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WEST SI DE STO RY IOWA CITY WEST HIGH SCHOOL

2901 MELROSE AVE.

IOWA CITY, IA 52246

WSSPAPER.COM

VOLUME 51 ISSUE 6

MAY 23, 2019

WEIGHING THE DECISION Investigating the implementation of weighted grades in the ICCSD.


P H OTO F E AT U R E

KARA WAGENKNECHT Peyton Steva ‘19 battles Abraham Lincoln High School’s Darby Thomas ‘19 as they both jump over the last hurdle during the 100 meter hurdle race on Friday, April 26. Steva fell by .03 seconds to Thomas to obtain second place with a time of 14.33. BEHIND THE PHOTO Man, I love the Drake Relays. I have had the opportunity to cover the relays since sophomore year. I look forward to this weekend every year, even though I usually end up standing in the middle of a downpour. This year, it was actually nice for a few days at the relays, which is a rare occasion. My favorite events to cover are the 100 and 110 meter hurdles and the shuttle hurdle relay. I really like photographing events involving hurdles because it is challenging to capture the action of the athlete jumping. You also only get one chance to get a photo, so you have to make sure all of your settings are just right so you capture everything without it being blurry. In the photo above, I captured Peyton jumping over the last hurdle during the 100 meter hurdle finals. I always get nervous before a race because I want to get the best photos possible, and I am very pleased with how this photo turned out. FOR MORE COVERAGE, GO TO WSSPAPER.COM


CONTENTS F E AT U R E

PROFILES

C OV E R

E N T E R TA I N M E N T

S P O RT S

OPINION

04 08 12 17 20 24

04 YEAR IN REVIEW 0 6 B E S T S T U DY S T R AT E G I E S 0 8 S AY I N G G O O D BY E 1 0 A R O U N D T H E WO R L D A N D B AC K 1 0 AGA I N

12 WEIGHING THE DECISION

17 CYNICAL SUMMER 1 8 WO U L D YO U R AT H E R ?

2 0 S N E A K E R WA R S 2 2 I N T H E ZO N E

2 4 E D I TO R I A L : H O N O R A B L E M E N T I O N

LETTER FROM THE

FOLLOW US @WSSPAPER

Hello! We’re The Natalies, the Print and Web Editorin-Chiefs for the 2019-20 year. As we prepare to take on our new roles and our final forms, we’ve reflected on all of the changes West has experienced in the past few years. After losing part of the school population to Liberty and adjusting to district-issued Chromebooks, we were thrown one final curveball. In April, non-seniors were emailed with the news that AP classes would be graded on a weighted scale. Reporters Annabel Hendrickson and Marta Leira investigated the details behind this major decision with the hopes of shedding light on its impact on both students

“SUMMER MUST-DO’S”

EDITORS and teachers. To better understand the controversy behind weighted grades, head over to our editorial where we gave the West community the opportunity to express their concerns. Before you leave for the summer, make sure to send a warm farewell to the seven staff members who will be retiring this year, and check out their parting quotes in the profiles section. We can’t wait to see you in the fall, but until then, enjoy your summer; hopefully you’ll be relaxing by the pool with a West Side Story in hand.

NATALIE DUNLAP, WEB EIC AND NATALIE KATZ, PRINT EIC

WRITTEN BY BRENDA GAO ART BY SELINA HUA

SUMMER! GET READY FOR...

PHOTO BY KILEY BUTCHER COVER DESIGN BY VIVIEN HO

SUMMER

BODS!

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

OR... RELAXING INSIDE. HAVE FUN AND BE SAFE!


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F E AT U R E

YEAR IN

NOV. 3

MAY 23, 2019

RE V IE W

PACE MA KER West Side Story journalists attended the JEA/NSPA national high school journalism conference in Chicago and returned with the organization’s highest award: the Pacemaker. Entries were judged by teams of professionals on coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership, design, photography and graphics. WSS is one of 28 Pacemaker winners from across the nation.

2018 BY JESSICA MOONJELY

As th e 2 01 8 - 1 9 s c hoo l y e a r c om e s to a c lo s e, We st S i d e Story looks back o n s o m e of t he most m emo rabl e m o m e n t s of t he ye a r.

AUGUST

RE NOVATI ONS

Kolby Greiner ‘19 runs past the one mile marker during the race on Thursday, Sept. 27. Greiner won the race in a time of 16:03.

At the start of this school year, the first phase of renovation improvements was revealed. Some of the biggest additions to West include the new cafeteria, South Gym and the dance room. The next phase of renovations will focus on adding geothermal heating, ventilation and air conditioning, which is set to be complete by the fall of 2020.

This year the annual homecoming dance was held in a new venue: the South Gym. Additional changes to the homecoming festivities included a new parade and a redesign of homecoming court. King and queen titles, along with key gendered categories, were eliminated, and the new court was given the title “Heroes of Troy.” This change was made in order to ensure a more inclusive and diverse court.

HOMECOMING DESIGN BY BRENDA GAO PHOTOS BY OWEN AANESTAD, ADITI BORDE & KARA WAGENKNECHT

OCT. 1 3

Both the girls and boys cross country teams qualified for state. The girls team upheld their tradition of qualifying for the 24th consecutive time. Led by new head coach Josh Kidman, the boys cross country team qualified for the 19th time since 1976. At the state cross country meet, Kolby Greiner ’19 placed third.

CROSS COUNTRY OCT. 2 7


05

FEB. 9

S P R ING

SWIM MIN G

ROBOT I CS

West and Liberty combined swim teams for the second year in a row. Both boys and girls were undefeated in dual meets this swim season. At the state meet, James Pinter ’20 placed second in the 100 and 200 meter freestyle. Liberty student Izaak Hajek ’20 placed first in the 100 meter butterfly stroke.

F E AT U R E

MAY 23, 2019

The FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team “Trobotix” qualified for the state tournament in Coralville, Iowa. The FIRST Robotics Competition team “Children of the Corn” placed fifth at the Seven Rivers Regional in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

2019 Rachel Ding ‘19 and Lukas Anson ‘19 alter the robot in between rounds at the FTC Super Qualifiers.

Izaak Hajek ‘20 competed in the 100 yard butterfly race at the state swimming meet on Saturday, Feb. 9. Hajek took home first place in a time of 49.45 to become the state champion.

This winter, the ICCSD lost nine days and a record number of 66.95 hours of school due to inclement weather. In order to meet the state requirements of 1080 hours of school, beginning on Feb. 18, an additional 10 minutes was added to the school day for the rest of the school year. A half-day of school was also added on May 31.

POL AR VORTE X JAN. - F E B.

Theatre West showcased its spring musical, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Sean Harken ’21 starred as the titular role alongside Lucy Polyak ’19 as Mrs. Lovett. An elaborate chute was made by new Tech Director Christian Aanestad for Sweeney’s victims to slide down.

SWE E NE Y TOD D APRIL 11-13

Freshmen, sophomores and juniors took the new Iowa Statewide Test of Student Progress (ISASP). Last year, the Iowa state legislature passed a law to replace the Iowa Assessments with the ISASPs. Unlike the Iowa Assessments, the ISASPs were taken online, did not have a social studies section and included an essay portion.

I S AS P

AP RIL 1 6 - 1 8

Sean Harken ’21 and Lucy Polyak ’19 perform in Theatre West’s spring musical “Sweeney Todd.”


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F E AT U R E

MAY 23, 2019

BEST STUDY STRATEGIES

When preparing for that scary final exam, abandon all of your study habits. Through scientific reseach, WSS explores the ultimate unique study strategy to ace that final test.

BY JENNA WANG

Part 1 - Debunking the Myth The scene is all too familiar – students cramming for that last-minute final at midnight, hunched over a messy desk, with notebooks and textbooks covered in yellow streaks of highlighter and short summaries littered with colored sticky notes. With the unyielding clock ticking every minute, there’s a moment of fleeting panic. There’s a lot of information, but what’s the best way to take it in? Most students fall into the usual routine of re-reading highlighted lines, summaries and pouring hours into reading textbook chapters again and again until they hope the material will somehow stick in their brains. It’s no surprise that when they get their grade back, it’s less than desired. The biggest problem lies with the study techniques used, namely highlighting, rereading and summarizing. Almost every student has used these techniques, yet according to scientific research, they are the lowest effective methods to actually learn information. Throughout years of studying and course work, students have never been taught how to study the most effective way. Despite the allure of beautiful notes and detailed summaries, studies show that current methods are actually very ineffective, unless students are specifically trained to summarize and note-take the right way, which few are. However, the study techniques are so popular

because of their perceived effectiveness and the fact that many never learned how to study. “I think the main reason students aren’t taught effective study tips is that examinations are largely related to memorization at earlier ages. Students either observe or hear that the best way to remember something is to continue looking at it over and over again until you perceive some level of retention,” said Lucas Halvorson, an assistant at the University of Iowa Tutor Center, an organization dedicated to helping students succeed on campus by teaching a variety of skills, like basic study strategies and habits. Hundreds of years of research actually prove that there is one method that prevails above all – it goes by the name of active recall, and it’s by far the least used technique among students.

Part 2 - The Evidence/Definition The common myth among many students is that the process of learning is centered around feeding information to the brain and then retrieving it only during the exam. The study technique of active recall is completely different from that way of thinking. Active recall is a process where students continually retrieve information from their brain instead of constantly just feeding information to the brain. Studies show that when students retrieve information, they strengthen the connections in the brain that are necessary to do well in tests.


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“Active recall is superior to standard study methods like re-reading, highlighting and basic listening as it’s actually proven to improve student grades pretty substantially,” Halvorson said. “When you review you can actually close your eyes and develop the concept without any visual or audible aids, as if you were in an exam. Studies show that if you’re able to actively recall information without the implicit support of highlighting or looking over information, you’ll actually be able to not only understand but apply the information or topic.” Active recall isn’t just a conjecture, but a method that’s actually backed up by numerous scientific studies. One specific study took place at Washington University in St. Louis, where scientist Henry L. Roediger studied a group of college students that were each given the same exact exam containing 40 foreign language vocabulary pairs to learn and review. Following the review, all the students were given an exam

and once they all knew the content, the scientist assigned each student one of the following four actions. 1. The student continued reviewing and be frequently tested on the word pairs 2. The student no longer reviewed, but would only be frequently tested on the word pairs. 3. The student just reviewed and would not be tested on the word pairs. 4. The student no longer studied and would not be tested on the word pairs. All of the students returned a week later and were given an almost identical follow-up test. “The results showed that the active recall students were able to remember an average of 80 percent of the vocab words, whereas the review group remembered just 34 percent on average compared to the control group. The active recall group was 50 percent more successful than the basic review group,” Halvorson said. “The replication of an exam environment ensures that your brain is able to store information as

long-term, which would take 12 months of basic review to accomplish without the practice of active recall.” Later on in 2011, a study on retrieval practice procedures by Karpicke and Blunt was implemented with further realizations. A group of scientists split students into four different groups. The first group was instructed to study an assigned chapter once. The second group was told to study and read it exactly four times. The third group studied it once and afterwards made a mind map, and the fourth group was told to read the chapter once and recall as much of it as possible. Then, all the students were tested in two phases. The first phase tested on verbatim – the material and facts right from the text. The students in the third and fourth group did remarkably better, proving that even reading the chapter once and then just trying to recall the information is way better for tests than just re-reading a chapter multiple times – and a much better use of time. The second phase tested on inference, which is the ability of a student to apply the learned information, and the students who used active recall did significantly better than the groups that just studied the chapter. Finally, the scientists asked the students before conducting the study what method they thought would be the best. They rated repeated study as the best and rated active recall as the least effective, showing that students’ own intuitive ideas don’t match up with what proven studies show. “I think it’s just a common misconception that [highlighting, re-reading and summarizing] are observed as the most effective way to retain information, mostly because it’s intuitive that hammering information over and over again should help us remember it,” Halvorson said. “It’s accurate for short term memory, but in reality it’s more the case that strategies to test that review will actually ensure the student has the information in their long term memory to succeed in the classroom.”

Part 3 - Specific Strategies Despite a new study technique that may seem daunting, there are many easy ways to incorporate it into a study session. The first method is to make notes with the textbook closed. Read an assigned chapter once

and then close the textbook. Write down as much as you can about the topic. When you’re done, open the textbook up again and go over the details you missed. The second method is an alternative way to engage with the text. Read the chapter once, and then take a piece of paper to write questions for yourself over the material. When you re-read the chapter, answer your written questions on the way so that you’ll engage in cognitive effort to retrieve information from your brain. No matter what, it’s not impossible to begin active recall, no matter how intuitive and seemingly easy the traditional methods seem to work. “I think it’s really as easy as taking a moment

during your study and review time to block off the answers or close your eyes and try not only to repeat back facts, but build the concept and its related ideas in your mind without any help,” Halvorson said. Not only will learning active recall help students do better on tests, but also teach them how to develop life-long skills and habits to succeed in the future. “There are so many benefits to actually learning how to study. Learning study skills will not only help you in future endeavors, especially in college, but will also help you establish skills to succeed in life. Good study skills can increase your confidence, competence and self-esteem. They can also reduce anxiety about tests and deadlines,” said Halvorson. “By developing effective study skills, you may be able to cut down on the number of hours spent studying, leaving more time for other things in your life.” ART & DESIGN BY SELINA HUA


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PROFILES MAY 23, 2019

SAYING

GOODBYE BY JOE GOODMAN & NATALIE KATZ


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PROFILES

MAY 23, 2019

ELIZABETH BELDING

KATHY BRESNAHAN

DOUG HERMAN

LIBRARIAN

HEALTH TEACHER & VOLLEYBALL COACH

SCIENCE TEACHER

What do you hope students remember about you? “I hope they felt that somebody cared. I just want everyone to believe that they have a place here and that they, whoever they are, they’re important and they can be who they are. I guess that’s the biggest thing ... and that they return their books. No I’m kidding.”

What made you become a teacher and coach? “I loved my teachers and coaches in high school and summer vacations, it doesn’t get any better than that.” What is some advice you would give a firstyear teacher? “Embrace moments with kids more. My goal now is to get fifty hugs a day. I would not have done that when I was younger.”

What is something you’ll miss about West High? “I enjoy working with [students], and they’re the real reason we’re in this job anyway. I enjoy watching the kids play basketball and football. I enjoy going to plays and concerts and things like that.” What do you think is the biggest reward? “I have a lot of former students who live here in Iowa City. A lot of them are professional people in the medical area, and I run into them every once in a while.”

MARK HUBBELL

GINNY ORDMAN

CHUCK SEDLACEK

CUSTODIAN

ENGLISH TEACHER

CUSTODIAN

What will you miss most? “Listening to the the kids practice music, whether it’s the band or the orchestra, or the choirs or the swing choirs. I’ll really miss hearing the pit [orchestra] practice for the musical. The kids are incredible. To hear the first time that they did “Les Mis” in the South Band Room. I’ve seen many [renditions] of “Les Mis” but to hear those high school kids playing at that level. That’s just amazing.”

What is some advice you would give a firstyear teacher? “Try to let everyday go at the end of the day, because things will come up; you’ll have issues. The more that you can start a new day with a blank slate [the better] it is for moral and maybe a good practice in general.”

How did you become a custodian? “To make a long story short, the reason I’m here is because I lost my job that I had for 26 years, and I had to start over. And, you know, I like kids. I guess I’m fortunate I ended up here. That’s the way I look at it.”

T

What is something you hope students remember about you? “I hope they remember that I tried to have fun. I think my enthusiasm for the subject matter is my defining quality.”

he much anticipated last day of school is tantalizingly close, but for most people at West, the cycle will just start up again come August. For seven staff members however, May 31st will mark their final last day of school. Most have spent over half of their professional lives inside the walls of West High. They have seen eager freshman graduate as accomplished seniors. Colleagues whom they respected have long been retired. Whiteboards became smarter seemingly overnight. With the incentivized Early Retirement Program set in place to offset the budget cuts occurring this coming year, West High will be saying farewell to a large group of staff members.

PHOTOS BY GWEN WATSON DESIGN BY AMY LIAO

What’s your favorite memory from West High? “Going from the type of job I had to the type of job I got now. [Before] it was more factory work, so you were kind of isolated. [Here] you can come up to someone and say ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ That’s kind of cool. I never really had that in life so much. I’ll miss this place. I mean, why wouldn’t you?”

BECKIE SMALLEY FINANCIAL SECRETARY What made you want to be the financial secretary? “I was only going to stay until my last [child] graduated. As each one graduated, it was like ‘Oh they get to graduate, and I’m never going to graduate.’ It kind of got to be a joke that everybody graduated but me. So I guess now I finally will.” What will you miss most about West? “When you’re not here anymore, you’re not going to see [your friends] every day. It’s going to be really hard. It’s going to be hard for me to walk away.”


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PROFILES MAY 23, 2019

AROUND THE WORLD AND BACK AGAIN For many, the transition from junior high to high school may seem daunting. Caroline Mascardo ’22 shares her experience making this transition halfway around the world and back again. BY JESSICA MOONJELY

N

ew teachers. New buildings. New students. While moving to a new school is challenging for any student, Caroline Mascardo ’22 added another layer of difficulty: transferring to a school 8,188 miles away from Iowa City. In the fall of 2018, Caroline traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, a city with over 3.5 million residents, to study abroad. During her visit, Caroline lived with her aunt and uncle who worked for the United Nations and lived there for a few years prior to her coming. Caroline’s mom, Lori Mascardo, was a little apprehensive at first about her daughter studying abroad as a freshman; however, she knew that it would be a worthwhile experience. “We felt that this was a great opportunity for Caroline to spread her wings and gain some amazing insight and knowledge,” Lori said. “Spending a trimester [in Kenya] was a compromise. In the end, it seems like it was just the right duration for her to study and gain experience living abroad and away from her immedi-

“ I THOUG HT GOI NG TH E RE THAT TH EY ’ D HAVE TOTALLY DI F F E RE NT I DEAS THAN M E , BUT REALLY ONCE I GOT TO KNOW TH E M , WE ’ RE ALL J UST TH E SAM E DE E P DOWN .” - CAROLI N E MASCARDO ‘22

ate family.” In Nairobi, Caroline enrolled at a private Christian school called Rosslyn Academy. Since Rosslyn is an international high school, she was exposed to a very diverse group of students and became friends with people from countries like Mauritius, Somalia, South Korea and Russia. In addition to meeting kids from over 60 different countries, Caroline also encountered students born in the United States that moved to Kenya early on in their lives. Many students that Caroline met were involved in Model UN and planned to pursue a career in law. At Rosslyn, Caroline had the opportunity to discuss world issues and develop a global perspective on the topics. “It was so cool to meet so many different people of different backgrounds, but overall, we all had very similar ideals,” Caroline said. “I thought that was interesting, because I thought going there that they’d have totally different ideas than me, but really once I got to know them, we’re all just the same deep down.”


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MAY 23, 2019

From an academic standpoint, Caroline felt that her transition from junior high school to high school was manageable because Rosslyn followed a similar curriculum to the ICCSD. Caroline found that it was sometimes difficult to make friends at Rosslyn because many friend groups had already formed before she came. Outside of school, Caroline experienced a bigger culture shock. For example, Caroline had never previously lived in a place that had experienced recent terrorist attacks. Living in Nairobi opened her eyes to other facets of life. “There was the slum Kibera which is the largest [slum] in eastern Africa, and it was really eye-opening to see poverty in real life,” Caroline said. “I wasn’t expecting to see that, but I’m thankful, because I’ve been sheltered most of my life.” Another thing that surprised Caroline about Nairobi was the racism she encountered from the guards at security checkpoints. “A lot of those guards, whenever they saw someone like my uncle or me who look white, they’d say stuff like ‘mzungu,’ which is Swahili for ‘white person’ but in a derogatory way,” Caroline said. “You could tell that they treated us differently even though my uncle had lived there for three years. ” Despite this, Caroline’s aunt and uncle made an effort to expose her to more of Kenya. “We took this one-week-long field trip through school where we went to the countryside and

Mascardo went on a safari in Amboseli National Park in 2018.

painted a high school. We were traveling all around Kenya to experience not just Nairobi but trying to understand the country as a whole.” While in Kenya, Caroline visited tea plantations, walked through art galleries, went on safaris and drove to the coast. During her excursions, she learned more about the local culture and met people from all walks of life. “Out in the countryside, it was interesting because a lot of the children and even adults there had never seen white people or people of other

“ IT WAS DE F I N ITE LY DI F F ICU LT. IT WAS ALMOST LI KE STARTI NG H I G H SCHOOL TWICE .” - CAROLI N E MASCARDO ‘22 races before in their lives,” Caroline said. “[The children] ran away from us at first and then tugged on our hair because, you know, it’s different, and they were poking us all over.” Other than being in a completely different country, one of the biggest differences in studying abroad for Caroline was living without her parents. “It was really difficult for me at the start, because I was so used to having two very reliable parents always there for me, guiding me through everyday life,” Caroline said. “At the same time, I think I learned a lot about myself, because I was on my own so much. I sort of had to figure things out for myself.” After a trimester in Kenya, Caroline started to feel homesick and officially started her high school career at West High a few days into second trimester. “It was definitely difficult. It was almost like starting high school twice,” Caroline said. Though Caroline was familiar with West, jumping back into her old friendships sometimes proved to be challenging, as many people had already formed new groups of friends, and teachers had learned how students interacted in the classroom.

Caroline Mascardo ‘22 visited Rosslyn Academy in Kenya with her mom in 2018.

“It took a very long time [to get fully adjusted], and it was very difficult because I felt so isolated from everybody else,” Caroline said. “But I sort of just stuck to the things that I had done before. I played tennis a lot, and when I transitioned back, a lot of my tennis friends hadn’t changed. Then I kept doing violin, so it was great to see those friends again.” According to French teacher Sydney McDermott, Caroline is “thriving in the classroom” during her third trimester. The summer before Caroline left for Kenya, McDermott met with Caroline to help her with the material she would miss during her time abroad. McDermott believes that since coming to West, Caroline has transitioned well. “I think that she’s an incredibly well-rounded child who adapts to new situations well,” McDermott said. “I don’t think she necessarily needed my help, maybe she just needed my support.” Though Caroline’s study abroad experience had its fair share of hardships, Caroline believes it was successful in giving her a new perspective and reaffirming her plans for the future. “Later in life, I want to travel around the world, help as many people as I can, and maybe go into law. I think the most important things I learned [while studying abroad] are to be considerate and empathetic of others and not take certain things for granted,” Caroline said. “I’m so thankful for the experience. Even though certain aspects were really difficult, I think it’s helped me grow as a person.” PHOTOS BY GWEN WATSON DESIGN BY MADDY EPHRAIM


WEIGHING THE DECISION BY ANNABEL HENDRICKSON & MARTA LEIRA

Ranked second out of all the high schools in the state according to US News, it’s no secret that West High has a tradition of success. In an effort to build on this standard of excellence, the ICCSD released a new weighted grading policy to give students a boost in grade-point averages (GPA) and become more competitive nationwide.


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A NEW POLICY “I UNDERSTAND THESE DECISIONS MAY BE SURPRISING,”

read the email from Diane Schumacher, the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment in the ICCSD. In only four sentences, the message explained a decision that would change the transcripts for all students, starting with the class of 2020. Met with a mix of confusion, excitement and parent emails, they disclosed the specifics of the district-wide adjustment on April 5. Beginning in the fall of 2019, the ICCSD will implement its new weighted grading system. A GPA, the primary indicator of a student’s academic performance, is a representation of all the grades that are earned in a school year. Rather than the standard system in which four points are awarded for an A, the new policy grants five points for an A in AP classes. For instance, having an A in six regular classes and an A in one AP class will result in a 4.1 GPA, whereas having an A in six regular classes and a B in one AP class will result in a 4.0. This, however, does not change that the student received a B; it simply gives that grade a new weight to boost their overall GPA. The original decision was to weight both honors and AP classes. However, an influx of teachers pushing for their classes to be considered honors courses caused the district to realize what constitutes an honors class is unclear. Resultantly, ICCSD officials decided to change the policy to only weight AP classes. In addition to removing honors from being weighted on a 5-point scale, the new policy will retroactively weight grades, meaning that AP classes taken by non-seniors in the previous years will be re-weighted on a 5-point scale. Beginning next year, classes will only allow for a 10 percent margin where 90-100 percent is an A and so on, another change from previous years when select AP and honors courses were given a wider margin of 15 percent. Grades will be weighted retroactively by looking at the letter grade, not the percentage. The concept of weighing grades is nothing new but was initially proposed by City High Principal John Bacon, who is part of the ICCSD’s secondary school leadership team.

This committee is responsible for making policy decisions such as these. Comprised of secondary school administrators, the group met together to discuss the weighted grading initiative and began conducting research to determine if the policy would be a good fit for the school district. “For many years, I’ve been interested in this, and I knew that the majority of other districts [in Iowa] did have weighted grades,” Bacon said. “I wanted to make sure that we were not putting our students at a disadvantage.”

“I WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT WE WERE NOT PUTTING OUR STUDENTS AT A DISADVANTAGE.”

-JOH N BACON ,

CITY H IGH PRI NCI PAL As a result of Bacon expressing his support for the policy on multiple occasions, Schumacher decided to take action. Though the school board met together to discuss the changes, there was no official vote. After gathering data from high schools and colleges across Iowa, the decision was ultimately left in the hands of Schumacher and the secondary school administrators. “This was a joint decision between myself and the assistant superintendent for secondary schools and the high school principals, and then we brought the proposal to the school board and shared that with them as well,” Schumacher said. “I don’t think it required a vote of the school board.” According to Superintendent Steve Murley, the process in which the decision was implemented

involved thorough research from the secondary leadership team. “When something like this comes up, it usually comes from a smaller location, like a school or a class, and then we always look for a solution that’s system wide,” Murley said. “We always want to make sure that we are double-checking and triple-checking the information that we have available to us, so they’ll reach out to as many peoples in the system as they can.” Three months after teachers and parents were notified of the initial proposal to weight both honors and AP classes, the policy changed to include only AP classes. According to Schumacher, the decision to change the policy was heavily researched and compared to the other high schools across Iowa that use weighted grades. The research concluded that most high schools that use weighted grading in Iowa don’t include honors classes. Other courses such as Project Lead The Way, Kirkwood classes and PSEO courses will not be included in the policy for the ICCSD either. “We quickly determined that we didn’t have a really good definition in the district to say which classes we could call honors and which classes we couldn’t,” Schumacher said. “So that’s something that we want to take a little more time and see if we can identify that better before we start weighting some [honors] classes.” Although the policy has already been set for the 2019 school year, it may be subject to change in the future depending on the success of the system in the upcoming year. “I think there is a chance [the district will reconsider],” Schumacher said. “We haven’t closed the door on that discussion, we just knew that we didn’t have all our ducks in a row so-to speak in order to roll that out.”


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MAY 23, 2019

COMPETITIVE COURSE SELECTION For many, elective courses such as art, choir, orchestra and band serve as an integral part of their high school experience. One concern raised with the implementation of the new grading policy is the impact it may have on the number of students taking electives. Because these classes are incapable of raising a student’s GPA over a 4.0, electives teachers are worried that students will choose AP courses over electives. Rob Medd, one of the band directors at West, is facing the implications of the policy firsthand as his students struggle between choosing to take band as an elective or boost their GPA by taking an AP class instead. “[The idea of weighting grades] has come up before, and we had always chosen not to do it,” Medd said. “I was kind of hoping that would be the case again.” While electives are not weighted in the new system, Medd believes that it is crucial for students to feel comfortable in their course selections. “What we want people to understand is that students need to have a balanced curriculum, and the arts play a very important part for students’ education,” Medd said. “We want students to be able to take band and not feel like it has to be replaced with an AP class.” However, elective courses are not the only ones that could be affected by the new policy. Due to the lack of weighting for honors courses, teachers like John Boylan who have taught honors in the past are concerned about the emphasis that will be put on AP classes. “Honestly, I hope people don’t take the classes just because of weighted grades. That’s my fear with the weighted grades in the first place,” Boylan said. “I want it to incentivize students who haven’t taken any AP classes, not

“WHAT WE WANT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT STUDENTS NEED TO HAVE A BALANCED CURRICULUM, AND THE ARTS PLAY A VERY IMPORTANT PART FOR STUDENTS’ EDUCATION.” -ROB MEDD, BAND DIRECTOR

incentivize students who already have four on their schedule.” Some students are also worried about the competition that the policy might instigate amongst students. Favour Alarape ’21 has taken both honors and AP classes and feels that the new system could have a negative effect on the student population. “I don’t see [weighting AP classes] as a good thing,” Alarape said. “I feel like people are going to take a ridiculous amount of AP classes and forget about the social part of high school, and that can take a toll on their health, physical and mental.” In addition to concerns over competition, Boylan felt that the decision-making process was not transparent enough. “My biggest concern with the whole issue is saying one thing to students and making an enrollment decision, and then those things not being true anymore,” Boylan said. When selecting his schedule for the upcoming school year, Peter Adams ’22 was influenced by the initial policy that included honors classes. After finding out it had changed, he debated whether or not to remain in his original classes. “I have to be honest, I was pretty angry. My schedule had four honors classes in it for next year and only one AP class,” Adams said. “I understand why it’s happening. However, I don’t understand why people are now going back on their word when they made initial promises.” Despite the concerns about the effect the new system might have on course selection, biology teacher Andrea Harms thinks that it will help boost West High’s ranking among other high schools in Iowa. “We’ll be more competitive across the state, so I think it’s wonderful,” Harms said. “It probably needed to happen because everyone else is on a 5-point scale.”

WHAT IS “RETROACTIVE” GRADING? Retroactive grading is one of the new changes brought about by the revised policy. Essentially, AP classes taken by non-seniors will be re-weighted on a 5-point scale. Students will receive retroactive grading strictly for the letter grade they earned, even though the new margins for what constitutes an A (90-100) will be implemented next year.


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COV E R

MAY 23, 2019

TH BY

COLLEGE ADMISSIONS A crucial part of the decision to weight grades stemmed from the desire to increase scholarships and acceptance rates into Iowa colleges. While some of the more selective schools view applicants’ unweighted GPA, research conducted by Schumacher and ICCSD officials found that the the majority of schools in Iowa don’t re-evaluate GPAs that are under a 4.0. There are multiple factors that go into the acceptance process of the University of Iowa. According to University of Iowa admissions counselor Kirk Kluver, the admissions process is very individualized for each student. “I think there’s kind of a sweet spot that students need to find for themselves ... When people ask us ‘What’s the magic number of AP courses I should take?’ I can’t give you one,” Kluver said. “I think it really does depend on the individual.” In West counselor Paul Breitbach’s opinion, the impact of the weighted grades will differ depending on which school students choose to apply for. “Because college is expensive, [GPAs] are a priority,” Breitbach said. “It probably has a bigger impact at the University of Iowa since they take the higher GPA when it comes to awarding scholarships.” Despite the implication that a higher GPA could increase the chances for financial aid and getting into the college for students applying to the University of Iowa, Breitbach warns against stacking a student’s schedule with too many honors or AP classes. “When students set their schedule, we always check with them to challenge themselves but also set themselves up to be successful,” Breitbach said. “I believe wholeheartedly that you still have to have time just to be a teenager. You can’t just study forever; you have to have balance.” For Bacon, the main factor in his support of the system is the aid that it will hopefully bring to students applying for financial packages. “You can debate the merits of whether this is right or wrong, good or bad all day long, but the bottom line to me is that if the colleges are not adjusting for it, we are putting our kids at a huge disadvantage,” Bacon said. “I just wonder over the years how many kids have missed out on qualifying for these types of financial aid packages because they didn’t quite have that GPA.”

65%

E NUMBER S

of students believe that the ICCSD should reconsider weighing honors classes in the future.

13% don’t believe so. 22% are unsure. “I BELIEVE WHOLEHEARTEDLY

THAT YOU STILL HAVE TO HAVE TIME JUST TO BE A TEENAGER. YOU CAN’T JUST STUDY FOREVER; YOU HAVE TO HAVE BALANCE.” -PAUL BREITBACH, WEST COUNSELOR

64%

of students would have changed their schedule if they had known about the weighted grading policy.

36% wouldn’t have

Bacon has experienced the application process into Iowa’s colleges firsthand while his son applied to college this year. At the University of Iowa, financial packages are given based on ACT scores and GPA, but all require at least a 3.8 GPA to qualify. “I have a son this year that’s a senior, so I started going through the process myself and learning more about it,” Bacon said. “Everyone used to assume that all colleges adjust to find out if you’re on a weighted system or not, but we started worrying if that was really true.” In addition to helping students get into colleges, Bacon hopes that the policy will allow students to take more AP classes that will help prepare them for college without worrying about the possible negative effect on their GPA. “It’s more kids being exposed to rigorous college level curriculum, and it’s consistent with the district’s efforts for Equal Opportunity Schools,” Bacon said. “It removes one more barrier where kids may be concerned about the impact of an AP class on their GPA, and it helps to alleviate that fear.”

ART BY SELINA HUA & VIVIEN HO DESIGN BY VIVIEN HO


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A DV E R T I S E M E N T S MAY 23, 2019


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E N T E R TA I N M E N T MAY 23, 2019

CYNICAL SUMMER BY NATALIE DUNLAP

Swimming, traveling, working and visiting family are classic ways students choose to spend their time in the upcoming months. However, if you are looking to mix it up over break, here are some satirical ways to fill the summer days.

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While summer provides a break from the stress of the school year, if you miss the drama, tweet vague and passive aggressive things until you start Twitter drama. Entertaining for hours! If you sunburn easily, isolate yourself indoors all summer. When you come back to school untouched by the sun, drop subtle hints to your peers that you may have turned into a vampire. Become uncomfortable around garlic bread and mirrors; you might even have to quit outdoor sports to fully commit to the facade.

Go to the Jazz Festival, but blast classic rock in your earbuds the whole time while laying on the Old Capitol lawn, basking in your own defiance.

Devote all of your time to becoming a stand-up comedian. Move to New York, join a comedy group, audition for SNL, the whole sha-bang.

ART & DESIGN BY MADDY EPHRAIM

Spend a lot of time on colorful benches or near neon signs, with the hope that a U of I student will pick up on your aesthetic and use a shot of you as b-roll in their college film class.

Iowa might be landlocked, but you can create your own Hawaiian ambience by purchasing a ukulele and then only playing “Riptide” by Vance Joy all summer because it’s the only thing you learned. You are not musical. Why did you think this was a good idea?

Go to Danes Dairy, inevitably run into an acquaintance from West. Say, “Oh my gosh! We need to hang out this summer.” Never follow up.

Missing school? Get back into the finals-state-ofmind by squeezing some lemon juice in your eyes so you can watch Crash Course on Youtube through your tears, just like you did the night before your AP test.


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E N T E R TA I N M E N T MAY 23, 2019

WOULD YOU RATHER? BY JENNA WANG

In a world full of complicated decisions to make, the WSS asks our very own teachers some tricky questions.

Would you rather have Frankenstein stalking you or have a famous poet write about your flaws? “Probably Frankenstein – it would force me to get some exercise having to run from him.” - Kerri Barnhouse, English

Would you rather learn a show choir dance and perform it to all your colleagues or teach middle school kids an entire piece without ever using the piano? “This one is easy. Teaching kids music without a piano is something within my skill set. Learning a show choir dance myself is pretty far beyond it.” -David Hass, Music

Would you rather teach math you don’t know or have a random student each day teach you math you already know? “Teach math I don’t know because then I would learn something too.” -Donna Beckner, Math


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E N T E R TA I N M E N T

MAY 23, 2019

Would you rather never be able to use WordReference again or never be able to use a textbook again? “Never use a textbook again because WordReference provides a wealth of vocabulary and verb conjugations.” -Teresa Bozer, Spanish

Would you rather get stuck in an elevator with Sweeney Todd, Mrs. Lovett or the Beggar Woman? “Can I pick none? I’m actually going to go with Sweeney on this one. Lovett is definitely more evil than Sweeney, and I’m not sure I have enough gold coins to keep the Beggar Woman at bay.” -Ann Rocarek, English

Would you rather have to be in your own play and it being a success or having no input in a play and having it fail? “Be in the play, because it would be a success.” -Katy Nahra, English

Would you rather write an entire AP Calculus math test yourself or take five tests every night? “Without question, write an entire AP Calculus test. Writing a test demands a great deal more creativity.” -John Bach, Math

PHOTOS BY ADITI BORDE & ALYSSA SKALA ART & DESIGN BY SELINA HUA


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SPORTS

MAY 23, 2019

Shoe companies are infiltrating high school athletics by controlling the amateur basketball circuit.

BY JOE GOODMAN

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very spring and summer, the best high school basketball prospects in America tour the country to play in tournaments against one another. The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), the organization that supports these tournaments, gives players a chance to compete against the best high school prospects in the country while showcasing their skills to collegiate coaches. Many of West High’s premier basketball players have gone through the AAU circuit at one point or another. Former students Wyatt Lohaus ’13 and Rachael Saunders ’18 even earned scholarships to play college basketball at Division I programs through the AAU. Currently there are about 15 West High basketball players active in the AAU circuit. Within the AAU circuit, there are separate leagues which are sponsored by shoe companies. These leagues are typically comprised of roughly 40 teams from around the country and are home to the most sought-after prospects in AAU basketball. The most profitable AAU leagues are the Adidas Gauntlet, the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) and the Under Armour

“ I ’VE SE E N B ETTE R PLAYE RS G ET TAKE N [I NTO BACKROOM S] AN D COM E OUT WITH SHOE BOXES. HON ESTLY, I F YOU ’ RE GOOD E NOUG H TH E CI RCU ITS WI LL DE F I N ITE LY G IVE YOU MORE STU F F.” - EVEN BRAU NS ’20

Association (UAA). These leagues operate as separate entities and their teams typically only play against one another. These basketball shoe tycoons such as Nike and Adidas are actively competing to attract the best high school prospects to play in their leagues. Under current National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules, players cannot receive cash payments or unauthorized gifts from corporations while they are in high school. However, the corporations have found ways around these rules by paying the AAU coaches large salaries to promote their brand. Once a player agrees to play for a sponsored team, they are given shoes, jackets and any other apparel they desire from their coach, who technically doesn’t work for the corporation although they are paid to promote the brand. In return, the player must adhere to the rules that prohibit the athlete from wearing shoes or apparel from their competitors. Even Brauns ’20 played in the UAA last year and currently plays in the Adidas Gauntlet for the Iowa Barnstormers. Brauns has been subject to these types of restrictions while playing AAU basketball.


“If you play on the Adidas circuit, you’re not allowed to play unless you wear all Adidas,” Brauns said. Every player on a sponsored team is guaranteed a certain amount of apparel from their coach, but corporate executives have been known to grant the better players additional benefits such as clothes, meals and hotel accommodations. Brauns has witnessed first-hand some of these under-the-table exchanges. “I’ve seen better players get taken [into backrooms] and come out with shoeboxes,” Brauns said. “Honestly, if you’re good enough the circuits will definitely give you more stuff.” Despite these companies paying coaches large salaries, giving away hundreds of free shoes every year and spending millions to sponsor AAU tournaments, they still manage to turn a profit. Their main source of revenue comes from their shoe sales, which are promoted during the AAU season. By forcing the best high school prospects to wear their apparel exclusively, these corporations are gaining free advertising through these AAU leagues. As kids watch their favorite high school players excel wearing the newest Nike or Adidas shoes, they become more inclined to purchase a pair for themselves. In addition to sponsoring youth basketball circuits, these corporations also have partnerships with college athletic departments with similar exclusion principles. For example, when a university signs a partnership with Nike, their athletes must wear Nike apparel exclusively or be subject to punishment from their school. The corporations anticipate that after wearing their brand exclusively for three or four years, prospects will become more inclined to sign with a university that is partnered with the same brand. When Brauns first started playing on the Adidas circuit, he quickly noticed a trend about which players seemed to be getting more gear. “They would definitely give more stuff to the players who were considering going to Adidas schools,” Brauns said. “They want to try and [promote] their brand.” In 2017, the top ten high school basketball prospects according to ESPN all played in the Nike EYBL and all signed with schools partnered with Nike. The following year, the top two high school prospects in the Adidas Gauntlet signed with universities that were in business with Adidas. “From my understanding, the whole reason that they do the circuits is that when players go pro they have a greater incentive to sign with Adidas because Adidas builds a relationship with them,” Brauns said. Despite its growing corruption, AAU offers players seeking college basketball scholarships exposure that is hard to come by during the high school season. Erika Mundt, West High assistant girls

basketball coach, has experienced this type of exposure as both a player and a coach. “I know I got to play college basketball and go to lots of cool places and meet all kinds of cool people through AAU,” Mundt said. “From a coaching perspective, it gives you more opportunities to see kids in a diverse setting.” Matayia Tellis ’21 has seen a growth in her recruitment since she started playing AAU basketball for Pure Prep. “You get better competition [from] going to a big tournament,” said Tellis. “Colleges look at those big teams, and then coaches start to look at you.” Nate Meints, a paraeducator at West High, runs his own AAU basketball organization called Iowa Dynasty that is not affiliated with any shoe company. Meints feels that the way these companies are operating puts his club at a disadvantage. “Kids are swayed easily by material stuff like shoes,” Meints said. “We’ve had trouble recruiting players or retaining players in the past.” Meints feels his program offers a more relaxed approach to AAU as opposed to other programs whose main focus is getting players to play Division I basketball. “Kids play [for Iowa Dynasty] because they want to develop their skills,” Meints said. “It just gives them another chance to play basketball in the summer and form friendships with kids from other schools.” Meints and Brauns both made it clear that AAU basketball tends to get a bad reputation and that most of the time players and coaches are involved because they love the game and not to make a profit. “There’s a couple of isolated incidents, a couple of bad apples, but 95% of the coaches sacrificing their time on the weekends are there to help kids,” Meints said. The NCAA launched a massive investigation into the corruption surrounding AAU programs and college basketball in 2017 but found little evidence to support their accusations. Only ten arrests were made, including two Adidas executives and the head basketball coach at Louisiana State University. Most offenders avoided punishment or were given a feeble slap on the wrist. Corruption is not going away in a business as profitable as amateur basketball, but players will continue to develop their skills and gain college exposure despite the pressures from corporations and AAU coaches to sign with certain schools or brands. “I wish it could be pure,” Mundt said. “I wish it could just be getting together with your friends and playing some basketball. That would be awesome.”

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SPORTS

MAY 23, 2019

“ TH E RE ’S A COU PLE OF I SOLATE D I NCI DE NTS, A COU PLE OF BAD APPLES, BUT 95% OF TH E COACH ES SACRI F ICI NG TH E I R TI M E ON TH E WE E KE N DS ARE TH E RE TO H E LP KI DS.” - NATE M EI NTS, IOWA DYNASTY DI RECTO R

Disclaimer: All players and coaches interviewed retain their innocence regarding any violation of NCAA rules. ART & DESIGN BY AMY LIAO


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SPORTS

MAY 23, 2019

N TT HH EE ZZ O ON N EE II N Athletes share how they mentally prepare before games and events. BY NATALIE DUNLAP & NATALIE KATZ

Fabian Brown ’21 is involved in athletics year-round, competing in track, basketball and football. Before sprinting, he will stretch to get his muscles warm and try to focus on one goal. I’ll go an hour before and just stretch … I keep moving to stay “warm and get my muscles moving. And then, when it’s time to 1 run … I take a deep breath and just run my hardest.” 2 ‘ Wll,Nfootball O R N rB, basketba A I FAaBck sprinte Playing golf has been a family tradition for Rylee

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Goodfellow ’21 since she was very young and is even the case today with her mom being her coach on the girls’ golf team. Her mom’s advice is “the most important shot is your next shot.” it’s really individual … you’re with girls you don’t know so you kind “Forof golf, just have to be mentally prepared. You can’t count on the energy of others as much. ” I like to visualize ... like for softball [I visualize] getting a good hit or “ getting someone out, and that kind of motivates you to do well in the game or the match. [I also] focus on what you can control, like your attitude or your effort. ”

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GOOYLEE DF Golf ELLOW and s ‘2 oftba ll

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Playing her first tennis tournament at the age of 10, Caroline Chandler ’21 is no stranger to pressure. Learning how to calm her nerves has been crucial for her success in both the high school season and in individual tournaments.

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The first couple weeks of the season I was pretty nervous because when you win state, it’s kind of like you have a target on your back. Everyone wants to come for you. I wanted to be playing really well, and I’m definitely pretty hard on myself in terms of how I played. Once I get into the match and start really playing, the nerves go away. I’ve definitely had matches where I let my emotions get the better of me. I think that’s something about tennis that a lot of people don’t know or underestimate is the fact that tennis is such a mental game. You can be the best player in the world but if you’re not mentally there that day or you don’t have a mental game, you’re really not going to get too far.

Grant Henderson ’20 didn’t touch a soccer ball until spring break his freshman year of high school. Since then, he made the varsity line-up as a goalie and was thrown into the spotlight during his sophomore year when the team’s starting goalie suffered a season-ending injury.

I feel like because when you’re a goalie, if you make a mistake, you get blamed a lot. It’s just a lot of pressure. It just helps to relax and take deep breaths. You think, ‘I probably could have saved that shot. and that would’ve helped us win.’ But then you think back to some of the saves that you did make and you never know what could have happened. It’s tough to stay focused, but it helps to be talking and keep yourself in the game for when the shot comes that you’re ready to save it and be ready for whatever happens. PHOTOS BY ALYSSA SKALA ART & DESIGN BY SELINA HUA

GR HENANT Vars DER ity so SO cc N

alie’20

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A DV E R T I S E M E N T S MAY 23, 2019

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E L B A R O N

OPINION MAY 23, 2019

AL: I R O T I ED

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Regarding the editorial question, the WSS editorial board found that there was a divide between a majority of students for and a majority of teachers against weighting honors courses. As a result, the board decided to conduct an anonymous survey of 26 teachers and 300 students to gain perspective on both sides and use the data to help board members on their decisions and thoughts.

Should the ICCSD consider weighing honors courses in addition to AP courses in the future?

12-3 Editorial Staff Voted “No”

NO

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hen choosing courses, the classes that students take can have a big effect on their academic outlook and high school experience. In a school where academic performance is stressed, grades and their level of difficulty are major determining factors when choosing classes. With the new policy giving an extra GPA point to AP classes and potentially honors courses in the future, students would be more encouraged to take those courses to boost their GPA, learn more in-depth information and become more competitive towards the college application process. However, honors courses should not be weighted in addition to AP courses for a variety of important reasons. Firstly, taking more honors courses to boost their GPA would deter students from taking elective courses, such as the arts, business, journalism and theatre. In an educative environment that is so grade-focused, students would compromise opportunities to explore other interests and potentially life-long skills and experiences just for the sake of an extra point in a course they may not even be

fully devoted to. At a stage where many teachers believe students should be discovering their passions and pursuits for higher education in the future, as well as getting to realize their identity as individuals, they should be encouraged to take courses that they want to take and are interested in instead of sometimes harder, more advanced courses. Otherwise, they could potentially enter college with no idea of where their passions lie and no direction for the future. Additionally, taking part in electives can give access to unique opportunities such as contests, performances and new skills that are just as likely to be valuable to colleges as taking an AP course, not to mention life-long connections and memories. Due to the fact that electives are already threatened due to budget cuts in order to further bolster courses that are deemed more necessary, further policies should not be introduced to limit a student’s potential and creativity. “When being considered for college … committees also consider the well-roundedness of a candidate and commitment to continual selfimprovement. Participating in ‘non-weighted classes’ such as music and the fine arts that show versatility, creativity, emotional intelligences and teamwork are also highly sought after attributes that college admissions boards consider,” wrote one teacher at West on the anonymous survey. “It is a myth that the only way to be viewed as academically competitive is by taking as many AP and weighted courses as possible. Save room for your passions and you will also be rewarded.” Students should also feel free to explore a variety of classes and experiences. As one teacher wrote, “Students should take the time in high school to explore a variety of studies and experiences. High school is all about breadth of experiences and exploration, not depth. You should deepen your understanding in college and career.”

Finally, beyond electives and future jobs, the structure of an honors class cannot possibly be weighed, based on the lack of definition and equivalent rigor. In the Student Handbook, there is no set definition for what constitutes an honors course. Across all honors courses at West and in the district, every teacher handles their honors courses in their own ways. “If both honors and AP courses are weighted the same, colleges may want to know: why teach an AP class?” wrote one teacher. “I don’t think all honors classes necessarily meet a rigor that is equivalent to an AP class. I don’t think a student’s GPA should benefit from an 88 percent in English 9 Honors the same way it would from an A in AP Literature,” said a teacher. “The same is true in other disciplines. Is an A in Geometry Honors really as deserving of a weight as AP Calculus? Even if it personally benefits the student GPA to have a weight for honors, I don’t think it’s equitable.”

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he proposed policy of weighing honors courses would produce GPAs that better reflect our students’ academic achievement. Weighted honors classes would reward students who embrace the challenge of honors courses and dedicate their time and effort to succeed in them. Honors classes are objectively more difficult and time consuming than general education classes. By not weighing honors courses, West High is valuing the grades received in an honors class as equal to those of a general education course. If the goal of the school board is to separate


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OPINION

MAY 23, 2019

classes into two categories, weighted and unweighted, it would make sense to include classes that are objectively more difficult into the weighted category. Honors students sacrifice hours of their personal time to do homework or study for their honors class every week. Without weighted grades, these students have little to show for the time and dedication they have poured into their honors classwork throughout the year. CollegeData notes that while nearly all colleges factor in AP classes when determining course rigor, only some colleges factor honors courses in this regard. Regardless, colleges will be looking at the student’s GPA and weighing honors classes at West High will only boost the GPA’s of our students, which they will be reporting to future universities and employers. Weighted honors grades would compensate these students with an additional GPA boost for the effort and commitment they have given to enrich their learning. In addition, students will be motivated to take more honors classes with the added GPA incentive. This would encourage more students to step outside of their comfort zone and possibly discover a newfound passion for that particular subject. “Having all my honors courses weighted would provide me with the incentive to stay in honors,” said Tony Wang ’22. Elective teachers have expressed their concern over the idea of weighted grades for honors classes and its impact on schedule requests. The apprehension stems from the idea that students will pass on taking elective courses in favor of honors classes. For many students, this will not be the case as most honors classes fall under the same subject as general education courses. The choice for most students is whether or not to take an honors class in place of a general education class. The decision to take an honors class usually does not affect a students decisions on which electives they will be taking. Taking an honors class in one of the four core subject areas will not affect a student’s ability to take honors classes unless they feel the need to take multiple classes in a particular subject area. The other controversy surrounding the decision to weigh honors classes is the lack of a concrete definition for what defines an honors class. As of right now, what classifies as

an honors class is the title alone, as there is no consistent set of standards for all honors classes throughout the district. If honors classes were to be weighted, the ICCSD would have to reevaluate each honors course to determine whether or not it fits the standard they want to see upheld. All ICCSD high schools would need to have roughly the same offerings and be held to the same standard for what constitutes an honors class. As of right now, most elective classes would most likely not meet the honors standard that the ICCSD wants to see upheld. Elective teachers will inevitably be scrambling to apply for an “honors” title from the ICCSD administration to distinguish their class from the other elective courses. The school board will be made aware of this and should be able to distinguish between classes that have truly elevated their elective classwork and those which are just simply trying to increase registration numbers by slapping an “honors” title next to their course name. If teachers are willing to sacrifice the integrity of the grading system in order to lure more students into their classes, then the system will inevitably fail. Elective teachers will have to maintain their integrity to ensure that all elective classes are fairly presented to students. At the end of the day, every student will have to decide for themselves if they want to explore an elective class they are passionate about or chase grade points taking honors classes. Juniors and seniors have been making this difficult decision for years with AP courses. When registering for classes, upperclassmen who have met their requirements can opt to load up on AP courses for college credit or breathe easy in more relaxed elective classes. While some students willingly throw themselves into the fire that is five AP courses, most students decide their schedule based on their personal interests and intrigues. The culture surrounding AP classes at West High is toxic enough already. If the school board decides not to weight honors classes and instead only weighs AP classes, then students may feel pressured to load up on AP courses in order to obtain as close to a 5.0 GPA as possible. In doing this, students will miss out on courses that don’t offer AP credit such as Project Lead The Way classes and US Literature. Most students would not feel the need to change their schedule drastically if both honors and AP

classes were to be weighed. Students are aware that colleges look for well-rounded applications, and electives are a great way to demonstrate their versatility to universities they intend to apply to. Orinda Academy notes that students who take electives in addition to college-level classes tend to stay more committed to their schoolwork as opposed to a student who only takes AP courses. To say that weighing honors classes would drive students out of electives is degrading to the avidity that many students hold for their electives classes. Students tend to choose elective courses because they are passionate about the subject. For example, most band students started their instrument long before they arrived at West High. To say that those students would opt out of band to pursue an honors level class is ridiculous. If a student is willing to drop their elective class for the possibility of a couple extra grade points, then their passion for the subject was never really there. The enthusiasm that West students hold for art, music, journalism, business, family consumer science and industrial technology is not going away any time soon. Students have frequently chosen electives over AP courses in the past and they will continue to do so in the future if honors courses are to be weighted. Elective teachers can rest assured that students will still sign up for their electives courses even if honors classes are to be weighted.

STUDENT SURVEY:

64.7% IN FAVOR 13.3% AGAINST 22% UNSURE Compiled by Annabel Hendrickson & Marta Leira

DESIGN BY AMY LIAO


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MAY 23, 2019

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