MCPS teachers reflect on the past and look to the future as the BOE announces 2021-22 guidelines

Journalism Student

On June 10, the Montgomery County Board of Education met to discuss and announce guidelines and regulations for the upcoming school year. These included many rollbacks on restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably the return to in person instruction 5-days a week at 100% capacity.  With Montgomery County’s vaccination rate currently at 59.5%, many MCPS teachers are looking forward to the return to normalcy. 

“This year was unlike any other,” said Fallsmead Elementary School counselor Rebecca Kotok. She, along with thousands of teachers and administrators across the county, has been working tirelessly throughout the year to ensure that students’ educational needs were met. 

Fallsmead principal Lori Sweeney feels similarly. “I feel like I worked harder than I’ve ever worked before,” she said. “Managing the social-emotional needs of our students, staff, and community was probably the biggest challenge.” 

Both educators noted that the constantly changing metrics and guidelines made the year especially difficult to manage. 

One of Fallsmead’s special education teachers, Jessica Shevitz, found engaging students through a screen to be one of the most difficult aspects of the year. “It was really difficult to keep kids engaged and manage behaviors while online,” she said. “Lots of kids would not complete assignments, or would get frustrated and sign off, and there’s not much we could do when that happened.” 

After student engagement became such a prevalent issue during that past year, many MCPS educators are worried about the learning gaps between students created by virtual learning. “I think that there is a large learning gap between students due to online learning,” Shevitz said. “[For] students with disabilities, [there are] even more challenges as it was harder to implement accommodations and services during virtual learning.” 

Sweeney believes that there may be greater discrepancies between students of different backgrounds, making the situation inequitable. “I… feel that some families who had additional resources were able to provide learning pods and tutors, so they probably have less gaps in their learning than students whose families were not able to provide these supports,” she said. 

Despite these challenges, the educators are optimistic that they are heading towards a brighter future this upcoming school year. 

Sweeney has already seen the county begin to take the necessary steps to help remedy the learning gaps. “The county… has spent a lot of time back-mapping what kids have missed, and they have created parent resources that will show parents what their child has missed and what they can do to help,” she said. 

Shevitz also said that she saw immense progress in the students who returned to school in person last year, even for simply the last quarter. 

When asked what they were most excited for about the upcoming school year, all three educators had the same answer: to see their students back in the building again. “I am completely comfortable returning to school 5 days a week,” Kotok said. “I appreciate the county’s efforts to get school staff vaccinated early.” 

Shevitz is excited to have her students back in the classroom, and is prepared to slowly reintroduce in-person learning etiquette. “We can start at the beginning of the year with rules and routines and work on academic, social, and [behavioral] goals within a classroom setting,” she said. 

MCPS will begin the 2021-2022 school year on August 30. Until then, teachers will be preparing themselves and their classrooms for the first “normal” day of school since before the pandemic.

AP Exams look a little different this year, but the effects seem to be neutral

Journalism B Student

We all know that COVID-19 has greatly changed the way our generation has been taught. Between online-remote learning, teachers and students spending all day staring at screens, fake proms, and online AP exams, this year has definitely been very different from what we are used to Although the coronavirus outbreak last March was very sudden, College Board still managed to pull together online exams at the last minute. These exams were greatly shortened and simplified, however, but this year College Board had all year to make longer and more realistic online exams for online students. The ultimate question: how much did the online school content prepare students for the online exams this year? To ensure that all different viewpoints are considered, teachers, new students, and old students gave their opinion on this topic. 

First off, focusing on how well this year of online schooling prepared students for the exam, Jenifer Soykan, an AP English Language teacher at QO, talked about her role vs. the students. When asked about her students feedback on how well prepared they were, she claims that, with her other AP Lang teachers, “We distilled the lessons into just the basics for the exam, with fewer extended learning opportunities.” This is a perfect example of how students were at a disadvantage with online learning because there was less instructional time in the classroom to receive extra help. 

However there wasn’t much teachers could do about that, instead, this year it was all about students being proactive. “Students who wanted to be prepared were… those who didn’t care were less prepared,” Soykan added. 

Sophomore Graham Nash explains his experience with the exams, this being his taking his first and only AP Exam online. Being his first year taking an AP NSL exam, his feedback will be different from others.  When asked about how prepared he felt he was, Nash stated, “A lot of the content was stuff we did in class, or in modules,” indicating that he felt he had a good sense of information while taking the test. 

Where he fell short is similar to what Soykan stated earlier. “I think the ones that I missed were mostly my fault in terms of what I didn’t study,” Nash added. 

With standardized testing, including the ACT and SAT, students may know the content and have been remembering the correct answers, but applying them to the different concepts and writing prompts can always be a challenge. Next Julia Kavadias, a rising senior at QO, who has taken in person and online exams in the past, gave her opinion on these exams. This year she took multiple exams such as the Calculus, World, Language and Composition and Psychology exams.

One advantage of online schooling was that Teachers had the opportunity to easily simulate the actual exam. Narrowing in on the psychology exam, Kavadias alluded back to her material in class, “We had many unit tests that were filled with multiple choice questions and they always ended with a timed essay,” she said. “This is exactly what the exam was like.”

Since Kavadias had taken an in-person AP exam at the end of her freshman year, she can compare the two different types of AP exams. “There was definitely a lot more test anxiety sitting in an auditorium with 100 plus students compared to in my room alone.” she said. Test anxiety has been proven to lower scores among teenagers, but this issue was washed away (for a number of people) with online exams.

Lastly, Kavadias added about how prepared she felt going into the exam, “I think that if you really put the time and effort into understanding the content the teachers give you instead of looking at it once and never again, you can score well on the exams.” 

According to the Washington Post, Pete Bvis, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at the high school district in Evanston, Ill., claims, “College credit should be awarded this year based on how AP teachers judge the quality of student class work, and not on the results of the year-end AP exams written and graded by outside experts.” This is a very debated topic among educators and students because, in a lot of eyes, a good test taker doesn’t mean a good student and vice versa.  This is an idea that the online AP exams had brought to attention this year and something that will continue to be shaped by the students.

This is part of a series of articles by Journalism B students, who wrote these for their final article assignment in the class.

QO students reflect on pandemic, look ahead to new school year

Journalism B Student

After 15 long months, many Quince Orchard students are more than ready to leave virtual learning behind. 

Since the spring of 2020, students have been going to school on their computers, via Zoom, due to the spread of the coronavirus. In late April, MCPS schools started allowing some students back in school buildings, but they would only be back in-person every other week, to limit the amount of people in the school. 

As vaccines are administered nationwide, and community spread significantly decreases, The Maryland State Department of Education has voted to require school systems to hold in-person school next year, according to the Baltimore Sun. Now, QO students are reflecting on their time with virtual learning, and looking forward to next year. 

During the pandemic, feelings about virtual school have been different from student to student, and students themselves have had mixed feelings about their experience.

“It was kind of a mixed bag,” said sophomore Fiona Bradford, “I liked it because I got to stay at home and do most of my classes from my bed, but then on the other hand I got so much work.” 

Throughout the year, others have also noted a heavy workload, especially considering the stress of being virtual. Junior Dean Arnold felt that the virtual setting added  pressure on students.

“In some subjects… I was teaching myself the whole content,” he recalled, “but there was also some teachers who did really well and were able to teach the content pretty well.” 

In a typical year, for many students success in the classroom is based on the relationships they build with their teachers. In this year’s mostly-virtual setting, however, it was significantly harder for students to communicate with their teachers, so building those all-important relationships was more difficult. 

“I’ve missed being able to communicate easier with my teachers,” said sophomore Jack Husted. “I used to like to stay after, and…build a good relationship with teachers. I couldn’t do that at all this year.”

During this year of virtual school, students weren’t just isolated from teachers, but from each other. Usually, students can see their friends a number of times throughout each day, whether walking through the halls, in classes, or at lunch. Social life is a major part of many students’ high school experience, but for the past year and a half, the social aspect of high school has come to a near standstill.  

Freshman Catherine Brady was in eighth grade when schools first shut down in March of 2020, but now with her first year of high school almost over, she feels deprived of the social aspect of high school. 

“I didn’t get to go to football games, homecoming, or participate in any kind of spirit or pep activities for the school,” she said. “Most importantly, I missed out on the friendships that I would’ve made if we were in person.” 

Isolated from their peers, students were also robbed of opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities in-person for much of the pandemic. Sophomore Ananya Chandramouli, a saxophone player in the QO band and theater’s pit orchestra, had to play her saxophone alone during virtual school.

“Playing alone was not only harder, but it was also really sad to not play as a group or with anyone else. That was just really sad for me,” she said.

Music wasn’t the only extracurricular affected. Dean Arnold, the president of Comfort Cases, a club that packs backpacks for foster children, described how their club couldn’t hold as many fundraisers this year.

Students missed out on a lot during virtual school, but many found benefits from their experience. From being able to self-reflect, to having more down time, students were able to take advantage of some of the opportunities that came with virtual school. 

With Zoom calls, muted microphones, and the world of virtual school coming to an end, students are eager to get back to school as it was before the pandemic. At the conclusion of an unprecedented school year, students are full of hope, ready to make the best of the time they have left in high school.

“I’m excited to see people again,” Bradford said. “I think a lot of it will be exciting.”

This is part of a series of articles by Journalism B students, who wrote these for their final article assignment in the class.

Brace yourselves: your lack of preparation is going to haunt you

In the midst of apathy that has plagued many students this year, they still had to face their hardest challenge yet

Journalism B Student

You fill in another bubble on your answer sheet as you quickly look up at the timer in the front of the auditorium. You can practically hear it taunting you as it continues to slowly tick down. Page after page, word after word, doubt after doubt, and answer after answer, you feel your pencil begin to slip from your hands, clammy from the cold sweat that continues to encase your whole body in a near-petrifying state of nerves. Suddenly, you only have ten minutes left to complete whatever work you can, and it’s almost as if all of the information you studied the last few weeks took a flight to places unknown, leaving you in a perilous position of total blankness as you stare at the final questions in front of you. Five, four, three, two, one, and the microphone-amplified voice of your test proctor announces that your testing time is over. With a pounding heart and a pounding headache to match, you walk out of the testing facility, your mind flooded with a mixture of relief and dread. However, you’re not alone in your feelings of unease. Students around the world are confronting one of the most dreaded challenges of a high school education.

The AP exams. 

“When I think of AP exams, I think of studying a lot and feeling like I’m preparing for some kind of battle,” said junior Ian Lee. 

However, just like everything else during the pandemic, this year’s AP exams have come with additional challenges that have made taking them an extra bitter ordeal. Indeed, the virtual learning environment has led to the development of numerous issues that have made it significantly harder for students to get the much-needed preparation required to be successful on these brutal tests. These issues have arisen in a variety of ways, ranging from unstable or lack of internet access to a lack of actual instructional time. Perhaps the biggest problem, though, is one that already plagued students pre-COVID, and has only become worse through virtual learning: Motivation.

“It’s just been really hard to concentrate this entire year,” said junior Kyle Wong. “Staring at a computer screen for like four or five hours a day makes it almost impossible to pay attention.” 

Wong is hardly alone in his apathetic sentiments. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU), 76% of all surveyed students said that they struggled to motivate themselves to get their work done, or even start it. With such a drastic decrease in work ethic, in combination with this year’s limited class time, it’s probable that students are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to studying for exams because they’re simply not synthesizing the information well. 

Unfortunately, not knowing some information here and there isn’t going to fly as well as it did during last year’s modified exams. College Board stated that the 2020-2021 exams were going to be full length, meaning they’re going to cover every and any discussed material gone over in class. Consequently, the lack of motivation students have dealt with and are currently dealing with is going to be that much more of a detriment. 

With such a critical situation at hand, a looming question arises. What should students do? 

Thankfully, not all hope is lost. There are numerous resources online that condense AP coursework to make it more manageable and, as a result, easier for students to motivate themselves through the use of various tools such as practice quizzes, flashcards, and short review videos that highlight important topics. Such resources include, Khan Academy, the official College Board website, and the old reliable Quizlet. So while a lack of motivation might continue to persist during these trying times, students at least have access to websites to combat their indifference.

This is part of a series of articles by Journalism B students, who wrote these for their final article assignment in the class. More will be posted in the coming days! Subscribe for an email update when a new article is posted.

Analysis of the online AP Exams: 2021 vs. 2020

Journalism B Student

With the pandemic entering the US in January 2020, there have been significant changes to the American school systems. One prevalent example has been online schooling that was implemented throughout the nation due to schools having to close down. This would also include the standardized exams that most high school students would participate in. AP exams, hosted by the College Board, which allows students to get college credit if they are successful, had extreme changes. 

Normally, the test would be taken in person over a three-hour period at your respective high school. However, College Board had to make modifications due to the quarantine regulations, which caused them to host the next two years of tests online.

The difference between the in-person tests and the online test is drastic, the obvious one being that one is online. But the 2020 online test and 2021 test were considerably different as well. According to College Board, the 2020 test was adjustable to each AP class since not everyone’s instructional time was the same. They could have taken the exam on any electronic device. Due to the switch of last-minute online testing in 2020, the rules were pretty lax compared to 2021 and 2019 exams. 

“I really enjoyed the AP exam last year. It was easier to understand and didn’t take as long unlike this year’s [2021] NSL exam,” said sophomore Miku Nagao.

College Board wasn’t exempt from technical difficulties that come with everyday internet use. There were a lot of problems that came with submitting the 2020 test, which caused a lot of students to take make-up tests. As mentioned before, the 2020 test was adjustable, since it only included material you studied in class instead of the entire unit. This caused the studying to be different for each class, which wasn’t prioritized due to the pandemic. 

“I remember my teacher saying not to even stress ourselves out with studying. I only studied on the day of [the test], but luckily the test was on something we’ve practiced a million times in class,” said Nagao.

Once teachers were told the type of test that would be displayed, they mostly focused on preparing students for the specific assignment on the test. The cost of last year’s exam was $95, which was normal, but caused a decrease in students taking the test due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. Luckily, College Board did not have a late fee, so the price stayed the same throughout the entire registration period.

The 2021 exam was forced to be made online due to the ongoing pandemic but College Board handled it differently: the organization wanted the AP exam to be as normal as possible online. This caused a series of requirements to avoid online cheating, such as downloading an app, and only approving laptop or desktop devices to be used for the exam. This was different from the previous exam since you could take the test on any electronic device you owned. The way the exam would work was decided early on; this allowed for teachers to prepare students throughout the course of the year instead of last-minute cramming. The improvement of online classes allowed for teaching and studying to be made easier.

 “Studying for the AP exam was easier [this year] since we actually knew what we were studying for this time! It was organized and teachers were able to gradually teach us new concepts that they knew would be on the test,” said sophomore Joslyn Saunders. Saunders was taking two AP classes this year, which wasn’t as “hectic” and “stressful” as they thought it would be. Since the 2021 exam was supposed to resemble the paper version of the test, the cost remained the same. However, the additional $40 late fee was added as well. Due to unforeseen circumstances of online school and the pandemic, this potentially caused students to register late.

“I wasn’t going to pay $135 for an exam that wouldn’t count for some colleges, or benefit me in the future,” said sophomore Danielle Garcia. This was Garcia’s first year taking an AP class, and due to the many rules that were implemented in order to take the test, it caused a delay in seeing if she could even take the test with her resources at home. Garcia believed the late fee wasn’t “worth it” in the end and surely wasn’t a priority.

This is part of a series of articles by Journalism B students, who wrote these for their final article assignment in the class. More will be posted in the coming days! Subscribe for an email update when a new article is posted.

Is social awkwardness the new normal? A personal documentation of mental health in the Smith household

Journalism B Student

The COVID-19 virus has affected the lives of almost all Americans throughout the nation. The physical symptoms of the virus get the mainstream media coverage; however the mental symptoms can get overlooked. People in the United States have been forced to stay in their homes, wear masks whenever outside of their homes, and attend schooling online instead of in person. All of these effects of the quarantine have had serious effects on social interaction when people meet face to face, since they have been meeting behind a screen for a year and a half. 

It has been scientifically proven that once the pandemic is completely over, our lives will not return to normalcy right away. People’s social skills have been completely depleted and some rarely know how to hold a basic conversation face to face anymore. University of California professor Craig Haney notes that it is quite logical for many to become socially awkward after lockdown. 

“It will not feel normal,” Haney said. “We have all been forced to accommodate the absence of other people in our lives” 

The children of the nation have been held back when it comes to social interaction because now they do not have the option to turn their cameras off or mute for that matter. Many children may find themselves lost on how to initiate a conversation or to properly interact with one another. The child does not need to have contracted the virus to experience the social hindrances seen today.

The initial benefits of virtual learning have become burdens to many children as they slowly filter back into normal society. One initial benefit was that students would not have to deal with the distractions of other students, and could concentrate on their own work.

 The removal of human distraction is quite useful, but this means there is a lack of socializing with other students and getting to know them. 

This has taken quite a toll on my youngest brother, as he is now afraid to leave the house because of strangers. 

“I don’t really like going outside because I don’t like talking to new people,” he said. “I like my iPad better.”

The recent attachment to electronic devices and the unwillingness to want to go outside is only one of the damaging effects the coronavirus lockdown has had on the younger generation. Also when interviewing Oliver, I noticed that he found it quite hard to make eye contact with me and felt the need to constantly lock down when answering questions. This can only be attributed to the head position one has when incessantly looking at a screen all day. 

However, my youngest brother is not the only child in the family that has had difficulties in adapting to regular day life.

Some schools have already begun opening up to in-person learning or introducing a hybrid schedule of both virtual and in-person learning. Now with this option of going in-person to school has been the first time many students have even stepped foot in a school since March of 2020. There is a certain population of students who have found it very hard to socially interact with kids their age when face to face. 

 My other younger brother attends the McLean School, which has implemented different in-person activities to help the students socialize and prepare them for the upcoming school year. He voiced his concerns to me, saying that he felt lost and did not exactly know how to start the conversation.

“Sometimes it feels kinda awkward when talking to people, like I don’t always have the right words to say,” he explained.

As you can see, the virtual learning environment has hindered the social skills of young kids, causing them to feel awkward or under pressure to say the right thing. With the lack of in-person interactions, these kids lose the ability to be able to read a situation or see the reaction of the other person after saying something. 

Both of these scenarios show what the lack of in-person interaction does to younger children, from refusal to leave the house from awkward in-person conversations. Even when writing this article, I also showed signs of lack of social interaction. 

When trying to explain what I was writing about to my mom, I noticed that I physically could not spit out the words that I had come up with in my head. I found myself getting flustered and quite literally had to show her from my computer screen what I was writing. I became less frustrated when I realized that was a perfect example of social awkwardness and the lack of speaking face to face with someone.

Overall, the coronavirus lockdown helped save many lives, but society may need some time until our social skills are fully up and running.

This is part of a series of articles by Journalism B students, who wrote these for their final article assignment in the class. More will be posted in the coming days! Subscribe for an email update when a new article is posted.

Cougar Community: Students who stayed involved during the pandemic

Journalism B Student

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has made the past year and a half anything but normal. When students pictured their high school years, the last thing on their mind was most likely their current reality — staring at a computer screen for hours, doing school at home in the midst of a global pandemic. Life during the pandemic could easily get boring and lonely, but many Quince Orchard students thought that it was important to stay involved in the things they were passionate about, so that they could make the best of their time at home. 

“It’s important for me to have something to do outside of school, because we’ve all been so isolated,” junior and QO Theatre’s Vice President of Publicity Ela Green said. QO Theatre had two online plays this year, “The Audition” and “12 Incompetent Jurors,” compared to the fall play and spring musical that they normally do. 

“I definitely like [acting] in person better, because virtually you don’t get to have sidebars with people, and it’s harder to make connections. We’ve gotten around that, though, by having a group chat, where we all talk to each other,” Green said. “I really like the community that comes with [QO Theatre] and how everyone feels like they can be themselves and not be judged.” 

While there are clear differences between QO Theatre and QO sports, in both there seems to be a common theme of participants loving the connections they make. The JV baseball players, for example, spend a lot of time together, as they have practices Monday through Saturday, which has naturally made them closer. “I would say we all get along very well and our motto is ‘One heartbeat,’ so we are always there to support [each other] and try to make each other better,” freshman and JV baseball player Justin Goodstein said. “I have loved being able to say I am supporting my school and building new friendships.”

Sports are a substantial part of the Cougar community. Students, staff, and family members of players alike love to go and support the teams, but it was unclear as to whether they would get to do so this year. Both fans and players kept hope that the athletes would get to play in person though, and their hopes became a reality when it was announced in January that there would be a fall, winter, and spring in-person season. Although the seasons were a lot shorter than regular ones, athletes were just thrilled that they got to play. 

“When I found out about us playing [in person] I was excited and ready, because we hadn’t had that opportunity in months,” junior and varsity football player Makhi Walker said. 

With this year being so different, the SGA officers too have worked extremely hard to give students the best experience that they could. “We had meetings one to two times every month, and we all communicated through group FaceTime and our group chats. All of us [officers] really wanted to be there for the students,” sophomore class representative Deeya Mistry said. “It was a little hard engaging with people online, but I still tried my best to be there for the class through being open on social media, and [holding] officer hours.”

The leaders of the club Cougar Minds Matter have also tried their best to keep students engaged this year, helping them achieve and/or maintain good mental health. “I honestly don’t do a lot besides school and Cougar Minds Matter, so it really gave me something to devote my attention to,” sophomore and CMM president Chase Pantezzi said. “I’m so glad that me, Masha [Klochkova], and Ellie [Duvall], who are my other leadership team members, were able to bring students together in such a difficult time.”  With school most likely returning to normal next year, there will be even more opportunities for students to get involved. Students who are interested in joining clubs, playing sports, and/or participating in QO Theatre can find more information on the Quince Orchard website.

This is part of a series of articles by Journalism B students, who wrote these for their final article assignment in the class. More will be posted in the coming days! Subscribe for an email update when a new article is posted.

Virginia upsets undefeated Maryland in the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse National Championship

Journalism B Student

No. 3 seed University of Virginia defended the title and became back-to-back National Champions in a thriller against undefeated No. 1 seed University of Maryland. This win gave Virginia’s extremely successful lacrosse program their 7th NCAA title. 

In a game where Maryland looked to complete their undefeated season, Virginia swooped in and shattered the hearts of the Terps organization. Many claim the game to be an instant classic, as the combined 33 points was the highest total in a final since 1975. 

Maryland was the favorite to win, being led by star attackman Jared Bernhardt. Bernhardt had a historic season and was by far the best player in the country with 99 points on the season (a school record) and the national scoring leader. Being aware of this, Virginia came with a plan and held Bernhardt scoreless in the second half. 

“Bernhardt is the best lacrosse player I’ve ever seen play,” Zack Revzan said. Revzan attended a Maryland game earlier this year and was in awe after seeing Bernhardt play for the first time. 

Virginia’s plans to stop Bernhardt shifted their focus away from other players, which allowed attackman Logan Wisnauskas to step up and score 5 goals for the Terrapins. 

The game was relatively close for the first three quarters. Virginia went up 5 goals in the middle of the 4th quarter and it seemed like hope was lost for Maryland. In a miraculous comeback, Maryland scored 4 goals back to back in a little over 4 minutes. Each goal was better than the last. You could tell the momentum completely shifted from Virginia to Maryland; they were on fire. This cut the lead to 1, with a score of 16-15. Virginia responded and made it a 2 point game with 3 minutes left in the 4th. 

Nerves were high and Maryland just couldn’t seem to put the ball in the net. But, with 10 seconds left in the game, Anthony DeMaio scored to close the gap to 1 goal, 17-16. 

With 10.8 seconds remaining on the clock, Maryland had a chance to tie the score up, but only if they won the ensuing faceoff. 

Sophomore Luke Wierman stepped up to face off against Virginia. He won the faceoff, scooped the ground ball, and took off toward the goal. Weirman got a shot off with around 5 seconds left, shooting from 8 yards out. But Alex Rode, Virginia’s goalie, stuffed the shot and Virginia proceeded to win the game. 

“It wasn’t a great shot in all honesty. Maryland’s guy shot it right at the goalie’s chest,” Adam Isaacson, a Terps fan and alumnus watching the game from home, said. 

Virginia played amazingly, scoring 17 goals on Maryland, the highest amount of points the Terps have allowed all season. They came out attacking and never let their foot off the gas, which is what ultimately led to victory. 

“The game was crazy. I don’t typically enjoy watching lacrosse, but this game was an exception. It was like watching a March Madness basketball game,” Rich Revzan, a father of 2 lacrosse players, said. 

The Virginia vs. Maryland game will go down in history as one of the most exciting lacrosse games ever played.

This is part of a series of articles by Journalism B students, who wrote these for their final article assignment in the class. More will be posted in the coming days! Subscribe for an email update when a new article is posted.

Covid strikes again, bringing a virtual option to the 2021 Advanced Placement exams

Journalism B Student

Life flashed in front of everyone’s eyes, and before we knew it the 2020 AP exams were long gone and students were presented with a new wall to climb over amid the turmoil ‒ 2021 AP exams. With the option of an in-person or virtual test, these exams reflected the closest thing to normal since 2019 in many aspects. Some students walked into their high schools for the first time in over a year to sit in a room and scribble in what could be their worst handwriting since elementary school. Others sat in front of their screen, tensing after each second counted down on the timer before the test began.

The exams kept the content coverage the same as pre-pandemic years, with exceptions of subjects such as AP Physics because the content would not be covered in time and the College Board deemed that as something inadequate to self-teach. 

This decision of giving students the full test resulted in many not covering all the material before the exam, leading them to attempt to study it themselves. Whether this preparation was successful is debatable. “I studied maybe a day before my tests, at most, compared to pre-pandemic [times when] I started studying for my exam like a month before,” junior Ela Green stated, “though I still think I did pretty well despite not being very prepared.” 

The exams seemed to test students’ will as much as their content knowledge, especially during these times. Students as well shared their perspectives on the different in-person and virtual exams.  Green prefers the in-person exams “because the computer strains my eyes and I just feel more relaxed on paper, also because of things such as a stop in wifi,” she said. 

On the contrary, Cynthia Chen, a senior at Wootton High School, preferred the virtual AP exams. “The environment is a little more comfortable and less stressful,” Chen said. 

Between the different formats, there were some minor changes on multiple choice questions, and both students agreed on wishing the virtual option allowed them to go back to questions they already answered or skipped. The in-person exam was essentially a glimpse to how testing was back in the day, except with masks and more options for what day to take the test. These different perspectives allow a deeper look into these 2021 AP exams and how students felt the exams treated them.

Whether the AP exams were good or bad overall depends on who you ask. Jay Mathews from the Washington Post believes that these exams “motivate AP students and teachers to do their best work,” as he argues against others who emphasize that this is a bad year to take these difficult exams. 

It’s no doubt that these AP exams are all-consuming. Nevertheless, their importance becomes clear as schools constantly push students to not only take AP classes, but pressure them to take these exams themselves. The College Board won’t hold back for a global pandemic; that’s seemingly the greatest takeaway yet.

This is part of a series of articles by Journalism B students, who wrote these for their final article assignment in the class. More will be posted in the coming days! Subscribe for an email update when a new article is posted.

No prom of 2021 due to COVID restrictions

Journalism B Student

When you think of prom you think of partying with your friends, dressing up in the brightest colors, laughing and dancing. But imagine getting that experience taken from you. This group of high school students didn’t have to imagine. Due to COVID-19, the Quince Orchard prom was cancelled yet again. Multiple students were devastated when they heard the news, and a lot of them felt as if they should have still gotten some sort of social gathering in placement of prom. There was a senior fest held that was given, but that doesn’t take away from the unique experience of prom. 

I spoke with junior Jaylen Panjehshahi and was very hurt regarding the loss of her prom experience. “I had already ordered my dress, and was so excited to get my makeup and hair done. But when I found out that prom was being cancelled I felt like a big chunk of my high school journey was snatched from under me,” Panjehshahi said. 

After hearing that I was curious as to see if, even though I felt this way, if Panjehshahi felt like cancelling prom was a smart decision. “I really was looking forward to going to prom but safety comes first no matter what.” She said. “If we all have COVID then there won’t be just prom getting taken away. Even more important things will get cancelled.” 

I then decided that I wanted to ask another student who I knew had a differing opinion on whether cancelling prom was a good idea. QO junior Manie Mevo believes that taking away the prom was not a good choice. “I understand completely why prom was undergoing so much controversy, but I feel as if instead of having prom indoors, holding [it] outdoors on our large football field would have been an effective alternative to being withheld inside,” she said. “If masks were made mandatory to attend the event, then I believe that things would have gone very smoothly.” 

Although I’m only a sophomore, I can empathize with what she was saying. I agree with her statement about prom being held on the football field. COVID restrictions are a lot lighter when being out in the open. There was and still is social distancing of six feet when out in public places.  

According to WECT News, a senior student named Rachel Muir from Willmington, NC, Laney High School said, “It’s devastating actually, because I really wanted to go to prom, and just spend time with my friends and experience my senior year.” 

Having this event ripped away from these students was a lot bigger than it might seem. It affected a lot of these students mentally and emotionally. A lot of the students interviewed in this article were going on to say how once prom was taken, many other important things that they wanted to experience were also taken away and it became too much to handle, and it started to affect their motivation for school. 

I interviewed senior Hannah Espinoza, who has been looking forward to prom since she first started attending high school. “I know that [I], along with some other students, had a hard time getting over this situation because we were so ready and excited,” she said. “Ever since I was little [and before I] even knew what prom was I’ve been looking forward to it. I want to have a fun time with my friends and experience the life of an average teenage student.”

This is part of a series of articles by Journalism B students, who wrote these for their final article assignment in the class. More will be posted in the coming days! Subscribe for an email update when a new article is posted.