J-Term will decrease academic instructional time

But administrator says he doesn’t expect AP scores to drop

English+teacher+Mrs.+Kim+Carver+serves+as+the+school%E2%80%99s+AP+coordinator.

Izzy Marasco

English teacher Mrs. Kim Carver serves as the school’s AP coordinator.

Ashlynn Bakemeyer, Co-Editor-In-Chief

This January, the dynamic school schedule will include a new two-week period called January Term, also known as J-Term. This is a time where students will choose one or two specific classes or sessions offered by a teacher and focus completely on that concept during the two weeks following winter break, instead of immediately returning to regular classes.

While several private schools in the area have already implemented this, the winter of the 2021-2022 school year will be the first attempt at anything like this on the Hill and will give students an option to pursue an interest of their choosing. 

Because both teachers and students are unfamiliar with J-Term, numerous questions have arisen, including whether students taking AP classes will be affected by the two-week period in which they will not be able to learn new material in order to prepare for the AP exams in the spring. 

One AP student, senior Allison Schneider, said, “I’m taking four (AP classes) this semester and four next semester.” Those classes include AP Literature, AP Calculus, AP Psychology, AP Government and AP Macroeconomics. Schneider said she was concerned about the two weeks that will take away time from the typical AP class schedule. “I definitely think, especially because I will be taking five exams in the spring, it’s just going to be so much more material to review, so if we are still learning more material, it’s going to be more difficult to make sure I know everything for the test,” Schneider said. 

Schneider is an experienced AP student, having taken AP World History freshman year, AP Chemistry sophomore year and AP Language and AP Physics junior year. She has a study schedule that she has followed since freshman year. “Usually after collecting all the material, I’ll spend a couple weeks leading up to the exam reviewing the material,” Schneider said.

But because of J-Term, Schneider said she is worried that her typical schedule may get rearranged. “I just think it will be harder to get all the material into that second semester. And then the last two weeks before the exams roll around, we are still learning the material,” Schneider said. 

Furthermore, Schneider was concerned that because there are additional, unrelated classes being offered during J-Term, and some students may lose sight of the AP class and upcoming exams. But Schneider said that most students should be prepared for the start of the second semester AP course “unless people are still focused on J-Term material.”

While some worry that time will be an issue with AP classes, Vice Principal of Academic Support Mr. Brett Blondi said, “I don’t think AP students will be heavily affected by J-Term. I’m not real concerned about J-Term affecting students’ AP scores because — even though I’m new here — from what I gather, our students are very proficient and I’m very confident in their abilities.”

Blondi added that there were some logistical considerations that the administration had to mediate. Some of those considerations, he said, included “getting creative on where to deliver instruction, determining who gets first pick for classes and figuring out how to give options for students when classes fill up.”

Although Blondi said he doesn’t think  AP exams will be lower due to J-Term, he said, “Content may have to be condensed. But our students are very capable of performing up to their own expectations, regardless of whether or not we have a J-Term. Our students are so talented and hardworking.” 

Blondi said that last spring students here took 650 AP exams last year and averaged a 2.5.” AP exams are graded a 1 (the lowest score), 2, 3, 4 or 5 (the highest score).

While Schneider said she did have some concerns about the possible consequences J-Term could have on AP classes, she said she was excited for the new two-week period. She said she was most looking forward to all of the various specific classes that J-Term will provide. 

Blondi also said he was “super excited” for the school to adapt to J-Term. “I did J-Term in college for my junior and senior year and I loved it. Personally, I would have loved to take those classes when I was your age. I’m excited for the opportunity for students to try out new classes.”

Editor’s note: Reporter Meg Hasch contributed to this story.