Five to Survive

Stevenson administration decides for adding a fifth year of school to make up for E-Learning


With the COVID-19 pandemic confining Stevenson students to E-Learning, statistics have shown a massive regression in students’ quality of work and academic growth. After several meetings with Illinois Department of Education officials and the school board, Principal Goy Tobble and Superintendent Teric Ewadell have decided to add an extra academic year in response. 

For the past five months, Stevenson has used Zoom as its platform for remote learning. While with the app, students can learn from PowerPoint presentations shared by their teachers and discuss content in small groups with the app’s breakout room feature, multiple studies by Stevenson administration reveal that students have not been able to demonstrate valid evidence of growth due to having limited learning time.

“Classes have been cut short to only 37 minutes, and teachers have not been assessing students at the necessary rate,” Tobble said. “Without a 47-minute duration for each class and summatives on a regular basis, this year of learning will not suffice for graduation and another year is necessary. When over 50 percent of surveyed say that they have not learned as much material as they did last year of the same five-month period, that is a serious issue.” 

The announcement has led to a massive outcry from both Stevenson students and parents. On the newly created Facebook page, SHS 4 Years Only, protests have been voiced that a fifth year of high school will have no benefits and only further delay graduation.

“While I know E-Learning isn’t exactly the same as in-person learning, a teacher is still present and kids are still doing education all work,” said Suzy Stevens, the mother of two SHS sophomores. “They’re already working so hard under these awful circumstances, and adding another year would only keep them from going off to college and starting the next chapter of their lives. Harvard is just going to have to wait? It’s ridiculous!”

Many students argue that evidence of their hard work can be seen in the assignments and assessments that they complete as well as the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. In their eyes, they have embraced and overcome the challenge that remote learning presents.

“Has the administration not seen all the assignments we’ve turned in? Completed work is completed work,” Blake Turner ’23 said. “Being in my house all day, I could have played video games and watched movies, but I chose to direct my attention to E-learning and complete the things I need to get done. It’s hard enough to stare at a screen all day, but I keep pushing through, even fighting off the need to go to the bathroom for crying out loud!”

A few teachers have voiced their support for the new plan, despite them acknowledging the toll it might take on their own schedules. Several have mentioned that while E-Learning was initially a convenient solution for them, it has developed to the point of hindering the effort and performance of their students. 

“It doesn’t sound horrible to me, but it may have to take up my lunch hour,” AP Physics teacher Martha Martinez said. “It was great to be able to teach my class from my couch, but it’s not the same as being able to see students in person, talking their problems out together, and getting them to actually understand concepts. I think the quality of their work went down so much this year because they don’t have that, but rather unlimited amounts of Netflix and snacks at their disposal, not exactly a great combination.”

Ewadell also cites this decline as another reason for adding a fifth year. For him, meeting the requirements of graduation involves work that promotes quality over quantity, as failing to truly learn material would lead to unprepared students as they continue their educational journeys. 

“It just doesn’t make sense for such ‘learning’ to count when students are relying on other resources rather than their own intuition and promoting intellectual growth,” Ewadell said. “It’s not going to pay off for them in the future.” 

According to Tobble, Stevenon administration recognizes the potential consequences of adding a fifth year and does not take students’ concerns lightly. In their opinion, students have the right to voice their trepidations and take appropriate action in response. 

“We applaud our students using their voices, but they should know that their actions are in vain,” Tobble said. “If they really wanted to avoid a fifth year, then they would have put more effort into their work. In reality, a high school student’s time at Stevenson does not end till I say it does, I am inevitable.”