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Opinions on d.tech’s Unique Academic Policies

Lily Chambers | lchambers20@dtechhs.org | May 28, 2019

Greg Fenner supervises an interactive chemistry lab. Photo by Lily Chambers

There is no question that d.tech’s nontraditional academic structure has an affect on students. With lack of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, limited electives, greater creative freedom on assignments, and revision policies, many students flourish in the unconventional way of teaching, while others don’t always feel like it works for them. As students are often granted more freedom than at traditional public high schools, some take advantage of this to go above and beyond — but not everyone feels that it is as easy as it seems. As our diverse student body undertakes d.tech’s offbeat instructional style, varying opinions and actions remain.

Zackary Sales, sophomore, is part of the group of students who greatly enjoy d.tech’s accommodating policies. “I personally enjoy learning at a slower pace,” Sales says. “I could never keep up at a normal school because you get a week to learn one unit in math, for example. That would be way too too fast for me.” Instead, Sales says, d.tech allows students to work ahead at their own pace. “The fact that they allow us to speed up [coursework] if it’s too slow for us is really helpful,” Sales explains.

Sales also points out that the students’ abilities to go at their own pace is helpful for their mental health. At other high schools, students are more likely in high stress environments that do not allow for much free time. As Sales describes: “A lot of kids at other high schools have social lives, but I think d.tech allows for much more of a balance between academics and fun. And I think that’s why some people here are really happy.”

However, there are students who feel they can no longer work their best with such academic freedom. Ahmed Mir, a current sophomore, is a student who has decided to transfer from d.tech to a traditional public high school next year. He reports that his choice ultimately came out of needing the extra push from teachers: “I have [a] decent work ethic, but it only really gets instilled once I’m forced to use it. That is much like the conditions that public schools usually put you in, and here it’s a lot more self directed.” Sometimes, students do not take well to d.tech’s self directed atmosphere, as they need someone to make them do the work, and have some risk of actually failing involved.

Because students here are required to get a 75 percent or above in their classes, they are less likely to cop-out and take a bad grade, as opposed to other public high schools. As Mir sums it up, “at public [traditional] schools, the school is the one pushing you, but at d.tech, you have to be the one to push yourself.”

Brandon Liu, junior, represents another common view of the school’s structure: that there are many positive aspects of it, but also room for improvement. Liu, an honors student, comments on how having honors and non honors classes affects his learning: “It’s annoying for me, because a lot of times I just have to sit there and wait for other people.” This is a popular opinion among students who feel frustrated with the level of challenge in their classes. “There’s no real distinction between honors classes and non honors classes. They’re supposed to be more challenging for more advanced students, but they’re usually just more busy work,” says Liu. He makes sure to note, however, that “We have solid core classes, for the most part. A lot of this has to do with how willing the students are to learn and apply their knowledge, and how much they want to personally challenge themselves.”

As the school continues to develop its policies and take feedback into account, student voice becomes more important than ever. For the students looking for more challenge, many take advantage of opportunities like the innovation diploma or concurrent enrollment classes. Jackie Saravia, junior, comments, “There is always going to be room to improve things at this school. But I think the staff is doing the best job that they can to be receptive to student complaints.”

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