The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


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Mixed thoughts about statistics

Certain additions to the RS1 curriculum are a point of contention for students and teachers
T. Dang
During an optional RS1 tutoring session during 8th period, students complete their assignments. Many RS1 teachers are available during this time to help students in their work. Usually, there is help available for students, they just need to reach out.

As the semester comes to an end, freshmen are released from their infamous Research and Statistics 1 (RS1) classes, which every Jefferson freshman is required to take. The class covers all the statistics typically taught in Algebra 2 Honors as well as the beginning of Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics. As students reflect on the past semester, their introduction to the world of data was anything but easy, possibly because of the controversial structural decisions not seen in a “typical” course, such as teachers not lecturing.

RS1 is commonly referred to as a “self-discovery course” by instructors, meaning that students teach themselves required concepts through packets, digital worksheets, videos and other provided resources. Additionally, classwork is not graded, and homework is entirely optional. 

“Being new to [Jefferson], this is new for me as well,” first-year RS1 teacher Paige Highsmith said. “I’m not sure how I feel about it; it has its pros and cons, but I think it could be best implemented with a mini-lesson, where the teacher can help the students be more grounded in the material.”

Laureen Nelson, another RS1 teacher with two years under her belt, defends the current curriculum, citing the student engagement the material requires.

“I think it’s a unique and advantageous way to explore the material. The nature of the course demands that you explore and get into it yourself,” Nelson said. “If it was lecture-based, it would be harder for students.”

On the contrary, because RS1 marks many students’ first time working with statistics in a school setting, the added challenge of learning how to study on their own only complicates things further. 

“I don’t think it’s the best way to learn, especially since it’s such a new topic for students,” freshman Jonathan Yang said. “We don’t have as much prior knowledge in this course material as you do with others, like algebra or other kinds of math. I think it would be better if the teacher guides you.” 

Many students also find themselves with lower grades in RS1 than other classes, which concerns them. Highsmith connects this to the difficulty spike associated with most Jefferson courses.

“You, the student, have to read detailed vocabulary and work that you might not have had to before,” Highsmith said. “Additionally, this class is college-paced, and none of the students are used to that.”

A concern among students is the four-question knowledge checks; while there is a built-in one-point curve, getting any more than one question wrong is costly. Furthermore, the lack of partial credit means more often than not, students fall short of the standards set by teachers.

“I like them, but I’m not sure I like the way we grade them,” Highsmith said. “It’s not given partial credit, which might not reflect the actual learning of the student, especially when it comes to the unit test, where partial credit is given.”

Freshman Sebastian Garcia believes that knowledge checks are helpful, but thinks they should be administered less often.

“I don’t think they accomplish what they’re meant to do,” Garcia said. “They are useful in moderation, but I think the number we have a week isn’t right. We have to cram for each knowledge check, which prevents actual learning. And then, when the unit test comes, nobody is truly ready because they’ve been cramming the whole time.”

As opposed to the system of retaking an assessment up to an 80%, RS1 uses second chance points, where students can earn points on other assignments to boost their average up to an 80%. A concern for freshman Jiwoo Lee is the lack of opportunities to make up red points. 

“I think the second chance points are essentially useless because it’s easy to get 100 on the knowledge checks, and there are no chances of making up the red points,” Lee said. 

Points in RS1 are separated into three categories: green, blue, and red, with red being the hardest to earn. Yang, like many others, dislikes that there is no way to make up red points in the second chance system.

“I think not being able to make up red points isn’t fair,” Yang said. “The system is meant for you to learn from your mistakes, but this promotes a mindset that you can’t learn from the hardest questions, the ones that mess you up the most.”

Even if you mess up on the red section, Nelson insists that the points are far from the most important factor in your grade.

“The red points are very low-stakes. If you don’t do well, you get a minimum of 50%, so it only affects 5.5% of your grade,” Nelson said. “You can still get an A if you do well [on everything else].”

Additionally, there was a suggestion to have an alternate retake policy, where students can retake an assessment that they scored badly on and get up to an 80%.

“I personally like students being able to learn from their mistakes, and address it sooner rather than later,” Highsmith said. 

But would this help students more than second chance points? Nelson says that this suggestion is not needed and that the current system works more advantageously for students.

“We already do retaking up to 80% on the final exam and it’s much better. If we had a retake assessment, you would be studying for the retake test and the new material,” Nelson said. “First of all, it would be too much work, and second, your attention would be divided. When the final comes around, if you want recovery points on one unit, you can focus your efforts to study that with the rest of the material. It’s much better if you wait until the end.”

Because of all these changes, it is clear that some students dislike some aspects of the course, but Nelson thinks it is a necessary evil.

“I am the NHS advisor, and all the seniors here have talked about how much they hated the course back when they were freshmen, but they also say how useful it was for their future years,” she said. “It’s a very useful and compact way of gaining vital information for not just a career in stats, but throughout your career at TJ. We know the course is difficult, but it’s necessary.”

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