By Jean Wang:
Next year during this time, students will be busy preparing for their finals, which will be held before winter break as the result of the new school schedule approved by the school board last year. While students may have the added burden of finals during December, the overall benefits of this calendar will far outweigh any of the disadvantages.
The new school calendar is beneficial on several levels. For one, it will provide students with a stress-free winter break. Even for students who don’t study during the break, the thought of finals looming overhead provides unnecessary stress and dampens their spirits during a time when they should be relaxing and rejuvenating. For the many students who do study during winter break, it turns a supposed vacation into an extended study session, as students spend hours reviewing their notes and book in preparation for their impending finals. If finals take place before winter break, students will be able to fully enjoy their vacation, without any books, notes or intensive study sessions. Students deserve, for once, to have a restful winter break, spending their time with family rather than textbooks.
[pullquote]Students deserve, for once, to have a restful winter break, spending their time with family rather than textbooks.[/pullquote]
Additionally, many students experience learning loss over winter break, forgetting much of the material they had previously learned. According to the Review of Educational Research, students, on average, lose one month of knowledge during their summer break. Winter break, while shorter, is no different. This loss forces teachers to spend time reviewing and reteaching the material to students upon return from break, wasting valuable time that could have been spent on new concepts. With finals before winter break, teachers would be able to immediately start teaching new material upon return from winter break. Furthermore, by holding finals before winter break, students would have an easier time studying for finals, as they would have retained more information and would not have to relearn the information they forgot.
In addition to winter break benefits, the new school calendar will help students in Advanced Placement (AP) classes. With school starting earlier, students would have a longer time to study for the AP tests in May, allowing teachers more time to cover difficult concepts and review the material. Since AP classes are often pressed for time to cover all the necessary material by May, an earlier beginning to the school year is a necessary respite. The school year would also end earlier, meaning that there would be fewer weeks after the AP tests, during which many AP classes find themselves with little to do. With the calendar, these dead weeks after the testing period would be reduced, and, instead, placed before the test, where it is more valuable and beneficial.
Furthermore, many teachers already place finals before winter break, especially the aforementioned AP classes. Teachers often find that placing finals before winter break is the best method of dividing their curriculum, and are then forced to hold final exams during the two class days before winter break, only to use the actual finals period as another class day. Having finals before winter break would align our calendar with the schedule that many teachers already follow, rather than forcing students to juggle both classes and additional finals in a few classes before winter break, a practice which adds more stress to students. With a designated finals period being adhered to, students would be able to focus all their energy on studying for their finals, thus helping them perform better and reduce stress levels.
Opponents of the calendar have brought up the issue of college applications, which seniors would have to work on concurrently with studying for finals. However, many seniors already have a few finals before winter break, despite not having any additional designated time to study for them. By officially moving finals before winter break, seniors will have designated times to study and no homework assignments to clutter their vacation. Additionally, AP classes can be taught with sufficient time for both semesters. The added benefits of an earlier final week would far outweigh any of the potential negatives faced by procrastinat- ing seniors.
With 57 out of the 66 public high schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties already having moved to pre-break finals, it is time that Gunn follow in their steps as well. The new school board calendar is a welcome change that will only aid AP classes, reduce redundancies in teaching and create a completely stress free winter break for students.