Save the 2008, an advocacy group formed by retired Gunn High School teacher Marc Vincenti and current Foothill Middle College student and Gunn junior Martha Cabot, has been one of the most vocal forces in the discussion over local education reform. The group aims to “undo the worst conditions of any modern-day high school – crowded classrooms, overwork at home and in AP course loads, all-day student phone use, constant grade-reporting, and rampant cheating,” according to Vincenti.
Their activism has garnered both praise and criticism from the community. At the most recent school meeting on Sept. 9, nine adults spoke in favor of the group’s efforts, while, three students questioned the effectiveness of the proposed solutions. Verde Magazine commends Save the 2008 for bringing these issues to the public’s attention. However, we believe that several of the proposed measures require greater development and several changes before being implemented in the community.
Verde supports the group’s proposed smaller student to teacher ratios, and believes they would benefit students and help teachers to get to know their students better. Both Verde and Save the 2008 believe this would help to reduce stress by making teachers more approachable so students would not be so nervous about asking about missed work or extensions. Reducing class size would be an expensive venture; however, Verde believes that the pros far outweigh the cons. Money spent here would greatly benefit student health.
Verde also agrees that the inclusion of advanced placement course counselling, as proposed by the group, would help with student stress and awareness about AP courses. However, we believe that these meetings should not be mandatory; rather, they should be a resource open to all. These meetings should go hand in hand with greater awareness about class difficulty and more understanding about the binding nature of an AP course.
The fairly straightforward task of creating AP course counseling presents a stark contrast to Save the 2008’s more abstract plan for limiting students’ homework load. We believe that it would be a much more complex process to reduce homework load than Save the 2008 seems to believe. Currently, students are allowed to choose the class difficulty they desire. In theory, this allows for students to try and balance their class levels and homework load.
However, this system mixes poorly with course competitiveness and social pressure. If students were able to get a more in depth look at homework load, they could better judge which classes to take and balance their workload more successfully.
The proposed homework portal, where students can log in hours spent on their homework, is a great idea but could be easily ineffective, with teachers either not caring or students lying just to get fewer assignments. This system also shares many similarities with schoology, which is already in place, and would be redundant. It is incredibly hard for a teacher to adjust their homework load in something like an AP class, where the curriculum is largely standardized nationally and has to proceed at a certain pace.
We think that homework loads should not be reduced across the board, but with a few classes seeing reductions in homework load. We would also like to see the homework better explained in the course catalog, with descriptions of both the time the homework will take to complete, and examples of typical homework assignments. Setting a hard homework cap would not work because every person does homework at a different rate and one homework could take a person one hour and another four hours.
Similarly, we also want to exterminate the cheating culture, their proposals of creating a better honor code and cracking down on cheating are not effective enough. Cheating is a monster more complex than the urge to be the best—it is intertwined with peer pressure, class difficulty, parental influence and many other intangible factors.
Verde believes that some of the proposed measures, like anti-cheating slogans and stricter honor codes, are well intentioned but severely limited in their potential scope. While Verde agrees that cheating is unacceptable, we believe that Save the 2008 should consider a plan of attack that more directly deals with the smaller aspects of cheating, rather than trying to tackle the larger problem all at once. Verde thinks that the school district has the right idea with the restorative justice pathway and more personal punishments for cheating.
Although Verde agrees that emphasis on reducing student stress is beneficial, we do not think that the proposed policy of fewer grade reports would help. Parents and students can check current grades at any time they want, which renders grade reports insignificant. Instead of placing emphasis on fewer grade reports, the proposed measure should encourage teachers to update grades more often.
While we see fewer report cards as causing only a few problems, the most widely disliked proposal, phone restrictions proposed by Save the 2008, are far worse in our opinion. Verde believes that the handbook and teacher-specific policies are sufficient enough for regulating the usage of phones during class time. Students would never agree to keeping their phones off for the entire school day and limit their communication so severely; which became apparent after the Gunn High School Oracle published an editorial showing student disapproval for the proposal. Additionally, the phone restriction does not seem to have a direct and fully defendable link to student wellbeing.
Verde commends the drive of Save the 2008’s efforts. Vincenti’s and Cabot’s dedication to the community is praiseworthy in its depth. Verde believes that with further discussion and subsequent development of the proposed measures, which would be molded by greater student input, Save the 2008 will be able to implement monumental change in the community in the future.