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The SOTO Sun

The Student Body Reacts to The Second Annual School-wide Essay

With essays being due earlier this week, there seems like no better time to cover just what the students really thought about the new annual tradition.
The+Student+Body+Reacts+to+The+Second+Annual+School-wide+Essay

The school-wide essay, presented to us through the grammar website NoRedInk, first made its appearance at Osage right around this time last year. This is just another example of increasing expectations and requirements at the school. The essay was designed to assess the writing skills of every student in the school, by being intertwined with a class that most of the student body has, English. 

However, with little explanation from the staff as to what it was we were being expected to complete, as well as why we were being given the assignment in the first place, it is safe to say the students did not react too kindly. Teenagers are notorious for their ability to challenge something when they don’t wanna do it, and so for those who didn’t feel like completing the essay, they just didn’t. 

A large problem with the way that last year’s essay was set up, was just who it was giving us the assignment in the first place. The typical high school student doesn’t often interact with the principal, and oftentimes can even forget they have one. This is why when the principal sets aside a special assignment for students, it can feel like nothing more than a display of power. 

This year, however, several of these problems were better by leaps and bounds. To start, the AP Language and Composition teacher, as well as the head of the English department, Lee Baker led the assignment. So now, instead of feeling like a display of power, the assignment read more like a favor for a current or old teacher. Mr. Baker teaches a variety of sophomores, as well as juniors, and those who no longer have Mr.Baker have likely taken one of his classes in the past. The only group still really out of the loop is the freshmen. Although, they were most likely going to hate the assignment anyway. 

A few days ago I took some time during sixth hour to go and ask the students just how they were feeling about this year’s essays. To start, all of the classes that we interviewed unanimously agreed that the essay prompts given to students were significantly better this year than they were last year. Both the teachers and students agreed that this was in large part due to the incorporation of Mr.Baker into the project’s design. 

The assignment did still face its fair share of criticisms this year, however. In all three of the English classes that I went to this hour, the rate for students who did not complete the assignment was nearly twenty-five percent. While the sample size is small, it still may be reflective of a lack of motivation to complete the assignment. 

Another commonly shared issue with the assignment is the idea that teachers are randomly assigned to read a student’s work. One of our seniors even had this to say: “I don’t support every teacher reading my essays; I’d rather just have my English teacher reading it” a sentiment that many of the other students throughout the school agree with. It just doesn’t seem reasonable to expect every teacher to be able to give students the same level of feedback.

It was not just the students who had strong opinions about the essay. Teachers had a lot to say about these essays as well. Most of them were very quick to sing the praises of the update prompts from Mr. Baker, but they also made it very clear that they could tell that students were not trying nearly as hard on these essays as they typically would in class. 

The school-wide assignment has been slow to pick up steam, but could that be a sign of its larger role throughout our school? Has the essay simply been relegated to a yearly blow-off assignment? If so, what does that mean for its intended purpose of increasing reading and writing scores? If students are not giving their best to an assignment they feel isn’t worth their time, are we really getting accurate measurements? What is the point of the school-wide essay in a world where the data that it is collecting isn’t reflective of the real world? Only time will be able to tell. 

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About the Contributor
Deacon Lipsmeyer, Staff Reporter
Deacon is currently a senior at School of the Osage High School. Even though this is his first semester with the journalism team, Deacon has always been in love with writing. He remembers as a child that he used to design and write stories for comic books that he created. For the longest time, Deacon felt he wanted to be a journalist, and "after a few years of soul searching, [he] realized the dream was still alive and well" and joined the journalism team as a staff reporter and editor. Deacon has been accepted into the journalism program at the University of Missouri-Columbia and cannot wait to continue delivering the best quality journalism as he develops his skills.
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