The Wildcat Tribune

DVHS stereotype of academic success is untrue

Skyler Spears and Vikram Balasubramanian

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DVHS: home of the Wildcats, AP classes, the highest SRVUSD standardized testing scores and a SAT average many points above the national average. But within the school’s walls, students know that everyone isn’t so high achieving; an ordinary student doesn’t take five weighted classes or get straight “A”s all of high school. Dougherty’s image as a whole suffers until the only thing associated with Dougherty is academic greatness. While it sounds amazing to be in an “academically great” school, the standards imposed by a few outliers cause unrealistic expectations for students and lower student body happiness.

The unexpected apathy students harbor towards school spirit, leadership and other aspects of student life most schools embody is surprising. The contradiction is how students — in the right situation, such as football games and rallies — are pumped with school spirit. But any student knows the lack of enthusiasm students feel towards the school itself.

Why do people hate Dougherty, and the very idea of it? The root cause is the exemplary ideal of a perfect “Dougherty Student”. That unobtainable GPA, active involvement in many clubs and sports, (as one student said) “clutching” the SAT and a glamorous lack of sleep. The constant need for validation through awards, backhanded self-deprecation and obsession with peer-to-peer competition is embodied in this “Dougherty Student”. No one can achieve this setup. But somehow, it’s the stereotype of every DVHS student. When one or two students pull it off, it becomes the perceived norm.

The Tribune analyzed AP Exam data, which is public record. We compiled data from the top ten school districts socioeconomically similar to San Ramon Valley Unified School District, and compared it to Dougherty’s result (view our analysis on thwildcattribune.com). The data shows that DVHS’ scores are not statistically different from the scores of other schools with similar median household incomes. Therefore, it must be Dougherty culture giving it the stigma that DVHS is extremely academically achieving. In truth, only a small percentage of DVHS is like this.

Meet Mia (name changed for privacy).  We don’t blame her for the “Dougherty Student” stereotype, but she is an example of the contributed stigma. She’s a sophomore “legend”, by DVHS’s crazy standards. Meet the mathlete, AP Chem, AP Euro and Calc BC student, with a perfect unweighted GPA

What she is doing is admirable and impressive, and a large percentage of the population wants to be like her. The problem lies in where she places herself on the DVHS bell curve.

When asked how she thinks she compares to other Dougherty students, Mia replied, “I am average … I actually think this is my rank in DVHS population.”

Besides her overwhelming modesty, she actually believes DVHS is like this. This is not naive, as it is what the school is portrayed to be by everyone.

Another aspect of the “average” in comparison to the standard “Dougherty student” stereotype shows itself in the way some teachers grade. Teachers often grade with “A”s meaning that a student exceeds expectations, yet at this school, “A”s are overwhelming average. We can infer this from the high number of 4’s and 5’s on AP tests taken in 2015 at Dougherty. A study conducted by College Board found a direct correlation between students who score well on AP tests and high school GPA. An analysis of AP Exam data, which is public, found that nearly 70 percent of students receive 4s and 5s.  One teacher, who for sake of privacy will not be named, told the class that they are graded with a “C” being the standard. Students are negatively driven to pursue a culture of grades only, leading to this stereotype.

The academically-achieving environment should be expected to produce a ethical student body, but instead, cheating runs rampant at DVHS.

Truthfully, a driver of this stereotype is the triage students have to do to their grades. Students no longer value learning, but rather only the grade itself. It’s a sad, but necessary truth to survive. It has become a norm to copy worksheets solely to get them done and doing so is viewed as an necessary evil. At some point in time, learning was seen as a privilege and possibly intriguing, but nowadays students are shocked when something remotely interesting comes up. Some students find the right balance of work and play but the competitive environment rips any chance the subject had to actually impact students and replaces it with the ever looming thought of the chance of failure.

One sophomore, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that, “I don’t feel bad cheating, or copying worksheets. It’s not about the merit, but the grade, and I do what I have to do”.

Math Teacher Robert Gendron, who has some of the most stringent anti-cheating procedures in Dougherty, says, “There’s definitely more cheating at DVHS than other schools I’ve worked at, no doubt about it”. He notes that DVHS promotes academic dishonestly, and agreed with an estimate that 90 percent of the student body cheats.

The cheating is driven by the DVHS pressure and stereotype in two ways. Firstly, “A’s” s are standard (as shown in AP data, correlated by College Board study), school is about grades more than learning. Secondly, students are in classes they are not ready for, so they cheat to make up for this.

However, the academic environment may not be the only factor. Mr. Gendron said, “[It is also] parent pressure and cultural pressure … Parent pressure drives them to take classes they’re not ready to take and when they feel they’re not prepared, they cheat to get by.”

Math Teacher Colin O’Haire found that for his class, there was only a 1.34E9 percent chance that all the absences on test days were not statistically different from a normal day’s absences. DVHS is a hotbed for the “test-flu” to grow and spread.

Quite often when students from DV interact with students from other schools they are hit with something along  the line “ You go to DV you must have a 5.0”(despite this being impossible) or even “ Oh, you go to DV, you must be great at math.” (I’m not).

This can be irritating because the truth is that the “Dougherty student” stereotype doesn’t represent the school itself and ultimately prevents DVHS from fitting in.

What ties us to this stereotype? Clearly, everyone hates this about DVHS. Personally, we’d never seen this side in Dougherty — until course selection. Suddenly, AP classes become bragging rights, but the next year they are a death sentence — which, ironically, is bragged about.

So DVHS kids, go out, give a little. In the words of Mr. Gendron, “Get out of Kumon, and go to the park!”

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The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.
DVHS stereotype of academic success is untrue