Originally created 11/17/06

Students can say so long to semesters



While Richmond County school board members squabbled over then-Superintendent Charles Larke, one parent said, a major change occurred and parents knew nothing about it.

Earlier this school year, the board approved dropping the semester system in favor of one that stretches from August to May. In the semester system, classes were split into "A" and "B" sessions, and one did not always immediately follow the other.

The change may sound mundane, Susan Thisell Nyhoff said, but parents haven't been told of it and need to be informed. She learned of the board's action when her daughter came home from John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School to say there would be no semester exams this year.

She said her daughter worries about the effect on the college admissions process and being tested on nine months of material.

The change, though, should actually help students, Audrey Wood, the school system's director of curriculum, said in an e-mail.

"We believe this change represents a 'best practice' that supports student achievement," she said.

Such benefits include adding continuity to instruction.

"Oftentimes learning is delayed when students must adjust to a new/different instructor," Dr. Wood said. "The more teachers know about the strengths and weaknesses of the students, the better teachers can address student needs and move students forward."

This would also keep students "on track" to graduate, rather than running the risk of stumbling in the first semester of a course and not being able to proceed to the second semester, Dr. Wood said. The yearlong approach also gives students more time to demonstrate mastery of concepts, she said.

School board member Helen Minchew said the change should also produce better results on End of Course Tests because students are tested while material is fresher on their minds. The change eliminates the possibility of having a break, sometimes a year long, in the middle of the course.

Dr. Wood said the shouldn't affect college admissions. Transcripts will note the work students have completed up to that point.

Without knowing all the details of the changes, Katherine Sweeney, Augusta State University's director of admissions and registrar, said she doesn't know whether it will affect the timing of students' notification of admission.

She said, however, that the university is willing to adjust to accommodate students and make the changes as "seamless" as possible for them.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

THE IMPACT

Richmond County high school students are no longer taking classes in semesters. The change should improve their academics, although there is some concern that it might delay notification of college admissions.