Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Research into the Comparision of Gifted Schools Nationally

As you may know, I've been doing a project regarding diversity at Pine View. The key part of my project to increase diversity would be to modify the enrollment system in a way where every child is given an equal chance to apply. This means finding the key point in the current application process which results in a smaller pool of African American students passing than any other ethnicity. An article I read pointed out that in the current system at Pine View, only 1 in 50 black students pass compared to an average of 1 in 7 white students. This is what raised my doubt in the current system and it is what I believe may attribute to the diversification of Pine View if fixed correctly.

Another key realization I made was the fact that Pine View is not nearly the only school in the US who has this problem. Several of the nation's top filtered or "gifted" schools have issues with diversity. This is valuable information because being able to pinpoint common ground among all these schools would be crucial to identifying the root of the problem in our own community and how to solve it.

I also created a diversity scoring tool which compares the demographic percentages of minority groups in a school and compares them to the county. The closer the demographics of the school are to the county in the minority groups, the better the diversity score is. The score ranges between 0-100, however neither 0 nor 100 will ever truly be reached. Those numbers identify the ideal diversity where the demographics exactly match that of the county to the person. I will further explain the algorithm of this calculator in another article.

However this calculator is important in the process I took in organizing the list I created of the top 50 high schools in the nation, with a similar application process as Pine View, according to US News being ranked by my diversity grader. I have posted the chart below:

School Name District/County of School Column1 US News Ranking Diversity Score
Young Women's Preparatory Academy
Miami-Dade County Public Schools
1 52 96.60
Jericho Senior High School Jericho Union Free School District 2 67 96.10
School Without Walls High School District Of Columbia Public Schools 3 84 93.20
Whitney High School ABC Unified School District 4 14 92.20
Design and Architecture Senior High Miami-Dade County Public Schools 5 22 89.60
Hawthorne Math and Science Academy Hawthorne School District 6 66 88.00
University High School (Tolleson) Tolleson Union High School District 7 21 87.90
Lowell High School San Francisco Unified School District 8 59 87.10
Preuss School UCSD San Diego Unified School District 9 54 82.10
Rye High School Rye City School District 10 90 80.90
School of Science and Engineering Dallas Independent School District 11 9 79.90
International Studies Preparatory Academy Miami-Dade County Public Schools 12 30 78.60
International School Bellevue School District 13 41 78.60
DSST: Stapleton High School Denver Public Schools 14 97 76.60
Gilbert Classical Academy High School Gilbert Unified District 15 29 70.80
Suncoast Community High School School District of Palm Beach County 16 53 70.50
Booker T. Washington SPVA Dallas Independent School District 17 92 66.80
Peak to Peak CHARTER School Boulder Valley School District  18 33 63.90
Hume Fogg Magnet High School Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools 19 58 63.60
University High School(Tucson) Tucson Unified District 20 15 63.50
Walnut Hills High School Cincinnati Public Schools 21 47 63.30
Dr. Ronald E McNair High School Jersey City Public Schools 22 49 63.30
Alexander W. Dreyfoos Junior School of the Arts School District of Palm Beach County 23 78 62.50
Benjamin Franklin High School New Orleans Public Schools 24 70 62.10
Philip J. Weaver Ed Center Guilford County Schools 25 39 61.10
Mission San Jose High Fremont Unified 26 76 61.00
Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology Gwinnett County 27 34 60.00
IDEA Frontier College Preparatory IDEA Public Schools 28 55 60.00
Walter Payton College Preparatory High School Chicago Public Schools 29 64 60.00
Edgewood Jr/Sr High School Brevard Public Schools 30 50 59.70
Westshore Junior/Senior High School Brevard Public Schools 31 31 59.00
Tesla STEM High School Lake Washington School District 32 28 57.30
Carnegie Vanguard High School Houston Independent School District 33 8 56.90
Northside College Preparatory High School Chicago Public Schools 34 40 54.50
DeBakey High School for Health Professions Houston Independent School District 35 18 53.70
Stanton College Preparatory School Duval County Public Schools 36 36 53.10
School for the Talented and the Gifted Dallas Independent School District 37 4 49.80
International Community School Lake Washington School District 38 80 49.70
Julia R. Masterman Secondary School School District of Philadelphia 39 51 48.00
Pine View School Sarasota County Schools 40 13 45.60
Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School Montgomery County 41 57 43.60
Boston Latin School Boston Public Schools 42 42 41.80
Central Magnet School Rutherford County 43 37 40.30
Oxford Academy Anaheim Union High 44 12 36.80
Early College at Guilford Guilford County Schools 45 62 27.80
Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology Fairfax County Public Schools 46 6 27.20
Liberal Arts and Science Academy Austin Independent School District 47 27 23.90
Academic Magnet High School Charleston County School District 48 11 20.70
Bronx High School of Science New York City Public Schools-District 10 49 46 17.40
High Technology High School Monmouth County Vocational School District 50 16 6.50

*Note: The scores in this table should be only taken to 2 significant figures and are only rough estimates using diversity data from

Although several of the schools on this list have a ranking on US News well above the top 50, the reason for this is that I had to actually take the top 100 high schools and identify 50 that had an application process similar to that of Pine View. This also led to the decision of removing all the New York City schools whose application process for their schools is very different from the Pine View. I will also attach the original document of the scores that all the top 100 got that I calculated with the scorer.

My plan after this is to separately explore the processes in applying to each of these schools much more thoroughly. Then, by comparing them al to one another, I will hopefully be able to find something that each of them share. This process will be for another article however. I encourage you to look out for it, because it will be critical in taking the next step towards a more diverse future for Pine View and possibly other schools facing the same problem around the nation.

Link to document of Top 100 ranked using diversity calculator:!AuU8iPdfWb_dmXrgH7BY4POaWTkI

*Note: Many charter schools in the top 100 were not able to be scored due to not being able to find diversity data of their surrounding counties


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Big Question

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Over the course of history, religion has been one of the most dangerous weapons and one of greatest allies to the human race. It has split entire countries, nearly wiped out entire ethnicities, and been the cause of some of the most horrific acts in human history. However, it has also been able to bring humans to perform acts that seemed to defy logic, create bonds stronger than steel among communities, and brought those at the edge of death back to the living. Religion has brought out unjustified, immoral, and frightening acts of evil but also compassionate, astounding, and amazing acts of good. Religion has brought out the worst of humanity, but it has also brought out the best of it.

One thing has truly intrigued me about religion for a long time. This being the fact that regardless of which religion is being referred to, religious people have claimed that a belief in God, although may not lead to miracles, is necessary in living a happy and prosperous life. And many of these religious leaders are in fact very intellectual people. Budha once said, "Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life." However, in a day and age when science takes precedence, it's difficult to find a place for religion to fit into the mix. According to Time, "Atheists are one of the fastest growing groups in the world." And this trend makes sense with the rapid discoveries made in science seeming to refute many religious beliefs that have been said to be true for thousands of years. One example of these rapidly changing ideas is the age of  the Earth and what role humans played in it. Christians believe that Jack and Jill were the first humans on Earth. It is also widely accepted that the Earth is less than ten-thousand years old, with James Ussher, a Bishop in the Church of Ireland, calculated the exact day to be Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC. However, scientists estimate Earth's creation to have occurred about 4.54 billion years ago, with the entirety of written human history making up to less than a crumb on a timeline spanning the length of the US. Because of differences like this, it's here that many people lose interest in religion. Instead, people choose to simply trust science and what they were taught in school and just assume religion is simply a relic that belongs in history books. One of the most popular advocates on this stance in modern times is biologist Richard Dawkins. He has been famous for sayings things such as, "Gods are fragile things that may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense," as well as, "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world."  But I want take this eminent clash between religion and science in a different perspective. Instead, I want to question the notion and ask with an open mind if religion has a scientific connection with a person's happiness and wellbeing.

So far, I have thought of religion as a pre-historic science that humans have decided to mindlessly follow for thousands of years. However, as I stated above, I recently began looking if I could think the idea of religion differently. I started off by thinking about how religion came to be and what purpose it really served. For a large portion of human history, groups were isolated from one another in their own civilizations.  Yet somehow, religion seemed to appear in almost every single one of these civilizations without any form of contact with one another. Each group of people created their own ideas of a higher power that formed who we are and watches over us. In early Middle-Eastern civilizations, Yahweh was thought to be God. and to this day has been the source for the creation of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Hinduism evolved in the Indus River Valley as a way of life. Across the globe, the Aztec, Mayan and Incan civilizations had also come up with the idea of worshipping their gods. In Africa, many tribes had gods they worshipped. Even in China, without a god, Buddhism arose through the simple practice of prayer to achieve enlightenment. Although the appearance of religion and prayer in various isolated civilizations does not directly answer anything about how religion is connected with a persons wellbeing, it does open the book to the idea. Why else would people from across history all share similar practices if it did not lead to some sort of positive outcome for themselves?

 At the same time, it is entirely possible that religion has played some other role in the past across all of these civilizations. Some argue that religion is simply used to fill the gaps in scientific knowledge. When people couldn't figure out when and how the Earth was created, God was used to explain the "gaps." This idea coined, "God of the Gaps" claims that God served the purpose of filling in the holes in human understanding at the time, and it is continued to be used as such among religious scientists today. And although this point does make sense, it does not answer why so many intellectuals claim that prayer is a necessary element in living a healthy and good life. 

I'm still far from convinced that simply the belief in a religion and regular prayer can increase the health and wellbeing of people, I believe that this blank is necessary before scientists like Richard Dawkins continue to trivialize religion and religious leaders continue to convert people based on these claims. And if religion truly does prove to have a substantial effect on a person’s health, it would be monumental to not just science or religion, but to the human race as a whole. Experimentation is crucial though, and studies similar to this idea have been picking up momentum in recent years. 

One of these studies I happened to come across was conducted by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They concluded that women that pray regularly, defined by going to Church at least once a week, have live on average 5 years longer than those who do not. Directly quoted from the study, "Frequent attendance at religious services was associated with significantly lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality among women.” They went on to state that physicians should begin exploring the use of regular prayer as a possible option. This suggests a connection between health and prayer that religious experts have been trying to convince the public of for centuries. This study from a well reputed university may be what gets the ball rolling. I want to see where this ball rolls.

I recently read a book called The Chemistry Between Us coauthored by Larry Young and Brian Alexander. They wrote about how chemicals had such monumental effects on not just our emotions but the entire course of our lives. One of the ideas that intrigued me the most in the book was this: “In the case of all of us, a single molecule, a hormone applied or withheld during discrete moments in fetal development has not only affected genitals but also set a path for some of our most important behaviors over the course of our lives. Different circuitry, different behavior.” This mattered to me because it revealed the idea of something so powerful that simply its existence could alter our thoughts, emotions, futures, and our health and wellbeing. Sound familiar? This strikes a resemblance to the claims made about the effects of prayer. As stated above, prayer has been claimed to make those who are faithful be happier emotionally, healthier physically, and lead a more successful life fully. These striking resemblances between the effects of chemical imbalances in our bodies and regular prayer in our lives raise the possibility that the two may be related. 

It has been proven by numerous research studies that prayer has an effect on a person’s health. It has also been proven by myriad research studies that certain chemicals have a strong effect on a person’s health as well. The next step is to test the relationship between the two. How does regular prayer effect the chemical balance in our body? This is the big question that we must answer. Now it’s time to go back to the drawing board and find out how we can solve this puzzle.

Vinay Konuru            

Friday, May 5, 2017

Random Thoughts: Why the Issue of Diversity is Important

Some of you may be questioning why the issue of diversity, especially regarding the black minority, is one that bothers me. I an Indian-American middle-class student who loves chemistry. I am far removed from an issue like this, but that does not mean it's one that should not or does not effect me. And it definitely does not mean that I shouldn't care. But why do I care? That is the question that I sought out to answer today, not just for readers but also for myself.

Ever since I first learned of the story of America in Kindergarten, we were taught that all people are given an equal chance to succeed regardless of their race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, or parents.  At the College Opportunity Summit in 2014, President Obama lectured students; "Now, as a nation, we don't promise equal outcomes, but we were founded on the idea everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed. No matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, you can make it. That's an essential promise of America. Where you start should not determine where you end up." Yet, this is not the same ideals that we are keeping firm to in our community.

Blacks are extremely underrepresented at Pine View, which decreases their opportunity to succeed. If we aim to give all people an equal opportunity for success, then why do we turn a blind eye to the issue that disadvantages the black community. This is upsetting because it shows that the dream that I was taught America gives does not apply equally to all.

This is the reason that I care. I want to make the dream that a black kid in Sarasota County has the same chance to succeed as any other kid. Although I understand that equal opportunity does not mean equal outcome, that does not mean that nothing should be done.

I was debating about this issue with on of the kids in my class today when he brought up the point that Sarasota is segregated and this is the way it just is. There is nothing we can do about it, and therefore there is no point in trying. So where do you start with an issue like this, something that is a fact of life made up in most people's minds. Data is the answer that I've reached. The answer I've come to is lots and lots of data. Over the next few months I will get as much data I can possibly obtain from public records to studies to find what it is truly bugging me. Why can't gifted education be provided with as much equal opportunity as America aims for?

Anyway, off of that tangent, it's also possible that I care simply because I know the challenge that accompanies a task like this, and I love a good challenge. This is just a random thought that I wanted to address today, and I want to begin doing more random thought articles like this. Stay tuned!