Staff members from the Cougar Chronicles recently earned recognition in the Journalism Education Association’s Junior High and Middle School National Media Contest. Three students – Lauren Powell, SeAnna Brennan, and Justin LaPrise – earned Superior ratings for their photos and received medals for their efforts, as only 10 percent of entries receive Superior ratings.
     Brennan and Megan Wagner earned two Excellent ratings, while Skylar Sosa and Brooke Wine each earned one.
     Wine and Robin Marshall each earned two Honorable Mentions, while Powell, Tiffani Morris, Mariana Rios, and Madonna Parker each earned one. The entire staff received an HR for theme development throughout the book.
     In all, 17 of the photos submitted by Chronicles staffers were recognized. Mr. Jason Davis is the staff adviser.

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This is our last post of the 2015-16 school year. We hope you enjoyed the posts and we’ll be back in August.

Natalie Delintt
Cougar News Blog

     Students at Cactus Canyon Junior High can finally put their pencils down after all their hard work and look forward to an incentive party.
     Students who showed growth on Benchmark tests throughout the year, are passing all their classes, and have good behavior and attendance are able to go to the incentive party on May 19. There is a small catch, though, students had to show an improvement that was greater than their original score. So, if a student got 50 percent on the first test, he or she would have to show growth of 50 percent or more. Since every student is different, the amount of growth each had to show differed.
     Most students showed a lot of growth on most, if not on all of their standardized tests.
     “Almost all students have shown growth. We look at what the ‘expected growth’ is and then compare it to how we did,” said Mrs. Davis, the dean of students. “For example, if the average growth from the pre- to post-test is 40, we look to see if we got, on average, 40 or more. In almost every area, our students exceeded expectations because we are awesome.”
     Teachers use previous test scores and student opinion to know what they need to spend extra time on so students don’t have a hard time on tests. Reteach classes during fifth hour also help students master objectives, since they get extra help on subjects that they did not understand. Students did much better this school year on Benchmarks than last year, something that makes Davis proud.
     “I know I showed growth because I knew more of what we were being tested on,” said eighth grader Haile Miller. “Our teachers did an amazing job of teaching us and doing the Benchmarks was actually relaxing and more fun than the regular schedule.”
     “Our students have done much better on this year’s end of the year benchmarks than they did last year,” said Davis. “All of their hard work in classes and reteach are paying off. We are so proud of everyone.”

The Cactus Canyon yearbook staff has made a commercial to help encourage students to purchase a book. The 2016 edition of the Cougar Chronicles has 80 pages of beautiful, full-color photography, as well as stories and captions to help readers remember the 2015-16 year for years to come. Books are available for $35 from Ms. Jodie at student services or from Mr. Davis in Room 723.

The CCJH Student Council earned the award of Master Council at the AAJHSC convention on May 5.

The CCJH Student Council earned the award of Master Council at the AAJHSC convention on May 5.

By Lexi Demery
Cougar News Blog

     The student council masters are here.
     Cactus Canyon’s Student Council earned the award of Master Council – the highest given by the Arizona Association of Junior High Student Councils – at the state convention at We Ko Pa Resort and Convention Center in Scottsdale on May 5.
     “We were so excited to earn the Master Council award,” said adviser Jason Davis. “We worked very hard for the whole year and now we are proud to be able to call ourselves one of the best councils in the state of Arizona.”
     In order to receive Master Council the council had to meet over 25 requirements. The group had to complete leadership, school spirit, and diversity projects, as well as raise funds for the school and charity. In order to get rated a Master Council, every project needed to be complete and earn at least 90 percent by the judging committee.
     “We had to attend the AAJHSC events, and even had to present a lesson at one,” said Mr. Davis. “We also had to document our activities with reports, a collage, and a scrapbook.”
     This was the council’s first year as a member of AAJHSC and there was a lot of effort and dedication that went into .
     “I’m so happy, we put so much in our student council work,” said Faith Marie Inzunza.
     The council was very tense before the convention because making the Master Council application and projects perfect was very tedious.
     “I was stressed to the max before the convention,” Davis said. “I knew we had done everything we needed to do to get the award, but I was terrified that I made a mistake on the application or that I would forget to bring something we needed.”
     In addition to the award ceremony, students heard a presentation from motivational speaker Patrick Perez, who uses dancing to connect with his audience and help them set goals and work toward achieving them.
     “The things Mr. Perez talked about were really inspirational, and touching,” said eighth-grade representative Jessica Martinez. “The message really got to me, personally and was extremely helpful.”
     As described on its website, the AAJHSC is a student-oriented organization dedicated to developing leadership in student council’s in Arizona. Its goals are to unite students, develop leadership skills, and educate students in school spirit, academic achievement, community involvement, and diversity.
     “Being in the AAJHSC gave our kids a chance to network with students from other councils, learn ways to improve our events and activities, and become better leaders and examples,” Mr. Davis said. “We plan to be part of the association for a long time.”

By James Armstrong
Cougar News Blog

     One lawyer, two American POWs, and one Russian POW; both countries want their men back, but will the bridge collapse?
     Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, released Oct. 21, is set in 1957’s Cold war, and is a historical thriller following Tom Hanks as the lawyer James B. Donovan on his mission to free recently imprisoned U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. Prior to this incident, the U.S had captured a Soviet spy who was spared the death sentence due to James Donovan, who was able to convince the court of his usefulness in a hostage trade. Due to this previous incident, the U.S plans to trade their spy for the U-2 pilot. Then things start to get complicated.
     Tom Hanks doesn’t let the audience down in his newest role, his acting is on par with his role in both Forrest Gump and Saving Private Ryan, which are both also historical movies. I personally feel that Tom Hanks excels in historical movies. Another part of the movie that increased my enjoyment of it was that it is mostly accurate the the actual event that happened.
     The movie is rated PG-13 since there isn’t many adult themes in the movie. It most likely isn’t meant for the average teen due to the fact that it has little to no action. Unless you are into historical films or actionless thrillers you most likely will not enjoy this movie to the fullest.
     I would give this movie a 4 bridges out of 5. The historical events and the acting puts this movie on top of most movies of similar design. I don’t feel that it deserves much higher of a score since I personally am not drawn to the legal part of the movie. As I said before I would recommend this movie to anyone looking for a good historical movie or a legal thriller.

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Gallery  —  Posted: May 16, 2016 in Academics, Photos of the week, Yearbook

By Natalie Delintt
Cougar News Blog

     Students at Cactus Canyon Junior High don’t usually know much about their teachers, but they know even less about custodians.
     Most CCJH custodians have kids of their own, some even going to Cactus Canyon or have gone to the junior high in the past.
     “I have two granddaughters that I raised in school here, so this is home to me,” said custodian Dianna Storms.
     Another thing students aren’t aware of is that custodians don’t live up to their stereotypes. They do more than just pick up after a whole bunch of messy teenagers. They have to make sure students are in a sanitary environment at all times, which is something kids take for granted. They have to get rid of graffiti and other vandalism made by students.
     There are also night custodians, like Storms, that prepare the school for the next day. They usually have to work in silence and it can get a little lonely.
     “My day starts with a team meeting at 2 p.m. to discuss any special needs or activities at school, then I load my cart and head off to my first building to begin my routine,” stated Storms. “Not being around the students at night is kind of lonely and quiet but it’s the only way to prepare (the) school for the next day.”
     Custodians do have a fun time, though.
     “I always look for chances in my day to brighten someone else’s,” said Storms. “I feel like we all have the ability to pay it forward or make someone’s day,” said Storms.
     Students sometimes don’t understand that the CCJH staff, including custodians, care as much as they do. They do their job to help students have the best educational environment possible.
     “By doing little things for each other here at Cactus Canyon like giving one another a sincere smile, a kind word, or even a rose when no one is looking is the little kindness we could all use in our lives to remind us of why we are here.”
     All staff at CCJH want students to follow their dreams and do what they want in life because it will always matter to someone.
     “I (and all other Cactus Canyon staff) want the kids to know that in no matter what your
chosen profession is, take pride in your work and always do your very best because it counts to someone,” said Storms.

Teachers like Mrs. Wilbur-Bowers helped students prepare for the AzMERIT test by requiring them to justify their answers.

Teachers like Mrs. Wilbur-Bowers helped students prepare for the AzMERIT test by requiring them to justify their answers.

By Stella deVargas
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon Junior High students and staff are adjusting to a new testing environment.
     Before the 2014-2015 year Arizona students took the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS). Last year students began taking AzMERIT instead, which is a more rigorous form of testing that requires the use of computers. They had to learn the online testing tools, how to justify their answers, and how to take the test using the correct format.
     Preparations began very differently for the AzMERIT compared to the first year, when teachers didn’t know what to expect and had students take several practice tests so they could learn how the program worked and how to use all the tools.
     This year, however, teachers began preparing students from the beginning of the year. Eighth grade language arts teacher John Leal feels that his students could spend less time practicing compared to the previous year; he felt his students were ready.
     “Prepping this year was easier because the students were more absorbent of information than the previous year,” said Mr. Leal. “Utilizing the tools all year long has helped students be more familiar with things that they could use to help them.”
     “Since this was the second year of AzMERIT testing, preparations and execution went significantly smoother,” said seventh grade language arts teacher Savana Fallon. “Last year, it was a little nerve-wracking since we didn’t know what to expect and we felt unprepared.”
     Math teacher Marla Aehlert said she spend a lot of time teaching students to show how they arrived at their answers, rather than just solving a problem. Many teachers included the strategy format daily work, which helped students practice and remember it. The justification of answers is an important part of the Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards.
     “I tried to make my students better at justifying their answers,” she said. “We wrote down anything and everything (that had) to do with the problems.”
     Most students agreed that the entire testing experience was easier this year.
     “I understood the AzMERIT test better this year by using what I learned last year and combining it with the things I learned this year,” said eighth grader Megan Wagner. “Prepping for the test this year was a lot easier because we learned most of the tools and how to do things last year.”
     “I think most people had a better feeling about it this year because they saw it last year and knew what to expect,” said eighth grader Jaden Erschen.

     College is one of the privileges that comes with living in a First World country, but unfortunately, that isn’t a possibility for many citizens. The price of college is something that needs to be changed right now. This isn’t acceptable to a country like the U.S. to charge so much that is needed for most jobs that won’t leave you working until you fall down.
     Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has a plan to make public colleges free for the average American. Sanders requires $75 billion annually to make this tuition plan successful, and he plans to impose a tax to cover that cost. He plans to add a tax at a fraction of a percent on Wall Street speculators. Stock trades would be taxed at .05 percent, bonds would be taxed at .1 percent, and financial derivatives, such as certain types of interest rates, taxed at .005 percent.
     Robert Pollin, an economist at the University of Massachusetts, believes that Sanders’ tax will be able to rake in $300 billion annually which is about 400 percent more than is needed. Although a Tax Policy Center critique says the plan will only raise $58 billion in the first year. The same critique also states that the reduction of trades would be quite severe and lead to a 62.9 percent reduction for bond trades, 85.1 percent reduction on stock trades, and a 82.2 percent reduction for derivatives. Mr. Pollin counters the statement by saying, “The TPC authors either ignore or misrepresent the main findings.”
     As it is now, public college in the US costs an average student about $9,400 for a full-year term. The cost with room and board increases an additional $2,500 per year. The current average cost for college student’s books and supplies is around $1,100 a year.
     Many working class families don’t have the money to send their child to college, which results in students taking out loans to pay for their college tuition. These student loans affect every student that decides to take out a loan. A survey was recently taken by American Student Assistance, a non-profit organization, to see how students are dealing with the constant threat of student loans. Out of all of the students that responded to ASA’s survey 75 percent said student loans had affected their ability to purchase a home and 63 percent said the debt had affected their decision to make larger purchases, such as a car.
     Our solution to the high cost of public college is to take several steps to lower the high tuition costs. If public colleges did a few things differently, it would be possible to decrease their tuition prices. By lowering the cost of supplies needed students could save at least part of the $1,100 average cost of books. Colleges could make digital copies of required textbooks, that cost much less than the average textbooks. although it may not eliminate the cost completely it would lower the price to a reasonable amount for the students.
     Another solution to high college prices would be to reduce the cost of student loans and their interest. Currently the interest rate on student loans range from 4.29 percent to 6.48 percent. Since most college students don’t have a high paying job directly out of high school they usually take more than 10 years to pay off. The interest rates make it even more difficult to pay off since they increase in price annually. As well as having the interest rates stack upon each other. Average college students leave college with about $30,000 worth of debt, which with interest would be $32,000 in the first year.
     While reducing prices in colleges would bring difficulties in both the school and in the outside world, it would allow more production as well as new technologies being invented. Which in the long run would be better for our civilization as a whole, in the short it would reduce jobs available but that is something not too difficult to remedy. It would lastly supply more jobs to teachers due to the fact that there will be more students.

This article is the opinion of the Cougar News Blog editorial team of James Armstrong, Damian Lopez, Jessica Martinez, and Michael Penge.