By Simone Dunbar — Managing Editor
Following the frenzy of confusion amongst teachers and students caused by Midyear Exams, Principal Joe Scozarro affirms that the exams will be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, January 24-26. The exams will be taken in decreasing period order (6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) with two 90-minute tests per half-day. Additionally, each exam’s weight will be decreased from 10% to 5% of students’ overall grades.
The decision to push back the exams by two days was not taken lightly and is the result of days of deliberation within the administration as they considered teacher and student perspectives. An important note is that teachers should be using the extra two days to review and catch up on material, but Assistant Principal Chuck Fazzio says they should not be used to teach new content that will then be added to the exam.
Midyear exams are meant to mirror collegiate cumulative assessments. It is a means to increase preparedness for higher education. “The reality is that . . . many universities still do traditional assessments. Meaning you come in, you take a hundred multiple guess, you write your essay, and you’re done. So, learning how to sit still and learning how to prepare for that is the argument that some will make as to why midyears are beneficial,” said Fazzio. He adds that they can also be helpful for teachers to gauge what students understand and don’t understand.
Despite this, Fazzio says that he thinks Midyear Exams are ineffective and hopes to change the exam period for the future.
Fazzio says that the issue of exams lies in education philosophy because they tend to lead to cramming and information regurgitation. “That’s, to me, not learning if all you’re doing is memorizing the information so you can spit it back up on a test. I don’t like to work with vomit,” he said.
“Then, they forgot about it after the test was over. If that’s all you’re asking kids to do, then what’s the point?” he added. Fazzio says he prefers reflective assessments that demonstrate understanding and interest like insightful projects or responses detailing the required information and its impact.
Fazzio says as of now teachers are required to give an exam, but in the future, we should be flexible. “Maybe not every teacher needs to give a midyear. There are teachers who philosophically believe that it’s the right thing to do, so rather than requiring everybody to follow my philosophy, I would say just like in life, you’re going to get bosses that you don’t agree with,” he said.
While Scozarro agrees that the exams should be changed or removed for the future, his view on exams is centered more around their effect on the stress level of students.
“I would love to move beyond [Midyear Exams]. I think it’s not as easy as just crossing them off. I think we should work together with teachers and students to come up with an alternative,” said Scozarro. He says it is not a process that can be started and completed in a few weeks, but he would be interested in creating intersessions as a conclusion to Semester 1.
“As a teacher and probably as a student, it’s ridiculous that one day you’re in this class and then Semester 1 ends, and the next day you’re in a new class Semester 2. There’s no buffer,” he said. Scozarro says that even year-long courses seem like a relentless slog with no break.
“What everybody appreciates is the time: having the half days. We don’t want to just give that up, because it is pretty nice,” he said.
Scozarro says his goal is to provide a normal experience for students this year by holding exams.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 is on the minds of the student and staff as many people wonder: what happens if you get COVID? If teachers are out how does that affect the tests?
According to Scozarro and Fazzio, absences will be handled on a case-to-case basis. Those who are absent for the review week or exam days are eligible to take them later, either on the school-wide retake days or at another time.
In response to teacher absences, Fazzio says that the teacher may not have been in lock-step with the curriculum anyway. “Kids in one class are learning a new theory, and the other kids– because the teacher has been out– don’t have it or maybe that group is a little behind because they spent more time. Maybe they had trouble understanding an earlier unit. Why is it they should move at the same speed as the class that’s getting it and understanding it?” he said. As long as the students are assessed on the information taught when the teacher was present, the absences should have little effect.
As of now, this decision is set in stone, so students should begin preparation for a thrilling three-day stretch of exams!