Students enjoy hot chocolate handed out by staff. Hot chocolate is a tradition that occurs before the winter break and during final exams. (Photo by Isabel Kachappilly)
Students enjoy hot chocolate handed out by staff. Hot chocolate is a tradition that occurs before the winter break and during final exams.

Photo by Isabel Kachappilly

Traditional final exam policy is revised to focus more on student relearning

December 20, 2021

During the school year prior to the pandemic, final exams were a basic requirement for most classes and  a part of the normal semester schedule. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, remote learning incurred and final exams were canceled for the spring semester. The 2020-21 school year adopted final exams that contained a different policy due to remote learning. This policy eliminated the idea of a cumulative test at the end of the semester and pushed teachers to assign a test or project that was 10% worth of a student’s final grade. Now, during the current school year, the administration implemented a policy which encourages the relearning opportunities students have in order to show mastery of skills.  . 

Our principal, Shahe Bagdasarian, encouraged the implementation of the new relearning and redevelopment days. Bagdasarian expressed certainty towards how the new policy focuses on student learning and uses time to signify relearning. 

“With the elimination of final exams, we are allowing our students to focus in on the learning opportunities of relearning and making sure they have a strong foundation for the course they’re taking in the next semester,” Bagdasarian said. “We want our students to focus on that learning piece and not having to worry about the all-nighters and staying up to study for six or seven exams.”

Before any changes to the final exams policy were made, a standard final exam schedule featured a block schedule over the course of two days before winter break. For most academic core courses, students had a cumulative exam that consisted of topics over the course of the semester. Now, final exams consist of a retake opportunity and it may differ from course to course. Students with a grade of a D or an F must attend the Relearning and Redevelopment days but attendance is optional for students with a C or better. The retake or testing opportunities are not allowed to penalize a student’s grade. 

My expectations for finals were that they will be stressful and busy because everyone’s trying to get their grade up,” Alyssa Kachappilly, freshman, said.  “With these new relearning days, I’m happy to be given this opportunity for retakes especially during the pandemic when students may be struggling with outside factors. I am still stressed but it’s manageable.” 

Teachers are also adjusting to the new policy and encourage students to take advantage of the relearning opportunities. Throughout the end of the semester, many teachers met and conferenced with students to discuss what they plan to do for their relearning. 

“Personally, I have used the new procedures to check in with every student about their thoughts and goals for the semester,” Kaitlyn Metzler, English teacher, said. “Without the anxiety of a major exam looming overhead, students may reflect on their performance and mastery of various skills and, if necessary, make an informed relearning/redevelopment plan.”

Most students appreciate the new finals policy due to the less stress associated with the end of the semester and the manageable workload it presents. However, some students believe the new protocols do not prepare them for final exams in college. 

“I think there are pros and cons to the new finals policy, like how I get a chance to improve my grade without as much stress,” Tala Eisouh, senior, said. “However, this is not the case in college and I feel like this might cause some unpreparedness for seniors. With underclassmen who are experiencing finals for the first time, when they go to college, they may not know how to adjust to the college level final exams and take on more stress.” 

Some teachers also share similar beliefs with students who oppose the new policy. Teachers want high school final exams to prepare students for college level exams and the stress that associates with them. 

“My concern with the finals is that finals, to my knowledge, are not going away in college and that falls under the guise of are we really preparing you for that experience,” Timothy Albert, social studies teacher, said. “On one hand, I’m fine with that. On the other hand, well as long as we’re figuring out other ways to prepare students for the college system.” 

For standard credited courses, finals are cumulative exams that cover multiple units. However, classes that are conjoined with Indiana University (Advanced College Project classes or ACP) that contain college credits can have different final exams due to the IU final policies. These college level courses are offered to students to take in high school to receive credits that can be transferred to the same university or to wherever applicable. 

“Teachers have been assigning final tests that can only help your grade and I think this has helped students’ mental health and decreased stress in the school,” Eric Moskal, senior who takes ACP courses, said. “My finals schedule has not been anything crazy. For the most part it has been a normal class for me. And while I like the current system, I personally believe that it doesn’t prepare students for college at all. College exams count, and you have one in every class.”

Some argue these  new final exams may relieve excess stress and anxiety from students. In a time where mental health has become more prevalent in school curriculum and routine, many students believe the new policy alleviated pressure towards cramming for a big test that can impact their grade heavily. Regardless of any final policy, teachers and students can conclude that semester exams are to display mastery of students’ learning throughout the semester. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the new policy and how we should view relearning opportunities. 

“I think the new finals policy is very low stress for the students and makes the end of the semester much more enjoyable, so I like it,” Macy Fries, senior, said. “I think York should continue to implement a similar policy for those reasons but I also think that if students never take a final it might be difficult for them if they decide to go to college and have to take one there, so I think the experience of at least taking a final is good.”

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