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By Zahra Ali, Plainfield North

It looks like Plainfield North has exempted itself from giving finals exemption. With only one year remaining, seniors were promised last year that exceeding a 23 on the ACT would guarantee exemption from finals. However, at the annual Student Handbook assembly last month, the rumors were confirmed that seniors would be taking finals first semester. In the wake of upping the cell phone ban, randomizing parking space assignments and other policy changes, mandating senior finals has dropped the overall student approval of the school.

“It’s just really frustrating because we were told that we weren’t going to have to take finals. We were told all of this last year. Why did they make false promises to us?” said senior Sheridan Perry.

The reaction to the decision is evident on various social media, especially Twitter. One tweet reads, “Plainfield north is slowly turning into a prison.” But despite the spike in criticism, a question remains: Who is to blame for this change?

Principal Ray Epperson explained that under Senate Bill 7, the district has no choice but to instate senior finals as part of a required student evaluation.

“The PERA, or Performance Evaluation Reform Act is the law that’s making this change necessary. Basically, that was passed in 2010. What the state of Illinois says is that the evaluations need to include student growth data as part of the teacher’s evaluation,” said Epperson.

The pre and post tests were also a result of this bill. According to the law, the school does not technically have to require finals until next year, but the district is collecting baseline data to calculate expected growth.

“The law’s the law,” added Epperson.

This is absolutely true. The law is the law, but like any law, it holds the potential to be contested. Even though one district out of the 477 in Illinois out of would not make a drastic difference in taking action against the law, it would help in increasing student support of the school/administration in general.

“Everyone I’ve talked to has really lost faith in the system,” said senior Emily Kubaitis,  “They promised our year exemption from finals, and then didn’t follow through on it. The state gives you five years to incorporate new laws, so they could have told us about his years ago, but they didn’t.”

The attitude of the school that says, “our hands are tied” makes a significant portion of seniors feel as though their concerns are being mitigated, or that they do not have the full support of the district in advocating for their interests. It’s not the fact that taking finals is now required that is thoroughly disappointing, it’s the loss of trust that the students have for the district.

“I think the district always advocates for its students,” said Epperson.

Regardless of how true this statement is believed to be by the student body, the fact of the matter is that it’s too late to protest the finals for this school year. Instead, the focus should shift to finding a compensation for achieving the required ACT score. Ideas have ranged from adding off campus days to easier finals.

“I’m sure when we start the Principal’s Advisory group in the next week or so that’ll be a big topic of discussion, but we’ve got a few ideas,” Epperson said. “Some things might work, some things don’t. We’re kind of in the discussion stage. But we definitely don’t want to take something away without trying to replace it with a fair alternative.”

The lack of certainty behind what is to be done is a bit unsettling, but also reflective of the administration’s priorities in responding to student wants. As for seniors, this is it. Eight months from now, this issue will be irrelevant, so it’s time to get through one tough school year and look to the future.

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