Las Vegas Sun

May 23, 2018

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Schools shouldn’t stress tests over substance

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Parsa Khawari of Desert Oasis High School during the 60th annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016.

About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 60th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 29. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. This essay addresses the issues covered by the group School Days.

At the 60th Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum, students from across the valley came together at the Las Vegas Convention Center and debated topics ranging from the crisis in Syria to problems in Nevada’s education system. Passionate teens voiced their opinions, providing new perspectives on heavily debated issues.

We came to consensus on several topics, one being our current grading system. The Clark County School District requires schools to base grades on 70 percent testing and 30 percent classwork. However, this grading system is more extreme in other schools. At Northwest Career Technical Academy, grades are based on 90 percent testing and 10 classwork. Essentially, this means that if a student did no classwork, he or she could still get an A. This extreme grading system doesn’t only occur at Northwest CTA but also at other schools in the valley. This directs the curriculum to one that is heavy on tests. Kids do not learn this way. Brilliant students who are not the best test takers are punished. Students begin to focus on passing tests rather than fully attempting to comprehend the information being taught in class. Putting so much weight on our tests leaves no room for classwork. We shouldn’t pressure students to learn by threatening their grades with exams. For a student to have two weeks of hard classwork deemed void by one 55-minute test session is not fair by any means. However, there are schools in our valley with a much more beneficial and efficient grading system. Let’s take Southwest Career and Technical Academy for example. Its grading system is based off of three tenets — 60 percent content mastery (test/projects), 30 percent skill development (progress checks and notes) and 10 percent employability skills (miscellaneous assignments). This grading system places less weight on tests, and instead disperses the weight into categories that stress learning the material, rather than last-minute cramming. For Nevada to rise from the educational rut it lies in, we need to reform our system so students can truly understand what they learn in the classroom.

Aside from the grading system, one of our most passionate discussions was on sex-education. The program is in dire need of reformation. We had members of the LGBTQ community in our group, and they all said that their community was underrepresented in the sex-education curriculum. One of the students stated that sex-ed only focuses on sex between a man and woman, while sex between same-sex couples was being neglected in the curriculum. Students also agreed that sex-ed classes should be taken as juniors and seniors, so that way the class has a more serious and mature audience. One student also raised a concern about the high percentage of U.S. schools that enforces abstinence in their curriculum, saying it leaves students being scared of sex as opposed to giving them helpful information about it.

The U.S. has a high rate of teen pregnancies, a fact students attributed to a lack of sex-education. The Netherlands, a country that teaches comprehensive sex-ed, has a teen pregnancy rate as low as 0.6 percent. Meanwhile, more than 24.2 in 1,000 American girls ages 15-19 will get pregnant at least once.

The sex-ed curriculum should be taken seriously. As teens begin to explore, they have every right to be safe while doing so.

It is education that builds the brilliant minds of our students across the valley, the country and the world.

That’s why it is imperative that we make sure that our education system is the best it can be.

Parsa Khawari is a senior at Desert Oasis High School.