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Facing the freshmen
From classroom desks to Froshcomm to interactions in hallways, the class of 2025 leaves an imprint wherever they go, their stories and faces ready to be discovered.
November 8, 2021
25% low income.
When it comes to Jefferson’s admitted Class of 2025, we know the numbers.
But to learn the stories of the newest freshman class, numbers will only go so far. With the class of 2025 being the first to be affected by new admissions policies and grading policies alike, it’s easy to make conclusions without knowing their story. And it’s time that we learned that story.
The Jefferson classroom.
It’s been the source of widespread stress, competitiveness, and debates over workload . Now with the Class of 2025 getting settled behind desks, Jefferson faces controversy once more.
CONSISTENT ACADEMIC STANDARDS
Ever since changes to the Jefferson admissions process were approved in December, the class of 2025 has faced rampant speculation over its academic qualifications. But from RS1 classrooms to biology labs, teachers and counselors say that they haven’t seen anything to suggest that the new admissions policy has led to a drop in grade performance or curriculum rigor.
“The ninth graders to me seem delightful. The vibe I get is the kids have lots of personality and seem pretty eager to learn,” counselor Sean Burke said. “[Grade performance] seems very typical to me at this point. The transition into TJ is hard, and there’s no way to prepare for it.”
Though many teachers have in fact been forced to adjust their curriculum to start the year, they have done so because of the learning gaps opened up by a year-and-a-half of online learning, as opposed to the admissions process for the newest class. In regards to math, for example, students were given a self-paced learning tool to develop the algebra skills needed to succeed in Jefferson math.
“With people coming from so many places with different algebra backgrounds and because we have so many more students who are in RS1, to help that process, we have a program called ALEKS which is adaptive to each student,” math teacher Marianne Razzino said.
Foundations of Computer Science teacher Shane Torbert cautioned observers not to jump to conclusions about the admissions process simply because of curriculum changes across classes.
It’s actually important to know when two things have no relation to each other. Changes to the curriculum are not necessarily because of the admissions process.”
— Mr. Torbert
“If I hadn’t known anything different happened with the admissions process, I would not have noticed anything out of the ordinary,” Torbert said. “It’s actually important to know when two things have no relation to each other. Changes to the curriculum are not necessarily because of the admissions process.”
For freshman Lemar Samizay, Jefferson’s increased workload was a shock at first. However, the former Hayfield Secondary School student has since eased into the school’s academic life.
“There is more work and studying and learning information required here. I just laid more time into studying and doing homework, and I just adapted to [Jefferson],” Samizay said.
Whether due to the long spell of online learning, or because of the diversity of backgrounds, freshman English teacher Stephanie Glotfelty has sensed that the Class of 2025 is calmer than previous years of Jefferson students.
“I think this year, the main difference is they’re more okay with going with the flow. People seem more okay with whatever’s coming up. Previous classes, if any kind of structure was changed, they had a harder time dealing with that,” Glotfelty said.
The individualism intrinsic to Jefferson’s newest class has also stood out to Principal Ann Bonitatibus.
“I’ve seen a lot of the incoming freshmen class chart their own course here at TJ. Sometimes, we get into some TJ mythologies about, when you’re a freshman, you have to do this, or take this course,” Bonitatibus said. “I’ve really seen some independence with the Class of 2025, approaching it as: this what I’m interested in, and I don’t have to do this over here because my counselor told me or my teachers told me this. I’m just gonna do what I like.”
Froshcomm members Ray Zhang, Kesso Doramodou and Katherine Thomes give a look into the class.
Q: What are some of the unique qualities of the class of 2025?
Ray: I think that since so many people come from so many different backgrounds, our class has more diversity and so many different perspectives. When doing projects and working with our peers, just because everyone is so different, it’s a lot easier to come up with ideas to brainstorm.
Q: What do you say to people who question the qualifications and ability of the Class of 2025 to
thrive at this school?
Katherine: We still belong here. You know, we were still selected, and we worked to get here. [The admissions changes] brought in more people and more different types of people, and that shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing.
Q: How have you and other members of the class adapted to the increased workload at Jefferson?
Kesso: I definitely feel like we had some trouble at first because like I said we’re all coming from a virtual middle school. I feel like it was pretty hard at first but we’ve all started to grow on it and we’re all getting better.
A new environment
Hailing from historically underpresented middle schools in Parkside MS and Holmes MS, freshmen Parker Mitzkovitz, Diana Gabino, and Akrem Mohammed discuss experiences from their first several weeks at Jefferson.
Why did you decide to apply to Jefferson?
Parker Mitzkovitz: My parents told us that TJ would open a lot of opportunities for us. Diana and I, coming from a school that’s not too good, this is a great opportunity for us. We decided to take it and see where it leads.
Akrem Mohammed: I knew about TJ a lot because I live really close to it. I used to come to TJ in the summers with my friends to play in the field. It’s funny, because even though my middle school was so close to TJ, only five people or so got in a year. But schools further away, like Rocky Run and other schools, sent something like 30 to 40 kids.
What have been your initial reactions to Jefferson?
Diana Gabino: When I first got here, it wasn’t too bad, but I just didn’t feel like this was the school for me and that this was a place where I belonged. There are a lot of students here who had a way easier transition to [Jefferson]. Compared to them, I’m not that smart, not the brightest. Over at our middle school, I’m considered pretty smart but [not] here. But I decided, while I’m still here, I’m gonna give it a chance.
Parker Mitzkovitz: I was a bit overwhelmed, but it got better. I was doing sports two times a week, but I started seeing myself slip, so I cut my practices and did them at home instead. During the week I don’t go on the phone much either. It’s all homework, homework, homework. I knew it was gonna be hard, so I’m just gonna push through and keep going, because it’s a good school.
What are some standout differences between Jefferson and your middle school?
Parker Mitzkovitz: Teachers, counselors, and everyone here is here to support you. They’re here for you and they want you to succeed and do anything. They’re willing to give you an extension or stay after school to explain things. It’s a lot different from what [Diana and I came from. Our school didn’t have this.
A last word
There is no doubt that Jefferson’s newest incoming class has been the target of countless contentions, criticisms, controversies. But we must remember that this class is the future of Jefferson – that we, too, were once wide-eyed freshmen, awed by Jefferson’s ornate laboratories and its nationally acclaimed clubs and teams. We were once left scrambling for solutions amidst a barrage of biology tests, RS1 assignments, and English projects.
Our role is to give them support and guidance through their first year. It’s time to abandon the flawed conversation of “lottery kids” and unprepared students, and help our newest class find their place at our school, just as upperclassmen did before us.
And to the Class of 2025: We hope that you find a home in Jefferson, just as we did.
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