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School plans switch from trimester to semesters for ’18-’19 school year

Betsey Bennett, Staff Writer

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Next year, there will be no more end-of-trimester testing, mid-trimester reports, or third trimester seniors. According to Head of Upper Division Dr. Jessica Levenstein, the school will be switching to a semester system for the 2018-2019 school year.

“To me, the decision is of a piece with eliminating final exams,” Levenstein said. “Both decisions are rooted in this idea that our students can do their best work if they have the time and the breathing space to do it.”

There will be two semesters of roughly equal length, with the split around the third week of January, Levenstein said.Last year, a faculty subcommittee led by science teacher Dr. Lisa Rosenblum formed to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of implementing a semester schedule.

“The main motivator was the wellbeing of the students,” Rosenblum said. “What we found with our research is that the trimester is really choppy, and that by extending that to a semester system, it would slow down the pace.”

According to Levenstein, the semester schedule will allow for a requirement of slightly fewer assessments per year.

“We can hopefully get away from the three-week treadmill of assessments where students feel like they have these hell weeks at even intervals throughout the year,” Levenstein said. “We think that will help students to do better work and have a chance to live a healthier life.”

According to Upper Division Dean of Faculty Dr. Matthew Wallenfang, another advantage relates to how grades will appear on transcripts. Instead of the current system, where the three trimester grades are averaged together to show a single final grade, the new system will likely show both semester grades.

“Many students improve in a given course throughout the year, and might get a B+, B+, and A- currently,” Wallenfang said. “That averages together to show a B+, but it doesn’t reflect that improvement that is being shown. Under this system, a student who gets a B+ and an A- will have that reported as a B+ and an A-, which we thinks helps everyone in terms of reflecting better how the student actually did.”

From a college counseling perspective, the semester system will better align with the college admissions calendar, Executive Director of College Counseling Canh Oxelson said.

“Currently, the first trimester ends late enough in the fall that seniors can’t always benefit from really strong first trimester grades,” Oxelson said. “In a semester system, a mid-semester grade would simply be a progress report and it would come at a more helpful time for seniors.”

The semester system will also be more convenient for students involved in clubs, Rosenblum said.

“The end of the trimester usually happens around the same time as big competitions in clubs like Debate and Model UN,” Rosenblum said. “With a semester schedule, there would be fewer of those kinds of conflicts.”

The switch is still in the beginning stages, Wallenfang said.

“What we know for now is that this is happening,” Wallenfang said. “Now we’re in the process of figuring out exactly the nuts and bolts of how the semester system will look.”

For next year, most of the curriculum will feel the same to students as it currently does, Wallenfang said. The two exceptions are athletics and senior English electives, both of which depend on a trimester schedule.

“There is one challenge, which is the athletic calendar, but I’m not that worried about it because we’ve been assured by the athletic department that they can still work with a three-season model even if we’re on a semester model,” Levenstein said. “A lot of our peer schools are on semesters and offer three seasons of athletics, so I think we’ll be able to figure that out.”

The athletics department is still in the process of finalizing how they will handle a semester schedule, Associate Athletic Director Ray Barile said.

According to English Department Chair Vernon Wilson, the switch will have a positive effect on senior electives by allowing students to delve deeper into topics.

“First of all, students are used to being able to choose from three electives, so obviously we’ll only have two electives that we’ll be offering each year,” Wilson said. “However, the biggest advantage that I see is that because there will be more time in a semester than we currently have in a trimester, teaching an elective for a semester will allow us to spend more time on texts and offer more creative windows into what we are teaching.”

“As with any big change, we have to think about the impact it’s going to have on our curriculum, but I don’t see that so much as a challenge as an opportunity,” Levenstein said. “We are really excited about ways that the curriculum can take advantage of a semester system.”

1 Comment

One Response to “School plans switch from trimester to semesters for ’18-’19 school year”

  1. newy on September 18th, 2017 5:07 pm

    I love this article! great info in here

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Horace Mann's Weekly Newspaper Since 1903
School plans switch from trimester to semesters for ’18-’19 school year