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Online Testing: The Challenge of Ensuring Fairness and Avoiding Dishonesty

Jeffersonville High School teachers are using a range of approaches to make sure students are keeping it honest when testing

Story by Amber Walker

With the introduction of Chromebooks, Greater Clark County Schools students were able to switch to online lessons and assignments relatively quickly and easily during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, one issue stands out as a sticky subject: online assessments. 

Cheating on tests is not a new problem. Even before COVID-19, students were able to cheat using a range of methods, from writing notes on your palm to sharing pictures to wearing special sunglasses that allow you to spy on your classmates’ papers. However, the large number of students who are attending school online during the pandemic makes it much more difficult for teachers to spot and prevent cheating. 

Since the pandemic started, many schools have adopted tech solutions to prevent cheating. For example, GCCS Chromebooks have built-in monitoring software called Classwize. Using this service, teachers can monitor students’ screen activity and task behavior. Brittany Wright, who teaches Algebra 1 and Geometry at Jeff High, says she has used Classwize to keep students on task whether they are at home or physically in class working on their Chromebooks. “I can close their browser if they are doing something they’re not supposed to,” Wright says. However, the system is not foolproof because students may still have access to other devices such as phones and tablets. Still, Wright says, Classwize is “better than nothing.”

Some teachers approached the issue by making more thought-provoking, opinion-based test questions. English teacher Taylor Troncin says, “This school year, I have had to think outside of the box when it comes to assessments. Instead of doing multiple choice or true/false questions, I have started using more open ended questions, which challenge students to not only answer questions, but to explain their reasoning.” Troncin is also looking at the concept of an assessment more creatively. “I have moved more towards projects that can be completed virtually,” she says. 

While open-ended questions make it more difficult for students to cheat, there is a major drawback: it takes extra time for teachers to grade long-answer questions. 

Another tactic being used is scrambled questions and answers. Some teachers are also limiting the time students have to complete tests. Finally, open-book and open-note tests have become more common — even for traditional, in person classes. 

As for fairness, it might seem like online students have advantages over traditional students because they are not monitored as easily. Also, as science teacher Eric Robinson points out, taking tests at home allows for “opportunities that aren’t available in your more traditional classroom” such as a more comfortable environment. However, Robinson has noticed one thing in particular that works against online students: motivation. Robinson says, “It’s made students not as concerned about test-taking. It doesn’t feel as concrete to them.” In short, when it comes to testing online, Robinson says “there is more opportunity, but there is also less desire.”

The reasons students are inclined to cheat are often ambiguous. Perhaps it is done out of a simple necessity to move onto the next level in life. Perhaps it is done to achieve a perfect score or avoid failure. Sometimes students just don’t feel up to the task. Even if academic dishonesty cannot be prevented entirely, Jeff High teachers are taking steps to minimize cheating and level the playing field for all students.

Story by Amber Walker

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Feature

Masks: More to the Story

Students see pros and cons of wearing a face covering every day.

Whether it’s due to legal requirements or personal preference, wearing a mask is commonplace since the start of COVID-19. According to the CDC website, COVID-19 is spread through water droplets that are released when people breathe, sneeze, cough, or talk. Masks can prevent this by blocking water droplets from reaching other people by trapping them on the inside of a person’s mask. However, not everyone is wearing a mask. According to a survey posted on http://www.webmd.com only 93% of U.S. adults wear a mask when unable to social distance. This leaves 7% of US adults not wearing masks.

At Jeff High,everyone is required to wear a mask when they’re not able to social distance. For the most part, students are adhering to the rules well — even when wearing a mask makes things difficult.

Senior Milo Shireman makes a fashion statement when
wearing a mask at school. Photo by Paige Moore


Victoria “Jade” Worrall, a junior at Jeffersonville High school says, “It’s really hard to do things because I can’t breathe.” Also, Worrall says, “It fogs up my glasses and I can’t see without taking them off… I have to take off my glasses whenever I go shopping.” According to a New York Times article, fogging occurs because hot air gets trapped inside and escapes through the top of the mask. One solution is sealing the top of your mask with medical tape or athletic tape, which can prevent air from your breath getting through and fogging your glasses. They also recommend molding the top of your masks to fit your face properly.


Others say wearing a mask has caused breakouts — a problem dubbed “mascne” or “maskne” in the media. The problem is so commonplace that the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has published a list called “9 Ways to Prevent Face Mask Skin Problems.” Senior Michael Broadhead says, “I deal with it, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.” Senior Harmony Wayman says “I just wash the crap out of my face to prevent it.” Regular cleaning is at the top of the AAD’s tips for preventing mask acne. The organization also recommends choosing a mask that fits well, so you’re less likely to touch your face, and has a “soft, natural, and breathable fabric, such as cotton, on the inside layer that rests against your skin.” The AAD adds that you should “Avoid synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, polyester, and rayon on the layer that rests against your skin. These are more likely to irritate your skin and cause breakouts.”


On the other hand, masks aren’t always problematic. Many people have used them to further their style and outside appearance. “You can get cute masks and they look really nice on you.” Worrall said. That’s a bright spot — and a spot that has nothing to do with the dreaded mascne.

By Lily Hughes

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Feature

The Pandemic and Mental Health

Let’s be honest: COVID-19 is hard on everyone, but it’s particularly hard on teenagers. It has affected every aspect of our lives. School is different, sports are different, work is different, friendships are different. The list goes on and on. As Pediatrician Rebekah Fenton said in a recent Washington Post column, “The teens of the pandemic are living through a significant and prolonged stress that most adults have never known.”

Under the circumstances, it’s not surprising that teens are struggling with mental health issues. As a result, other aspects of health are suffering. Dr. Fenton says that some of her teen patients “have gained or lost significant weight, in search of comfort or control. Some who had manageable levels of anxiety before the pandemic have worsening symptoms. Isolation precipitates depression or suicidal ideation. More than younger children, adolescents notice and are affected by their parents’ emotions, including financial pressure.”

You should take care of your mental health as much as you take care of your physical health. Mental health illnesses affect the ability to handle daily activities. This means that those who are having a harder time may experience panic attacks, start having a harder time focusing, start sleeping more, start having a hard time completing assignments which make cause in grades plummeting, start having trouble getting out of bed or taking showers and even more obstacles.


Studies around the world are already showing how teenagers’ mental health is suffering during COVID-19, but we wanted to know how it is affecting you, our readers.

The Hyphen sent out a survey to a group of students that have chosen to remain anonymous. When asked how their mental health was before COVID-19, 80% said they were happy or in a good state of mind. Since the pandemic started, 60% of respondents said that their mental health has dropped or they are having a harder time. One student said, ”Corona has affected my mental health by allowing me to have more extra time on my phone, which leads to being on social media, or anything relevant to that, which leads to comparing myself to others way too much. It has also caused me to overthink and worry about things I should not be.”

This is a rough time for all of us. If you are struggling with mental health issues, please reach out. This is not something you should have to go through alone. Below are hotlines if you are not comfortable talking with a
parent or counselor.

By Rachel Lowe

Categories
News

Jeffersonville High School Leaders Considering Whether to Stick With Block Schedule Next School Year

At the beginning of this school year, Jeffersonville High School implemented a block schedule as part of the school’s efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. According to Principal Pam Hall, “When we went to [block schedule] shortly before school started, the main reason was contact tracing and limiting exposures. The other was to limit movement.”


Now, as Jeff High starts to plan ahead for life after COVID-19, the question arises: stay on a block schedule next school year or go back to “normal”?


Hall says the process of making that decision is underway, but it could take a while to make sure all perspectives are considered. Step one was sending a survey to faculty and staff. This occurred in early January. Of those who completed the survey, 55 percent said they prefer the block schedule and 45 percent said they prefer seven periods a day.

Staff survey provided by Jeffersonville High School


Next, Jeff High’s administrators met with leaders from] other high schools in the district. Those schools had also conducted surveys about whether to keep the block schedule.


The next step in the process is to meet with the building leadership team at Jeff High (a group of people who
represents different departments and interests) to discuss the pros and cons of each option. The survey data is just one part of the puzzle. They must also consider the potential impact on student scheduling, lunch times, teachers’ planning time and more.


Whether Jeff High stays on block schedule or reverts to seven periods, Hall says the longer classes have been
beneficial during this challenging year, and not just for contact tracing purposes. “We learned we need to slow down and make sure students have the skills to be successful.”

Story By The Hyphen Staff

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News

GCCS, Jeff High Teachers Keep an Eye on Safety

The school district and teachers have implemented many rules for student safety during COVID-19

Fear, panic and anxiety are just a few of the many feelings students could have about going to school during a global pandemic. For many this can cause worry and doubt about attending school, and can even drive some students to enroll into the online schooling. While other students continue to attend in person school with precautions. To reduce the risk of students catching COVID, many schools have mandatory procedures and precautions such as wearing masks. Some teachers have started to make rules of their own to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the classroom. 

Jeffersonville High School students have chosen from three options for learning during the 2020-2021 school year. The first of these options is the traditional learning provided by GCCS, in which students go to school five days a week for in-person classes. The second option provided is My School Online. In this option, students remain at home and continue to interact with Jeff High teachers via the internet. The third and final option provided by GCCS is their Virtual Academy program. This program costs $50 a semester and allows students to learn at their own pace via online communications with non- Jeffersonville High School teachers. On the GCCS website it states, “Whether students are attending school virtually or in person, Greater Clark has created challenging curriculum that will prepare them for tomorrow’s jobs and opportunities.” There are also some “hybrid” students, who attend some classes in person and other classes through My School Online.

Greater Clark County Schools, like many other school districts, has made the wearing of face masks mandatory in areas of the school in which it is difficult or impossible to social distance. Jeff High has also changed their cafeteria to allow for more distance between students while they eat by opening up hallways and areas of the gym so traditional students can enjoy a safe eating environment while they enjoy their lunch with friends.

The mandatory school rules aren’t the only thing changing, though. Justin Linde, a Jeff High English teacher, has also made changes. “The main thing that I’ve implemented in my classroom is to convert the classroom into a completely digital environment,¨ he says.

English teacher Justin Linde (photo by Paige Moore)

Jeff High science teacher Jessica Lacobee has digitized all of her work in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect both the students and herself from the virus. ¨I find that if students have a specific point in which they are all to walk to and turn something in it creates an unnecessary gathering,¨ she says.  Lacobee also does not want the risk of an assignment turned in from a student to make its way home and spread to people outside of school grounds. ¨I want to avoid any contamination as far as me bringing it home to grade papers and the potential of anything being in my home,¨ she says.

Science teacher Jessica Lacobee (photo by Lydia Church)

Lacobee believes that running her class digitally is also easier as it partially negates the trouble of trying to run a digital and traditional classroom at the same time. “A lot of teachers were starting the school year with the idea that you could run a traditional classroom and an online classroom at the same time efficiently and I have found that that has not worked,” she says.  While the experience has been a tough obstacle, Lacobee and many other teachers are finding ways around the problems COVID brings and teaching their students in a safe and efficient environment.

While teachers are doing their best to contain the pandemic, students appear to be trying to stop the spread rate of the virus as well. “I will say that by and large, the majority of students are adhering to the social distances rules pretty well,” Lacobee says. She also says that students have even taken to advocating and regulating mask wearing among their peers. “They [students] take it off or they pull it down to talk and then someone immediately jumps on them,” she says. She believes this is because students worry a lot about being quarantined and are ensuring their own safety. Linde says that he has noticed students keeping themselves safe. ¨I have observed students being very mindful of students using hand sanitizer, being safe, keeping their masks on, and being aware and taking the situation very seriously, even more so than their adult counterparts.¨

Written by Lily Hughes

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News

Teachers and Students Pivot and Adjust to a New Way of Learning

Coronavirus forces sacrifice and leads to innovation

Teachers have always been subject to a certain societal pressure to succeed: they are accountable for educating the next generation, after all. They are having to face new challenges teaching in the global pandemic. Crucial to academic development, teachers are given little leniency amid this global crisis, especially when the safety concerns are, now more than ever, absolute. For example, teachers must enforce the mask mandate and are expected to correct misbehavior regarding it. Jeffersonville High School is a school that relied on traditional means of education, the norm was physically going to school. However, which path is the right way is no longer clear, and the traditional method no longer stands alone.

Ahnya Evinger, a grade 9 English teacher, is balancing the needs of both traditional and online students. “It is important to understand that different students have different needs, and different families have different needs,” she said. Teachers must now cater to two different student bodies in the same classroom atmosphere. “It’s like everything else at the beginning of the year: getting into the swing of things, and starting to adjust to having students simultaneously in both methods.”

Ahnya Evinger, grade 9 English teacher

Teachers must familiarize themselves with new online systems and can no longer rely on physical work alone. Traditional schooling presents challenges, and they are expected to adhere to safety regulations as well as enforce them. Since going back, they must follow a new protocol, which includes wearing a mask, frequently washing hands, and cleaning desks between classes. With this new year, despite its massive shifts, they are prepared.

“I appreciate that Greater Clark County Schools is on the cutting edge as far as technology goes,” said Evinger. “When we had to shut down in March, we were prepared for E-Learning. We had already practiced that.” They had insight into what the future may look like despite COVID developments, which gave them leverage when it came to schooling online.

Students are also learning how to navigate this new online system and adjust to other changes. For example, block scheduling was implemented this year. Evinger says the block schedule allows for more time to interact with students. “It also gives me that time to really get to know my students right off the bat,” Evinger said. “I’m spending more than an hour with them everytime I’m with them.” A large influx of collaborative effort has also poured into the new year as well. Teachers are relying on one another a lot more and depending on their students to continue doing their part whether they are in the classroom or not.

Learning to prioritize certain matters and procedures has been instrumental in establishing these new grounds. There are times where safety takes precedence, even if that means taking the last few minutes of class to sanitize the room. 

Essentially, the current circumstances have required trade-offs and sacrifices, while also revealing opportunities to make learning more effective for everyone. “There are teachers all over the building who are pivoting what they’re doing. They’ve realized that what they’ve worked on and done in the past might not work this year, and so they’ve had to pivot in a new direction […] and finding new ways to reach their audience,” Evinger stated. This new year has proved the resilience among staff and students, and we can only hope it will continue to expand.

Written by Amber Walker

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Baseball Basketball Softball Sports

COVID-19 Casts a Shadow Over Winter and Spring Sports Prep

Jeffersonville High School athletes are trying to keep in shape and healthy even as there are some concerns about how things will unfold this year with COVID-19.

Basketball, a winter sport, presents many challenges specific to the sport such as physical contact, touching the same ball, and being played inside. Sophomore boys basketball player Conner Lyons has some concerns but is ready to start the new season. He says his most pressing concern is “guarding people and close contact,” but Lyons’ concerns are overpowered by his drive to get back out on the court. “It’s always been my dream and that’s what I want to do when I get older,” he says. As of right now, the first game for Jeffersonville boys basketball is scheduled for December 5.

Members of the Jeff High baseball team, who have already lost their spring season this year, are trying to stay positive but realistic despite losing some senior talent. Baseball also has the benefit of being a more spaced out game that is played outdoors. Sophomore baseball player Sam Whallen isn’t getting his hopes up, saying, “we might not end up playing this season because of COVID.” The Jeff High baseball team’s first game is scheduled for April 2. 

Members of the Jeff High softball team are also trying to prepare for a spring season in 2021. Senior Danielle Monroe says the team is beginning winter workouts, which are different this year because of social distancing. Still, she feels like the effort will pay off in the spring. “I’m hopeful. I think we’ll have a season,” Monroe says. “I really hope so because it’s my senior year.”

The Indiana High School Athletics Association (IHSAA) has said the organization is committed to letting students play, saying they believe it is “essential to the physical and mental well-being of student-athletes to return to organized physical activity and build team relationships with their peers and coaches.”

Although every sport has its own precautions for the safety of players, coaches and fans, they have one thing in common: in the age of COVID, athletes are optimistic but unsure about the future.

Story by Caleb Vincent

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News

GCCS Board Approves Revised Spring Semester Calendar

During last night’s meeting of the Greater Clark County School Corporation Board of School Trustees, school board members approved a revised calendar for the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year. The approved calendar is similar to what had been previously approved by the board — with the same dates for semester start, semester end, graduation, and spring break — but with the addition of seven additional e-learning days. 

The e-learning days will be asynchronous and will take place every other Friday. According to a message sent to parents and staff, these built-in days will “allow GCCS staff the ability to increase parent communication, hold in-person assessment opportunities for online students, and receive ongoing professional development.” 

In presenting the calendar to the board, Superintendent Mark Laughner called the plan a “very good compromise” and noted that the district is “trying to balance the needs of all stakeholders, which in this situation is very difficult.” He also noted that the Clark county health department or the state could require the district to switch to e-learning at any time.

The approved calendar preserves a two-week spring break starting March 22. The calendar does not call for e-learning over spring break. 

The majority of the discussion prior to voting was not about the dates on the calendar, but rather about how much notice and involvement parents should have in the calendar approval process. Board members commented that they had received two kinds of input leading up to the meeting: some parents and businesses asked for a quick decision on the calendar so they could make plans, while others pushed for more time to review the proposal before a vote. Laughner noted that with the exception of COVID-19 and moving to a balanced schedule, “we typically do not survey parents.” In the end, the board was split on their vote but did approve the calendar as submitted.

As for Jeff High students, they see good and bad sides of the plan. Junior Abby Napper said, “I wish they would’ve kept the 2 weeks on, and 1 week off, but I like it the way it is now.” Junior Benjamin Broady says the smaller number of e-learning days would be okay “if they weren’t so scattered in nature.” However, Broady noted, “I guess it makes more room for more instructional time.”

Written by The Hyphen News staff