What I Would Change About The School System

Sarah Holmes, Sophomore Staff Writer

Recently I was given an assignment to write an essay in my English class. The prompt was “If you were in charge, what would you change about your school, or school in general?” The essay had to be five paragraphs, which included a thesis, a conclusion, and three body paragraphs, meaning I could only write about three things I would change. But as I wrote the essay, I started thinking about all of the problems I’ve heard other students, staff, and parents complain about. Here is a far from complete list of things I would change about the school system if I were in charge.

        The first thing I would change is some elements of the dress code. According to KosherCasual.com, “A dress code promotes a more serious school atmosphere which emphasizes academics and promotes good behavior.” While dress codes and school uniforms can shift some of the focus away from appearance (which could, in turn, reduce bullying), I believe that the way students dress is not a good representation of who they are in the classroom or even outside of the classroom. “In classrooms, it’s not really about clothes. It’s about learning.” Says current eighth grader Joshua Glore during an interview by USA Today. Dress codes have also been called sexist, and that they objectify and sexualize girls in a way that unfairly shifts the blame onto them. Most dress codes suggest that guys can’t help it if they get distracted by a girl showing some skin; shoulders and knees are just too sexy, apparently. Many are saying that this message is what’s leading some to blame women and girls who are victims of sexual assault; What were you wearing? They often ask. I personally think that certain components of the dress code more or less encourage rape culture, and that by telling a girl that what she’s wearing is “distracting,” they’re essentially interrupting her learning in favor of others’. There still need to be rules in place to keep students from wearing something totally inappropriate, or even nothing at all, but a lot of them need to change.

Over the summer before the 2017-2018 school year, Mark Trifilio, principal of a public elementary school in Vermont, brought up his concern with the uneven workload among the students. He contemplated the idea of banning homework in the school, and instead tell the students to read, spend time with family, go outside, and get a good night’s rest. All 40 educators at the school signed onto the idea. Six months into the experiment, Trifilio observed that the students hadn’t fallen back; instead, they seemed to be doing better, and had “more time to be creative at home and follow their passions.” Most of the parents at the 400-student school supported it, and said that their kids now had time to be kids. Having homework be abolished is something that I have wanted for a long time, and not just because I’m lazy (although, let’s be honest.. I am pretty lazy,) It’s because after sitting in classrooms for seven or eight hours a day, the last thing students want to do is go home and do more school work, especially because they have other responsibilities to tend to. Many high school students have jobs after school, or have siblings they need to help look after, and a vast majority of all students have clubs or sports after school. Having to do homework on top of all of that can (and definitely does) lead to stress, which can lead to so many other negative things, such as falling behind in school. So maybe schools should ease up on assigning homework, and learn something from Mark Trifilio.

        Along with doing away with homework, I think that letter grades should also disappear. So many people falsely believe that letter grades reflect the extent of their intelligence. This is not true for so many reasons: you might get a bad grade in a class because you simply aren’t passionate about what that class is trying to teach you. This can greatly impact how much effort you put into a class, as well as your mood, which can also affect your grade in a class. Emotions can affect the thinking process, memory, and ability to concentrate. It’s also quite obvious that most school systems try to force students to think a certain way, thus eliminating any chance of creativity; a creative answer to a question on a test or class assignment might be considered wrong just because it’s different from what the school taught. Not to mention the fact that there are so many entrepreneurs who did poorly in school, but went on to become rich and successful. Did they fail school, or did school fail them? Sanborn Regional High School is among one of the few public school districts to fully convert to competency-based education, meaning that instead of letter grades, students are either labeled accomplished or not in each class, and teachers are sure to provide specific feedback throughout. Students’ learning is measured in real-world projects done on an adjustable schedule. Ann Hadwen, one of the school’s vice principals, says that the system is meant to replicate the real world: “The world that we live in, you have to do things, you have to perform. It’s not a paper and pencil test that you’re trying to gain 100 points to say that you passed.”

Along with the other things on this list, addressing mental health in schools should be among the top priorities. Research shows that 1 in 5 youths has a diagnosable emotional, behavioral, or mental health disorder, and that 1 in 10 have a mental health challenge severe enough to affect how they function in school, at home, and in society. Mental health problems are common, and they’re treatable. Early detection and intervention work; by recognizing and being able to help and support youth with mental health disorders, the school can greatly improve a youth’s ability to succeed in school and in life. Unfortunately, accessing the resources that youths may need at school to help them out can be very tough. Many estimates show that about 80% do not receive the help they need. One problem that families frequently run into is getting the school to recognize the role of mental health in relation to the difficulty the child is facing. Mental health disorders can affect classroom learning and social interactions. From personal experience, I can tell you that it is very difficult to work with a school in order to set up accommodations that will, for example, help to keep a student with ADHD from falling behind in school. It’s a hassle because administrators will fight you on whether or not setting up a 504 plan will actually help, and if the student actually needs it. I think that there is a stigma around mental health problems, and schools are reluctant to address that it’s a problem. This needs to change.


So, there you have it: a far from complete list of things I would change about the school system if I were in charge. I hope that this article sparks an interest in students to speak up about issues like the ones mentioned above.