McKinney ISD Salary Records 2016-2017

Under the Texas Public Information Act, I requested McKinney Independent School District’s salary records of its employees. The data includes hire date, gender, annual salary, location, and job description.

I have uploaded an unmodified version of the file that McKinney ISD sent me, except for the file name. It is available as an Excel spreadsheet. Please let me know if you need it in another format by contacting me through my email address,

Recovering from rejection

After releasing my previous post, which has been viewed over 200 times, I’ve received an outpouring of support from my friends at TAMS. While I’ve been overwhelmed by my rejections, I’ve equally, if not more so, been overwhelmed by the immense amount of kind messages and advice that I’ve received from so many people.

The first question that many people have been wondering was if I’m okay. This is a totally understandable question. Thankfully, my answer is: yes, I am. I was very disheartened and depressed two weeks ago, when I initially received the news. And understandably so. However, I have since recovered from my bout of depression, and for me, writing that blog post was the nail in the coffin on this issue. I needed to grieve (see the Kübler–Ross model) and for me, that blog post showed my grieving (albeit in a quite unorderly fashion).

After grief comes action. Everybody has been encouraging me to move on. I am capable. I am able to lead. If I’m not accepted here, there’s no point in grieving about it here. That’s true. So, I will be moving on.

It will be fine. I am fine now. I will be better than now in the future. Things will only get better.

How I got a perfect score on my ACT

If you’re looking for my tips for improving or getting a perfect score on the ACT, please scroll below.

My personal story

On Wednesday, after preparing and taking my Microeconomics exam, I went to eat lunch and arrived outside of my next classroom. I browsed through Twitter and saw that ACT scores were out. I didn’t expect this, so I went to check on the website. I was hoping for a 35. Please don’t be a 34. Please be a 35. Or if I’m really lucky, maybe a 36.

I typed in my username and password haphazardly, clicked a few buttons, and saw that my composite was a 36.

But not just my composite was a 36. All of my sections were a 36.

I was overjoyed. I was almost hysterical. The euphoria I experienced was unimaginable. I became forever finished with SATs and ACTs. (Except for maybe the SAT Subject Test, but that’s not really as important as the SAT or the ACT.)

Never did I expect this. In January, I took the new SAT for the first time and I felt terrible afterwards. The new SAT’s format frustrated me and I was sick of it. Just in case, though, I registered for the February ACT. I also took some ACT classes and a practice test at KD College Prep. On that test, I got a 32 composite. Not bad for my first time ever. I bought the Official ACT prep book and took the first practice test, which was apparently the best one in the book. I analyzed my mistakes after getting a 34 composite; I would need to improve on the hardest math questions, my speed of reading, and I needed to reduce mistakes on the science test.

On the night before the test, I took a nice ol’ nap, flipped through my practice book to review where I screwed up, and I was basically done after that.

The next morning, I woke up at 6:20 (which was too early for me but whatever) and ate a good breakfast. I was picked up by my friend and we drove to the test center. We went in, socialized, and I gave a pep talk that would resemble something given by a tiger mom, but deep inside, I was just hoping to get a 35.

So I went in and took the test. It was easy.

After the test, I felt great. It seemed quite easy and I was expecting some hopefully good scores. I was depending on the ACT because I know that I didn’t do so hot on my SAT.

Now that I have received this score, I no longer have to worry about taking the test again. I can concentrate on college applications and use this ACT score to get in. I won’t have a fear of being rejected because my test scores were too low; in fact, even if colleges reject me, I will have some closure as to why. It can’t be my 36; it’d have to be because my essays didn’t demonstrate that I belong in their community, and that’s fine. I just can’t bear the thought of being rejected because my test score was too low.

Update (February 28, 2017): My writing scores are now out; 11/12! Here’s my full score report:

How to improve or perfect your ACT scores

So I’m in no way an ACT guru, but my 36 came as a result of a few strategies I employed. I have a few tips for each section.

  • English – The ACT English section is harder than the SAT Writing section. I like how the ACT has a harder grammar section and an easier reading comprehension section because 1. ain’t nobody got time for BS analysis and 2. grammar just makes sense to me. If you are a grammar Nazi, I highly suggest you take the ACT. If grammar is very hard for you, you may want to consider taking the SAT. There are 75 questions in the ACT English section, done in 45 minutes. The timing is very quick. Be sure you are innately familiar with English grammar.
  • Mathematics – If you can do SAT Math, you’re good with geometry, and you’re good with trigonometry, then the ACT Math section is very straightforward and easy. As you may know, CAS (computer algebra system) calculators like the TI-Nspire CX CAS are unfortunately banned from the ACT. I used somebody’s TI-Nspire CX instead. Honestly, for those who take calculator courses where tests are non-calculator, this shouldn’t be too difficult for you. Also NO GRID INS BLESS. Be sure to work easy problems quickly. If you are finding yourself running out of time in the end, it is better for you to quickly do easy problems than to spend time on them, ensuring they are right, because they probably are. Instead, you should be done with 45 questions within 35 or 40 minutes. Use the remaining 20 to 25 minutes to work on the remaining 15 or even 10 or 5. The last questions are always the hardest and you should spend the most time on each of them relative to the other easier questions.
  • Reading – Unlike SAT Reading, the ACT Reading section actually makes sense. Read the text, find the keywords in the question, circle, and move on. There’s not much thinking to be done. But you do need to understand the passage well. Be sure to keep on your toes! 40 questions in 35 minutes is difficult but doable.
  • Science – Also known as the “logic” test, or to those who think it’s a joke, the “free” section. But no, it’s not really a free section. Basically, you will be analyzing data presented within “experiments” or passages. Sometimes, you can simply look at the question, glance at the data, extract the relevant number, circle the answer, and move on. Other times, you will have to think or deduce based on the information given. The only scientific knowledge you may have to know: how to calculate percentage error or the planets, etc. Personally, I found the Science section to be the most challenging because there was no SAT equivalent.

Some general tips:

  1. If you’re confused about a question, just reread or come back to it later. If you’re feeling like you’re running out of time, then circle the answer choice that makes most sense to you and move on.
  2. Make sure you don’t miss a question by misreading it. Always double check and ensure that your answer choice makes sense by coming back to it a second time and analyzing how it correlates to the passage vs. what’s being asked.
  3. Get faster by cutting down on reading and answering questions faster.
  4. Do practice tests and analyze where you messed up. After my scores came out, I found out that has great resources, including links to old released tests.

Feel free to contact me for any more advice. I can add more advice to this page if you ask for it.

My first semester at TAMS

I have now finished my first semester at TAMS! Time goes by quickly 🙂 I felt like it was just yesterday that I was sitting in a lecture hall for the first time, ready to listen to a lecture about chemistry. I was wondering who this cat-loving Dr. Marty Schwartz was and what he looked like. Or even my calculus professor Dr. Kallman (man that was a surprise lol).

This semester, I began an exciting journey as a high school student in college. Living in a dorm has so far been the most momentous change of my life. Getting acclimated to college life was actually surprisingly easy and quite enjoyable.

Academics at TAMS are actually quite rigorous, but this is compensated with less class time and more time to relax and do homework. I believe that I have learned a lot more in my calculus class than if I had stayed at my former high school. The rigor of college classes, even at UNT, is quite appeasing to high schoolers like us TAMSters, and I enjoy the experience in hindsight. My favorite part: there’s no “block” schedule to follow. Next semester, I can wake up on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 9:30am, grab a quick bite, and walk about 500m to my 10am Calculus II class. (Unfortunately, my English professor was only able to teach an 8am Tuesday/Thursday section, so I’m sticking with her in exchange for less sleep on Monday and Wednesday nights.)

Because of the, umm, academic reputation of UNT students, the grading system is simply a letter grade, which is super easy. There is no plus/minus system. Coming from McKinney ISD, where each and every single point mattered towards counting my weighted GPA, the letter grade system puts significantly less stress on me. I can get a low A and not feel bad about it. It wouldn’t have made a difference if I got a 90 or a 100 in a class. In fact, I am expecting all A’s, which means a 4.0 GPA. Apparently, that’s not very common at UNT 🙄. (Granted, our unweighted GPA was also on this system, but our weighted GPA was NOT and resulted in lots of stress.)

In terms of student life, I am truly amazed at the sheer enthusiasm of all of the clubs and organizations here. All of the clubs have passionate officers who truly believe in their cause. Additionally, I have had a blast volunteering at all of the amazing opportunities that TAMS offers. Vans drop us off and pick us up at our volunteering locations. There are even opportunities to volunteer within TAMS or UNT. The free time that we have during the day allows for us to use that time for good and I truly do appreciate this. (I’ve racked up a lot of volunteer hours, but I really didn’t do it for hours—I volunteered at each and every venue because I felt it would be fun. Seriously. I’m not BSing this.)

Furthermore, TAMS is full of amazing people that I am so happy to have met and gotten to known better. I’m so happy to know like-minded individuals to go to class together with, to study with, to do activities with, and to be friends with. With the fact that TAMS sets us in a college environment, we get to bond more than just in class. We also get to stay in one dorm, eat at the questionable cafeteria next door, and have fun whenever we want. (I know two people who took showers together at 3am until that was banned a month or two ago. Yes, it goes deep.)

All of this being said, I still miss my friends back at Boyd and my family at home. I am hoping winter break will be a good time to catch up; not to mention I’ll have two extra weeks of winter break!! Omg I’m so happy! Just kidding, I’m going to have to use it for SAT and ACT studying. Hooray?

But seriously though, it was a very difficult decision to leave my friends and family for college. Do I regret it? No. Would I have regretted staying? No. To be honest, I think each path of life would have its benefits and drawbacks. Unfortunately, I can’t have it all. With that being said, I want to focus on my choice and try my best to stay in touch with my former school, because I still care about both sides. Hoping for a great spring semester!

On my 2016 AP exam scores

I wrote a similar blog post last year regarding the 2015 school year administration of AP exams. I realized that the blog post covered the entire AP experience, but I will continue the naming convention for sake of naming conventions. 🙂

I took a truly college-level difficulty course where the grades reflected the difficulty. I struggled through twice the amount of history class notes. I have little to no reflection as an introducing summary for this year so I’ll just cut to the chase.

So it began the second year of high school. Did you know it began at the end of the 2014–2015 school year? I did not even know my AP Biology score at the time, yet our Biology teacher sardonically handed a piece of paper as part of the “iceberg” of summer learning for AP Chemistry. I was scared to death and I had a bad feeling about AP Chemistry. The only chemistry knowledge I had was from 4th to 8th grade. So, a periodic table, protons, neutrons, and electrons. Yikes. I was even iffy on what an ionic bond was.

Meanwhile, the end of the Humanities GT World Geography class (in actuality a Historic World Cultures class) marked the beginning of my other two AP classes I would take next year. AP World History was the natural continuation of GT World Geography. However, I didn’t really even learn world geography. I was quite disappointed. Additionally, the next year’s GT freshmen would be taking AP Human Geography instead of GT World Geography like we did. Over the summer, I added AP Human Geography to my schedule and was determined to expand my passion of geography-like subjects, as I had fallen in love with on Wikipedia.

I had a good feeling about AP World History and AP Human Geography. Their coursework might be painful, but typing notes on my computer is not a big deal. Furthermore, the note templates of AP Human Geography were quite a refreshing change from the by-paper power notes of 9th grade World Geography. However, they minimized the effectiveness of reading the entire AP Human Geography textbook. That was important because the test actually covered the small details of each textbook.

When I started school, I didn’t feel bad about World History and Human Geography. Actually, at times, World History seemed like the easiest class that I had. However, Human Geography, catered to freshmen, was more “guided” and therefore contained more busy work. While it was easy, it was tedious.

I don’t feel these two AP classes were that difficult, so I won’t explain them any further.

The class that gave me the most grief was AP Chemistry. I had an extremely experienced and talented teacher who was tough on grading and even taught in a college before. She gave lectures that you didn’t want to miss but the key to success, like any other college class, is the textbook itself. I did not know this until second semester, so my grades plummeted as I started to realize that I really didn’t know what I was doing in the class. The material was tough to synthesize, I started to fail quizzes, and on each test, I was so nervous that I felt cold, my heart sank, and I was sweating a lot. It was terrible.

I did so terrible once that I nearly failed a test. (Was a 69 before a 3pt curve bumped it up to a 72.) It was then that I realized I had to study hardcore. So one entire day before the test, I simply did textbook problems going over that unit. If I didn’t get a question right, I would figure out why and do another similar problem until I got it down. I would also read the textbook a lot to make sure I got the concepts down. The test I was studying for was the hardest test of the year. I got a 101 after a 4-point curve. This is not a joke. I felt SO happy. And this studying regiment continued for the rest of the year.

The only feeling I had that was better was when I saw my AP scores.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 5.55.14 AM

I felt I had finally completed my goal of mastering an AP science. I had gotten a 4 in Biology, and truth be told, I felt just awful about it, getting a lackluster result in something I worked so hard in. And I am happy to finally show my love for history and social sciences in the form of an AP score too. But AP Chemistry was really difficult and I am just stunned at how much I had grown and learned within a year.

Thank you so much to all of my teachers. I can’t thank you enough. That’s probably why Chinese culture believes a student is forever indebted to their teacher.

McKinney ISD’s One to the World program is fundamentally flawed

When McKinney ISD high schoolers first received MacBook Airs for learning, millions of tax dollars were given to Apple for these laptops. Originally perceived as changing the learning environment, the frustrations that the One:World program present to students reveal fundamental flaws to the entire program.

For one, students are forced to use a minuscule, locked-down version of one of the most powerful, elegant operating systems in the world, intended for much more than what is being used right now. And how about that tiny laptop screen? It’s too small.

Many of you know what happened to some of my friends and myself when we were fed up with this locked-down version of the OS and proceeded to escalate our privileges on the MacBook Airs.

What happened was I became angrier and more discontent with this program.

There were attempts to resolve this but unfortunately, as much as I appreciate these efforts (and I really do), they do not resolve the fundamental flaws within the One:World program.

Our school district has effectively used a local taxation referendum to extort more money from our property owners, originally intended for teachers’ salaries only. Now, these MacBooks are small, locked down and don’t allow for children to use these MacBooks as they please. Furthermore, McKinney ISD has many mechanisms (namely their Acceptable Use Policy or AUP) to enforce their restrictions in a most tyrannical way; I was a victim of this.

My parents are upset with how small the laptop screens are. They’re upset that taxpayers didn’t get to choose what laptops we could get. My parents, and likely many other parents of McKinney ISD, would’ve wanted larger, less restrictive laptops.

The obvious solution would be to allow parents to buy their children alternative laptops.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work because McKinney ISD has built up a monolithic ecosystem where everything is controlled like a police state. Outside laptops could use the “BYOD” system, which would further be restricted by the AUP and are not able to use essential functions that these authorized, locked-down laptops are able to use, such as printers and ports for running network applications.

I have already proposed a solution, but I doubt it would be taken seriously.