By: Charlotte Foulger — Correspondent
This year, the staff at Sharon High School decided there would be no midterms or finals. These large cumulative tests are often a source of worry and dread for many students, but this year, with the pandemic and all that is going on in our world, they were canceled.
“I think it’s a good decision to not have midterms because there is no real way to keep people honest,” said sophomore Akhil Adusumilli.
Junior Shelby Okstein says that she liked the decision to cancel the tests. “I think with the way and pace that we are learning, it would be too stressful for both students and teachers, and I don’t think we would be prepared,” said Okstein.
Guidance counselor Mrs. Andrea D’Entremont says she feels comfortable with the decision to eliminate midterm and final exams and thought it would give teachers more flexibility as they try to teach their curriculums to students. “With the hybrid learning format and the late start to the year, teachers need more flexibility in how they approach the curriculum–not driven by the exam period dates,” she added.
Social studies teacher Ms. Hannah Cohen thought this was the right decision this year as well due to the increased pressure on everyone. “I know that teachers and students alike have had anxiety about getting what they need from school while also managing the difficulties our country is facing,” said Cohen. She says that despite the difficulty of this year, that will still bring more challenges, she hopes the decision to not have midterms and finals will give teachers the freedom to explore other forms of assessment.
“The decision not to have midterms or finals is actually very freeing,” said Cohen. She’s been trying to stray away from traditional essays and tests to projects for most of the classes she teaches. Cohen hopes to relieve some pressure that is put on students by midterm and final projects, while they simultaneously study for more formal tests in other classes.
Cohen says she’s noticed that these tests don’t have a large effect on students’ overall grades “since they tend to perform about as well on them as they do in class overall.”
“From a grading standpoint it’s worrisome if a student is performing significantly differently on a cumulative assessment than overall in the class and it’s worth thinking about what kind of data is useful for assessing students mastery,” Cohen added.
Students and teachers alike thought not having these tests would help students’ mental health. Okstein says she thought the decision not to have these tests would help her mental health because “I won’t have to stress to study and do my school work at the same time,”
“Overall I am not a huge fan of midterms and finals–the compression of exams/projects into a few days is simply overwhelming and not necessary,” said D’Entremont. She thinks that overall, the decision is good for the mental health of both students and teachers because the large tests are stressful for everyone in the school community.
Will this decision affect students’ work ethics? Okstein says this will help her work ethic, “because I won’t have midterms and finals to raise my grade, so I will have to work super hard to get the grades I want.”
D’Entremont says that students this year will consistently have to work hard and put in the effort, but this is “something that is necessary in life.” She says she thought that taking out the two exams could either impact students’ final grades positively or negatively, but that “consistent performance throughout the year should be the goal rather than cramming for large exams/assessments.”
Cohen says that she didn’t think that the lack of midterms and finals would affect her curriculum’s pace too much. What affected her pace the most was actually starting late and having less class time overall. “I do think it takes away some of the pressure I would feel to rush through the curriculum because it would be on a midyear exam, and lets us focus on the topics and conversations I think are most important for my students,” she said
Sharon High’s New Principal Mr. Joe Scozzaro played a role in the decision to remove midterms and finals. He says that while he was planning for the school year over the summer, he thought the tests could be stressful for students and teachers. “Because a midyear and a final isn’t something that teachers create on the fly, they usually create them and use them year after year based on having a certain amount of time to cover so much content,” said Scozzaro.
Because the district lost fifteen days of school, the tests would also not be in the same week that they are usually in. He says that staff considered whether they should give the tests right before February break, but chose not to.
“Because this year was going to be a different year than normal, I asked subject coordinators of the departments to discuss with teachers this possibility of doing away with them for this year,” he said. Scozzaro didn’t make the decision alone and says that all of the departments were in agreement with the decision and believed that it was the best decision.
“Teachers are still going to be doing assessments to make sure students are prepared, to make sure students retain the information, and the skills that they’re building throughout the year, but they’ll just do it inside of a class period and not in this special week,” added Scozzaro.
He also says that he would consider discontinuing these tests in the future if students do well without them. “We’re trying to be as flexible as possible so that we can do the business of educating students. There’s a lot of things that are new, hopefully, there are some things that are familiar and welcome to students,” said Scozzaro.