Why Participation Grades Don’t Belong in the Gradebook

Written by Garima Prabhakar 

Teaching is a skill. Being able to make a student understand a concept, make it stick, and be able to apply it to a situation is nothing less than an art. Many teaching methods rely on student participation to make it all happen. From invigorating the class and trying to prevent the all-too-common soporific first-period lectures to evaluating student competence and instilling the life skill better known as collaboration into growing students, class participation is important, if not a necessity, in the daily school life. To make sure students participate, one of the most common teaching strategies is to use participation grades. Indeed, a whole chunk of the grade grows out of it; class participation often counts for 20-30% of the overall grade in high schools— and it only increases up to 40% in college. However, tacking a grade to student participation in the classroom is not only a detrimental and biased way to determine student grades – but it’s also an inefficient and invalid addition to the grade that doesn’t really accomplish the goal it was intended for.

Every student learns in a unique way, and although one student may prefer to think his or her thoughts out loud in a classroom discussion, another student might prefer to process the information in their brain before making a statement. The purpose of teaching is to help students learn the material— but if the teaching method is designed so only some students have an advantage, then the whole purpose is defeated. Introverts and shy students make up anywhere from 25 to 50% of the total population, yet enforcing participation mostly focuses on helping their extroverted counterparts excel, ignoring the students who don’t work as well with class-wide discussions. Instead, teachers should find ways to optimize their teaching so that all students are able to learn in the learning styles that suit them.

Introverted students are penalized most for the participation grade because they are being forced to learn in a way that doesn’t suit them. Personality has a large influence on student participation, according to studies in the book Developing and Using Tests Effectively: A Guide for Faculty. Introverts are then penalized for not learning as well in a method they aren’t hard-wired to learn in— they’re penalized with bad grades for participating less in discussions when they learn better by analyzing the concept in their heads. Moreover, this not only degrades the grade but also their self-esteem.

However, when it comes to participation grades, introverts aren’t the only ones to suffer. Class participation can also penalize more outgoing and extroverted students, by making it harder for them to learn the way they best learn— by talking. If a grade is put on classroom participation, then students are more likely to not engage in the discussion for fear of getting a bad grade by saying something “unconstructive” or “unhelpful” to the discussion. Then, we enter a paradox because on the other side, not grading participation for quality diminishes its value— many students can excel in their classes by raising their hand, whether they actually brought something to the table or not. Moreover, in this cycle participation points don’t even achieve the goal they were made for— to evaluate a student’s competence in the subject area. More often, participation grades are affected by how much you speak rather than how much you understand the material.

The main advocating point for keeping a participation grade is that it is a necessary asset in the workforce. And that is true— we, as social creatures, rely mostly on our social connections and networks to make our way around the world. However, classroom participation doesn’t move students to participate because they should or because they have something to bring to the table, but instead out of fear for their grade. This is especially problematic in the workforce because, in a job, you won’t get an A for putting your ideas out there. In the long term, this does not condition a student to collaborate in the workforce where there isn’t much external penalty. We, as students, must learn not to participate because we have to, but because we want to. Moreover, the whole basis of participation points— the amount of speaking you do, is overrated.  A study found that in the sales and marketing field, usually assumed to be a very extroverted field, top dealers typically spend only 40% of their time speaking and the rest listening, while the worst performers actually spend 65% of their time talking and 35% listening. So, participation is actually outweighed by careful listening in work.

In the end, participation and engagement in the classroom shouldn’t be the students’ problem: lack of participation suggests more of a class management issue. The teaching style should be incorporated in classrooms such that students understand the material, regardless of their inborn learning style. Moreover, many other things can be done instead of using participation grades to evaluate a student’s competence— things like partner or small group work and a balance of a variety on learning-style based assignments can help all students have a better chance of excelling. The teacher can encourage both extroverted and introverted styles of learning, and ingrain participation in students not as a stressor and a grade, but as a necessary life skill. Students shouldn’t be engaged in the classroom to get a good grade but instead because they want to contribute to the process. Even more important than participation is listening, and listening and participation should be given equal importance. If it’s apparent that the use of participation points in the classroom is pointless, then why are we still using it?


Above: Many students learn through different strategies and techniques, like through processing their thoughts and understanding the concepts in a group, writing down the concept to visually understand it, or by working out the concept in their head before participating in the group discussion.



The Immigration Crisis and Why it Matters

Written by David Lee

The United States of America is something truly special. It is essentially the only country in the world that promises diversity from all walks of life. Despite some setbacks, the world still views the U, S of A as a beacon of hope for those seeking liberty. This has become increasingly evident as countless desperate people from Mexico and countries further south attempt to cross our border illegally. President Donald Trump denounces them as drug dealers and troublemakers even though crime is likely the last thing on their minds. His plans to separate United States from Mexico with a giant wall throw a wedge in the divide between what should be two allies. Never have these  words become more defining to our nation as a caravan of migrants, escaping deplorable conditions in their home countries in Central America, approach our southern border.

Trump’s repeated verbal attacks on illegal immigrants have led to internal problems at home. According to the Pew Research Center, half of Latinos are unsure of their place in American society. A majority fear being deported because of their ethnicity. Nearly 4 in 10 have also experienced offensive or hateful incidents against them, such as being criticized in public for speaking Spanish. As Latinos are one of the fastest-growing minority groups in the US (59 million and counting), their concerns should be regarded with great attention. Discrimination and disunity on the likes of ethnic background should be a thing of the past, especially considering the upheaval in the 1960s and 1970s as African Americans fought against segregation. However, it is hard to accept people who the President calls “murderers”. On another note about the increasing cultural divide, the same study showed that even among Latinos, the difference between Republicans and Democrats was like day and night. Three-fifths of Latino Republicans approve of Donald Trump’s performance while an abysmal eight percent of Latino Democrats share similar feelings. Latino Republicans are also less likely to say that their situation has gotten worse since Trump’s election. A country divided cannot stand for itself and that is something that will continue unless the immigration crisis is handled better.

The immigration crisis itself is a heated topic for discussion. However, given the muddled truths and lies that the Trump Administration regularly emits, it is not entirely clear what is fact and what is fiction. A New York Times article describing Trump’s latest move – a 90-day ban on asylum seekers who don’t show up at a “port of entry” – criticizes it as virtually baseless as many of the immigrants who come to seek asylum do, in fact, arrive at the right and legal entry points. It points out that Trump’s action was justified by a Supreme Court case that affirmed that Trump could put a travel ban preventing Muslims from entering the US – after that ban had been ravaged in other federal courts and thus diminished heavily. In simpler terms, it would be hard for Trump to actually use that to his advantage in terms of the incoming migrant caravan. However, the fact that it is there suggests to the American population that something needs to be taken care of. This trend continues, especially regarding Trump’s response to the migrant caravan. The Washington Post reports that although Trump’s decision to send over seven thousand troops to the border to handle the caravan is seemingly justified by his claims of an impending invasion, military planners predict that there would be “five soldiers…for every one caravan member expected”. It is estimated that twenty percent or less of the caravan will actually reach the US, with most stopping in Mexico. This pattern shows Trump is exaggerating details about the actual immigration crisis to boost distrust regarding immigrants in general. It is not an immediate surprise, given the Trump administration has thrived on spreading fear, but it is an ominous example that should not be ignored.

The immigration crisis plays a large role in the well-being of our country. However, its presence spreads hate and threatens to break the diversity that holds our nation together. Worse yet, much of it is based on inflated claims from Trump’s administration, propagating manufactured tension throughout America among different races and party lines. America is supposed to be a melting pot of people from all walks of life. Will “fire and fury” prove to change that drastically?



Migrants are leaving Central America due to rampant crime. Trump threatens to stop them from entering America. Is Mexico their only hope?


A Modern Twist on a Traditional Hawaiian Dish

Written by Retna Arun

Upon entering Atlantic Poké (poh-KAY), a three-and-a-half-month-old fast casual restaurant located in Lakeway Commons in Shrewsbury, the familiar and comforting aroma of sushi and fresh seafood welcomes you. Poké is originally a Hawaiian meal consisting of sliced raw fish but is nowadays known for being trendy and healthy deconstructed sushi in a bowl. Customers walk up to the counter and start “[their] own fun food adventure,” as Michael Tomaiolo, the founder, advertises on the Atlantic Poké website. This is Tomaiolo’s first restaurant, though he does have a background in sales and advertising and has always had a passion for cooking; he competed in MasterChef eight years ago. To start, customers choose a base: either sushi white rice, brown rice, or mixed greens. Next, customers are able to select from a selection of seventeen different add-ins including everything from cucumbers to masago. This restaurant has been celebrated for its fresh fish but besides tuna, salmon, and shrimp, they also offer chicken and organic vegan tofu to add to the poké bowl. For additional flavor, customers can opt to top their bowl with some of five sauces, made with soy sauce or mayonnaise bases, and with panko or sesame. All together, there are more than seventeen billion possible different poké bowls a customer can create at Atlantic Poké! Additionally, there are nine signature menu items that one can choose instead of customizing their own poké bowl. I ordered sushi rice, salmon, shrimp, seaweed, scallions, cucumbers, crab salad, avocado, spicy mayo and panko. I was not disappointed. The bowl tastes like sushi — fresh, crisp, salty, and spicy, but the portion size is probably equivalent to around fifteen sushis. Atlantic Poké serves delicious, yet simple food and I already want to go back!


Customers can customize their own poké bowl at Atlantic Poké by choosing from a variety of bases, add-ins, proteins, sauces, and toppings. 


The interior of Atlantic Poké is clean and modern, with tones of blue and white.


Who is Trump’s New National Security Advisor and What Can We Expect From Him?

Written by David Lee

One of the latest departures from the Trump Administration is H. R. McMaster, the former national security advisor. He was actually the replacement for disgraced Michael Flynn, who due to lying about meeting with Russians holds the distinct dishonor of being the first official in Trump’s administration to get fired. (At least Flynn received a letter from Trump telling him the news rather than a tweet). The question is, who is now Trump’s new national security advisor? The answer is John Bolton. With his impressive moustache, he looks like a man fit for his job. But is he really qualified or is he just another one of those all talk but no action people? Surprisingly, he is more than qualified for his position, but his strong biases could pave the way for massive upheavals in American foreign policy, with consequences that could lead to war.To start off, John Bolton has the political ability and experience to put Donald Trump’s policies in action. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen. A Politico article states that Bolton is already well-known amongst politicians. The moustache is one defining factor of him, but his most distinctive trait is his persuasiveness. Bolton has preached his views since the late 1990s on nearly every major American foreign action, from the Iraq War to the Iran nuclear plan. Some credit him partially for helping the Iraq War happen. So what makes him “better” than McMaster? NPR writes that McMaster contributed heavily in making the America First plan and also translated much of Trump’s proposals into workable policy. Unfortunately, he was more of a behind the scenes guy. Although he could write good legislation, his efforts would be for naught if he couldn’t pass it. This is what Bolton promises to bring to the table. The concerns start with Trump’s policies themselves. The border wall is still mired in political argument and other plans have been shot down by Congress. If Bolton performs to his full capacity, American allies and rivals who previously laughed at Trump may now have to take him seriously.Of course, with Bolton, American foreign diplomacy is in for a wild ride. Obviously, the rift between America and our ally Mexico over the border wall is worrying. Bolton, with strong convictions not unlike Trump, could shake up relationships with other countries like what is happening with Mexico. According to The Independent, Bolton, who kept a defused grenade as a desk ornament during his tenure under President Bush, has a strong hatred for the United Nations. As he quote-unquote said in 1994, “There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that’s the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along.” He also said that if the UN building lost 10 stories, no one would notice. While someone like Trump may agree with Bolton that the United Nations is unnecessary, others (namely, other members of the UN) will probably take offense. As Bolton’s role requires interaction with other foreign powers, he may not be the best choice for someone who can ensure diplomatic peace. In fact, during times of crisis, Bolton is prone to go in guns blazing. In an interview with the Seattle Times, four-star general Barry McCaffrey said, “Ambassador Bolton does not understand the terrible uncertainty that accompanies the use of our massive U.S. military power to deal preemptively with national-security threats.” This could potentially put US soldiers in tricky positions and cause unnecessary violence.What this means is that John Bolton could spark an all-out war. The New York Times reports that Bolton had been a strong advocate to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal before it got too strong. It’s been some time since he said that, but if he decides that sending a nuke to North Korea is still viable (or something that will protect American national security), then North Korea could retaliate. According to CNN, if North Korea’s claims (among which is that they can bomb American interests like Guam and even the mainland itself) are even partially true, America is in huge trouble. However, war takes time and effort to instigate properly and it is usually never an easy option, which is why even with Bolton, war is unlikely. Let’s hope it stays that way.While John Bolton may seem like another official coming and going through the Trump administration, he’s actually got some skills that will make him a formidable and effective national security advisor, but with his bellicose, loose-cannon attitude, America could be thrown in the wrong direction.

Future House: The Next Big Genre

Written by Tanner Walling

The past several years have seen pop music being taken over by future bass, a subgenre of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) characterized by soft synthesizers, lightning-fast hi-hats created through the use of drum machines, and a “twinkling” sound that made the genre a favorite of streaming and the radio alike. First popularized by The Chainsmokers and Flume, the genre caught steam quickly in 2016 and soon seemingly every artist was adapting this style of music into their songs. However, just like tropical house before it, future bass was soon overdone and started to die out, presenting an opportunity for a new genre to take over music. Enter: future house.Future house is a relatively new genre, born in the United Kingdom in the middle of the 2010s. The genre captures a similar summer-like sound that first popularized future bass, but that’s where the similarities stop. The genre’s drops often have a metallic, bass-heavy sound. Whereas future bass had smoother, more soft-sounding drops, future house is notorious for high-energy drops that sound hard and fast. Featuring modulated bass lines, edited vocals, and a synthesizer-laden build-up and drop the genre posses a kind of tangible energy, excitement, and emotion.Future house, also known as future bounce, was first popularized by Oliver Heldens, a Dutch DJ and producer yet to see crossover success in the American market but who is incredibly popular overseas. In June 2014, Heldens released “Gecko (Overdrive)”, a song that would prove monumental in establishing the genre. The song shot to the number one spot on the UK’s Official Charts (which track the most popular songs overall) and has accrued over a hundred and twenty million streams on Spotify. He followed up with another hit, titled “Up All Night (Koala)”, in December of the same year. The song was another #1 hit in the UK and established Heldens as a pioneer of future house.In 2016, he released “The Right Song” with Tiësto and Natalie La Rose, which reached the number 39 spot on the UK’s Official Charts and garnered nearly a hundred million streams. This song proved that, even years later, there was still a craving for future house even if it was somewhat of an underground genre at that point.In 2017, a mostly unknown producer arrived on the EDM scene. Thijs Westbroek, known as Brooks, had been producing for years since the release of his first single, “Get Down”. After remixing fellow Dutchman Martin Garrix’s smash hit Scared to be Lonely, the remix amassed an impressive fifteen million streams and caught the attention of Garrix himself, who had also received an email from Brooks with an upcoming track. Likely seeing much of himself in the young DJ, who was of a similar age and style of Garrix, Garrix took him under his wing and created “Byte” with him. Released in April of 2017, Byte became a huge streaming success with almost thirty million streams on Spotify and a staggering eighty-five million views on its music video.With the future house proven to be capable of garnering a massive audience, Brooks got to work with Martin Garrix and David Guetta on his biggest hit so far, “Like I Do”. The song exploded in popularity, climbing up the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart, and catapulted Brooks into the Top 100 most streamed artists on Spotify due to its huge success there. Rapidly headed toward a hundred million streams in less than two months, Brooks has proved that future house is in huge demand and the right songs can become big hits.Only time will tell but it seems that future house could be the way of the future in terms of rising genres. With so many successes within the genre, it seems to be only a matter of time before future house becomes mainstream. As The Chainsmokers showed with their first future bass hit “Roses”, all it takes is one artist to make a genre a trend: and future house looks like it just might be that next trend.“Like I Do” has been one of the biggest hits in the future house genre, with 71,268,057 streams on Spotify as of this writing.

Black Panther- A Review

Written by Tara Kaul

On February sixteenth, the iconic Marvel film, Black Panther, was released. The excitement and buildup to this movie in America had been absolutely enormous, and I won’t be ashamed to admit that I was a part of the crowd, counting the days until the third Friday of February. The days after its release, millions of viewers flocked to the movie theaters- but did the movie generally satisfy the audience who had been patiently waiting for so long?

I believe the answer is a resounding yes. Black Panther was an amazing experience, having a hugely talented cast and an outstanding technical crew which really made this movie come alive. However, more than being the first Marvel film that was released in 2018, Black Panther really made history by being the first Marvel Movie to have an all African-American cast. The movie itself helped exhibit the culture of Africa, and most of the cast spoke in an African accent.That’s what made this movie different and exciting as in the past, Marvel movies have tried to assemble a diverse cast and failed. So as expected, many were surprised and excited to see this culturally ambiguous film.  

The society represented in the film showed men and women treated equally. The army was comprised of all women soldiers who were trained to protect their king- a pathbreaking diversion from the cliched and stereotypical stories Hollywood churns out every few months. Instead of portraying women as weak, they were seen as powerful, strong soldiers- exactly the type of role models that should be created by the film industry for little girls.

The story takes place in a fictional country in Africa named Wakanda. The people there are shown to use an exotic, special mineral called Vibranium to create advanced technology that helps them in their day-to-day life. Their newly coronated king, T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, is ready to take the responsibilities as ruler of Wakanda and as the protector of his country as the Black Panther. He is the ruler of Wakanda who wears a suit made of Vibranium which gives him special abilities allowing him to protect his nation and its secrets. In the movie, a man named Ulysses Klaue, played by Andy Serkis, wants to steal this precious mineral, with the intent of making weapons and sharing its existence with the world. He teams up with Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, to sneak into the kingdom of Wakanda. Killmonger, however, has different plans, abandoning Klaue and attempting to take over the throne for himself to avenge his father’s murder. As the plot thickens, new conflicts and twists play out and the Black Panther is forced to make some difficult decisions that are aimed for the eventual betterment of his people.

With a solid 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and widespread critical acclaim, Black Panther has made more than a billion dollars only a month and a half since its release. Widely agreed to be one of the best Marvel movies ever made, its global popularity is spreading like wildfire. For Marvel fans and adventure loving enthusiasts or just the regular moviegoer, I would most definitely recommend this film.

IMG_0741.jpgMarvel’s Black Panther is a landmark movie, featuring an all African-American cast and defying gender stereotypes set by the movie industry. 

Democrats Are Primed For A Superb 2018, But California Shows That Could All Change

Written by David Lee

Democrats and their supporters are entering 2018 with smiles on their faces. The first year of Trump’s presidency was fraught with controversies, conflicts, firings and tons of pandemonium that inevitably hurt the Republicans. Also, surprising early losses in 2017 (for example, Doug Jones beating Republican Roy Moore in Alabama), give the Democrats a good chance for this year’s senatorial elections. The Democrats are primed to retake their majority in the Senate, which gives them more ability to challenge President Trump … that is if they make the right moves. An unprecedented decision in California, endorsing unknown candidate Kevin de Leon over incumbent senator Dianne Feinstein, demonstrates that everything could possibly go wrong.

One of the reasons why this decision is questionable is the fact that de Leon is unlikely to win the Democrat primaries in California, even despite the endorsement. The Los Angeles Times reports that Feinstein was the obvious choice because of her superiority in practically every aspect: incumbent senator with a good reputation, massive funding due to her status (reportedly 10 million dollars over de Leon’s 360 thousand) and great support from the public. In fact, a 2017 poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows Feinstein has a 46% approval rating to trump de Leon’s 17%. 45% of those polled did not even know who de Leon was. Even though the Californian Democrat Party decides who should be endorsed, the public are the people who actually vote. Endorsing de Leon could be a waste of time and resources, becoming a political blunder for the Democrat Party.

Another worry is that the inner turmoil between the government in terms of support could mean division instead of necessary unity. This could allow Republicans to strike back. A Bloomberg article from February highlights that de Leon rose to prominence through recent inflammatory statements against Feinstein. For example, de Leon accused Feinstein of buying votes with her 10 million dollar budget. He also blamed her of being accepting of Trump, citing a quote from 2017 where she said that with patience, Trump could improve in his leadership. This harmless comment had been lambasted by Californians, who overwhelmingly voted against Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, Feinstein stuck to the more conventional but quiet route, laying out solid plans for the future like better gun control (something de Leon has not included in his promises).

It is evident that much of the Democrat Party in California listened to the louder de Leon when making their endorsement. However, given two strong candidates, there is bound to be disagreement between the Democrats and the voters. Unfortunately, this means that without a clear leader, the future of the Californian Democrats is slightly blurry. Even though the New York Times reports that no strong Republican candidate has entered the senatorial race so far, endorsing de Leon could cause enough conflict to buy the Republicans some time. However, a deeper implication is that there is unsteadiness in the Californian Democrat Party itself, in terms of ideologies and support (some like Feinstein, some like de Leon), which could be a long-term issue.

Although Democrats can potentially make 2018 their year, what happened in California shows that can all change with one potentially wrong move. Although Democrats could score, the political ride will still be bumpy.

Democrats have better odds this year, but Republicans can still score victories if the Democrats aren’t careful.