Standardized Tests, No Longer the Standard

Standardized Tests, No Longer the Standard

by Alexandra Levy, staff writer

SEPTEMBER 2021 – High school students are no longer required to submit SAT and ACT scores to two-thirds of American universities, according to the Washington Post.

Throughout the pandemic, schools and standardized testing facilities were closed. As a result, numerous colleges, including all eight Ivy League universities, will not require any standardized testing scores for freshman 2021-2022 applicants. 

ACT preparation books are an additional resource made for students to take practice tests and improve their scores through studying and repetition. There are many different books and book vendors available, however, the official books are produced by the ACT itself and are available nationwide. Photo by Alexandra Levy, staff writer.

This year, standardized tests have resumed, but various schools have permanently implemented test score-optional applications. 

“Standardized tests aren’t a good measure of authentic learning,” said Mrs. Whitney Mihalik, an eleventh grade history teacher at Bio-Med Science Academy. “You cannot necessarily assume that the test is measuring exactly what a teacher taught. Different teachers teach at different levels.” 

Mihalik has assisted students with ACT preparation for seven years. She agreed with the universities’ decision. 

“Test-optional applications gave the graduating classes of 2020-2021 an opportunity to go to some of the colleges that previously would not have accepted them due to an ACT score,” said Mihalik. “The test is literally built to trick you. And so some of my smartest students don’t do well on the ACT because they just don’t test well. You know, some tests really just measure whether or not you can handle anxiety and testing.”

Senior Marianna Atanmo added, “I love test-optional. I applied test-optional. I think it’s the perfect opportunity for someone who doesn’t do well to not be evaluated by something that truly represents them, but if you do score well I like that you have the option to report it because it can open more doors to getting scholarships or a better financial aid package.”

SAT and ACT tutor Virginia Reed commented, “I think test-optional is a benefit for most students, not just first-generation students. Even though colleges and universities may say ‘test optional,’ they are still using other tools to assess a student’s ability to succeed.”

Reed has worked with students through the past three revisions of the SAT. She runs a self-owned business, giving her the flexibility she needs in order to provide multiple education services. The services she offers include but are not limited to: assisting students in college essays, tutoring young students, teaching for organizations, and she has been court-appointed to tutor students.

The SAT and ACT have been mandated in college applications since 1946, reported Time magazine. The pandemic may have popularized test-optional applications, but the tests’ ability to measure student’s intelligence has been under question for years. The Public Broadcasting Service reported in Sept. of 2019, that 1,050 colleges and universities had already implemented test-optional applications.

Mihalik argued, “I don’t think that universities would have gone test-optional without the pandemic because the College Board is a large educational monopoly that has a really strong hold on the education system in America.”

Reed agreed and explained, “Even during COVID, colleges and universities still required SAT or ACT scores to enter a specific academic major or apply for a specific academic scholarship. Top tiered institutions follow a set of guidelines such as accepting students in the top 10% of their class, requiring a 3.9 + GPA and a higher-than-average SAT or ACT score, and recognizing outstanding extracurricular activities.”

The College Board was founded in 1899 and released the SAT in 1926. The test was created by eugenicist (study of human selective breeding for desired traits) and creator of the modern IQ test, Carl Brigham. Brigham told the National Education Association that creating the standardized test was in the name of “upholding the racial caste system.”

Since its formation, standardized testing has continuously put people of color and low-income students at a significant disadvantage in college applications, leading to less diversity in higher education. Preparation for the SAT and ACT is an expensive luxury for students; the Princeton Review charges up to $4,500 for their SAT prep system. Moreover, the Teacher College Press confirmed, the scores show a greater correlation to the parent of a student’s income than the student’s ability to learn. 

Mihalik concluded, “Without standardized testing, I think we’ll have a more diverse body of higher educated students. Standardized testing generally affects or hurts people of color and students in poverty. Those students already have things that keep them from going to college. And then the ACT is just another one of those stepping stones. By getting rid of testing for a lot of schools, I think more of those students will get to go to colleges that they wouldn’t have before. And so we might have more people who are students of color [and]more people who have been in poverty that now have a new opportunity for higher education.”


The Impact of 9/11, 20 Years Later

The Impact of 9/11, 20 Years Later

by Havann Brown, editor-in-chief

Flags displayed outside of Northeast Ohio Medical University. Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all U.S. and Ohio flags be flown at half-staff at all public buildings and grounds throughout the state in honor of those killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Photo by Havann Brown, editor-in-chief.

SEPTEMBER 2021 – Twenty years have passed since the attacks on September 11, 2001, an event that devastated the nation and forever changed the lives of many. Nearly 3,000 people were killed, and another 6,000 people were injured. Sept. 11 has become a great divider amongst generations, separating those who witnessed it from those who grew up during the aftermath.

The students of Bio-Med Science Academy were not alive on 9/11. However, Kadence Papantonakis, a sophomore, has a personal connection to that day: her mom, Trisha Shaffer Papantonakis.

“If the plane had crashed a couple of blocks over, my whole family would not be here. My siblings and I would not exist,” Papantonakis said. In 2001, her mom was attending college to study criminal justice and interning at the Pentagon.

“That morning she didn’t have breakfast so she went to ask someone to take her to get some food and that’s when she heard a big crash. Once the planes hit, everyone evacuated and no one was completely sure what happened until they saw the damage,” Papantonakis said when describing her mom’s experience.

Memories of that day remain vivid for many people 20 years later. Two Bio-Med teachers reflected on their whereabouts when they received the news of the attacks.

Mrs. Whitney Mihalik, the eleventh grade college, career, and civics teacher, was 13 years old on 9/11. “It was a week before my 14th birthday, and I was in third period honors social studies,” she said.

“My teacher told us to pay attention to what’s happening. So that was the first time I decided to pay attention to what was going on in the world because I didn’t know who Osma Bin-Laden was. I didn’t know where Afghanistan or Iraq was. But, after that, you didn’t have a choice – everyone knew,” she continued.

Mihalik stated, “After 9/11, everyone in America became super patriotic, which is a good thing. I think patriotism is fine but then that patriotism shifts into some scary nationalism, which I think we are seeing today. With that, comes a shift in what’s acceptable and what Americans should look like. This is my seventh year as a teacher and when teaching history, having that conversation is tricky because I have students and their parents who have opinions on what I should be teaching.”

Ms. Tracie McFerren, the sophomore English teacher, worked as the art director for Cleveland/Akron Family Magazine at the time. “The plane that ended up going down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania actually flew over Cleveland airspace,” she said. “There were rumors that there was also a suspicious plane at Cleveland Hopkins Airport that was being held or detained, so they evacuated everyone in downtown Cleveland… I remember driving home and thinking, ‘the world is never going to be the same again.’”

When asked if she felt students were becoming less aware of the effects the 9/11 attacks had on the United States, McFerren replied, “Students know about it, they’ve heard about it, they know what happened, and all of the basic facts, but it is hard to get across the feelings on that day. You can describe how you felt and what you saw, but it is hard to express to someone who didn’t experience the same moment of shock that we all felt.”

A steel beam from the World Trade Center is displayed as part of a 9/11 memorial outside of the Tallmadge Fire Department. Fragments of the Twin Towers were donated to police and fire departments to create memorials all across the United States. Photo provided by Ms. Jenna Bates.

Members of Generation Z, those born after 1996, have only hazy memories of the 9/11 attacks or learned about them secondhand.

Logan Hoskinson, a freshman, learned about the attacks in school. “I was in third grade in my social studies class when my teacher decided to talk about 9/11 finally, but they didn’t say very much. We watched three YouTube videos about it, and that was mainly it,” he said.

Senior Ian Ruehr stated, “If it came up in conversation in class, we would talk about it for a little bit, but it was never something that we really went out of our way to talk about.”

Growing up in a post-9/11 world meant developments like stricter airport security, extreme patriotism, or the U.S. war on terror have always been a reality for students.

Alex Hale-Hartman, a senior, felt that after the attacks, American ideals were imposed upon everyone, furthering Islamophobic sentiment. “When I read up on 9/11, I become very grossed out and disgusted by democracy spreaders who wanted to tear down other people’s way of living just because they thought ours was better, ” said Hale-Hartman. “People are extremely closed off to non-western points of view,” he remarked.

Ruehr stated, “When I was younger, I always heard about the Taliban and ISIS and all of the terrorist attacks. I have definitely grown, and my world views have improved, but those early years definitely set a groundwork that I’m still working to fix.”

9/11 was the defining moment for many individuals, impacting their hopes, fears, and futures. Both consciously and unconsciously, the events of 9/11 have shaped the way society is viewed, even for the younger generations that did not live through it.

general Uncategorized

Disorders, Not Diets

Disorders, Not Diets

by Mallory Butcher, staff writer

SEPTEMBER 2021 – Guilty. Empty. Fat. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, the fear of obesity weighs on four out of every five children as young as 10 years old. About one in every 10 people suffer from some form of eating disorder. Teens especially are one of the hardest-hit groups by these problems.

Eating disorders are characterized by disruptive behaviors while eating that cause some form of distress. An infamous example is anorexia nervosa, a disorder where one starves themselves and causes extreme weight loss. Eating disorders are often co-diagnosed with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or other anxiety disorders.

 A jar of peanut butter and a bunch of bananas sit on a scale next to a glass plate holding cucumbers, bread, an apple, and a cheese stick. People with eating disorders often weigh their food to get exact proportions or keep track of their own weight. Photo by Mallory Butcher, staff writer.

“I always had an issue with my body image,” Sophomore Alyssa Swidas said. “I just wouldn’t eat at all, and then sometimes, I would be so starving I’d just go sneak in the cabinets and eat everything. Like I’d just get so hungry.” 

In her early teen years, Swidas developed bulimia nervosa, a condition where one will eat an abnormally large amount of food, only to then compensate for the caloric intake using various means. This compensation can include self-induced vomiting, strenuous physical activity, laxatives, fasting, or a combination of the above. These behaviors are also called bingeing and purging.

Swidas also brought up that while she was untreated, her issues with anxiety and depression spiked. She commented, “I would get sick and nauseous and shaky and I would get like really — I didn’t know how to act, I was, like, bipolar, tired, and then I was wide awake.” 

Another student, Sophomore Trever Baldwin, also struggled with eating disorders, but in his family, he was not alone.

“I was very young at the time,” Baldwin recalled from memories of his older sister. “I did notice that she’d be gone for some periods of time and that her toothbrushes were really, like smashed down because she would throw up.” 

Baldwin’s sister, similar to Swidas, developed bulimia nervosa in her early teen years. People with this condition may brush their teeth aggressively to mask the smell of vomit from their breath.

Baldwin’s own condition, pica, started at a young age when he would eat things such as but not limited to paper. Pica is a condition that causes a person to crave certain things, even though those items are not food. Pica is suspected to be caused by a nutrient deficiency, but stress is another factor in development. 

According to Baldwin, sawdust, wood, pencils, and materials similar to glass are often targeted by those with pica. He explained, “Particularly with sawdust and stuff, it’s really bad for your digestive system, and something that I had experienced when I was littler was popsicle sticks. You chew them up, and they get strainy and splintery, and you can chew them up more and they turn into a paste. That ends up splintering your insides, and you get a really bad stomach ache, and it just lasts for days.” 

As mental health information becomes widespread, those with conditions can more quickly identify symptoms and find help. However, according to both students, education on the topic scales from lacking to non-existent.

“Not even a little bit,” laughed Baldwin when asked about any education he had received. “I knew about pica, and I didn’t know why I had it or what it was, and I knew my sister had something but nobody ever told me what was going on with other people and myself.” 

Symptoms vary from disorder to disorder, and each person has had their own experiences, but some of the most common symptoms include vitamin deficiency, major weight loss, dizziness or fainting, heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux, anxiety, depression, irritability, exhaustion, fear of/embarrassment eating with others, dental or bone decay, and sessions of rapid, uncomfortable eating. If you or someone you know has shown these symptoms, talk to a doctor, a dietitian, a therapist, or a medical professional right away.

Healing in the aftermath of an eating disorder can pose difficulty to many attempting the process. Activities one might find mundane, such as having breakfast or eating out can induce anxiety. For many, eating with others can become a challenge. Those recovering can experience relapses or temptations to do so. 

Swidas concluded, “It’s hard to keep on top of, you know, eating on a schedule because I’d avoid it, but I started really small by eating something small normally like a granola bar and then going to lunch and eating a little bit and then, you know, eating at a good time every day, like at the same time, instead of avoiding, you know, of course.”

To those currently struggling or attempting recovery from an eating disorder, help can be found contacting the National Eating Disorders Association and the Hopeline Network.

general Health

Farm to Fair, A Student Spotlight

Farm to Fair, A Student Spotlight

by Jesse Mitchell, staff writer

SEPTEMBER 2021 – The Portage County Fair ran from August 25 to August 29 and provided Portage County residents with the opportunity to show animals through a nonprofit organization called 4H. Nate Swift, a 10th-grader, sold ducks there, just as he has for the past eight-years. Swift first became interested in 4-H and showing animals because of his siblings’ previous involvement and the prospect of earning money. 

Swift’s work with his 4H club has left even more prepared and confident in his animals and showing them at the fair. The club Swift is a part of is 4H, an organization devoted to working with children across America. 4H promotes learning in science, healthy living, and community engagement, and stands for “head, heart, hands and health,” according to the 4H website.

Nate Swift’s duck was displayed at the Portage County Fair, waiting to be bid on and sold to a willing buyer. Photo provided by Morgan Whiteman, 10th-grader

Last year, Swift began raising his two-month old ducks through 4H, to have the animals ready in August for the fair. Size and muscle development are Swift’s biggest criteria to look for when bringing an animal to the fair. He identifies prime candidates to show from the way animals walk and look and the feeling of their muscle tissue. 

Swift has, in years past, shown other animals like lambs, however, this year he chose ducks, citing the current COVID-19 pandemic as cause for concern. Swift stated, “Because of the uncertainty of the fair, it was harder to know whether or not we could actually raise them [lambs] and take them to the fair, and market prices are down.”

Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, Swift remained excited, and ultimately the pandemic brought change for good.  Swift noticed changes in and around the fair and in his 4-H club, where keeping safe has been a priority. 

Swift said, “From my perspective at the fair … everything is clean and sanitary, compared to years before.” Despite the pandemic, he’s been able to continue meeting with the club, where he gets to work with adults and students of all backgrounds. Part of what Swift enjoys most about his work with his club is getting to work outside and doing community projects with them.

Swift’s work with 4-H has also made him a better student. “I also get many different life skills that many people don’t earn just through school, [such as] communication skills, especially being able to present myself to people and in a professional way,” Swift said, speaking about his growth over the years through 4H. Swift has developed a strong understanding of science and solid presentation and communication skills through 4-H, which has only helped him since transitioning to Bio-Med four years ago when he started as a sixth-grader.

His 4-H club and the Portage Community Fair have contributed to his life in numerous ways. “I would recommend it, but it is hard to start in high school when you’re older, ” Swift said when talking about if he would encourage others to join 4-H. His skills have grown through his work and has helped him to become a better learner and more connected to his community and peers. Swift has enjoyed making money doing his work with 4-H and the impact it has had on him throughout the years.

bio-med journey

New Year, New Staff

New Year, New Staff

by McKenna Burchett, Associate Editor

Kaitlyn Long, the new tenth-grade history teacher (right), and Britany Hickey, the new tenth-grade multimedia and image management teacher left) showed each other videos of their students’ presentations of their new project. Photo by McKenna Burchett, associate editor.

SEPTEMBER 2021 – Bio-Med Science Academy’s staff saw a lot of staffing changes over the summer as ten new teachers joined the campus and five have switched positions.

Among these new teachers is Ms. Sarah Welton, the seventh-grade English teacher. She was a student at Kent State when one of her professors informed Welton of an opening at her daughter’s school, Bio-Med. After Welton sent her resume to Charmayne Polen, Chief Operating Officer and Principal, she was called in for an interview where she was asked about her teaching style. She commented on this, saying, “They called me back since they really liked what I had to say about teaching writing and how I think it should focus on voice and purpose to make it more meaningful.” She said this teaching style  also fits well with master-based learning. 

Welton has prior experience as a student teacher at Stanton Middle School in Kent. The most significant difference she noticed between her previous school and Bio-Med was increased student engagement and freedom.

“I enjoy having more freedom like this, rather than in a traditional setting. It helps students to care more about their education and feel more comfortable in school and being part of the school. I’ve noticed students seem more invested in their learning,” she said. 

Mr. Randy Rininger, former seventh-grade English teacher and current Dean of Students, helped her select a few books, but she is otherwise planning all of her lessons on her own. 

Overall, she’s excited for her future at Bio-Med and stated, “I just really like being here. The seventh-graders are really great. It’s cool to see how excited everyone in this building is to have those new students here and to see more potential coming into the school as the years go on.”

Like Welton, Ms. Kaitlyn Long, the sophomore history teacher, also attended Kent State when her adviser reached out to her to recommend her for an opening in Bio-Med’s seventh grade. After going through the application and interviewing process, she was contacted by Lindsey McLaughlin, Chief Operating Officer and Principal. 

“Mrs. Mclaughlin called me and said, ‘Our tenth grade position opened up, would you want that instead?’ and I said, ‘Yes absolutely,’” Long recalled. “I had done most of my work in high schools, but I would have been okay with teaching either middle or high school.”

Except for her student teaching, Long had no prior experience working as a teacher, so she came in with an open mind. “I was ready to do whatever, to run things how they run things at Bio-Med. I was prepared for anything,” she said.

Since the sophomore team is completely new with the exception of Ms. Tracie McFerran who moved from her previous position on the senior team, many students reported concern for the curriculum and how it will compare to previous years. However, Long viewed this as an opportunity, saying, “We’re all figuring everything out together at the same time. It’s nice that we get a clean slate.” 

Specifically, her history class will be different from last year. “I got access to a folder that [the previous teacher] used, but I’ve elected to not follow it in the same way, because I’ve worked with an eleventh-grade teacher and redesigned how the history classes lined up with each other,” she explained.

Long is looking forward to her future with Bio-Med. “It’s really great to be here. Everyone’s been really welcoming.”

Similarly, Mr. Eric Salmen was an intern for Bio-Med with Kent State University two years ago, helping with summer extension. Bio-Med reached out to him in July of this year, and he accepted the position of senior math teacher since he was intrigued by the school. 

“I know they do a lot of things differently here,” he said. “A lot of it lines up with my core values, especially how I like to grade things based on the mastery scale, as well as PBLs, but I specifically like focusing on pattern recognition and where you can find math in real life, and where you can apply it in real life.”

Salmen held teaching positions at Kent State and University of Mount Union, and is still working at Stark State College as a mathematics adjunct professor. This means teaching at Bio-Med is a difficult yet exciting transition for him. 

“I’ve been a college teacher for seven or eight years, and now I’m going to a high school, so that’s going to be huge. That’s going to be different in a couple different aspects. Though it gives me an edge, since I still work at Stark State, I can provide students resources and tell them how things operate,” he said. 

He began using the flipped classroom teaching style, where he gave students reading material before class and assignments during class, so students have more opportunities to clarify any confusion as they work. Although he still needs to keep teaching somewhat traditionally to prepare students for college, he said the mastery system works well with his new teaching style. 

“While grades are always going to be some sort of component, how much they collaborate with one another and how much they interact with me will definitely play a part. If you are struggling, especially since we have this class time, ask me questions. I am a resource for you,” he said.

Salmen also commented on how his classes now tie into others. “In calculus, a lot of it has physics, and every senior has to take physics, so if they bring those physics applications into calc class, that’s going to exceed mastery since they’re able to apply that knowledge to different disciplines… . That’s one of the things I love, that whole ‘integration: where can you apply it.’” 

He summarized his feelings about the school, saying, “I’m really excited to adapt to how Bio-Med does things, especially the mastery-based learning system. It makes so much sense. I’d love to integrate more of my traditional stuff into that mastery base. I’m really looking forward to it.” 

In addition to these three teachers, James Pennell, Hajnal Eppley, Heidi Hisrich, Jackie Walker, Catherine Panchyshyn, Melissa Cairns, and Carrie Sinkele have also joined the Bio-Med team. Nejla Shaheen is the new eighth-grade science teacher. Janna Mino is now teaching the seniors instead of the sophomores. Finally, Rebecca Putman is the new art teacher, who previously taught art at the Shalersville Campus.

Bio-Med Uncategorized

Art Teacher Turns Her Passion into a Profession

Art Teacher Turns Her Passion into a Profession

by Randall Hatfield, staff writer 

Rebecca Putman on a hike in the Smoky Mountains, (April 2021.) Photo provided by Rebecca Putman.

SEPTEMBER 2021 – Rebecca Putman has been teaching art at Bio-Med Science Academy since 2018, but after her recent switch to teaching grades nine through 12, many students may not know much about her. 

Putman’s career journey began straight out of high school, when a family member recommended she be a speech pathologist and audiologist. The job was in-demand, and made good money, so she began taking classes towards that degree. Very quickly, though, she realized that the career path was not for her.

 “I remember sitting in one of my lectures one day, listening to my classmates around me, and they were so excited and so passionate about what we were learning in class, and I hated it. I didn’t like it, even remotely,” she said. “And I sat there and I realized, I want to do something that I’m passionate about, that I’m super interested in. Something I’m excited to go to class for.”  

It wasn’t long after when Putman found her true passion: art. The subject had always been one of her passions, but she had put it aside after graduating. After realizing that speech pathology was not right for her, she found a chance to rekindle her artistic interest. 

As Putman remembers it, one day, “Someone was like, ‘Why don’t you just be an art teacher?,’ and [I thought] that’s a good idea, I like that. And it stuck.” 

She began taking more art courses in college, to pursue her teaching degree. One of those classes allowed her to travel to Austria. While on her trip, she visited the Belvedere Museum of Art in Vienna. At the Belvedere, Putman was able to see many well-known art pieces from all around the world. Her favorite, she said, was the painting “Judith and the Head of Holofernes” by Gustav Klimt. 

After graduating from the University of Akron with a degree in Fine Arts & Art education, Putman took up a teaching position at Rootstown Elementary School. She taught art at Rootstown for some time, before becoming a long-term sub for the Wayne County school district. While teaching at Wayne, she heard about open job opportunities at Bio-Med’s new school, the Shalersville campus. 

During this time, the Shalersville campus (which served grades sixth-eighth at the time) had just opened up, and Putman saw this as a great opportunity to teach art at a STEM school to a different age range of students, so she started out teaching sixth through eighth grade art at Shalersville. 

When the Ravenna campus opened up, many teaching positions became available for the second through fifth graders entering the school system. Putman switched to teaching second through sixth graders in both of the campuses, before eventually moving to the remodeled Rootstown Campus and teaching seventh through twelfth grade, where she is today. 

In her free time, Putman loves to knit and make quilts. She also recently started learning how to can and preserve different foods. 

“I made homemade pickles, and canned my own salsa, and that was really fun,” she said. 

She also loves to hike, and to be outside in the sun, as well as to play with her two dogs, Clyde and Wayne, and her cat, Sirius Black. 

“Wayne got his name because he was found in Wayne National Forest on a hike one day,” she said. “He followed us out to the car and jumped in the car with us, and we’ve had him [for] a long time.” 

On a typical day, Putman can be found doing activities for various grades, or in her office. Students can contact her by email at

When asked if she had any advice to give to current students, Putman concluded, “[Don’t] settle for something because someone thinks you should do it. You should do it because it’s what you’re passionate about.” 

Bio-Med bio-med journey

Exploring A New Learning Management System with Otus

Exploring A New Learning Management System with Otus

by Alyssa Cocchiola, Associate Editor

SEPTEMBER 2021 — Bio-Med Science Academy switched to a new learning management system (LMS) called Otus for the 2021-2022 school year. After five years of using Canvas, the previous LMS, the administration wanted a program to better support mastery learning, as opposed to the traditional grading system. 

Otus is the new Learning Management System (LMS) for the 2021-2022 school year. The LMS enables Bio-Med to aim towards a mastery system that does not rely on percentages. However, many students dislike the change. One of the biggest complaints is that Otus logs students out everytime they load the tab. Before accessing their assignments, students are now required to fill in their login information every time they want to access the website. Photo by Alyssa Cocchiola, associate editor.

Ms. Elissa Fusco was a part of the Research and Development Committee that chose Otus as the new LMS. She believes the switch will benefit Bio-Med in the future.

“The biggest decision was really trying to move towards pure mastery learning,” Fusco said. She noted that in mastery grading systems, percentages are not shown, and that unlike the previous grading system, it is not point based. 

“Mastery to me, I say, is more of a performance-based [grading system] on where the student already is in their learning. So mastery to one person is not going to look the same to another… it’s a lot more qualitative assessment that allows both teacher and student to see what they actually know and don’t know…. Because the biggest issue with traditional grading is [that] you might see 98 percent, but is that just assessed based off your ability to regurgitate knowledge or is it being able to apply it? So that’s what mastery is. There’s a lot more application to it versus just memorizing facts.”

Though the school switched to Otus because of its benefits to mastery grading, the committee originally narrowed their search for a new LMS to two options: Otus and Foundry. Fusco said that they ultimately decided on Otus due to visual similarities to Canvas. Despite the similarities, functions regarding turning in assignments, displaying and calculating grades, and administrative support operate differently. 

Due to the switch in LMS systems, Bio-Med Changed their grading system. Instead of six different grading levels, there are only five. The new grading system is as follows; exceeds mastery, mastery, developing mastery, not yet mastered, and no evidence of mastery. Their new grading system is not point based and does not show percentages. Photo by Alyssa Cocchiola, associate editor.

“It seems like [Otus is] a program geared more towards mastery learning instead of the traditional learning,” Mr. Brian McDonald, the ninth-grade integrated language arts teacher said. “But when you have to report out to parents or schools or something, who still need to hear that traditional learning, I don’t know that it’s going to be efficient for that. If a parent says ‘well what work are they [a student] missing?’ I’m not sure how to get that information to them. Because it just says LOs instead of assignments.”

Instead of grades being listed under each individual assignment, they are instead listed under different Learning Outcomes (LOs). As a result, finding a grade on a specific assignment could be a more timely process. 

“What I liked about Canvas was the ability to create modules. And I could organize my lessons one, two, three, four, or five. All my links will be there. Everything will be there. It was easy to navigate,” McDonald said. “What I did not like is that I could never explain to a parent how their grade was being calculated. I still could not explain to you how their grade was being calculated. And that’s a problem. It compromises your professionalism…. But it wasn’t a mystery system. So we were doing all these weird things to make it fit. So I liked the organization and not the grading.”

McDonald described Otus as a ‘mixed bag,’ as features like viewing students with missing assignments or messaging students through the LMS are still unknown. However, Otus provided benefits for mastery learning and communicating with the administration.

Teachers are able to access a chat box in Otus, which allows them to contact a representative. They are likely to receive a response in under five minutes. 

“[Otus is] actually really, really, really good at getting back to us,” Fusco commented, “which is something we didn’t have all the time with Canvas. So that was a big game changer there because we need to be able to communicate quickly with our LMS system, especially if something is down.”

Ms. Mino, the science instructor for seniors, has utilized the ticket function in Otus. Like the chat box, the tickets allow teachers to voice their concerns. 

“Their tech support is super responsive. I’m in the chat box with [Otus], like every single day. And the main thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of the things that I wish that it could do, it just doesn’t have the set up on the back end to do it yet. And so we put in tickets [suggestions], and we’re like ‘hey, it would be great if Otus could, you know, allow students to sort their lessons into classes or something like that,’ like some feature that just doesn’t exist within the LMS right now, that would be really nice if they could do that.”

When a ticket is made, users are able to vote on the suggestion. When a suggestion gets enough votes, Otus uses that feedback to make changes to their software. 

“I get an email like every week or so that they are updating things… that part of it seems really promising,” Mino added. 

For teachers, this function can save a lot of time. Instead of having to spend an entire planning period waiting for a response, they are able to have a conversation with a representative in a few minutes. 

Between students and teachers alike, one of the most common complaints about Otus was the submission process. Unlike the previous LMS software, once an assignment is submitted, it cannot be resubmitted or reviewed after the fact. 

“If we allow multiple submissions for something, and, say, you submit the wrong link accidentally, I either have to unassign it from you, so that you can reassign it or I have to grade it as a no evidence or something to alert you. And then you can resubmit it,” Mino said. 

In the past, Canvas allowed students to submit things multiple times and review their submission after it was submitted. Mino has submitted a ticket stating that students would like to see their submissions and hopes that Otus will update this feature. 

Unlike teachers, students do not have access to tickets and many were not happy about switching LMS systems. Trevor Baldwin, a sophomore, stated, “I think Otus is an inferior version of Canvas with regard to accessibility and information.” 

“In Canvas, you could look at everything you wanted. The teachers had a separate way of doing things. They could edit it at any time. On Otus, the teachers see something different from the students, which adds confusion on both sides, and it seems like images and other permissions are difficult at best. It works, but it’s also annoying to turn in stuff. So I think it’s just a downgrade,” Baldwin said.

Other students agreed with Baldwin’s opinions. Owen Benden is a seventh-grade student who has been using Canvas for two years. Benden was not pleased with the lack of percentages. 

A whiteboard in the anatomy classroom featured the new mastery grading system, with an equivalent letter grade assigned to each level of mastery. Photo by Alyssa Cocchiola, associate editor

 “The percentages allow[ed] me to know how well I’m doing in a class [and] if I need to improve in my class. So I actually don’t know how to work the grade page on Otus, so I don’t even know my grades right now. And later on, once I have a whole bunch of assignments piled up into my grades, I won’t know what I have. I won’t know what to improve. I won’t know how to check things. It’s just a lot harder,” he said.

Other students, like Gabriella Santin, an eighth-grader, did not mind the switch to Otus. 

“I like it,” she admitted. “[Otus is] a lot different from Canvas though, so it’s just a little bit of adjusting.”

So far, Otus was easy to log into and navigate for her. Their only concern was how easy it would be for parents to log into Otus and view their students’ grades, like how Canvas enabled them to do in the past. According to Otus’s website, parents are still able to view their students’ grades by linking accounts. 

 “I feel like right now I haven’t really explored with it,” Santin noted, “but I think [Canvas and Otus are] kind of the same thing, just [with a] different layout.”

Despite controversy over students’ opinions on Otus, most agreed that with time, they would get used to the software. 

On Sept. 7, teachers had a professional development day during which they learned about Otus. When asked, most of the teachers interviewed said they did not learn any information about Otus they did not previously know, but were glad to have a chance to go through the software. Mino stated that she spent most of the day informing other teachers about tickets and recommending new suggestions herself. 

“They’re just very customizable,” Fusco concluded. “It’s pretty much the keyword with Otus. We’re able to customize it to be anything that Bio-Med wants or needs. So yes, we are working out a lot of different wrinkles and glitches in the matrix and that’s okay. That’s any LMS system. So yes, you might hear complaining here and there… but I can tell you [Mrs.] McLaughlin [The Chief Operating Officer of Bio-Med] told me that was exactly how it was with Canvas.”


Back to Normal

Back to Normal

by Elise Miller, staff writer

Bio-Med students Rita Horne, Skyler Earl, and Paige Chinn work quietly on schoolwork, keeping with mask mandates and social distancing rules now in place.

SEPTEMBER 2021  – All Bio-Med Science Academy students are adjusting back to in-person learning after virtual learning was no longer an option. Students last year learned very differently depending on if they took classes online or in-person. Some students were happy with their learning style, and others not. Now that all classes are back to in-person, this environment has become foreign for some previously at-home learners. 

“Roughly 30 percent of our student population were 100 percent virtual last year,” said Mrs. Lindsey McLaughlin, chief operating officer and principal. This means that 30 percent of students this year are adjusting to normal school life once again. 

“Being at home and in that learning environment was very natural for me,” said Senior Via Gast, a student who had been homeschooled from 2012 to 2017, and then was a virtual student during the 2020-2021 school year. Gast stated that having the freedom to work at her own pace had always been beneficial to her, and that virtual schooling embraced that level of freedom she had once known growing up as a homeschooled student before Biomed. She enjoyed virtual learning for this reason. 

On the other hand, virtual learning posed a lot of negatives for others. One of the negatives was the level of social disconnect, pointed out by Senior Odin Anderson. He said that he “did not feel as much of a social connection” with virtual learning compared to regular learning. Anderson also stated, “You can never really indicate tone off of just text on a screen.”   

Although students used electronic platforms to communicate, “it was social interaction with none of the fun parts of social interaction,” Gast stated. 

Asking teachers a question during at-home learning was more of a process, especially if something was urgent. Instead of going to the teacher at the moment the question arose, students would have to go through e-mail, making asking questions seem less worth it. Since some students struggle with asking questions anyways, a delayed process made the choice even less appealing. 

Students Mady Kohout and Virginia Adams work on schoolwork in a conventional classroom setting.  

Now, students find themselves back in a conventional school environment. “I like seeing my peers and my friends in school each day,” said Senior David Evans, a previously in-person learner last year. For him, coming back to school was not much of an adjustment aside from the influx of more students than usual.  

Aside from the struggles of last year, Anderson stated that the “first day back was back to normal.” 

Students adjust differently, but some trends of school life were never forgotten. Even during the time period when all students were virtual, there were constants. “Math was the most similar online and in-person,” said Evans. 

In the end, when students were asked if they would be virtual again, whether they were previously online or in-person, all interviewed students said no. 

bio-med journey

The Virus: More Deadly Than Before

The Virus: More Deadly Than Before

by Meadow Sandy, staff writer

SEPTEMBER 2021 – In early March 2020, schools shut down, countries closed their borders, and millions were infected with COVID-19. The pandemic has reached a breaking point; at the time of writing, there were 100,000 new hospitalizations in a week due to Covid infection. As the pandemic returns back to how it was in December, many wonder what this means for humanity and if humanity  will ever return back to normal. Additionally, the Delta variant has begun to take over, killing millions worldwide and keeping many in hospitals. As schools start back up, health officials worry how this will affect the spread of the Delta variant. 

Schools throughout the world are enacting mandates to protect their students and staff. Among these schools is Bio-Med Science Academy. With the onset of the new school year, Bio-Med is attempting to keep its students and staff safe. Measures include a mask mandate, cleaning surfaces after use, social distancing, and ensuring students are quarantining when needed. 

“There are so many variables to these questions, many of which depend upon vaccinations.  If a person is exposed, but vaccinated, then they must wear a mask indoors for 14 days, unless they take a test at day five and it’s negative.  If a person is exposed, but not vaccinated, then they must stay home for 10 days, as they did last year,” Charmayne Polen, chief operating officer and principal, stated. Bio-Med had charts are released to help Bio-Med families and we take precautions to keep the Bio-Med family safe. 

“We are consistently watching the CDC and ODE guidance on mask wearing.  If the situation changes and our county’s numbers decrease, we will look at that and determine if masks are still a necessity.  So, I can’t say if it’s temporary, as they may be all year if the numbers continue to rise.  No one has a definitive answer to that. We encourage social distancing as much as possible,” she continued.

Aaron Ettinger’s class practiced safe learning and established social distancing to fight Covid. Photo by Meadow Sandy, staff writer.

Masks are required for all students and staff members. Though many have their own opinions on the mask mandate, the CDC is still highly encouraging wearing masks and social distancing when possible. Masks have been enforced to keep everyone safe. The mask is believed to be the most efficient way of keeping the spread low so the outbreak does not get out of control. 

“The Delta variant is highly contagious, more than 2x as contagious as previous variants,” stated the CDC, “Some data suggest the Delta variant might cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated persons.”

With the school year continuing in person, we have found a different way to keep track of Covid cases at each Bio-Med campus. The schools have made a chart for each week showing how many cases each campus has had in that one week. This chart also includes how many students and staff are quarantined. This tool will help parents and students keep track of how many cases are on their campus.   

Sig Leichliter, a seventh grader, offered his opinion of the mask mandate. “I don’t really care. To be honest, if it were my choice I wouldn’t be wearing a mask. I would probably just make it so there’s no masks because I absolutely hate wearing them all day,” he said.

“The mask mandate is right. We should wear a mask; it keeps everybody safe,” said Kamaira Huffman, a ninth grader, “We should enforce mandates more, because of the whole nose thing. Honestly, I think [Bio-Med is] they’re doing it quite well.” Huffman had recounted her own experience with COVID and continued to state, “It definitely sucks, I know that. I’m annoyed with the people who think it’s completely over and it’s not real; it evidently is. Ask the people who have losses in their families because of it.” More than 645,000 people have died because of Covid in the United States. Older adults are more likely to get Covid but everyone who is not vaccinated is at risk of contracting Covid or a strain of it.

Zach Hamilton, another ninth grader who was infected with COVID-19, feels resigned about the situation at hand. “I feel that there were people in power who could’ve done something about it but didn’t do anything about it. I think that everyone should get the vaccine and keep wearing their masks until there’s no cases.” Hamilton recounted his experience with COVID-19, saying, “I’ve had it three times. None [of the symptoms] were ever severe but I still can’t taste right. Like nothing tastes right to me at all and nothing smells right.” As Bio-Med enforces COVID precautions ,  some students, like Hamilton and Huffman, still get infected. 

In mid-December 2020, the first dose of vaccines were rolled out to essential workers, eventually becoming available to teens. According to US Today, more people become reluctant to get the vaccine, this is due to fake news and their own beliefs. As many think that the vaccine is unreliable, this causes the unvaccinated to be the most at risk of contracting the Delta variant stated by the CDC. The age range of the vaccine and people not believing in it will also affect children who are unable to get vaccinated due to the age range. About 15% of cases in the last month are cases of children who are unable to get vaccinated, said NPR News. 

Those who are vaccinated can still carry COVID-19. Even with taking the correct precautions such as wearing a mask indoors, getting a vaccine, cleaning surfaces, social distancing, and using sanitizers frequently, COVID-19 can still be spread. 

As the cases of the Delta variant rise, Bio-Med continues to implement precautions to protect staff and students as new mandates come out to help improve the infection rates of its students and staff. 


Who is James Pennell?

Who is James Pennell?

by Aiden Hills, staff writer

James Pennell (Photo provided by James Pennell)

SEPTEMBER 2021- Mr. James Pennell is the new seventh grade social studies teacher at Bio-Med Science Academy, graduate of Kent State University, and this is his first year teaching. Pennell said, “I love how there is a focus on project- and problem-based learning. Instead of just studying for a test, students are actually trying to solve the problem their own way.” Pennell finds Bio-Med’s approach interesting and innovative compared to a normal school where the students would have to use a set solution to an issue.

Pennell has wanted to become a teacher since the seventh grade, when one of his teachers reached out to him and helped him get through the year. “I was a nervous kid and I was having a really tough time making friends and staying on task, and my 7th grade science teacher helped me bloom,” he said

He aspires to carry on the torch and honor his teacher by becoming a teacher, and making a difference in his students’ lives. He currently is doing so by teaching at Bio-Med and teaching his students new innovative ways to collaborate and think outside the box.

One reason Pennell enjoys working at Bio-Med is because of the love and support that he is given from parents and administration. Pennell is appreciative of the relationship between the administration and the staff.  

Pennell also is a monitor during the lunch/advisory cores. He helps with sanitizing the tables and making sure everything is in order. With that responsibility, he is only available in his room (3020) during advisory on green day schedules, otherwise, he is located in the lunchroom. 

Mr. Pennell’s dog, Jack lying down after a “ruff” day . (Photo provided by James Pennell)

In his freetime,  Pennell de-stresses by tuning into “NPR-type podcasts, ”one of them by the name of “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” and he has proclaimed his love for watching cartoons. Specifically, he enjoys watching cartoons with superheroes in them, as well as SpongeBob SquarePants. He also enjoys spending time with his dog Jack, a collie. 

As a new teacher to Bio-Med Pennell is still trying to figure out his personal way and angle to teaching. Pennell may be new to teaching, but he already knows that he wants to help his students any way he can and wants to be influential and a role model for them. 

Pennell is trying to make a difference in his students’ lives and is actively working to be the best teacher he can, saying, “I guess I’m here to learn myself as a teacher, it’s my first year teaching. I also want to see growth in my students and to make even the smallest difference for the better.”