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The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Essay Students Love to Hate

The CDA is a project with a purpose (and it’s failing)

When the Common District Essay, or CDA, comes around each year, the majority of students still have no clue why they’re writing it. Sure, it’s supposed to accomplish some obscure change within the district, but most just view it as a yearly burden with little to no purpose. Even teachers are often frustrated as it conflicts with their curriculum, and it’s therefore reduced to a mandatory and bland task rather than a learning experience.

The CDA is a yearly Bend-La Pine district essay that’s required for every high schooler in an English class and involves using multiple sources to take a position on a prompt (with room for slight modification). The prompts, which are rarely reviewed or altered, vary by grade and include topics such as survival, First Amendment freedoms, bias and happiness.

So if it’s such a hassle, why do we continue to take it? Torie Withers and Michele Clements, the two Secondary Language Arts Coordinators of the district, helped clear up the purpose behind the mandated essay.

“The CDA was born out of two things: one, that students were required to take the smarter balanced test and there was no standardized prep mechanism for that,” said Clements. “But the other part was that we wanted to start to build a pipeline where teachers are working together so students can benefit from that shared professional knowledge.”

In other words, the CDA is meant to prepare students for testing and build a stronger connection between teachers to encourage the spread of professional knowledge. While this is the proclaimed reason for the CDA, there’s no evidence it’s actually accomplishing its goal. If teachers are rushing through the mandated essay, then its main purpose becomes irrelevant. The lessons students take away from it become unclear, and while many do come away with some semblance of understanding, the majority find little to no benefit from the essay, especially since the district doesn’t clarify its purpose very well. Very few teachers, if any, want to take away valuable time for learning and invest it in the CDA. This “let’s just get it over with” attitude leads students to share the same mindset.

Summit AP Lang teacher, Kelsie Layana, shared her thoughts on the CDA and the problems she experiences with it.

“I believe shared assessments and collaboration are important facets of education. With that being said, I think the CDA has some evolving to do to become more valuable,” said Layana. “Some of the sources that students are asked to read and evaluate feel outdated or repetitive. The suggested pacing of the CDA is 3-5 weeks. For my AP Language classes, I did not find time to fit that in before the exam with my current curriculum.”

Along with teachers finding it difficult to work with, students feel equally lost when preparing for the bland essay. Many students have only a small idea of what the district does with the material, causing a feeling of uncertainty when they go to write it.

“I understand that it is a need and essential to the school’s assessment of students’ learning abilities, but it has become more of a nuisance than a useful device,” said Karli Evans, a Summit senior with four CDAs under her belt.

The majority of students believe the CDA is to assess our abilities—myself included—and this is causing a large misunderstanding in terms of its purpose.

The truth is that while the origins of the CDA might’ve been to promote fairness among students through preparing them for standardized tests and to support and encourage communication between teachers, it isn’t accomplishing its mission any longer. If the district wants to build bridges between teachers and staff around Bend-La Pine, there are more proactive ways to accomplish this such as creating conferences for teachers to reflect on past curriculums and modify current ones, standardize a feedback system among staff and more.

The district has invested a lot of time into creating and evolving the CDA into the essay it is today in an attempt to create a path that can help prepare students. Truthfully, however, this ‘pathway’ does little to help us grow due to the low effort applied and speed which it’s often approached with. Overall, a strong effort has been put into this district-mandated essay, but it’s still not what should be called well-made.

A solution to this issue doesn’t have to be something as big or ambitious as another form of the mandated essay. It could be as simple as just encouraging communication between students and teachers, and between teachers and staff—all to improve the spread of professional guidance and support what the students need most.

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About the Contributor
Scarlett Tucker
Scarlett Tucker, Staff Writer

When staff writer Scarlett Tucker isn’t doing ballet, she can often be found reading a new book, drawing to her heart’s content, and procrastinating on any and all work. With nearly no free time to spare, you can find her up and moving all time, even late into the night. A steadfast Swiftie, she often spends hours (that she doesn’t have time to spend) clowning around with other Swifties and listening to Taylor Swift, mainly her alternative album Folklore. She’s extremely excited to learn how to enhance the few writing skills she has, and work with a team of people who also enjoy writing.

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