There have been many changes made to IACS this year, that have greatly affected both the staff and student body. The schedule change has been the largest difference and since with change comes sacrifice, many other aspects of the school day have changed as well.
Many students have wondered why schedules have changed so drastically.
Before this year, IACS had never had a Physical Education (P.E.) or Health program for the student body. The only class that served as a substitute for P.E. was yoga, which wasn’t a class that everyone could take, due to their grade level or the space in their schedule. However, in order to complete the athletic requirement, students were required to either play a school sport, participate in an athletic Choice Block, or get a waiver signed by the instructor of an athletic activity that the student participated in outside of school.
The lack of PE and Health at IACS was an issue that the higher administration, staff, and students, knew about prior to this year. However it was this year that the administration was able to find ways to meet this requirement.
High School Principal Erik Arnold explained how the athletic options that were offered did not meet the requirement that the state sets for schools. “It’s fine that kids want to do sports but that’s not meeting the requirement of having that as a class,” he explained, and that’s what started the schedule change process.
Thomas Hinkle, the Director of Technology as well as a Computer Science teacher, played a huge role in designing this year’s schedule. According to Hinkle, many different schedule ideas were initially proposed. “Dr. Arnold proposed [to] add a 7th block to the day so that students take one more block [and gym is added] to the schedule without changing the other things,” Hinkle said. However that meant that teachers had to teach significantly more than they did before, with them having to teach 5 out of 7 blocks as opposed to teaching 4 out of 6 blocks.
This proposal was dropped, because it was decided that the schedule, if selected, would be unfair to the teachers.
Another proposal was to keep the 6 block schedule, but reduce other requirements in order to fit gym in.
“The obvious thing always on the chopping block is the arts,” said Hinkle. However like many other teachers, Hinkle, who was “thrilled to see our arts program grow” was also “bummed at the thought [of losing] all that.”
The next proposal, and what became the schedule that the student body follows today, was proposed by Hinkle in an effort to keep the arts program and the teaching load the same, but still add gym.
“I said that what if [we] made advisory the seventh block so we wouldn’t be increasing teachers’ load. We would just take advisory which they already do in addition to teaching, and we would stick that into their schedule, and then we could alternate gym with advisory.”
Although according to Hinkle, “the time comes out roughly the same,” many teachers and students argue that advisory is significantly different this year than it was with years before.
Many students have discussed this year’s change in advisory, and many of them agree that they don’t think the change has had a positive impact.
Sophomore Emily Lyons, is one of many students who wishes that she had advisory four days a week like last year. Although she thinks that the longer advisory periods this year allow students to get more done in one block, she still prefers last year’s advisory format.
“I kind of wish we had advisory every day like last year,” Lyons stated. “I just liked meeting with my advisor every day, so that if there was something that I needed to ask [them] about, I had opportunities to ask [them] before it was too late.”
Sophomore Cameron Frazier also agrees that advisory isn’t at all the same as last year. Frazier explained that she felt much closer with her advisory last year than she does this year because of the frequent meetings. “I liked last year’s advisory better because…I felt like I got a lot closer to my advisory last year than I am this year and I got a lot more out of advisory last year than I am now.”
But it’s not just the students who feel this way, many teachers do as well.
Lise Brody, a junior advisor this year, agrees with many teachers that advisory isn’t exactly how she would like it.
“I would really prefer to have more frequent time with my advisory. [It] doesn’t have to be longer. I would be happy with 15 minutes a day and just one or two longer times a week. But I do think that more frequent meeting would be better.”
Scott Barry, a freshman advisor this year, feels similarly. “[Meeting with] students so regularly…naturally created a community…family-like atmosphere,” said Barry, “where now as an advisor [he] sometimes [feels] like [he needs] to…try to proactively create that environment a little bit more.”
Changes to course requirements were also made, in an effort to make the new schedule possible. Arnold explained, “the requirements were changed partly to open up that possibility where PE could fit in.” Although requirements have been reduced pretty significantly for a few subjects, teachers agree that the change was a positive one.
As an art teacher, Barry “would love for [students] to be able to…take a full year of art freshman and sophomore year.” However Barry also explained that keeping the arts requirement, could have led to possible negative effects.
According to Barry, the art program had issues last year with providing students with high-quality supplies and materials to work with. With so many students in each class, the art department was limited to buying lower quality materials, for a cheaper price.
Barry also agrees that because of his large classes, he had a hard time meeting with every student. Therefore, Barry is “positive about these changes.” “While I’m not reaching as many students, I do feel that the students I’m able to have now, I’m able to have better classroom experience with,” explained Barry.
Brody also had a positive response to the requirement changes. “I’m not crazy about sending the message that art and languages are less important than the so-called core subjects,” said Brody. But she is all for “students having more freedom of choice.”
History teacher, Elizabeth Olesen, noted how the change can be misinterpreted “as not investing as much in history,” a message that Brody also wanted to make sure that she wasn’t sending. However Olesen went on to describe that the intent of the change “was to…give students [the] freedom…[to take courses]…where their passion or interest lies,” agreeing with Brody and Barry, and showing that teachers view this change as a positive one.
One of the changes that the student body has voiced a lot of opinions about is the two lunches. Last year, the two lunches were based on grade level, with the first lunch being for freshmen and sophomores, and the second lunch for juniors and seniors. The two lunches this year are mixed, and solely based on the classes the student is taking.
The Lecture Hall Live Choice Block’s video illustrating the dramatic effect of having two lunches provided a comical outlet. However many students have similar opinions with that expressed in the video.
Frazier, who only has lunch with her friends twice a week, is one of many students who dislikes this change.
“I don’t like [the two lunches] because all of my friends are in the other lunch every day except two of them,” Frazier explained.
Lyons, who was hoping to eat lunch with her friends every day, especially a lot of freshmen this year who she’s friends with, also dislikes the two lunches. “I was looking forward to having [lunch with] all of my friends…but this change is ruining all [of] my plans,” joked Lyons. However she added that “your friends at lunch don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things…it’s just less fun.”
Another change made to IACS this year, separate from the effects of scheduling, is the grade changes. Last year, IACS’ grading system was fairly simple, with letter grades A, B, C, D, and F. However this year, the addition of plus and minus grades have caused a slight stir among the students. Teachers on the other hand have had mixed opinions.
Brody doesn’t like the new grading system, nor does she like grades at all. “I wish we didn’t have grades at all,” she said. “I think we’re really too fixated on grades already.” She also explained how the time teachers spend grading work could be better spent helping the students improve.
On the other hand, Barry likes the new grade change because he thinks that it provides a “clarification of information for both students and parents.”
Barry, who used to be a part of a college admissions office, explained how quickly applications are sorted into piles based on a student’s grades. Although college admissions offices are supposed to review the information provided by the school about grading, Barry says that many offices don’t do so. Therefore, he thinks that this new change “makes sure that [IACS] students are accurately being represented when they’re trying to get into college.”
Barry also explained that the grade hasn’t really changed because the percentage is the same, it’s just the letter that it is associated with it that’s different.
Frazier, who is indifferent about the grade change, explained how “[the grade change] just doesn’t seem to be that much,” which supports Barry’s statement of grades really not changing at all.
IACS college counselor, Daniel Barr, agreed that the grading system benefits the student body, especially during the college application process. “I didn’t think it made much sense under the old format as it actually could hurt students,” he said, commenting on last year’s grading system. He also explained how the old grading system didn’t make sense, since “it truthfully doesn’t make much sense that a student with an 80% gets the same grade as a student with an 89%.”
He also commented on how our grading system is “now in line with the majority of high school grading systems,” and how it “will help students looking at highly selective colleges [because of the] clearer distinction in grades earned.”
Many students understand that the change was for the better, but don’t like the way the change looks on their report card and X2. “It certainly looks worse on my report card when it says A- as opposed to [an] A,” said Lyons. She also thinks that seeing the pluses and minuses next to students’ grades could help students get a better understanding of where they really are, further helping with goals and achievement.
“If it helps students get a clearer view of where they are…[and] achieve that goal…then it’s worth it.” Rebecca Kearns, a junior at IACS this year, agrees with Lyons. She agreed that last year it was much easier to get an A for instance, which ranged from a 90 to a 100, but now starts at a 93. But she also explained how this year’s grading system is “a lot [more] transparent and a lot clearer,” allowing students to have a clearer idea of where they are.
Sacrifices and Change
With all that has been changed this year, many students and teachers agree that the schedule ultimately led to a positive impact. “I think it’s a good choice to change the schedule,” said Lyons. “If there’s problems, why not fix them?”
She also explained that “even if [the schedule change] makes school life with your friends more uncomfortable, it’s worth it in the grand scheme of things,” specifically referring to the change in lunches.
Hinkle, who designed the schedule that is used today, explained that he “wasn’t thrilled about it or sure that it was the best schedule.”
Arnold had similar remarks. “There are some concerns from teachers [and] that they might want to see something different next year.”
As for the current schedule, “it was just one of many compromises that might be better than other compromises,” Hinkle said. As it comes with any decision, changes need to be made, and things of lesser value need to be sacrificed in the hopes for a positive impact. Many students and staff don’t particularly like the new changes, however many have understood that the goal was for something more positive, that outweighs what was sacrificed. “[With] scheduling you always sacrifice something for something else,” said Hinkle. “You’re never going to get the best of all worlds.” .