Bring Final Exams Back

Estefany Pacheco, J1 Staff Writer

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When you finish first semester, do you wish you had the luxury of a flexible final exam schedule? Unfortunately, this is something that students can only wish for in today’s MCPS, as final exams no longer exist.

For those who are juniors or seniors, you know the luxury that came with final exams. These exam periods consisted of two, two-hour exam periods per day for about a week. Students who did not have an exam – say for an elective class or PE – did not have to come to school that period or could spend the time in the cafeteria studying for their next exam. And, one of the best parts was “makeup exam day” when, if you had not been absent, you could stay home or go home early.

The change from final exams to RQAs  and now “Skills Checks” took place last year. The change meant that the two-hour block exam schedule that high schools used for years no longer existed and students took assessments – RQAs, last year and Skills Checks this year – in class as part of the curriculum. These tests count for roughly 10 percent of the student’s quarter grade.

According to Washington Post reporter Donna St. George, who wrote about the termination of midterm and final exams in Montgomery County in September, 2015, “Maryland’s largest school system will scrap high school final exams next school year, ending a long time practice that lost support amid a growing national concern about too much student testing and the toll it takes on instructional time.” She also states that “final exams also have a troubled history in Montgomery, where high school students have failed math finals at rates of more than 50 or 60 percent in some courses”

This reasoning by Montgomery County isn’t  logical because students need the break that finals brought, and the point on the math scores is wrong because not everyone will fail math finals; everyone is different.

In the article “Why MCPS should change the new finals policy” in the Watkins Mill High School newspaper The Current,  Beatriz Delgado,Yesenia Albright, & Erick Fonseca state,  “Montgomery County Public Schools have replaced exams with Required Quarterly Assessments (RQA). This replacement is not helping students prepare for college, but instead withholding kids for later on in life.” The writers continue, “In college, students are given exam week and by replacing it with the RQAs, the upcoming middle school students and the current freshmen will not know how to prepare themselves for exam week in college. The RQAs are a shorter type of test that also gives less time than the exams while covering less information.”

This is a very valid point, because RQA’s are forty-seven minute exams while semester exams were two hour tests, which means students won’t feel prepared in college for the exams.

There are pros and cons of having progress checks instead of semester exams. RQAs can either bring your grade up or can bring it down. Because of this, semester exams were more beneficial to students because they had more time to study their old notes and prepare for the cumulative test. However, on the  progress checks, students have less time to study, and teachers have to make students study guides  to get them ready for the test.  The semester exams affected your overall semester grade, while the progress check and Skills Check only affect that particular quarter.

During final exams, students weren’t required to come to school until their semester exam took place.  According to WTOP writer Nick Iannellii, “The school system says the new approach will give educators more time for instruction and ‘provide students with more frequent and varied measures to demonstrate learning.’” Students don’t want to be stuck in a classroom for more instruction because, the truth is, some classes are boring and more time in the class is not going to be beneficial. The extra time does not necessarily create better students.

With final exams, students felt more challenged and prepared for college. Students did not have to come to school until the starting time of the semester exam, which was a nice sense of responsibility. These exams impacted student’s semester grade, but not their quarter grade in the class. Ultimately, semester exams must come back because not only were they better, but they made students feel more prepared for college and gave them less stress.

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Bring Final Exams Back