Changes in grading policy
The cancellation of almost every school activity, social event and celebration has forced students to end their 2020 school year without the aspects of school that excite them most. To add onto the devastating losses of such events as prom and graduation, students in every grade are being challenged to adapt to new expectations for standardized testing, grading, college admissions and decisions, and senior celebrations.
In an email released on April 19, Principal David Grissom wrote, “All classes will be awarded Credit/No Credit based on student engagement (attendance) and proficiency in the subject matter. No letter grades will be assigned for the Spring semester.” This effort, an attempt to create a fair learning environment for students regardless of outside commitments and varying circumstances during this time, is widely debated among the student body.
Senior Priya Jain finds the new system beneficial.
“I lost my mom in February and after that my schoolwork was affected… and my grades really suffered,” she said. “I feel that [credit/no credit grading] is good because as long as you are doing your work… you will get credit and they won’t look at grades.” However, Jain said she understands the opposing opinion. “A lot of people think that their hard work was for nothing.”
Senior Mezi Iroaga said she has conflicting opinions about the switch. She said she felt happy at first because of the minimized effort she would need to put in.
“At the same time I am someone who really strives to do my best work, and it’s sad to know that a lot of work I had done this semester and any work I really go after for the rest of this semester won’t get that same gratification because it will just say I passed the class,” Iroaga said.
“It’s sad to know that a lot of work I had done this semester… won’t get that same gratification because it will just say I passed the class”
Juniors, with their second semester grades being one of their last chances to showcase their academic abilities to colleges, are especially affected by the decision.
“We don’t understand why the grades during the months that weren’t affected by COVID-19 cannot count,” junior Ava Cairns said. “So many students, including myself, have worked incredibly hard for each class before the shut down, so we just wish there was a way to not jeopardize the people that worked so hard but also make sure that everyone has an equal chance in succeeding this year.”
Grissom said that the switch will “not impact college eligibility.” However, many juniors are worried not only about their grades, but about standardized testing.
State testing and college
On April 15, the College Board announced that it will no longer be able to administer the next SAT originally scheduled for the first weekend of June.
They added that if conditions are safe, they will be adding a September testing date to the already established August, October, November, and December dates.
Colleges and universities around the country are adjusting their requirements for applicants. In addition to accepting credit/no credit grading, the nine University of California schools announced on March 31 that they will no longer require an SAT or ACT score for the freshman applicants of 2021.
As juniors worry about their future college applications, many seniors are facing the final days before the approaching May 1 deadline to commit to colleges. While this time has always been anxiety-ridden for seniors, the class of 2020 is facing the disadvantage of relying on virtual tours and Zoom meetings with college counselors to make their decisions.
“It’s been kind of difficult because I’m still deciding which college I want to go to and I can’t visit the colleges and find out more information,” Iroaga said.
She added that Zoom meetings and other virtual options have been beneficial and allowed her to easily get in contact with the schools.
“It’s a new option, even though it kind of sucks,” Iroaga said. “It’s definitely been a positive.”
“I decided to go somewhere that I have never even visited before, which is honestly very difficult because there’s only so much you can see in a school online”
Senior Abby Hahn said she faced a similar situation. She was only able to visit one of the nine schools she applied to, leaving her decision up to Zoom meetings and virtual tours. Hahn will be attending Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.
“I decided to go somewhere that I have never even visited before, which is honestly very difficult because there’s only so much you can see in a school online,” Hahn said. “You can’t get a true feel for the school or see the true beauty of the school, I think that’s more of a visiting thing where you can really experience it and you can meet people face-to-face.”
Graduation, prom, and extra-curriculars
While seniors are finalizing their post-graduation plans, there is certainly a sense of loss within the class of 2020 community.
Hahn is one of the dozens of seniors who lost the opportunity to finish their final athletic seasons. “We’re all handling it in our own way so I think finding a way to cope has been the biggest challenge,” she said. “But… it’s gotten a lot easier, especially since I’ve gotten more information about where I’m going to college and having something to look forward to, rather than having the things I look forward to just being taken away.”
With the fate of events like prom and grad night still undecided, Hahn said it is important to focus on the big picture.
“In the long run, the most important thing is how’s your mental health, how are you doing,” she said. “We don’t have prom and that sucks, but I would say mental health and physical health are more important than a school dance, even though I was really looking forward to it.”
Iroaga is a treasurer of Dance Spectrum and described the devastating loss of the May show, which she had been excited about since her freshman year, as the “last straw.”
“The community is very close and we like to just be around each other and dance with each other but now it’s kind of awkward because the dance class is over Zoom,” she said.
Iroaga is also a part of the Freestyle Academy, a district program with film, design, and animation classes. Iroaga said the classes have always been centered around online work, however the lack of access to advanced technology has been challenging.
“It’s hard using the [technology] we have at home to do and work for that because it’s a lot slower,” Iragoa said.
Programs across campus have been cut short, leaving many seniors with the feeling of an incomplete high school experience. Jain is a member of Science Olympiad and said she has made close friendships with people in other grades.
“I only really spend time with them on Friday and Saturday nights because we have three and a half hour workshops at school, so knowing that that has been paused because of quarantine has been hard,” Jain said. “There’s some friends you can always text, but there’s some friends who you rely on in-person interactions with.”
“It won’t be the same experience, but I think I deserve, and my classmates deserve, a wonderful graduation and a last time together because we have worked really hard for our whole lives for a moment like that”
While the seniors are all experiencing their own losses during the final months of their high school career, a shared sentiment among many is the desire to walk across the graduation stage when it becomes safe.
“I hope they don’t just discount [graduation]completely, I hope that we can push it back and still get everyone together in our caps and gowns,” Hahn said. “It won’t be the same experience, but I think I deserve, and my classmates deserve, a wonderful graduation and a last time together because we have worked really hard for our whole lives for a moment like that.”
“Life is really unpredictable, so try to live each day as if it’s your last day and live each year like it’s your last year”
Jain shares a similar perspective.
“I really don’t want a virtual graduation, that defeats the purpose,” she said. “I hope we can do something in-person and try to get the rest of the school involved because it’s really nice when everyone comes together, like students from all different grades and all of the teachers for a final moment together.”
As they reflect on their unprecedented senior year, Jain, Hahn, and Iroaga each provided a message for future senior classes.
“Life is really unpredictable, so try to live each day as if it’s your last day and live each year like it’s your last year,” Jain said. “Make the most out of your senior year because I wish… I had done more to make my senior year memorable.”
Iroaga and Hahn shared similar advice.
“Make the most out of what you have and really enjoy it to the max because I am really grateful that I was able to do that for most of the year…but take every single opportunity that you can, while you can, because I’ve learned that not everything is guaranteed to happen,” she said. “Take every moment you can to talk to someone you haven’t talked to and seal in those friendships you already have.”
“Don’t take your time with your classmates and teachers in physical school for granted, I know I did,” Hahn said. “Everyone has had their challenges, but high school is high school, and you should really make the most of it.”