15 February 2018
E is for excellence.
A is for academics.
S is for spirit.
T is for tradition.
At Oswego East, academics should come first, even if the acronym doesn’t allow for it. Although students are surrounded by faculty members, administration, and parents who believe that this philosophy is a vital part of success in education.
On the other hand, many seniors fill their schedules with non-academic duties like working as an office runner. A majority of juniors openly imagine that junior year is the “most important” academic year of high school, perhaps even putting off until junior year the hard work that should have been demonstrated all along. Sophomores … no longer freshmen but nowhere near being upperclassmen … anticipate how much time they have remaining before they need to buckle down and get to work. And last year, freshman students struggled with homework completion, leading to failing grades, “mostly … due to lack of organization and preparation,” according to an e-mail shared with freshman seminar leaders in January of 2017.
The e-mail had been sent to freshman seminar leaders as part of a continued effort to address the academic and social-emotional needs of freshman students.
So what can be done to change the mindsets of these students in order for them to take advantage of their educational opportunities?
Incentive may seem like a word out of place when it comes to education. Yet incentive is what motivates many students to take action in their own educational journeys. Some work towards an admission into a specific college, some work towards being honored at banquets for academic success, and some work for their parent’s approval, yet some fall short when it comes to gaining that work ethic that is spurred by incentive.
College can seem like a world away to a high school student, banquets can seem medial in a teenager’s life, and a parent’s approval comes on a personal basis. But, Oswego East has a plethora of incentive opportunities that should be harnessed.
To implement incentives schoolwide, a student’s grade point average (GPA) would be factored into the incentive process. If a student had a specific GPA, then they would be rewarded with something in return, whether that is a service or a good.
Oswego East Principal Laura Bankowski said that she supports potential incentives because a student should strive for their own academic success, and these incentives could help students thrive academically.
Incentives could include free tickets to athletic events that are held at the school, like basketball or football games. Tickets can cost a student $4 if the student does not have her or his identification card. For a student who is involved in popular clubs like Wolfpack, this could potentially be a rewarding system.
“I would have to talk to [Athletic Director Robert] Kaminski about the impact that would have on athletics, but if … you could have three free tickets to any home game throughout the year for you and a guest, I think that would be good,” Bankowski said. “Maybe not every single game, but something like that is definitely something we could do.”
As these goods are considered, cost needs to be factor. For example, considering parking passes cost $50, some students may want the opportunity to work for a free parking pass, and although this seems like it could really push students toward academic success, this may be more costly than the district could afford.
“Parking passes are … expensive [but] that is a price set by the Board of Education and out of my control, but it is something that I’d like to have a conversation about,” Bankowski added. “It’s just that we’d have to involve the district and, quite possibly, the school board, so we could really look at the budget about how address it.”
Some common incentives like open lunch, where students can go off campus to their preferred lunch restaurant, seem like promising incentives, but they can actually be trickier than expected. Making a certain GPA required for this, reduces any congestion there would be to get out of the school’s parking lot. However, this can be a risky decision when it comes to students’ actions outside of school grounds.
“There are so many things that end up happening during that lunch time,” Bankowski said. “You hold your breath when the kids go out to lunch because you hope that everyone makes it back to school safely, everything is okay, and [if] you do have a student get into a car accident, it can be a little bit crazy. So I understand … about open lunch being a really cool thing, but there are so many variables that we have to consider.”
To pass such incentives like this, it is up to the jurisdiction of the administrators and quite possibly the school board because these variables are very important in students’ lives. Budgets may have to be recalculated, new attendance policies may need to be put into place, and it would all be for a potential increase in academic success. But while this potential increase isn’t a guarantee, if something can be done to even heighten the possibility of academic success, then those measures should be considered.
An educational institution’s first priority should be education. Oswego East High School has a duty to the student body to put their academic success at the top of their list, just as the students have a duty to put academics at the top of their list.
If incentives are what students need to reach their potential in the classroom, then incentives should be discussed, reviewed, and implemented. The opportunities are there. They just need to be harnessed.
Make academics a tradition.
While this editorial represents the opinion of the staff as a whole, it was written by Abby McDowell. Abby McDowell is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s news magazine the HOWL