J-Term, semester system announced for 2017-18

John McClatchy

Plans are underway to do away with quarter system, in order to better replicate a college model.

Starting next year, Malvern will have a two week gap in their scheduling during the month of January to allow for a student centered experience in between semesters.

Head of Upper School Mr. Ron Algeo said that having the gap goes with the idea of a college model.

“College students get out during Christmas, and classes don’t start until early February or late January,” he said. “So there’s a chunk of time that’s open.”

Algeo said that some colleges offer classes during this “January term” that can be relevant to a major or an elective class that interests the student. Some high schools have already adapted the model, Algeo said.

Some schools in the area that have a J-Term include Episcopal Academy, St. Augustine’s Prep, and Villa Maria Academy. According to Episcopal’s website, during the two-week period each student takes one course and “learns subject area through intensive, experiential on- and off-campus study.”

Although Malvern is looking at how J-Terms work at other schools, it will not model its J-Term after another school’s J-Term.

“We are covering our own path [with the J-Term],” English teacher Mrs. Giordani, leader of the ninth grade level team, said. “That being said, we are looking at other schools that do J-Terms, including colleges, and trying to come up with different ideas for how it would work with Malvern.”

Algeo said the J-Term could be used as an opportunity to summarize and reflect on the first semester, and “gear up” for the second.

The idea began in the 9th grade level team, which then brought it to the rest of the faculty for feedback. Algeo said that there was “palpable” excitement among the rest of the faculty, and they immediately began to work on pitching ideas.

“Freshman year is certainly a very tough transitional time. You’re going into a bigger school with bigger guys and it’s sometimes hard to determine how you can meaningfully become a part of that community,” Head of the Middle School Mr. Sillup said.   

The question was posed like this: When students get back from Christmas break, would there be a way to allow for some really neat exploration that they might not have the access to in their core freshman curriculum?  

The J-Term was the answer.

“Once students come back from Christmas break, we have MLK weekend so there is an awkward period of two four day weeks,” Sillup said. “We thought this would be the perfect time to take a break from the semesters and grades and have this J-Term experience.”

Sillup doesn’t know exactly how it would all work out but the team would ask students what classes they would like to experience in the J-Term and try to accommodate.

Giordani said that it gives students a chance to try out new classes.

“Basically students will get a glimpse of certain electives and classes so they can pursue interests and decide whether or not they actually would like to take the year long version of the course,” she said.

AP Calculus teacher Mr. Kevin Moore, who is on the committee working on the J-Term, said that they are trying to find a compromise between what students would want to do with the J-Term and what teachers would want to do.

“Some of the ideas [for that] are for sending out a survey,” he said. “Making sure that we are talking to you to gauge interest.”

Moore said there is also a concern with teachers in making sure this does not interfere with the strict timeline teachers have in AP classes that need to be ready to take an exam in May.

“We’re aware of that concern,” he said. “As an AP teacher, that was one of the first concerns I had.”

Although there is no set in stone idea for AP teachers as of press date, Moore said that it is being discussed among teachers.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Giordani said. “When you look at jobs and how people work together it’s much different then when I was a kid. I was fed information and regurgitate the facts.”

“If I had the opportunity to dive into something and the freedom to fail and make mistakes,” she said, “I would be so much further along.”

With the recent announcement of a new system of no quarters, two semesters, and a J-Term for the 2017-2018 school year, we asked some underclassmen what they think of the changes ahead.

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