Friday, March 29, 2019

Falcons Near-Perfect Again in WordWright Contest

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottsgrove School District.

Three students representing Pottsgrove High School recently won high honors in the year’s WordWright Challenge, a national competition for American high school students requiring close reading and analysis of many different kinds of prose and poetry.

In this year’s third meet, held in February, freshman Keira McDevitt earned a near-perfect score and placed among the 32 highest-scoring ninth graders in the country. Junior Evan Croxton, who also earned a near-perfect score, was one of the 84 highest-scoring eleventh graders nationwide, while his classmate Hannah Waldt was one of the 179 highest-scorers at this grade level.

More than 70,000 high school students from 48 states entered the meet. The students were supervised by Todd Kelly.

The premise behind WordWright Challenge is that attentive reading and sensitivity to language are among the most important skills students acquire in school. The tests students must analyze for the Challenge can range from short fiction by Eudora Welty or John Updike to poetry as old as Shakespeare’s or as recent as Margaret Atwood’s, and to essays as classic as E.B. White’s or as current as James Parker’s cultural commentary in The Atlantic. 

 Though the texts vary widely in voice, tone, and length, they have one thing in common: style. All use language skillfully to convey layers and shades of meaning not always apparent to students on a first or casual reading. Like the questions on the verbal SAT I, the SAT II in English Literature, and the Advanced Placement exams in both English Language and English Literature, the questions posed by the WordWright Challenge ask students both the recognize the emotional and/or rational logic of a piece of writing and to notice the ways in which a writer’s style shapes and shades his meaning. 

Because the WordWright Challenge is a classroom activity and not a college-entrance exam, however, it can be a learning experience, not just a high hurdle. After completing a Challenge, classes are encouraged to talk about the tests and the answers to the multiple-choice questions, and are also given additional topics for open-ended discussion and/or written response.

The texts for the third WordWright meet this year were an essay by Natalie Kusz for 9th and 10th graders and a pair of essays by Francine Prose and Colin Harrison for the 11th and 12th graders. The students will participate in one more meet over the coming months, and medals and certificates will be awarded in June to those who achieve and/or improve the most in the course of the year.

Two Pottsgrove students who earned perfect scores earlier this year will be recognized by the Pottsgrove School Board this spring. Molly Neeson this fall and Michael Gillen in December.

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