2015 MCAS and SAT Scores – BHS English Hits All-Time Highs

Today, the DESE posted the data about how Massachusetts schools did on the MCAS and the SAT, and the English Department is very excited to report record-high marks in both exams.

The average 2014-15 SAT scores were a 533 in Reading, and a 527 in Writing, which marks a 20-point improvement over the last two years, and the 1060 combined score is the highest average BHS has ever produced. This average places Burlington 55 points above the state average in the English components, and marks only the second time we have outperformed the state by over 40 points.

The MCAS results were equally encouraging. This year saw a large gain in the percentage of students who scored as Advanced (the highest-possible score) in English – 60% of BHS students earned that mark, which is up from 51% last year (which was, incidentally, our best-ever performance at the time). The percentage of students earning the highest mark has gone up for four consecutive years. Our scores in the Needs Improvement and Warning categories remained stable. Overall, our SGP (Student Growth Percentile) score was a 52, and anything over 50 indicates progress and improvement (the state average is 50, and anything above 60 or below 40 is uncommon). More specific information will be coming out soon, regarding what specific areas were strengths and weaknesses on these exams, but for now, congratulations BHS students and teachers for your terrific results!

Shortlist for the 2015 Booker Prize announced

[Taken from themanbookerprize.com]

Marlon JamesTom McCarthyChigozie ObiomaSunjeev SahotaAnne Tyler and Hanya Yanagihara are today, Tuesday 15 September, announced as the shortlisted authors for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

The six names were announced by Chair of judges, Michael Wood, at a press conference at the offices of sponsor Man Group.

The judges remarked on the variety of writing styles, cultural heritage and literary backgrounds of the writers on the shortlist, which includes new authors alongside established names. Two authors come from the United Kingdom, two from the United States and one apiece from Jamaica and Nigeria.

This is the second year that the prize, first awarded in 1969, has been open to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the UK. Previously, the prize was open only to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.

The 2015 shortlist of six novels is:

Author (nationality)                  Title (imprint)

Marlon James (Jamaica)       A Brief History of Seven Killings(Oneworld Publications)

Tom McCarthy (UK)               Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)

Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)       The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)

Sunjeev Sahota (UK)               The Year of the Runaways(Picador)

Anne Tyler (US)                       A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)

Hanya Yanagihara (US)            A Little Life (Picador)

Chair of judges Michael Wood comments:

‘Only on rare occasions does celebration come so closely aligned with regret. The regret of what we left out was tempered by the enormous excitement we have in presenting the six books on the shortlist.

‘We re-read all 13 books on the longlist and in the process we rediscovered new pleasures in each. The writers on the shortlist present an extraordinary range of approaches to fiction. They come from very different cultures and are themselves at very different stages of their careers.’

Michael Wood is joined on the 2015 panel of judges by Ellah Wakatama AllfreyJohn BurnsideSam Leith and Frances Osborne. The judges considered 156 books for this year’s prize.

Tom McCarthy is the only shortlisted author to have been nominated before, having been shortlisted for C in 2010.

Marlon James is the first Jamaican-born author to be shortlisted for the prize. Chigozie Obioma is the second Nigerian to be nominated, after Ben Okri. Of the six authors, two are resident in the UK and four in the United States.

At 28, Chigozie Obioma is the youngest of this year’s shortlisted authors, the same age as 2013 winner Eleanor Catton.

Two independent publishers make it to the shortlist: Oneworld Publications and ONE, an imprint of Pushkin Press. Penguin Random House have two authors on the list (from their Jonathan Cape and Chatto & Windus imprints), as does Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan.

Manny Roman, CEO of Man Group, comments:

‘We are very proud to sponsor the Man Booker Prize, recognising the hard work and creativity of these talented authors of all nationalities writing in English. The prize underscores Man Group’s charitable focus on literacy and education as well as our commitment to excellence and entrepreneurship. Together with the wider charitable activities of the Man Booker Foundation, the prize plays a very important role in promoting literary excellence that we are honoured to support. Many congratulations to the shortlisted authors.’

The 2015 winner 

The 2015 winner will be announced on Tuesday 13 October in London’s Guildhall at a black-tie dinner that brings together the shortlisted authors and well-known figures from the literary world. The ceremony will be broadcast by the BBC.

In the meantime, there will be a number of public events featuring the shortlisted authors, including the Radio Times Festival(Sunday 27 September), Birmingham Literature Festival (Thursday 8 October) and two events at The Times & The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival (Saturday 10 September).

The traditional Man Booker Prize Readings will take place at the Southbank Centre on the eve of the prize, 12 October, hosted by Mariella Frostrup.

There will be two further events with the winning author: at Stylist LIVE on 15 October and at Apple’s Covent Garden store on 16 October.

A special Man Booker Prize edition of Artsnight will air on BBC Two on Friday 9 October.

The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner will receive a further £50,000 and can expect international recognition.

Special shortlist podcast this Friday…

The Man Booker Prize Podcast is an exciting audio series that looks at the very best from the world of books.  Tune in on iTunes or SoundCloud this Friday for the special shortlist episode of the Man Booker Prize podcast.

Tell us what you think about the 2015 shortlist at @ManBookerPrize and #FinestFiction.

Ekphrastic Poetry Contest

Rattle, a poetry magazine, has opened an online contest for what is now a monthly ekphrastic poetry writing contest. What’s ekphrastic poetry? It’s any poem written in response to a piece of artwork from another medium.

For September, the artwork that must inspire the poem is “Moon Risen” by Sarah Oyetunde


The deadline for entries is September 30, and the top entries will be published and will receive $25. For more information about the contest, go to Rattle.com

Good luck! And keep up with other poetry contests by checking out the Writing Contests wall in the English hallway.

The Motherlode! We Have Lots of Books Up For Grabs!

BHS Alumna Kathleen Hong has just donated an impressive stack of books to the Well-Read Devils, the BHS free book program. If you are interested in receiving any of these titles FOR FREE, then please add your name and your requests to the Well-Read Devils list, which is in the header of this website under “Get Free Books!”

Preference will go to people who haven’t received as many books yet. Get reading, Devils!

And thank you to Ms. Hong for her generous donation. Ms. Hong was one of the top recipients of free & discounted books when she was a member of the Well-Read Devils – we’re glad to pass her love of reading along to more students.

Check out the titles, and see if anything grabs your attention!

Books - wonderful books...

Auditions for 2015 Fall Play, The Miracle Worker, Set for 9/30

Mr. Hill, one of our new teachers in the English Department, has recently issued this announcement:

This year’s fall play will be William Gibson’s, The Miracle Worker, the story of Helen Keller. Rendered blind and deaf as a baby, Helen is a seven year old child prone to violent outbursts. Her family allows her to live like a feral child until Anne Sullivan, a teacher of the blind, begins working with her. Even though the play focuses on the relationship between Anne and Helen, each member of the Keller household has a personal conflict to overcome.

Auditions are Wednesday, September 30th, from 2:15-5:00 in the auditorium. Callbacks will be the next day. There will also be an informational meeting this Thursday, the 24th, after school in the auditorium. See Mr. Hill in 304 with any questions or to pick up audition sides (the scripts we use for auditions). All are welcome, and no prior acting experience is required.

More Writing Contests! Scholastic Writing, Poetry on the T!

Check out our Writing Contest wall throughout this year for updates, but two of the larger-profile contests of the school year have just opened up, and are seeking submissions.

Poetry on the T – There is a poetry contest open for all high school and middle school students in Massachusetts where the top poetry submissions will be featured on the T in Boston later this year. The deadline for this contest is September 28

The 2015-16 Scholastic Writing Awards – This is one of the most prestigious writing competitions in the country for high school students. Students are invited to submit their original stories, poems, essays, or portfolios to this contest. There is an entry fee, but the English Department will pay for the submissions as evenly as possible as long as the submissions come to Mr. Lally in room 316. Last year, seven BHS students were recognized for their excellent original works. Two students earned a Gold Key, and Anjali Seereeram (class of ’15) was featured in a Boston Globe article for being one of the five “American Voices” nominees, making her submission one of the best in the state last year. For more details on how to submit, click on the link above, or see Mr. Lally. The deadline for all submissions is December 11 (or December 15 if students wish to pay for their own submission).

The Marble Collection is now open for poetry and fiction submissions from all Massachusetts high school students. The deadline for the winter edition of the magazine is approximately December 15

And don’t forget:

The Collab Poetry Contest is running until October 1

The Smith Poetry Contest for Girls (top prize: $500) is open until December 1

Just Added: Minimum Writing Requirements Per Grade

We have just uploaded documents that show the minimum writing requirements for each grade and each level at BHS. These lists also reflect the slight shift we are making away from teaching exclusively literary analysis over four years. Our writing curricula now include a greater variety of writing assessments.

To check out the requirements, click on each of the classes under our COURSES menu

  • We have omitted the AP classes, as those courses are not expected to be unified by any Burlington standards, but rather, the standards created by the College Board.

Joyce Carol Oates, Salman Rushdie, Elizabeth Gilbert Coming to Boston

Over the next two months, some excellent authors are coming to the Harvard Book Store to perform book readings of their new material.

On Monday, September 21, Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children) will be presenting at 7:00, promoting his new Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: A Novel

That same week, on Friday the 25th at 7:00, Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) will give a reading from Big Magic.

Then, on Monday, October 19, Joyce Carol Oates (“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”) will present excerpt from her new book The Lost Landscape

All three are ticketed events – click on the author’s name to find out more.

Special thanks to Kathleen Hong for alerting us to these readings!

Poetry Contest for Sophomore and Junior Girls – Now Open!

Attention, poets!

The Smith College Poetry contest, a contest for high school sophomore and junior girls who live in New England, is now open for submissions. This year’s top prize is $500, and the top three poets will be invited to read their work at Smith College later this year. The deadline is December 1. If you’d like to submit CLICK HERE, and GOOD LUCK!