Regardless of what happens out on the football field, academic prowess and
extra-curricular involvement are areas in which we at NT tend to think we’ve
got Northern beat. But, in a recent interview with a group of Northern’s Gifted
students, I discovered that they are just as motivated, hard-working, and
involved as we are.
“I take six courses and get roughly two and a half hours of homework a night,” says one of Northern’s Grade 12 students. “I take an AP class. That’s not an ‘easy workload’. Courses at Northern are rigorous enough to keep us very busy. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say my stress level about grades and academic performance falls sometime
between a 7 and an 8”.
Another Northern senior chimed in, “I have band practice two to three times a week after school, on top of my schoolwork. Even though my band isn’t a ‘school’ extra-curricular activity, it still takes commitment”. He went on to remark that many of his peers at school were heavily involved in endeavours, like band rehearsals or dance productions, that do not involve the school but require dedication.
Mr. Butler, a history teacher at NT who taught at Northern two years ago, agrees that the workload in academic classes given to Northern students is similar to that of NT students. “The AP classes and Gifted students actually have more work than [students at NT],” he says.
It sounds familiar, doesn’t it, the pressure to perform academically and the demanding extra-curricular activities? Not only do these denizens of Northern face similar pressures as us, but their math tests are at a comparable difficulty level. A math teacher at NT judged two math tests from Northern’s math department, one from the Grade 12 AP Calculus course and one from their academic Grade 12 Advanced Functions test. He remarked that the AP Calculus test was at the same level as most of our academic level calculus tests, and that the Advanced Functions test actually featured
questions that were a little harder than many found on tests for the same
course at NT.
When it comes to English, on the other hand, an essay that earned an 88 in reading and an 87 in writing over at Northern was awarded a B from a NT English teacher. The essay was marked using the same rubric. Mr. Zohar, head of the NT English department, noted that there is sometimes significant difference in the qualities he looks for in an essay and what teachers at other schools Graffiti has investigated look for. “High school is about learning to learn,” he concludes.
When asked about how fairly they think they are being marked, my Northern interviewees replied that they feel marking is reasonable. Most of the time. They, however, have heard the rumours buzzing around that marking is significantly less rigorous at certain private schools. See our coverage of several Toronto private schools to judge for yourself.