What Fremd’s intensely competitive atmosphere is taking from its students

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What Fremd’s intensely competitive atmosphere is taking from its students

Graphic by Amy Kang

Graphic by Amy Kang

Graphic by Amy Kang

Graphic by Amy Kang

Grace Downing, Editor-in-Chief

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Fremd High School has a 97 percent graduation rate, offers 31 dual credit courses and 29 AP classes. 56 percent of students are enrolled in a least one AP class at some point in their high school career (according to U.S. News as of 2016). All this and more adds up to label Fremd a good school. In fact, better than a good school––a great one: realtors in this area advertise that buying their homes means sending your kids to Fremd. But that kind of reputation breeds competition, and competition means never settling, constantly pushing to be better. And better. Even when the mental and emotional well-being of students is at stake.

I’m a senior this year, my sister graduated four years ago, and as long as Fremd has been a conscious part of my life––and surely much longer than that––it has been a school entrenched in competition. The beginning of this school year has highlighted more efforts to that effect, a prevalent one being the new Student Readiness Plan (SRP)––an application that has made me glad I’m on my way out of here.

Now, there are some aspects of the SRP that are genuinely useful, mainly that it puts various resources––Infinite Campus, Schoology, etc.––in one place. I believe the main idea behind this app was to help students be as prepared as they possibly could be for college, especially as receiving a higher education becomes increasingly competitive. That sounds like a smart idea. But in this instance, it meant putting a number on nearly every aspect of a student’s life––which gives it the looks of an extreme case of quantity over quality.

The app has places to log things like SAT/ACT scores and your GPA, setting district benchmarks that are “goals” to be met. This isn’t really anything out of the ordinary, but there’s also an emphasis on meeting the Power of 15––the goal of having every student graduate from high school with fifteen college credits––which has been misunderstood and misplaced. Its original intention, and the data behind this idea, was aimed at college students, referring to how many credits they should take on per semester to graduate on time. (More on this below.)

There’s also a section titled “Global Community Skills,” which is supposed to measure a student’s ability to communicate and collaborate with others. It’s all self-assessing (meaning students can simply enter the desired score and move on) and once again numerically based. Then, in the “Wellness” section, there’s a part where a “Student will attend at least two school events not associated with membership on a team or club/activity.”

So, in addition to any activity or sport a student is a part of (which, the Student Involvement section states that a student should be in at least two), they should also attend separate school events too. These aren’t necessarily requirements (they’re listed as “goals”), but the language around them definitely comes off that way. Almost every sport at Fremd carries with it a six-day, two-hours-a-day practice commitment, and a good number of clubs have a similar level of intensity.

On top of extracurriculars, students are expected to attempt to complete the Power of 15––which sends the message that if you’re not in AP classes, there’s a standard not being met. Besides that, students have many reasons for not being in AP or other college level classes like dual credit courses, including commitments outside of the Fremd atmosphere. I’m going to graduate having taken two, and there’s still a struggle not to look at that as underachieving. Many of my friends have felt the same way.

Ultimately, the initial intent behind the SRP was to benefit students, but the reality is that Fremd is extremely competitive already. Attempting to put a number on nearly every aspect of a student’s life is overwhelming, and enhances the weight of expectations already bearing down on them. Being college ready (or in Fremd’s case, ultra-college ready) is important, but so is overall well-being, which is at risk of severely suffering from programs like this one. A little less focus on numbers, and a little more attention to emotional health can go farther than getting into a better college. It can give Fremd students a better life.

 

More information on the Power of 15: https://calhoun.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/CCA-Intensity-Brief-April3-1.pdf

 

 

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