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When the students of JCPS heard that Commonwealth Accountability Testing (CATs) was going to be eradicated from the school system, their response was a collective cheer. Students celebrated what they believed to be the end of meaningless testing. Very soon after the disestablishment of the CATs test, however, came a new form of standardized test: The End of The Year Course Exam, or EOC.
The multiple choice section of the End of Course exam differs from CATs testing in that it accounts for 20% of students’ final grade. This has caused students to be more prepared when taking it, as the scores effect them directly. However, when students heard that the second part of the EOC, the essay portion, would not be connected to their score, but only to school accountability as a whole, students’ reactions were extremely mixed.
Many students, in traditional Manual style, did their very best regardless of the fact that it would not have an impact on their grade. Some students, however, decided to rebel. Stories of students cleverly dodging the essay questions buzzed around the school. Rumor has it that one student wrote their entire essay in Arabic. Another simply quoted Albert Einstein in large letters, saying “You can’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, or it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I witnessed multiple students drawing pictures or refusing to open their exam packet altogether.
I love practical jokes and cleverness as much as anyone. However, when people’s jokes put my future in jeopardy, I begin to take offense. The administration, notably Mr. Wooldridge and Mr. Farmer, attempted to address these issues during some of the exams. They told students that even though these scores would not be tied to students individually, they would be tied to duPont Manual High School. These essays help to rank different high schools within the state, and, eventually, within the nation.
The truth is that each Manual student benefits from Manual’s good name. We are currently known as the best high school in Kentucky, and the name of Manual is recognized by colleges across the nation. This gives students incredible benefits. Jobs are more likely to be given to Manual students, colleges recruit students from our school. Sadly, these benefits would disappear if Manual lost its reputation.
This is, in fact, already happening. Just this year, Manual slipped from 62nd best school in the nation to 68th on Newsweek’s best public high school list. While this may seem insignificant, to me it represents a deterioration in the work ethic and will of Manual students. I know that the students here have the potential to be in the top ten of that list—with some work, I believe we could even be number one. In order to achieve this, though, the students of Manual have to decide they want it. It will take a significant change to our current mindset—”I want to do this to make myself look good”—into something more like, “I want to make everyone around me look good.” A better reputation for Manual means a better reputation for all of its current students and alumni. Let’s all do our best in the school year of 2013.