Local kids complete year-long research project with newspaper publication
Essays address societal issues
Mar 17, 2013 | 2741 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Editor’s Note: This story is one of many submitted by Union City eighth graders as part of a gifted and talented program assignment. The stories are presented with very little editing.

The Debate Over Illegal Immigration By Isaac Ortega, Woodrow Wilson Elementary School
Controversy, discrimination, and the degradation of American principles. These are the words used by numerous people to describe the recent controversy of illegal immigration over the past couple years in the United States. There is also a debate in the nation’s capital over the effects illegal immigration has on the United States. Some say that the migration of undocumented workers harms the economy. I, on the other hand, am of the opinion that, in a sort of paradox, illegal immigration actually aids the economy.

Thus, I decided to use this topic as the basis of my research for my ROGATE project. ROGATE is a program offered by The Education Information and Resource Center (EIRC). Students in this program take the SAT and have to create a research project in which they have to present at Montclair State University, and receive an award based on the quality of their presentation.

My hypothesis for my research project was “Illegal immigration is beneficial to the economic welfare of the United States.” One primary resource I used was an interview I conducted on an economist, who chose to remain anonymous. I asked multiple questions that included “Do undocumented workers take jobs away from U.S. citizens?” and “What effect does illegal immigration have on the United State’s economy? Why?” From the interview I garnered that undocumented workers take jobs away from U.S. citizens, especially those without a high school diploma. In addition, even though hiring illegal immigrants would cost an employer less money, it is highly ineffective, as well as illegal. Finally, undocumented migrant workers generally have low wages and do not earn as much as native-born citizens. As you can see, this data I gathered is very contradictive.

The other primary resource I used was a survey where the seventh graders in my middle school, Woodrow Wilson, were asked a series of question. This gave me insight in what the youth in Union City thought about the issue. Half of the seventh graders thought that they do take jobs away from citizens and about 60% thought that the economy was being harmed by illegal immigration. This led me to the conclusion that seventh graders thought illegal immigrants hinder the economy.

I had multiple secondary resources as well. These included an article by Aiyana Baida from highlands.com titled, “Does Illegal immigration hurt the U.S. economy?” Another was from CNN.com titled, “Illegal Workers: Good for U.S. Economy.” From these, as well as other secondary resources, I gathered that over half of the 2,000,000 crop workers in the U.S. are illegal workers. The article from highlands.com states that the positive impact on the nation’s economy is minimal, and that there is also a negative impact as well.

With all this information at hand, I had begun to formulate a conclusion. In my opinion, there are both positive, as well as negative effects, on the country’s economy to varying degrees. They do provide a form of cheap labor, but they also cost taxpayers’ money, billions of dollars worth in fact. I decided that my hypothesis is inconclusive, as it is far from definitive how much the economy is affected by illegal immigration. And thus, I have no ultimate answer to the controversy over illegal immigration.

How does homework really supplement schoolwork?
By Grace Lopez, Woodrow Wilson Elementary School
Persevere, thrive, and achieve. Those are the prominent terms that are the key to success. It has always been a mystery to students, as well as teachers, on how homework affects the cognitive abilities of a student. The eminent question is, “Does work have a positive or negative influence on students?” In my R.O.G.A.T.E project I substantiate my hypothesis, “The increment of homework improves test scores,” through my evidence composed of primary and secondary sources. The New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) is known to be one of the most significant tests of the year for students of grades 1-8. It is the assessment that appraises the intellectual abilities a student has achieved throughout the year. The curriculum the teachers offer is what a student grasps and through this test the Board of Education is able to determine whether the student has conspicuous comprehension of the given material.

This R.O.G.A.T.E project is one of the several offered by the EIRC. The students who are willing to participate in this program are in the top five percent of the class and are obliged to perform certain requirements to gain the Gold Satori Award, the highest honor the program offers. Amongst these requirements students are to write an article depicting their research project, achieve an esteemed score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and present one’s findings to an audience. In this case mine would be, “The increment of homework improves NJASK test scores.” I have two Primary sources as well as Secondary Sources to verify the information I have gathered, proving that the increment of homework does have a beneficial result.

First and foremost, the most essential primary source would be the experiment I performed with the collaboration of the seventh graders in a Union City School. I conducted an experiment with Ms. Willmott's 7th grade mathematics class, giving half of the class an increment of homework and the other half an average amount. Ms. Willmott has been teaching since 2004 and continues to lead potential students to success. After 2 days I handed both groups a test. I displayed tests in two mathematical forms and represented them into a double bar graph and two separate pie graphs. In the increment work there was a larger percentage of high grades than those in the average group. Students who had an increment of homework had 25%, A-B, 24%, had an F or below average and 50% had a C-D average. As for students who had an average amount of homework, 56% had an F or below average, 44% had a C-D average, and 0% had an A-B average. This substantiates that if teachers were to increase the amount of homework there would be improvements.

For my second primary source I conducted an interview with Mr. Garcia. Mr. Garcia is a pre-algebra teacher who enriches students with advanced math in the fifth grade at Hudson School. As experienced as he was with providing extra homework, I wanted to verify whether an increment of homework truly had a positive effect on a student. I asked him a series of questions, but there were two particular questions that were prominent to my research. The first question was, “Do you think homework results in more stress or more success? Why or why not?” He answered, “I believe that homework should be given as a form of practice not busy work. If used this way, it should result in success. But in all honesty sometimes a little stress is necessary in order to reach success.”

My second question was, “Due to the advancement in your students do you believe they have better hopes in ranking higher grades in their NJASK grades? Why or why not?” He replied, “Yes. My students are challenged more than the students that do not attend advanced (Pre-Algebra) math class, therefore they generally do better.”

Fifty-seven percent of parents believed their children were receiving a right quantity of homework, twenty-three percent thought it was too little, and nineteen percent assumed it was excessive. It conveyed that homework improves grades in tests. The second article I used was, Most NJASK test scores improving, written by Jane Meggitt. In this article it stated that as the years have been passing by the NJASK test has become more rigorous, which is why students should be academically challenged constantly. In general, both articles discuss how homework can ameliorate grades.

In closing, I postulate that the controversial issue concerning the effects of homework depends on the student themselves and their cognitive abilities, but for the most part, students tend to excel more with an increment of homework. I have used a variety of articles and primary sources to prove that even though some may say that homework can be stressing and ineffective, it does unconsciously improve abilities. It allows students to answer questions faster and have a grander understanding of the concept. Homework is used as an activity that allows students to practice and practice. The NJASK test is an austere test and to receive the highest score possible, it takes practice, persistence, and determination.

Is there a relationship between class and child abuse?
By Genesis Osorio, Woodrow Wilson Elementary School
Society is well aware of the harsh effect our devastated economy has on adults nationwide. We are acquainted with the cash deficiencies, unyielding stress, and the trepidation that gnaws on the optimism, mental stability, and overall bliss of a family. Unfortunately, when push comes to shove, families with once buoyant spirits are then saturated in misery, anguish, and self- pity. But who are the real victims in these scenarios? The true bearers of agony and misery are the diligent, vulnerable, and feeble children. There are many attributing facts as to why domestic violence occurs, but the results are always the same. The devastating result of this heinous crime is always either a deceased or wounded child. In my ROGATE project, I was able to unearth a potential savior for abused children.

ROGATE is only one of the multiple programs offered by the EIRC’S Gifted and Talented Service and the National Talent Network. Besides taking the SAT, participants are free at will to choose a topic of interest to conduct extensive research on. Vigorous research was an essential factor of the final conclusion of my thesis statement: “An effective way to prevent child abuse is to make it mandatory for former victims to seek therapeutic help and for all parents to attend parenting classes.” My conclusion was reached with the guiding information I studied from my primary resources (an interview and two surveys) and my secondary resources (an article from Emedicine.com and Childhelp.org).

To begin with, my primary resources included one interview and two surveys. I interviewed Detective Grace Garces from the Hudson County Prosecutors Office in the Special Victims Unit. I inquired several questions on her experience as an officer, her opinion on child abuse and its probable causes. She said that the case most often dealt with is the “shaken baby” case. Her response suggested that she too believes that child abuse is the fruit of psychological frustration that comes hand in hand with being abused as a child. In essence, she is implying that child abuse is a cycle, and if it is not dealt with from the start, can endure and be passed on from victim to victim. Detective Garces agrees with my thesis of having parents attend parenting classes before their child is born.

As for my surveys, I asked fifty- one seventh grade students from Woodrow Wilson School the following question: “Do you think that therapy (seeking psychological help) is an effective way to prevent child abuse from occurring in the homes of adults who were also victims of child abuse?” Thirty- nine students agreed that therapy was an effective way to prevent child abuse whereas twelve students believed otherwise. From this study I concluded that the [young] public has an adamant opinion on the matter, and the majority coincides with my thesis.

Furthermore, the same group of fifty- one seventh graders answered my second survey. I asked, “Do you think it is necessary for all parents to take parenting classes (classes for parents to get educated on how to take care of their children)? Nineteen students complied with my thesis that parenting classes were essential, while thirty- two students found them to be unnecessary. These results contradict my hypothesis.

In addition to my primary resources, I had a pair of secondary resources. My first was an article entitled “Child Abuse” from Emedicine.com. The information I procured from this website coincided with my original presumption for the fact that it gave much information on the different forms of abuse, their causes, symptoms, and possible solutions. All the “evidence” trickled down, proving my thesis statement correct. The article stated that abuse can be triggered by drug abuse and poverty. It also indicated that caregivers that suffer from unsettled traumas from former abuse are more likely to abuse their child.

To continue, my final secondary resource was an article entitled “National Child Abuse Statistics,” from Childhelp.org. This website supplied many statistics on child abuse in America. According to Childhelp.org, eighty percent of people diagnosed with a psychological disorder were abused as children, one-third to two-third of child abuse cases involve some form of alcohol abuse, and children whose parents are alcoholics are three times more likely to be abused.

Given these points, I can state my thesis to be valid. The statistics I read unveil the harsh truth about the adult world and its domino effect on their children, but we must also realize that there is a solution. If former victims of child abuse seek therapeutic guidance, they can potentially prevent themselves from ever hurting their own children. Substance abusers can participate in rehab programs, which would be beneficial to their health and that of their children. As for those that are poverty stricken, if parenting classes were accessible at the YMCA, community colleges, and Planned Parenthood, the general public could inherit the necessary knowledge for good parenting.

Excessive homework not the answer to improving education
By Christian Flores, Woodrow Wilson Elementary School
Every parent who has a student in middle school knows the same story with the same dialogue and the same characteristics. His/her child has procrastinated all of their homework and projects for the last possible moment. The book report on their independent novel cannot be started because the novel hasn’t even been touched since last taken out of the library. The diorama of the first democracy is still in its first sketches, and the toothpick tower is now collapsing. It is 10:30 p.m. and parents wonder, “Is this really necessary and fundamental for my child’s education?” There have been many debates about whether homework was indeed a key role in a child’s life or if it was simply arrogance with another name.

The ROGATE program offers new levels of academic achievement, more than any other offered by the EIRC. It consists of students researching a topic of their choice, conducting surveys, experiments, interviews, and even analyzing original artifacts. They then create a Power Point presentation which is presented at Montclair State University. ROGATE participants must also reach the requirement of taking the SAT test. This alone is a huge honor as taking it for the first time as a seventh grader, but if students manage to score over 1500, they then receive an SAT award. If able to complete an extraordinary presentation, then participants are in the running to compete for the Gold Satori award. There, candidates must complete requirements to receive this honor.

A research presentation cannot take place without taking a public view on the matter debated, so for one of my primary resources I conducted a survey. It was introduced to 40 fifth graders and 60 sixth graders. It kept the number hundred to make sure that my findings wouldn’t be found biased. On each survey awaited five questions. Sixty three percent of students answered “yes” to the first question, “Have you ever spent more than three hours doing your homework?”

The second question read, “Have you ever had to miss any after school activities due to homework completion?” Fifty five percent of the people agreed that they have missed their after school activities. This isn’t going to eventually help students because their activities are usually conducted to relieve themselves from stress, but if they are missing their activities, how will they relieve themselves from stress? The third question, “When you don’t have homework and focus on studying for tests, do you do better at tests?” A huge seventy-six percent of the students agreed that they do perform better at tests, and this is vital because students are usually taking home two hours of homework on the night of a test, and they no longer have any time to study. Without adequate study time, how will they be able to improve their academic grades? The fourth question read, “Have you ever earned a zero due to homework incomplete?” Fifty six percent of the students stated that they have received zeros, and everyone knows how much damage a clumsy zero can do your entire grade. The fifth question and final question was, “Have you ever earned a less than seven hours of sleep due to homework completion?” And fifty six percent of students agreed that they have earned less than seven hours of sleep. This proves inefficient because the average student must receive nine hours of sleep, and if they are sleeping less than seven, then in reality, homework is interfering with students’ health as well. From the surveys, we confirm that students do not think too positively about the infamous homework assignments.

In order to put my thesis statement into actual results and data, I conducted an experiment. I took ten honor roll sixth grade students then divided them into two groups of five and gave each the same test for the same amount of time. The only difference is that one group had a review sheet whilst the other took the test blindsided. The results astonished me because both groups had an average of sixty, the exact same results. On student in the review group scored exceptionally high, however, the other students didn’t receive good scores. We can infer from this that one student actually paid attention to the review whilst the others in others in the group merely glanced at it. This is very common in the academic world as well. Students commonly misinterpret the purpose of the assignment by not taking it seriously, which was the case in my experiment. The other group however scored in the same range of 60-70 due to their similar academic level. This adds another tally to excessive homework having no purpose

Clearly my research alone wasn’t enough information and context to prove my thesis, so I used outside sources. An article on Duke Today.edu written by Dr. Harris Cooper supported my idea. He stated that homework is indeed essential, but too much of a good thing isn’t good at all. He used various examples in which less homework have prevailed. Another article that contributed majorly towards my project was found on Great Schools.org which summarized various findings of scientists Jean Piaget and Lev Vigoski. They conducted massive and numerous experiments to finalize a perfect idea, The Ten Minute Rule. In their findings, they noticed that the change of homework amount from grade to grade is too colossal. In the fourth grade you worked for an hour and yet in the fifth two and a half seemed too drastic. Their rule suggests that depending on the students’ grade level homework shall be given an additional ten minutes. For example, first graders will work ten minutes while second graders will work for twenty minutes and third graders will work for thirty minutes and so on. It is a simple rule yet it can go a long way.

There have been many opposing articles and ideas to my thesis, but evidence shows that excessive homework does not improve academic achievement. It is a constant pain that unfortunately does not have a good influence. This research will now show future teachers that excessive homework is not the way of the future.

Do the social pressures on athletes affect on-field performance?
By Cesar Esteban, Woodrow Wilson Elementary School
America’s national pastime is the beautiful game of baseball. As a current baseball player I have been noticing that there are too many unaccounted aspects to this activity enjoyed by so much of the world’s youth. Therefore, when I was asked to join the ROGATE program and conduct a research project on a topic of my choice, I took a unique approach. My project’s thesis stated the following, “Social pressure affects the on-field performance of young male baseball players.”

Before I proceed to thoroughly analyze my project, there is some pertinent information that must be understood about the ROGATE program. The ROGATE program is only offered to those who have consistently excelled academically. Therefore, in order to take our intellectual capacity to the next level, as a part of ROGATE, we are faced with challenges unlike any other. As the school year progresses, we complete a lengthy research project. Then, to push our minds even further, we take the SAT. This is just a brief explanation of the magnificent learning experience ROGATE offers.

Undoubtedly, my favorite component of this incredible program was the research project. To complete this project I had to collect a wide range of resources, two being primary and another two being secondary. My primary sources featured an interview with baseball coach, Julio C. Esteban, and a survey of twenty male baseball players between the ages 10-14 from the Union City Babe Ruth and Union City Cal Ripken League. My secondary sources included an article from myomaxfitness.com and a study done by Ronald E. Smith, Frank L. Smoll, and Sean P. Cumming from ‘Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology’.

Most importantly, someone’s personal opinion was very significant to my project. For that reason I chose to interview my baseball coach, Julio C. Esteban, who has been in the game since his youth. From this interview I looked to gain the insight of someone with a lot of experience in the sport. By the time the interview concluded, I realized Mr. Esteban and I shared a lot of beliefs. However, I was not finished. To further extend my knowledge about my project I surveyed twenty baseball players between the ages of ten through fourteen.

My survey had three questions to it: “How would you consider your abilities at baseball?”, “Do you have certain expectations put on you during a game?” and “What is your average performance during a game?” After tallying up the survey results I was astounded. To my surprise, the survey came out pretty well balanced. This took me a step back because one of my fundamental resources was contradicting my hypothesis.

However, I had completed a huge part of the project and was only halfway finished. I still had to examine both of my secondary resources. From the myomaxfitness.com article, I discovered many interesting points talking about the importance of motivation from coaches and the way it reduces anxiety in athletes. From the study done by Ronald E. Smith, Frank L. Smoll, and Sean P. Cumming from “The Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology,” I was able to find several more intriguing and helpful statements. In this study these three men spoke about the mammoth influence society can have on adolescent athletes. After I had finished my investigation, I used my resources to formulate a conclusion.

After several months of extensive research, I was still unsatisfied with my project so I came to the conclusion that my hypothesis was inconclusive. I felt that a project like mine needed to be further continued with a broader aspect of opinion and research. Until then, the question remains unsolved. Does social pressure affect the on-field performance of young male baseball players?

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