A Few Changes: How Shorter School Days and Pass Fail Benefit Students

Wyatt Byrne, Student

During the troubling and extremely difficult nature of being a high school student during the COVID 19 pandemic, I think any reasonable person would agree that modifications to typical school schedules and procedures are necessary. The only things in question are the nature and extent of said modifications. Ever since the beginning of the year, Regis Jesuit High School has had a simple yet effective way of dealing with the additional stress this virus causes. Four day school weeks where the day goes from 8 am to 12:40 pm. This schedule is very popular with the students and it has every reason to be so. Just how popular is it? When polled, 77% of Students said they were in favor of shortened school days, while just 23% were against it. Still, it is important not to disregard the opinions of those against simply because they are in the minority. There are many valid arguments to be made as to why this change could be looked at as a negative one.

First, let us examine the possible arguments as to why a shortened school day would not be beneficial. There is less in person student teacher instruction time, which could cause some students to struggle. Second, there may need to be longer school years to compensate for shorter days. Third, a shortened schedule could have the potential to hurt the grades of student athletes who already have less one on one learning time, especially during the COVID crisis. Finally, it must be mentioned that since teachers would be working less time, they would also get paid less than the already small amount they make. However, there are many more benefits, and they far outweigh the detriments. For one, it is common knowledge that extracurriculars are a major help in helping students get into colleges. The shortened schedule would leave more time for extracurricular activities and as such would make college applications easier as a byproduct. Schools would also save a ton of money by shortening school days so it makes a lot of sense from a financial standpoint, and could help schools focus more on helping students learn. Third, studies have shown that students focus better and pay attention more when they are in school for shorter amounts of time, which just makes sense, since it’s easier to focus for, say, 4 hours than 8. Finally, when students have shorter days, it has also been proven that they work harder in the time they have. In support of a shorter schedule, one Regis Jesuit student said “Shorter schedules are just better. They provide some more time for students to unwind, do homework, and it is also easier on teachers. School causes a lot of stress and sleeplessness so if we always had less time in school it would help us feel less overwhelmed”. And again, as previously stated, students approved of this change by an overwhelming 54% majority.

Moving on to the second change that I think would greatly help students, switching to a pass fail grading system. First, once again, let’s examine the potential negative consequences of making this admittedly large change. One potential harmful effect is the elimination of academic competition in the school system. When there are only 2 grades, the separation between students is much smaller. It would also remove GPA boosts from honors and AP classes, and also by design GPAs. There would also be a possible loss of teacher authority, as grades are often used to maintain this in the classroom, and a more lenient grading scale would threaten this. Finally, the main negative side effect would be a reduction of incentive and motivation to achieve more in the classroom, as all a student would have to do is pass. However, students would greatly benefit from this change overall. It would remove the source of stress for many students, and their mental health would improve greatly as a result if we moved away from the A-F scale and to the pass fail. Students would also be more willing to take risks on assignments and would put more effort forward if they didn’t have to fear dropping a grade level. It would also create more fairness and equity in grading students’ assignments. Finally, though, and possibly most importantly, it removes the aspects of the grading system that punishes students for failure, which is very important. Failure should not be punished in a learning experience, but instead treated as an opportunity to learn, and this grading scale would help with that greatly. And once again, a majority of students were in favor of this change by about 14%. So in conclusion, pass fail grading is the way to ensure students have a positive, stress free learning experience.

These changes would make life much easier for students and ultimate teachers as well. It’s the way to improve our school and has already worked at many schools across the country. Plus, as previously mentioned, a majority of students are for both of these changes, in one case overwhelmingly. In conclusion, these changes to our current system should be made as soon as possible.