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By Mehrose Ahmad and Sumaita Hasan, Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief
Recently, there has been a change in the way Townsend Harris structures the day of the in-school PSAT/SAT exam. Though the junior grade will be taking a SAT exam while the sophomore grade will be taking a PSAT exam, both grades are now expected to attend classes bands 6 through 9 following the examination. Non-testing students will attend classes throughout the school day as usual, with some modifications for seniors.
In previous years, students would take the exam and then there would be a special educational program (usually involving an assembly) and lunch before an early dismissal. When presented with this option, Ms. Jahoda, according to sources, considered it to be out of regulation with the Department of Education (DOE) and insisted on holding classes after the exam while having non-testing students attend a regular day of classes.
Students expressed frustration that they had to take classes after the lengthy exam.
Junior Aaron Fernando said, “this just makes it even clearer how little she cares about the wellbeing of her students, as well as how little she understands about how to run a public school. Unless some obscure regulation requires this, I see absolutely no justification for it.”
Though many NYC schools do have regular classes after the test as THHS does, there are schools that made plans for different schedules, similar to what THHS had prior to Ms. Jahoda becoming the IAP. Fiorello H. Laguardia High School Of Music & Art and Performing Arts lists the P/SAT on their calendar with the day beginning at 8:00 AM and ending at 1:00 PM. Frances Lewis High School sent a notice to students stating all “regular classes, and after school club activities, will be canceled on the day of the” SAT and PSAT exams. At Hillcrest High School, there is a special schedule. All students are to be dismissed at 1:56 PM. There are only two classes that students are to attend following the PSAT/SAT, while 12th grade students “will join small learning community organized trips” for the entirety of the day, and freshmen are allowed to enter the school at a later time than usual. Eleanor Roosevelt High School and Richmond Hill High School also have different plans than holding classes as normal for test takers.
The DOE provides schools with a “P/SAT School Day Planning Toolkit.” The guide states that students should have a normal dismissal. However, one section of the guide indicates that the DOE considers P/SAT day to be an unconventional day and suggests things outside of holding regular classes to be appropriate. Suggested activities for non-testing students include offering “mock testing to maintain quiet test taking environment schoolwide,” conducting “workshops for 9th and 12th grade students,” or bringing “in college representative to talk to 9th grade students about college and career readiness, specifically emphasizing the importance of SAT.” The DOE also encourages schools to organize field trips or college campus visits for the day.
Sophomore Nowshin Arif said, “I know my friends [are]… angry about it. They are… expected to do well and then they have to go to class and they’re not happy. …I don’t think it’s right for her [Ms. Jahoda] to make decisions like that.”
Junior Jasmine Chen said, “I don’t like it. I want to go home and sleep and study.” Jasmine made the point that tests are scheduled for the days before and after the PSAT, and she is particularly upset that she can’t go home to rest.
Junior Nina Zhang said, “In the past, we just go home afterwards so I don’t know why she [Ms. Jahoda] didn’t consult with anyone else to decide [an alternative]… it’s unnecessary.”
Regarding the schedule, an anonymous administrator said, “When she’s in front of parents and her superiors, Ms. Jahoda talks a good game about being ‘student-driven’ and putting students first, but actions like this state otherwise. We can’t explain to you how frustrating it is to be condescended to by this person as if she puts kids first and we don’t. It’s not right to make you sit in classes after this. That’s why we had assemblies planned in the past. That put you first. Ms. Jahoda changed that.”
Class of 2016 alumna Ivanka Juran similarly said, “It’s a bad choice on [Jahoda’s] part. It causes unnecessary stress to the students… and has the ability to impact them negatively because of scholarship opportunities that could be missed.”
Ivanka felt that as the examination is so long, students will be unable to focus and having classes held “won’t even add to learning because students will be too mentally exhausted to absorb new information.” She also questioned whether or not students would be assigned homework that was due that day. Though the schedule prohibits testing aside from the PSAT/SAT, rules regarding homework are not provided. Regarding homework assignments, Ivanka said, “It’s awful to have to go to class after an exhausting exam. But I’m more concerned for the fact that homework can then be due that day. The day before the PSAT you should be relaxing and getting rest.”
According to a plan for the day, seniors are to attend their “QC elective class, Hum[anities] Seminar class, PE [Physical Education] class, Math/Science, and Economics class during bands 1-5, then resume regular schedule bands 6-9.”Juniors will take the SAT exam in the gym, while sophomore will take “the PSAT exam in classrooms on the 4th floor during bands 1-5.” Freshmen classes will take place on the fifth and sixth floors. No assessments can be given on this day.
Though Ms. Jahoda was approached in person and emailed on Friday regarding the schedule, as of now she has not provided The Classic with a comment.