New Changes Due to the Absence of Final Exams
February 2, 2017
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Montgomery County’s decision last year to stop offering county-produced exams at the end of each semester has affected RHS students and teachers in a variety of ways.
“These exams would be replaced with centrally developed marking period assessments, which can be given during regular class periods,” the Montgomery County Board of Education said in a statement regarding the removal.
Some classes have replaced the former tests with required quarterly assessments (RQA), a smaller test taken near the end of every quarter, while others use projects or simply rely on the work completed throughout the marking period.
Principal Assistant Elizabeth Sandall said there may be some benefits to the RQAs.
“It appears that the assessments are closer to the instruction, provide the opportunity for more timely and relevant feedback and in some cases, allow students to think about their learning in critical and creative way,” Sandall said.
The Board estimated that the removal would restore two weeks of instructional time.
“It has allowed more time to finish units, which is nice. It also meant that we were able to move the 12th grade individual oral [presentation] to January rather than February, which meant that it’s a really nice end of the semester assessment and I enjoyed that,” English teacher Anne Ehlers said.
In past years, final exams were combined with quarter one and two grades in order to average out a semester grade, which is what colleges see on a student’s transcript. Ehlers acknowledged that the removal affects students’ semester grades, and the potential to bring grades up at the end of the year.
“Some kids worked the system by doing nothing all semester long and being good test takers and that option is now gone, which I celebrate, but it also meant that some kids who have trouble taking tests, their grades were unfairly tanked, and so it’s a mixed blessing,” Ehlers said.
Sophomore Alia Ward has experienced the effects of the removal of exams.
“Teachers don’t prepare us [for RQAs], while they used to with exams,” Ward said.
Ward, like some students, prefer exams over RQA’s.
“I preferred the exam schedule as it actually allowed for a break for students and time for them to study,” Ward said.
Ehlers’ seniors will do final projects, but her ninth graders will not take an alternative.
Science teacher Fariha Khan said that the removal could be harmful toward students and their preparation for college.
“The one way that I feel that this may put students at a disadvantage is that… for students who are interested and headed to college… the reality is that you will get one midterm, one final exam, twice a year,” Khan said. “So if students aren’t trained or getting practice of taking these final exams, cumulative exams, that doesn’t set them up exactly well for college.”
Traditionally, colleges have mainly used large exams to grade students, but not all colleges require exams for all courses. According to the Montgomery College’s syllabus template for professors, as listed on their website, final grades may consist of “assignments, quizzes, tests, papers, class participation, etc.”
“Aside from entrance exams, traditional testing is becoming no longer the norm for many colleges and universities,” Sandall said. “This has changed over time as the knowledge and skills businesses need have evolved.”