By Ava Lee ’21
Academic merit is an important aspect of The Gunnery; it measures a student’s attitude in and outside of the classroom. This year, there has been one major change in the academic merit system: in the past, a high academic merit would grant a student study hall privileges, but now these rewards no longer exist.
Academic merit grades students on a scale of one to seven for five different categories. These categories are preparedness and organization, completion and conscientiousness, engagement and self-awareness and persistence.
This system is a way for students to receive feedback from their teachers in a way other than grades, based on their character rather than their understanding of the subject. Many students decide to take classes out of their comfort zone, which means their grades might not always represent who they are as a student. Students deserve credit for the work they are doing to improve themselves, and that might not always show up on a letter grade.
In most classes, a four is a baseline; receiving a four means a student is doing what they are expected to do. Anything above a four means they are doing more than necessary, asking questions, leading discussions, coming in for extra help, etc. A number less than a four indicates that students need to improve and try to improve their attitude in the class. Those numbers convey the teachers expectations of the students, and provides the students with conscious feedback on their conduct in class.
In past years, academic merit has been used to determine a student’s study hall privileges. If a student’s academic merit was in the highest tier, that student could use the classrooms for study hall, if they were in the second tier, they could go to the library for both halves, if they were in the third highest, they had one half, and if they were in the lowest level, that student is required to go to day time study hall. Day time study hall entails students checking in with the librarian on duty and working in the quiet room during a free block. This system encourages students to get a higher academic merit and act better in class.
According to Assistant Academic Dean Ms. Paulekas, academic merit changed because “It was never meant to be something that only determines study hall privileges.” Ms. Paulekas argues that academic merit should be a system that students “interact with” to better themselves.
When asked what the benefits are of no rewards from academic merit, Ms. Paulekas said, “I think the big thing is, it takes away students looking for one thing in particular for academic merit, and that is the library privileges.”
Now that there are no more bonuses for high academic merit there is a danger that students will view academic merit as unnecessary. Some students see no point in an extra grade if it gives them no benefit or punishment; students want to be working towards something. The hope is that academic merit will provide a rubric for students to guide their behavior in class. Teachers need a way to give feedback to their students so they understand how they are doing in the teachers’ eyes.
Although some students want rewards for academic merit, there are now more opportunities for study hall locations that are accessible to all students. The dining hall is open this year for sophomores, juniors, and seniors. This takes the pressure off of the library to hold all of the students who want to leave their dorm for study hall. Before the new no-rewards system, separating the students was necessary because the library would be completely filled up and be too busy for anyone to study. Many students are already taking advantage of the open dining hall and have chosen to study there.