Switching to Semesters


Katie Murawski

Students walking to class during passing time.

Did you know Groves is planning to switch to semesters within 2-3 years? Here’s what Dr. Smith said the current, but still in progress, plan is…

As many of you may or may not know, our school will possibly be switching to semesters sometime within the next 2-3 years. This decision has been made because in our district we only get 24 weeks, or 2 trimesters, of learning in our core classes. Nearly every other district in Michigan is getting 36 weeks of learning, or 2 semesters. Because of our trimester schedule, we’re getting less education than all of the surrounding districts. However, it’s important to know the effects of this decision.

Dr. Susan Smith, the principal at Groves High School, would like to note, “[The board] hasn’t actually approved this yet, we just did all the research and presented it to them. The board ultimately makes the decision,” said Smith.
So while this plan isn’t set in stone yet, and there could be numerous years before the switch is actually put into effect, there could be changes made within that time.

There’s also things to think about teacher-wise. I’m sure we’ve all had teachers whose teaching styles just don’t work for us or we learn best with a certain teacher. But with the current model, sometimes teachers vary from trimester to trimester. But Smith said with semesters, varying teachers won’t happen.

“In surveying students, something they were really passionate about was being able to build relationships with their teachers, and that’s hard to do when every 12 weeks you get a new set of teachers. [That’s] another advantage that we saw in having year long core courses, you’d be able to build that year long relationship with teachers as well. In the case where maybe there needs to be a change midway through the year, we would do those, but 99% of students would have their teachers all year long,” Smith said.

As I said before, switching teachers could be a good or bad thing for some students. It could be beneficial for the students who are unable to learn with their current teacher, but at the same time, it could also be counterproductive for the students who are learning well with the teacher they have.

“There would be changes in your schedule for your electives, the only thing that wouldn’t change is a student’s core courses.” Smith said.

This would mean we have all of our core classes in the same order all year. Some students might appreciate the structure, but some could argue this would be repetitive and draining. The only thing changing, depending on how elective classes are going to be structured, would be your elective courses. This could be incredibly boring, because at some point in the year, it’s going to feel like students are just going through the motions without a varying schedule throughout the year. I believe having a varying schedule helps students because it gives us a chance to possibly have a new teacher, and it also provides students with a fresh start and some variation throughout the year.

The next aspect to consider is finals. Switching from trimesters with 5 classes every day to semesters with 6 classes per day means we’re going from 15 classes in total to 12, which means it’s the same for finals. With semesters and 6 hours per day, we’d be having 12 finals instead of 15 (depending on what classes you take). This could also mean we’d have more material to cover leading up to the final, which would mean more material on the final, but we’d have more time to spend on the material since we would have core classes all year. We would also have more time to understand the material and it could be more in depth, allowing a deeper understanding of what we’re learning.

Considering the classes of students who are going to be right in the middle of the switch to semesters and whether or not they’re going to be able to meet their graduation requirements, there’s a possible solution.

“We require 28 credits to graduate from Groves and Seaholm, most schools require 22 credits…18 credits is what every kid in Michigan has to have to graduate from high school. Then, locally or in our district, we get to decide what other credits beyond those 18 we require. We require 28 credits because on a trimester schedule, you can schedule right now, 7 and a half credits a year, so you have an opportunity to earn 30 credits. That’s if you pass everything, and you don’t take any sort of no credit class, you have 30 opportunities, and we say you have to pass 28 out of 30 of your classes. Well, when you only have a 6 period day, the most you can earn is 24 credits, so we’re going to have to take a look at what we require in terms of graduation requirements,” said Smith.

Smith has also said there could be a conflict for students who take or want to take band, orchestra or choir, as well as a world language.

“If you’re a student who wants to take four years of a language on top of the one you earn in 8th grade, that would fill your schedule, but you would have the opportunity to test out of classes and get credit, and there’s also an opportunity to write a personal curriculum, where if you’re a student who is really passionate about music and you’re going to take four years of music, we can actually write a form for the state of Michigan that says you don’t have to take this, and this because you’re a music student and that’s your passion, or if you want to accelerate your course work, and I did a mock schedule for a student who wants to take 4 years of music and 4 years of a world language and it is feasible.” Smith said.
So if you really want to pursue music and also take a world language all year, you’re able to, but you would need to test out of some classes in order to get all of your requirements needed to graduate.

Smith has also explained testing out of classes more in depth.

“The other thing that a lot of school districts do is they allow you to test out, so say you don’t have room in your schedule to take health, you can come in the summer and take the exam and if you score a certain percentage on it, it goes on your transcript and then that opens up a place in your schedule for you to take a course that you want to take… By law in the state of Michigan, we can award credit starting in 8th grade, so if you take Spanish one as an eighth grader, you can in high school not only take Spanish two, but you could have credit on your transcript for that Spanish one course that you took in eighth grade, and then that would open up a period later in your schedule for you to take something else if you didn’t want to go through to AP Spanish…That’s just an example, and a lot of other schools also offer math at the 8th grade level, so you could start high school with 2 credits already completed. We’re going to explore those options as a district that we aren’t currently doing to be able to open up kids’ schedules for more choice,” Smith said.

Some of these effects of switching to semesters could be beneficial for some students, but could hurt other students’ educations— how you feel is up to you.

If you want to be involved in the decision making process for the switch, want to share your opinion, or would like more information, contact Dr. Smith at [email protected].