Survey asks: What is the Perfect Day at McDowell?


Meghan Longo/The Trojan Voice

Elly Hardesty uses tutorial to socialize with Giana Herman and Jordan Johannesmeyer.

A few months into the 2022-2023 school year, students and staff at McDowell High School were invited to participate in a Google Form survey regarding the current schedule. In the survey, participants were asked to respond to what they like and dislike about their school day, particularly about the amount and length of classes offered.

There were a total of 929 responses recorded. Results demonstrated that the ideal school day for a McDowell student would be the current schedule known as intensive block, where students have quarter and semester long classes with four courses per day. Students said they want to change the length of each class to be less than 80 minutes. Although the results may seem straightforward, there were discrepancies in multiple responses throughout the survey.

Type of schedule preference

The current schedule at McDowell consists of four 80-minute courses with lunch and tutorial fit into the middle of the day. According to the survey, 56% of students would choose to keep the current schedule type, compared to an A/B block schedule or five to seven courses being offered each day.
Eleventh grade student Elly Hardesty said, “Keep the current, we can focus on our current classes without getting overwhelmed with work. With A/B day, it would get confusing. You could forget to do homework for a class and your brain is managing too many classes at once.”

When reviewing the results for the ideal length of class time, 61% of students chose to change courses to less than 80 minutes.

“We sit there half the time not doing anything in our classes,” Hardesty said, “and it wastes our time.”
McDowell alum and McDowell teacher Vincent Carone agrees with Hardesty. “Less than 80 minutes is a bit better, but nothing significantly less than 45 minutes,” Carone said. “Sixty-Five minute classes allow for more flexibility, and, if we added a 40-minute fifth block to the schedule, students are allowed more time to develop life skills they can take with you.”

School day start and end times were also examined. Results from both teachers and students showed no desire for a change in time, but not everyone agreed. “Start and end later. We are not getting enough sleep,” Hardesty said.

Another portion of the questions were regarding tutorial. Tutorial is primarily utilized by both students and teachers for mental breaks and allows for extra help during the day. It was shown that 76.5% of students believe that there is value in the tutorial 30-minute block. “I look forward to that time because I get to socialize with my friends and it is a break from the day. Or if I have work to do, that gives me time to get it done,” Hardesty said. Seventy-Two percent of students agree that tutorial should be offered every day.

At the end of the survey, participants had the chance to write comments they felt were important. One particular comment from a teacher proposed the offering of content specific tutorials. With this being implemented, students would be assigned tutorials to attend on specific days to work on certain topics. McDowell High School currently offers a opportunity like this to Advanced Placement students during the spring semester. Around this time, students are beginning to prepare for AP testing.
“If you have fall AP courses and they test in the spring, having content specific tutorials everyday is important for the students to succeed,” Carone said.

With the exception of Advanced Placement students, content specific tutorials would not contribute much more to the current schedule. “When you mandate where a kid goes, it loses its value,” Carone said. “There is still going to be a large portion of the student body that doesn’t have anywhere to go if it’s only geared towards AP students.”

The end portion of the survey allowed for participants to make any extra comments they may have pertaining to the schedule. A reoccurring statement was that some courses, predominantly electives, are not needed.

“The electives I feel like are a waste of time,” Hardesty said. “Like gym class. I like it, but it’s a waste of time. I think health is important though. Core classes are necessary and that’s all we need. We don’t need electives.”

Another comment in the survey results was directed towards physical education courses and athletes. Hardesty, an athlete on the Varsity Coed Cheerleading Team, said, “We already do enough with our sport and it’s up to us to keep up our stamina and health. If we don’t, that’s on us.”

The survey also asked respondents if they felt they had a voice at McDowell High School. Carone was able to offer personal insight on his experience at McDowell, both as a teacher and a student. Beginning in his high school years, Carone said, “I don’t think I was too concerned about having a voice. I never felt like I needed to insert my voice too much.”

Forty percent of current students agree and feel that their voice is heard. Carone then compared how he feels as a teacher. “So many teachers have their own opinions and it’s impossible to listen to every one,” Carone said. “Even if it was utopian, everyone would have a complaint. You have to trust the principal’s discretion and that administration is making decisions best for the students.”