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photo illustration by Mischa Trainor

Should JDS replace quarters solely with semesters?

January 27, 2020

Keep Quarters

Quarters help students and teachers stay more organized as opposed to semesters.

Assignments completed in a quarter must be graded in the days following the end of the quarter, which ensures that teachers do not procrastinate their grading until the end of the semester.

Students also must turn in any late assignments by the end of the quarter to receive partial credit which keeps them on track and prevents them from procrastinating on an assignment for too long.

Quarters also help students see their progress throughout the year. In addition to them being able to see their semester grades, students also are able to get a better break down of their improvement with quarter grades. Students can’t get as clear of an idea of whether they are improving or not within a semester.

The quarter system also helps teachers organize their course work. For example, I took biology last year, and the curriculum was divided into four units to be completed in the corresponding quarters. We also were given current event assignments that were due at the end of each quarter.

Many teachers also divide the curriculum by quarters when giving out their syllabi. This helps students better understand when they would be learning a specific topic and whether the class is behind or ahead at any given time.

While having quarters instead of semesters is not necessary, it can offer many benefits and extra organization that helps both students and teachers.

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Adopt Semesters

As I sat in the Cardo earlier this week during Community Time, I noticed numerous students fret about how terrible their quarter grades are and about their growing frustration that only a few small assignments determined their quarter grades. 

It is no secret that CESJDS has rigorous and competitive academics that often induce stress. To manage the stress in the past, the administration has sought to lessen work or give more breaks throughout the day. However, this is not always effective. Rather, the administration seems to neglect a significant culprit of student’s stress: following a quarter system.  

Abiding by a quarter system teaches students to micromanage their work. Given that grades are not finalized until the end of a quarter, there is never an equal point distribution amid a quarter. This means that a six-point assignment could define one’s quarter grade, even if it is only a few points, yet would not have any significant impact on the year grade. At that given moment, however, students often become alarmed upon seeing a three out of six or see a large rift in their grade and do whatever they can to improve their grade immediately. 

While receiving a poor grade may motivate students to study harder or read more closely, it also instructs students to nitpick at their work and stress themselves out over striving to improve, which thereby teaches students to not focus on the overall picture. Quarter grades falsely signal to students that every grade impacts one’s GPA or impacts their presence in class, when, in retrospect, is not true.

Students’ belief that quarters can track one’s progress is far-fetched. They can only see their progress at the end of the quarter when there is an equal distribution between points. By then, it is often too late to analyze their small mistakes to quickly improve for the next quarter. 

I cannot count the number of times I have heard the words, “quarter grades do not matter in terms of transcripts” ring through the JDS halls. If that is the case, then why do students work themselves up about an insignificant and incomplete grade? 

It is time for JDS to follow a semester system only. Not only will this provide a clear understanding of one’s progress in a course by seeing grades factor into a larger grade pool, but this will eliminate unnecessary and often misleading stress. Quarter grades do not matter; they only factor into semester and year grades. Quarter grades do not provide an accurate indication of students’ progress, are more harmful to one’s mental health and have minimal significance, so why add unnecessary stress to students’ lives?

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