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The Story Behind the “Snapshot”

As the end of the quarter steadily grew nearer, the word “snapshot” rang throughout the Upper School. Whether it was said with distress, exasperation, ridicule, or confusion, it quickly became commonplace in our vocabulary.

The dismissal of a quarter grading system seemed to come as a shock to many, and there were plenty of questions circulating among the student body: Will this help or hurt our grades in the long run? Why was the system changed in the first place? Would seniors get an official quarter grade to send to colleges? Why do they have an extended deadline? And what does a “snapshot grade” even mean?

Fortunately, Mrs. Izokaitis had all the answers.

For starters, she made it clear that this “isn’t a radical change at all.” Instead of having quarter-long grading periods, our grades would simply accumulate over the course of a semester. In reality, this “new system” was implemented last year, when all the teachers were informed about this. Izokaitis took the time to talk to the parents of each grade about the changes earlier this quarter. There won’t be a huge impact on our grades. In fact, this system may give some students extra time to improve their scores before the end of the semester if they didn’t have a great start to their year.

Next, the “snapshot.” For lack of a better term, the snapshot grade can be thought of as a progress report-just with a bit more information. It’s simply a picture of how you’re doing in each of your classes at that given time. The only grade that goes on our transcripts is the grade we have in June. As Izokaitis said, “It’s meant to be a less stressful way to tell us how you’re doing.”

Next, the extended deadline for seniors who need a Quarter 1 grade to put on their transcripts for college applications. They were given a snapshot as well, but their Quarter 1 grade will include grades they receive as late as November 5. This is aimed to give seniors a couple of extra weeks to boost their grades. In the rare case of a performance decline, Izokaitis would want to hear the whole story. “Our students are very motivated, so a drop in grades is not expected. If it happens, I would need to hear the circumstances for the individual student. Of course, we want to take the best grade, but I need to hear what happened first.”

Finally, why the change at all? The answer: to relieve stress. Before the semester grading system, the last week of the quarter resembled a mini-exam week, with students having a test every day in a certain subject to try to get one last grade in before conferences. On top of that, students still had the usual assignments and projects. This grading system is meant to remedy that. According to  Izokaitis, the end-of-quarter testing frenzy isn’t necessary. With a rolling semester grade, the usual pile-up of work was meant to be avoided.

After the whole idea of the grading system was explained to me, I found the whole concept much simpler. A snapshot is just a more detailed progress report, seniors would get extra time to get a better grade on their transcripts, and the reasoning behind the change sounded promising. My only complaint is that the theory didn’t quite work out for many students this quarter.

If we’re talking about my final week of Quarter 1, I had six evaluations total, including tests, quizzes, and other assessments in language classes. Of course, I still had homework in all of my classes at the same time. And I wasn’t the only one with this sort of schedule. Many of my friends had at least four or five tests that week, with timed writings, orals, and compositions thrown into the mix. While this could have been coincidental, I find it a little hard to believe that a majority of students all felt this overwhelmed in the same week, and that week just happened to be the last week of the quarter. Although I like the reasoning behind the new grading system, it just didn’t seem to work out this year.

Maybe students and teachers alike need a bit more time to adjust. Maybe there needs to be a bit more planning done in advance in terms of tests and assignments. Whatever the problem, we can only hope that the third quarter doesn’t end like the first.


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