Change… for the better?

Recently, there have been many changes made to West High. Students and teachers speak up about their perspectives on these changes and how it has affected their school life.

Briiiiiing!! Riiing! The loud noise jolts you awake as you fumble for the snooze button. After sloppily getting ready for school, you rush out the door, panicking about the four tests you have today because you didn’t have time to cram at 2 am in the morning. At school, the words on your tests seemed to dance and float off the page as you stared at it, not knowing what to do. When you get home, you collapse on the couch, relieved. Oh wait. You just realized that all those tests you winged your way through are worth 85% of your grade, and there is no way to make it up even if you work your butt off on all of the assignments. Even worse, extra credit doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe… you just shouldn’t look at your grades for a bit…

This chain of events, although exaggerated, happens to many high school students here at West High. Why? The new grading policy. Now, 85% of a student’s grade comprises of tests while only 15% is made up of homework and assignments. This new policy places a hard ban on any type of extra credit. Also, it must be used in all classrooms across the district, so it’s no longer up to the teacher on how they want to grade their students. Another recently implemented policy is the hall pass system, which teachers also don’t have a say in. For more information, check out our podcast.

The majority of the students don’t care about this policy. However, very few actually like it, and around 30% dislike it. Some common reasons stated for not liking the policy is that some students might not be good test-takers and not having extra credit causes anxiety. Some also say that since homework takes up a lot of time, it should count more in the overall grade. The new AFT schedule might also favor some students as well. For more information, click on the video.

I think that having one policy through all the classes is kind of a bad idea because not all classes are the same level of difficulty and have the same material, [so] I think maybe the district should let teachers choose their own grading policies based on what they think is the best fit for their class.

— Maya Chu ‘23

Based on the survey conducted, many other students also agree with this sentiment.

“For a student that really works hard and may have test anxiety, that could be unfair for them. [So] I can see it both ways,” said Ms. Stumpf.

This is another point that’s been commonly brought up. Students have said that it would help their stress management if the weight of tests lowered and the weight of homework was brought up. Especially for those who have test anxiety, they say their grades, which are usually good, plummet after they take a test.

“I definitely do know people where it’s similar to myself. It’s kind of stressful to have a lot of importance on just a couple of tests. It probably depends on the person. I’m a little bit of both,” said Vera Tanas ‘25.

Not having extra credit, as mentioned before, causes a lot of students’ anxiety. Many state that having this cushion on their grade was relieving because if they don’t do that great on a test, extra credit could make up for some of that and bring their grade back up a little. However, some students also say that extra credit might only be beneficial to students with higher socioeconomic status and a few points won’t make a difference in the grade. Also, it might be considered unfair to students who studied very hard and got a good grade on their test but have the same overall score as another student who didn’t study but did the extra credit.

I don’t think that if a teacher sets [their] grading properly, there really should be a need for extra credit.

— señora Sandhu

But on the other hand, some teachers think differently.

“I like the opportunity to challenge a student to get to a level they might not expect for everyone and give them a little extra push for doing that extra work. I don’t love that I can’t challenge kids and give them something for that work,” said Ms. Stumpff.

At Iowa City West High School, the new grading policy has definitely become a controversy amongst teachers and students, and will likely be reconsidered in the coming years.