Park High School has their annual Open House. During Open House, the students and parents follow the students’ schedules and spend about 10-15 minutes in each class. This way, the parents can see exactly the routes their child takes each day to his classes as well as the order the classes are in. During the several times I attended Open House at the high school, it was too crowded for parents to ask any real one-on-one questions. The teachers would just provide beginning of the year paperwork and talk about what the students would learn throughout the school year as well as their individual grading breakdown and classroom rules. Parents, if they wanted more in depth with the teacher, were expected to schedule a conference.
Due to our advancing technology, parents could bring up their students’ grades on-line in addition to any particular assignments their child was missing, but at the end of each grading period as well as the end of the school year, the students would bring home an actual paper report card. In addition, there is standardized testing, the FCAT every spring, which is still done with paper and pencil though there has been talk of computerizing it, and certain classes, particularly math and science, that require a state run end of the course exam which IS computerized.
Many schools in Florida have magnet programs, programs that offer specialty classes often geared towards a specific career direction. In Clay County, Florida, they have one or two magnet programs per school that range from computer technology to aviation to culinary arts to television production. In order to get in to a magnet program, a student must apply for it in the spring. Then it is decided, partially through qualifying and partially through a lottery-type system, who is accepted. Once a student is accepted in to such a program, they will attend that school for all of their classes. The only drawback is that unless the magnet program is in the students’ home school, no transportation is offered and the student must figure out how they will get there on their own. This does differ from one school district to another. Duval County schools in Jacksonville DOES offer transportation to its magnet school students. Magnet program students are often in a “school within a school”. The classes are often smaller than the classes throughout the rest of the school, and the students often take the majority of their classes within that program, even basic core classes. Because of this, the teachers often get to know the students well and will teach the same student a number of times over a four-year span. It’s often a perfect situation for a student who has issues with learning who may get “lost in the shuffle”.
Last year, when we moved to Idaho, we had above average temperatures for September and most of October, with absolutely no rain whatsoever and temperatures in the 80’s well into autumn. Well, things change, and this year is completely different. For Idaho, it has been fairly wet (though no rain for the last week or so) and temperatures have been running six to eight degrees below average for the past several weeks. We’ve been having low temperatures at or near freezing with high temperatures in the high-50’s, low-60’s. Humidity is still well below 50% most of the time. Fall colors are breaking out everywhere and there’s hope for a good winter. What I mean by good winter is that Idaho depends on building a snow pack in the mountains during the winter for it’s water supply, and the last few years have seen very little snow. That leads to not enough water in the irrigation system to water the crops and lawns and a severely increased chance of fire in the mountains. I believe it’s time for Idaho to get a break and get some major snowfall this year.
Current Idaho Temperatures
Florida, on the other hand, is, well, Florida. It’s cooling down, but rain is still in the forecast for at least a few days a week and there’s still a day here and there that is near or at 90 degrees, and even though I’m not there, I’m certain, on the average day, the humidity is also over 90%. Florida and the entire deep South, for that matter, have received much more rain than usual this year even though tropical storm and hurricane activity was at close to an all-time low. A lot of farmers’ crops have been rotting in the fields with nothing they can do to prevent it.
Current Florida Temperatures
Needless to say, the differences between Florida and Idaho weather is vast. Rain vs. lack of rain, high humidity vs. close to none, and rain being measured by the inches in Florida vs. tenths of an inch in Idaho. The biggest difference I notice everyday, however, is none of those. It is the variation of temperature on the given day. In Florida, on most days, temperatures vary an average of 10 to 15 degrees. In the summer, it’s not uncommon for the low temperature to be near 80 degrees and the high being around 90 or so. In Idaho, however, on a given day, the temperature difference can be pretty extreme, a difference of 30 to 40 degrees! During the summer, we had a day forecasted to be 100 degrees and we still dipped down to 64 degrees that night! Lack of humidity is to blame. As you already know, water retains heat, so in Florida, with all that humidity in the air, the temperature differences aren’t that great much of the time, while here…..well…it’s an entirely different story.
I finally got my act together and started a Facebook page. Drop by, leave a comment, “like” it if you deem it worthwhile, and pass it on! Thanks a bunch! I will work on updating it regularly.