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Buena Speaks

The Student News Site of Buena High School

Buena Speaks

A program we should sink, not study

Is StudySync really beneficial or just boring?
The homepage to a website that every VUSD high schooler encounters.
Avery Buehner
The homepage to a website that every VUSD high schooler encounters.

Imagine sitting down, opening your Chromebook, reading a small excerpt, answering two types of questions, taking a quiz, and then writing a paragraph. Now imagine doing that over and over again, every single 180 days of the school year. That’s how it feels to use the program StudySync.

StudySync, a McGraw Hill Curriculum was adopted by the School Board of VUSD in March 2017. The curriculum includes vocabulary, reading an excerpt of a text, taking a quiz, completing skills lessons,  answering “think” and “focus” questions and, finally, writing a paragraph response. This is in some ways a good system but after completing it again and again, it becomes mind-numbingly boring.

“StudySync is our English ELA curriculum… it is the core curriculum” English honors/AP teacher Antoinette Perez said. As a result, every student will have to use it at some point in their education at VUSD.

“It meets standards, it teaches about different styles of writing, it’s exposing students to various genres, and each thematic unit follows and focuses on different skills that [eventually] add on to one another” said Perez, when asked why we use the program. Although it does meet standards, it is, in my view, extremely dull and disconnecting.

There is currently an eight year contract requiring teachers to use the program. The question is, when this contract ends, should we explore possibly better programs, or stick with what we know. Is StudySync actually beneficial in our classrooms, or is it just a repetitive, uncreative program which takes a textbook and puts it online?

My view is the curriculum does not create space for deeper thinking, and it can feel extremely cookie-cutter. Teachers also notice this problem.

“StudySync’s structure can feel highly repetitive at times which for some students is what they need, it’s great, it’s beneficial,” honors English teacher Molly Ensminger said.“For others, it borders on rudimentary,  too basic and… [it feels like] it gets boring, it’s not rigorous, and it’s not challenging.”

It’s difficult to feel involved and take a liking to English when it’s so basic and textbook, literally. English should feel engaging, and creative, a place to boost your critical thinking skills. None of these things can take place using StudySync alone.

“I think that StudySync offers a lot of repetition, which can be good, but I find that there’s a way to teach the same skill with different approaches,” Jessica Castaneda, English teacher, said. Castaneda explains how StudySync does the same things every time.

Because the program is so basic, many feel disheartened. The argument can be made that there is no program that could please all students, StudySync specifically lacks in interactiveness and the ability to make most students feel interested.

Things like Socratic seminars, One Pagers and skits are activities that Castaneda easily named off the top of her head. “Those are the kinds of things that I think are engaging to students and… StudySync’s curriculum does not provide that”.

The structure of the program is so structured and fundamental, it leaves us students wanting more, feeling bored, and taking a disinterest in English as a whole. This program makes it so that there is no deeper thinking, personal connection or imaginative decision making involved. 

Perez sees a different side of this,  “I think it’s about how teachers approach it.. how they sell it to students,” Perez said,

It’s not about what I teach, it’s about how I teach,”

— Antoinette Perez

Perez went on to explain how great the program is because the teachers have a lot that they can do to make it engaging. But, a district-adopted program should not have to be a chore for teachers to make it enjoyable for students, especially since a lot of them have busy lives outside of school. 

The problem is, if teachers do not have time to make StudySync more than it is on the surface level, it can’t be successful. Most have other things on their plate that make them unable to personalize the program. 

StudySync has the potential to be a good program with some help, but as of right now, this is not possible for all teachers, which means it is not possible for all students. The program being so uninteresting is not something we can blame on anyone but the program itself. 

With the end of the eight year contract coming up, it might be time to turn over a new leaf and find a different program that leads to more creative thinking. This way, the students will be engaged and the teachers can add to the lessons without completely having to redo it. Let’s make that change. 


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About the Contributor
Avery Buehner, Staff Writer
Avery is a sophomore and this in her first year at Buena Speaks. When she is not writing poetry or articles while listening to Billy Joel, she is in the pool playing water polo. She has played for 8 years, competed nationally and internationally, and continues to play on the high school team.

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    Naima DickersonNov 1, 2023 at 12:47 pm

    So well-spoken! You’re a boss Avery