Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Central's new gym

Here are a couple of images of the construction underway on Central's new "auxiliary gym." I'll be curious to see if the final design fits in at all with the 100+ year old portion of the building, and the existing gym. As part of the project the building that was known as the "Annex" in my day, and I'm sure something else in my parents' era, is being demolished. In the second half of my 4 years at Central the building was the detention headquarters, so students were threatened that they would be "sent to the Annex." At the time it also housed Central's Iowa Communications Network classroom, or ICN, so it made for an interesting mixture of people in that building. I'd suspect that the ICN classroom was relocated into the main building during the massive renovations that have occurred in the last 7 years.

11 Comments:

At 6/12/2007 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a reasonable project to me. They've improved CHS so much in the last 10-15 years.

They built the ICN classroom when I was a student at Central, yet I never even saw the inside of the room (despite being one of the more active students in just about every communications-related activity at the school). Did anybody ever actually use it?

 
At 6/12/2007 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Qualification: they've improved CHS's physical infrastructure so much in the last 10-15 years.

Sadly, the quality of the school itself has plummeted ever since the introduction of block scheduling.

 
At 6/12/2007 1:37 PM, Anonymous Shelley said...

I used it many times for ICN training and meetings conducted by state agencies-it was very handy.
Seems like they tried to spread the locations around-sometimes they would be at Scott Community College downtown or out in Pleasant Valley. Many times at CHS, though.

 
At 6/12/2007 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Central actually has improved in every way. It is actually the school of choice in Davenport. So, I have no idea what you are talking about poster. The HS is great and I will send my kids there. For sure.

 
At 6/12/2007 2:47 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

I love block scheduling...

The only downside for me was that it caused Orchestra to be 1/4 of my high school experience.

 
At 6/12/2007 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:33 and 9:34 here again. My family had students enrolled at CHS from the mid-90's until quite recently, and I am strongly of the opinion that Central has gone downhill since the implementation of block scheduling. It may be the best high school in Davenport, but that doesn't mean it's actually a good school--at least from my semi-elitist perspective.

That's not to say there have been no improvements. There have been tremendous infrastructure improvements. And I'll grant that block scheduling has opened more academic options for some students, particularly those who were previously enrolled in multiple music classes (band, orchestra and choir now being combinable into a single block) or who want to take community college courses. It also has resulted in the offering of more AP classes. All good stuff.

But what the school has gained in breadth it has more than lost in depth. It is no longer practical to study math and foreign languages year-round, resulting in a greater portion of each course being wasted on review. Advanced-level English and social studies courses have used their 90 minute blocks to show more movies and read fewer books. Flagship CHS courses like Russian History and AP English that once helped prepare top students for the reading, research and writing of college have been reduced to nap time and scrap-booking sessions (literally!). Those students who are only in one music group end up with that one music course taking up an absurd portion of their total courseload (see QCI's comment above). And the top music students learn less-challenging music because they no longer have a merit-based "A" group and "B" group playing music appropriate for the players' talents, but instead a "junior/senior" group, a "sophomore" group and a "freshman" group.

Some of these problems are the fault of block scheduling. Others stem from the retirement or departure of certain key teachers. There are a few really good new teachers, but the overall level of mediocrity among the faculty has increased, with some of the remaining Old Guard long past their primes. And the revolving door on the principal's office hasn't helped matters, either.

The bottom line is that the average student probably finds CHS a lot more fun now than in the past, but the typical above-average student is learning a lot less.

I have no problem with giving students options, but one of the options should be to take challenging courses that expand good students' minds and actually prepare them to succeed at good colleges. And I see CHS instead focusing on giving students AP credentials for elementary-school work.

CHS is not a "failing" school. They're doing an adequate job, and I would still consider my kid there over many of the other choices in the Quad Cities. But is it improving? I think the improvements are mainly on paper and not in substance.

Please, prove me wrong. I'd love to have a higher opinion of my alma mater.

 
At 6/12/2007 10:46 PM, Blogger pioneer98 said...

I have colleagues with kids who have studied every high school in the Iowa Quad Cities, and Central is still their #1 choice, for now at least.

 
At 6/13/2007 6:23 AM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

So if we're all pretty much in agreement that Central is the best Iowa QC school, and many of us believe that its gotten worse lately, where are the people from the other schools? Shouldn't they be complaining about their (even worse) schools?

One good thing about Central is people have strong feelings for it, and there is 100+ years of history behind it. Hopefully any recent declines can be turned around, as previous troubled times have been.

 
At 6/14/2007 10:34 PM, Anonymous Gina said...

I think there is more consensus that Central may be Davenport's best school - not for the entire Iowa QC's.

Bottom line though is the poster above is correct. Central is going downhill academically. One of the AP teachers actually had the following posted in his classroom the last month of this school year

'CENTRAL DOESN'T CARE ABOUT ACADEMICS'

This teacher left to pursue an academic career in Iowa City.

Not to say there still aren't some excellent teachers at Central. Certainly there are. But as they retire, many of the replacements aren't so great. Central used to have an extrememly strong program in the sciences and math. That is no longer the case.

As a non-academic type my opinion probably doesn't count for much. However, I have had many conversations with professors and counselors at the University of Iowa in recent years. They express much concern about Davenport Central's declining academics. Apparently there are many examples of straight-A (or close) Central students going to Iowa and barely making C's in their first year college courses. Iowa officials have also noted that even with decent grade point averages, students from Central do relatively poorly on college entrance and placement exams compared to other Iowa public schools.

We do have a problem at Central. We can bury our head in the sand and hope it doesn't exist or we can acknowledge it and work to correct it. Our kids' futures depend on it.

 
At 6/15/2007 4:19 PM, Anonymous 9:33/9:34/5:00 here again said...

Apparently there are many examples of straight-A (or close) Central students going to Iowa and barely making C's in their first year college courses.

This quote from gina's post is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. Students may be enjoying their time at Central, and may be getting the credentials they need to get into good colleges. But Central students don't learn how to seriously read, write, study or think on a college level.

In my mind the single most glaring example of this is something I brought up in my earlier post: AP English. When I was a student at CHS, AP English students would read great literature, learn to analyze the language and themes and write critical essays. This culminated in what was known as a "valedictory address," where each student read a book of her choosing and give a presentation analyzing the author's use of language. It was certainly possible to blow it off or to BS your way through the whole thing (if you were smart), and many students gave unimpressive presentations, but the exercise itself was a good example of what a basic college course might be like.

AP English started going downhill with the introduction of block scheduling, as there was no longer time to read as many books. Thomas Hardy's Tess of d'Ubervilles was dropped from the syllabus, for example. Then came the retirement of Mr. Minard.

Since then, the valedictory address has been dropped as well, in favor of a final project called a "Compendium." It sounds impressive, but is in fact nothing more than a big autobiographical scrapbook. The students paste photos of themselves and their friends and write short "essays" to go with the pictures. And this is the most advanced English class the school offers.

It's no wonder A level students are getting C's at the University of Iowa. How do you expect anyone to go from the most advanced class in her school where she is only expected to read one or two books and put together a scrapbook over the course of four months to a real college course in the liberal arts where she is expected to read a book or two every week and write essays that demonstrate serious thinking?

 
At 6/15/2007 4:59 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

I'm sorry to say that I somewhat agree with you on the AP English thing. I put together my compendium in basically one night and got an A. Of course, while you may not know if from my writing on here, I'm a decent writer.

I suppose my feelings are affected by my opinion of both Mr. Miller and Mrs. Edwards, who were the two AP English teachers at the time I was there. They both, Edwards especially, seemed to know their stuff and care about their students. Who makes the curriculum choices for these classes?

I also don't think the top students getting somewhat screwed when it comes to challenging classes is unique to Central.

 

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