May 2016 (Volume 66, Issue 4)
Recently, a rumor has been circulating around the school concerning a planned study switch for rising juniors during the 2016-17 school year. Speculation from from both students and teachers–due to what feels like ineffective communication about the switch–has been confirmed: juniors will take physical education during second term next year, meaning that most juniors will have their study period first term, rather than second term, which has been the case for past several years. This change is a major issue for rising juniors, though the change was made with seemingly limited consideration for the impact it will have on students.
In recent years, second semester study has proven vital for juniors during a time in which they must prepare for SATs, complete a JRP, and face the overwhelming post-secondary process. Current junior Emily Chen reflects on her experience having a half year study junior year: “I greatly relied on my study period during the second semester. It not only allowed me to get more work done during the day, but with open campus, it gave me the opportunity to catch up on sleep that I missed because of homework demands.” In addition to these concerns, grades during the second half of junior year play an important role in college applications. Junior year is a time when many students are finally maturing into the students they are truly capable of being, and their work during second semester is often best reflective of that growth.
The administration’s main justification for the switch is the overcrowding issue, as the ninth and tenth grade classes are simply too big to have PE classes together, but another fact that the administration believes limits the impact of this change is that 20% of rising juniors have elected to take full year studies, so that those students would not be affected. While it is true that one-fifth of juniors will retain a study period second semester, this argument disregards the best interests of the 300+ other students who are operating under the assumption that their junior year study will occur during semester two, as it has for the past several years.
While the failure to notify students about the schedule change was likely not intentional, and was obviously not malicious, the administration’s failure to inform students prior to the course selection process is creating distress amongst rising juniors, many of whom may have planned differently if they knew they would not automatically have a study period second semester. Junior Alice Rufo illustrates some of these concerns: “I chose to take three AP classes under the assumption that I would have the extra study to keep up with my work…but the change is making me very nervous about junior year.” For many students like Alice, junior year brings a large amount of stress and anxiety, and it is Needham High School’s job to make the year as manageable as possible for its students. With that being said, although enacting the study switch would provide a temporary solution to Needham’s overcrowding issue, it does so at a cost for juniors.
Needham High School’s core values are “To think; To respect; To communicate,” three important values that not only pertain to NHS students, but should also pertain to its staff, who should operate as role models in the school community. However, in the recent study switch decision made by the administration, our school leaders have violated these principles by failing to think and therefore anticipate the negative effects this change will have on rising juniors, failing to respect the best interests of their students, and finally, failing to appropriately communicate their decision to everyone involved.