Standardization Amongst Stuyvesant Classes
Issue 15, Volume 113
By Alexa Leahy
Known for its highly knowledgeable teachers and rigorous courses, Stuyvesant offers a wide variety of classes, ranging from History of the Middle Ages to AP Calculus. For each subject offered at Stuyvesant, as many as 15 teachers can be assigned, causing great discrepancies in how a standard curriculum is taught. With a school as big as Stuyvesant, it makes sense for core classes like freshman global history to have many teachers. However, this large pool of teachers, each with their own teaching style, can be problematic for students.
When teachers for classes are not annualized, transitioning from one teacher to another can be challenging due to shifts in distinct teaching styles. For one of my classes, my first semester teacher gave fairly straightforward tests and taught at a slower pace, allowing me to fully grasp concepts. Over the first semester, I felt like I had just gotten to know my teacher before suddenly switching to a different teacher for the second semester. The transition was rough, as my second semester teacher teaches much faster, and their tests are quite harder.
Getting accustomed to a new teacher is difficult, and, as a result, my grade took a blow at the beginning of the semester. I couldn’t write my notes fast enough, leaving me scrambling and trying to borrow notes from someone else in my class. The issue arose when I realized I was not alone in my struggles. There was no one I could borrow the notes from because none of my friends had gotten the notes down in time. Our teacher has slowed down the pace of their lectures to match students’ writing pace and has begun posting their slideshows, which I greatly appreciate. However, the transition from my first to my second-semester teacher could have been much smoother if teachers had a consensus about the pacing of their lessons and the nitty-gritty details, such as test formatting.
Another major issue is the imbalance in extra credit offered to students, stemming from Stuyvesant’s diverse set of teachers with differing approaches to the rigor of the curriculum. Some teachers are very generous with the extra credit they provide, even to the extent of giving extra credit for practically every other homework assignment. This is a stark contrast to teachers who do not offer a single extra credit assignment throughout the semester. As a result, when it comes time for AP selections, some students have an unfair advantage simply because their teacher provided extra credit, allowing some to achieve a grade of over 100 in the class. On the other hand, students stuck with the short end of the stick are at a disadvantage even though they are just as competent.
There needs to be a universal departmental consensus on whether extra credit should be provided to students to ensure an equal playing field. Extra credit should be provided two to three times a semester, as it can help balance out a bad grade on a test or quiz. While this may conflict with the “every man for themselves” mentality many Stuy students hold, we are all human and deserve at least one “get out of jail free card,” or, in this case, extra credit. Not only does extra credit help one’s grade, but it also enables students to explore more about the subject outside of class and homework. In the bigger picture, this could help foster a genuine interest in a subject that might not otherwise be developed in class.
Mixing up the number of projects and tests assigned can also mitigate the issue created by Stuyvesant’s wide variety of teachers. All my teachers solely give tests, with only two of my classes having a single project this entire school year. I am a horrible test taker. I can put a lot of effort into preparing for a test and to be able to recite practically every fact before the test, but the second I sit down and turn to the first page of the exam, my mind goes blank. I forget everything I studied so hard for, and my heart drops as a feeling of dread looms over me.
On the contrary, some of my friends have teachers who only assign projects, and those who are better at taking tests than working on projects struggle just as I do. This calls for a larger balance between tests and projects, as testing both a student’s strengths and weaknesses is vital to creating a well-rounded learner. Additionally, by providing tests and projects that challenge one’s creativity, teachers can strengthen two very different, fundamental life skills for their students.
The differing types of assessments, whether it be written projects or multiple-choice tests, can also be an issue when it comes to standardized testing like the regents. Some students will be much more prepared for the multiple-choice questions, while others will be much more prepared for the short-response questions. This is partly due to how different teachers prepare classes differently for these tests. If all teachers spent equal amounts of time on different types of questions throughout the semester or school year, students would be more prepared for all parts of the tests. Concerning this, it could be beneficial for teachers to gauge how their class is doing with the material and set a day aside to prepare students for an upcoming test.
I understand that teachers want to teach their lessons in a way they feel most comfortable while still being helpful to their students, but there also needs to be a mix of different teaching styles. Designating the number of tests and projects based on the department would be most effective in implementing this kind of change. With a few little tweaks to the variations of teaching methods, there can be a much more level and stress-free playing field for students.