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The Pressure is on for a Study Hall at WHS

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The Pressure is on for a Study Hall at WHS

Emma West, Co-Editor in Chief

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I am now one quarter into my senior year here at Westborough High. There have been ups and downs, but I know one thing is for sure: if Westborough High School had implemented a study hall during my time here, I would have been happier, healthier, and a better student.

It’s not a revolutionary concept. Many other schools in Massachusetts have implemented a study hall, including Algonquin, Shepherd Hill, Marlborough, Franklin, and Natick.

“It’s overwhelming coming from Gibbons, where we had ‘Support,’ similar to a study hall, almost every day,” comments Jonny Feldman, a WHS freshman. “The classes are harder already, so that’s tough to manage without having that extra time to catch up.”

Studies show the effectiveness of study halls. A study by Education World followed a school in California that implemented a study hall. They saw a rise in average GPA by half a point, an increase in honor roll students from 32% to 50%, and a significant improvement in teachers’ morale. There were numerous steps taken to promote this growth: “First, the principal ensured students had a designated room for study halls. This helped decrease cases of wandering students who were disrupting other classes and seniors looking to leave campus during their free period (often resulting in tardiness to their next class). Next, students were simply asked to participate in more meaningful work.  Some were asked about ways they could improve their study hall, or even their school, some were asked to publish articles on the school’s website, and many others worked with other students on difficult assignments, alongside a tutor.”

A similar study by the Institution of Education Sciences found that a guided study hall helped reduce the rate of homework incompletion. Overall, the rate before the study was 8% of homework was not being completed. By the completion of the study hall, only 4% of homework was incomplete.

In both of these studies, guidance from a teacher is key. However, Principal Brian Callaghan speaks to the difficulties in finding teachers to guide a study hall: “A big question in the process: who supervises? It becomes a legal and contractual issue because teachers are guaranteed to teach five classes. For part-time teachers, it’s even less.”

Superintendent Amber Bock agrees: “Adding a study hall option to the day might prove challenging in that our students already voice concerns that the current schedule doesn’t allow them enough blocks to take the range of coursework they want to fit into their day.”

But the administration is open to the possibility. Bock comments: “It is always an important and ongoing discussion to create a building schedule that meets the needs of our students.  We welcome feedback and suggestions about how to improve the school day…recognizing that all students have individual needs to create a balanced schedule, the option of a directed study is open to consideration.”

Callaghan agrees. He comments that the administration is already looking into the possibility and that it could be an important step in improving students’ well-being: “A few adults, myself included, have explored the idea of study halls for the past couple of years. It could be beneficial for students…I love the world in which we work and live in…but it’s too fast. We don’t have enough time to process what we’re taking in because we are hurrying to the next thing.”

A few adults, myself included, have explored the idea of study halls for the past couple of years. It could be beneficial for students…I love the world in which we work and live in…but it’s too fast. We don’t have enough time to process what we’re taking in because we are hurrying to the next thing.”

— Brian Callaghan, WHS Principal

I agree. To put it bluntly, kids are stressed. We need some time to catch up on daily assignments because our after-school lives are filled with sports, clubs, music, homework, family responsibilities, and other commitments.

It doesn’t have to be every day. Even if just half of the days in our seven-day cycle had a free period, students could rely on some extra time to catch up on homework and other responsibilities. A ten-minute break and flex time don’t cut it.

“If I had a study hall throughout high school, I would have gotten more sleep, been more on top of my work, and gotten to really focus on what I was learning,” says Miles Henderson, a senior.

A high school education is supposed to prepare students for higher education. No matter what path a student chooses, very rarely does it have a schedule with six and a half straight hours of classes with homework on top of that. Colleges do not follow such a schedule, and if students choose another path, such as working, traveling, or service, an everyday schedule looks nothing like the intellectually exhausting atmosphere that students at this high school are subjected to. A more flexible schedule would mirror many college schedules as well as lessen stress in our daily lives.

The first step? Callaghan suggests that students “Declare with their teachers their intent to look at the issue…and why a study hall would be beneficial.”

And students might just be in luck: teachers are open to the possibility as well.

Kathleen Stoker, English and Journalism teacher, comments that “WHS students could definitely benefit from study halls.  I have seen an increase in student stress and anxiety levels over the course of my years of teaching at WHS. There are many factors that explain the increase; however, an important option to help decrease student stress levels would be to offer study halls.  Yes, as a school we would need to negotiate supervision of study halls, and I know we would be able to figure out the logistics. The bottom line is we have a high functioning student population who need a support that will help their overall mental health, academic productivity, and success.”  

Spanish teacher Dara Snider agrees. She believes that balancing work and school with life is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle: “I think that studies, if used appropriately, could have a positive impact on the overall well-being of students by helping them establish a more balanced daily routine.”

It’s time to take that step. We’ve implemented a later start time to promote students’ health; this is another vital step in our overall happiness and education.

 

Sources:

http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin347.shtml

http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol8/822-alzakari.aspx

http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED501250.pdf

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