Quartz Hill Needs to Act Like It’s Being Evaluated Daily

By Mars Gifford, Staff Writer

For the past couple of weeks in a number of my classes, my peers and I have been urged by our teachers to be actively engaged, show understanding, and keep our campus clean. One teacher even made a joke, asking that my class of seniors look out for the underclassmen’s behavior and encourage them to act with maturity and dignity, a ploy which made us consider our behaviors and evaluate those around us. While we ordinarily need to perform these evaluations and better our behavior, for the last couple of days, it seemed to be much more important. Why? Well, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges had representatives on campus for two days in March. This is important because this organization will assess the quality of education at Quartz Hill High School and give the school accreditation. If a school loses its accreditation, all diplomas issued from that school become void.

The atmosphere of my classes has shifted ever so slightly as this evaluation approached. One of my classes altered the usual routine of independence and self-sufficiency for one of collaborative research and discussion. The teacher created an assignment distinct from the syllabus and typical classwork. In another class, I was placed in small groups for an in-class project, very different than the usual onslaught of notes and worksheets. In AP Statistics, the schedule had to be rearranged in order to avoid testing while WASC was on campus. Even the morning announcements reflected the shift, asking students to be aware of the campus, its cleanliness, and their actions in addition to the typical club news and announcements from the guidance office.

However, some students, like Heather Abramson, noticed few changes. “None of my teachers really changed for WASC. They all seemed pretty confident, even when the WASC people would walk in, because they’re good teachers.” Others noticed an emphasis on collaboration and interaction. Michael Kelly explained how in his math class they used clickers on the days WASC was there. “Instead of taking notes and doing the assignment on our own like normal, we did the assignment together as a group and entered our answers into clickers.” He thought that the changes his teachers made were beneficial, and for the most part, I think everyone can agree, but some students voiced concern. Alyssa Mak thinks that there might have been too much emphasis on group work, asking “How are we supposed to learn how to do anything if we rely on other people all the time?” Kory Ha, following the same train of thought, stated, “when we do a lot of group activities, it is hard for people to learn how to do certain things on their own; and when we do things on our own, group work becomes easier. We need a balance of everything, but when WASC came, our teachers made it all about group interactions.” However, when asked, both students agreed that the changes made by their teachers were positive

I also talked with Mr. Flores, the band director, and Ms. Linde, the choir director. Ms. Linde said, “I think it’s nice to have some accountability. I appreciate that the WASC committee has given the administration some things to focus on so that we as teachers can think ‘I need to improve critical thinking and assessment’ and really focus on those things. It helps us have a sense of focus as a school and a sense of unity.” Mr. Flores talked about how the focus on critical thinking and assessment benefited students, “When students think critically when performing music… they can think of and understand the concepts themselves which will be good for them in later years when they might be playing music without a director.”

This shift should be permanent at Quartz Hill. Students need to be committed to their education and responsible for their actions inside and outside of classrooms. Teachers need to be checking for understanding and place an emphasis on differentiated learning. The campus needs to be reflective of our values all the time — not just for the first two weeks of the school year and the handful of days where the school is being evaluated by individuals outside of the district. Quartz Hill must do better and do better consistently. We need to act as if we are being evaluated at every turn, after all, we are always being observed by individuals inside and outside of the district: our own Quartz Hill administration, AVUHSD personnel, parents of middle schoolers, readers of the AV Press, the list is almost endless. To students, teachers, and administration alike, I encourage you to do better every day.