It’s no exaggeration when we say students of Korea International School are extremely competitive in terms of academics, and it’s definitely not an exaggeration when we say major amounts of stress result from such phenomena. According to an academic stress study performed by New York University, “nearly half (49%) of all [high school] students reported feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis” The majority of the sample students also “claimed “grades, homework, and preparing for college were the greatest source of stress” (nyu.edu). The positive correlation between following an academically rigorous curriculum and gaining large amounts of stress is evident, and the new testing schedule that’s replaced the so called “first and third block” rule is could be the leading cause of that stress gain.
The “eight block system” (as briefly covered by Blueprint here) was installed at Korea International School in the first place for the students to experience the benefits of having a free block, also known as the autonomous block. As Mr. Cathers, the Director of Korea International School states, “The high school is using the eighth block to make more independent learning time for students and time when teachers will be available to assist and tutor students.” He also adds on by mentioning that “…other top schools such as Singapore American, Shanghai American, and the American School in Japan” have also installed this system. Students are expected to work collaboratively as well as get help from classes they may be struggling in, or even just complete homework. As of now, mostly positive comments have been heard about this autonomous block. However, what those who don’t complain do not realize is that due to this new system, something that students and faculty members were always used to got messed up: the testing schedule.
KISians have always appreciated the “first and third block rule,” for not a single student had to endure the terror of having two (or more) summative assignments due back-to-back. The rule came into place around three years ago after various complaints from students who, without such boundaries, had to take and turn in multiple tests and projects each day. From then on, summative projects or tests have been required to be due on either a first or third blocks for the students’ sake of not drowning in piles and piles of summative assignments each day (which probably used to happen). As stated by the KIS handbook, “this structure is designed so that a student will never have more than two (2) assessments per day.” However, now that the rotating schedule of seven blocks has disappeared, teachers have had no choice but to abandon the rule. Instead, the faculty members came up with a new system, in which certain subject areas give out summative assignments on certain days. For example, the math department can only give out summatives on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the English department can do so only on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
How has this affected the KISian community? Some students appreciate the system. Lisa Han (‘17), a current junior, has her autonomous block during G block and her AP Psychology class during H block. She uses her time wisely then to do her psychology homework (endless, endless, amounts of reading).
“I just had a test today for AP Psych, and I studied during my entire free block. The schedule works out for me, and I felt confident when I took the test,”
she tells Blueprint. Indeed, some students’ schedules are nicely arranged, in that they have their autonomous block right before their most difficult class. This gives them more time to study, whenever they know an exam is to be given.
But when there are pros to a situation, we must always consider the cons. Other students, unfortunately, have suffered somewhat due to the demolishment of the first and third block rule. Amy Choi (’17), also a junior, had her Pre Calculus exam back to back with her APUSH exam (oh my) since both the Math department and Social Studies department give out their summatives on Mondays and Tuesdays. This means that she, not only had to drill two subjects (one of which was an AP course) into her brain during the weekends, but also cope with the stress and anxiety. Sure, to some, the eight block schedule may be lovely. However, when looking at the other side of the spectrum on whether students like the eight block schedule or not, there’s always a completely different story. After having her brain fried with functions and polynomials, Amy Choi had to run down from H5 to G6 and switch up her brain to the Christopher Columbus and the French and Indian War. What could be more stressful, annoying, and potentially harmful to grades than this back to back situation going on?
Also, consider this: Is psychology a science class or a social studies class? You don’t have a definite answer, and neither do teachers. It’s not just students suffering, teachers are having a difficult time because of the new testing schedule as well. The Social Studies department tests on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the Science department tests on Wednesdays and Thursdays. So which days are psychology exams supposed to be given? (debatable). Mr. Van Moppes, the AP English Language & Composition teacher, is also having a tough time with the testing schedule. He is notorious for his “surprise essays” and the essay bomb could have been thrown anyday as long as it was a first or third block. Not anymore. His B and C blocks are given the test on Wednesdays, and since the schedules never rotate, his F block has a whole day to prepare for the essay once they find out about it, until the date changes to a Thursday. Not so much a surprise anymore. The thrill, nervousness, and the fear of being dropped a surprise essay can no longer be felt by F block AP Lang’ers.
Of course, the new testing system is merely a test itself. Nothing is definite, and things are always prompt to change. If the schedule does not seem to work out, a change must be made. However, as of now, this is the best solution to the problem of no longer having a first and third block rule. Will the new testing schedule, in the long run, grow on the KISians? Or will it continue to benefit only a certain amount of students, while absolutely wrecking others? Blueprint will continue to examine this case.
– Leona Maruyama (’17)
Featured Image: JohnDavid Choi (’18)