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(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Mae Mastin, Joliet West

This week, Joliet West teachers and students started preparing for finals, which will be held Dec. 16-18. My teachers handed out study guides and explained class schedules for the next few weeks. For some of my classes, we’ll spend time in class reviewing material from the semester. In a few classes, we don’t have extra time and won’t be taking class periods to review. I think that my teachers always do a great job of preparing us for finals. They try to help us as much as possible, and our confidence about the test always seems to be a priority for them.

On Wednesday the 16th, we’ll take one final and have an otherwise normal schedule, but with shortened periods to accommodate the 75-minute testing period. On Thursday, we’ll take four finals, and on Friday, upperclassmen will take two and freshman will take three.

Some of my finals this year will be typical multiple-choice tests. Some, like my science finals, usually have more than one component. For example, my freshman biology class had a lab portion and writing portion, as well as the multiple choice component, and we took the final over a few days. In gym, our finals (multiple-choice tests and performance evaluations) are done before testing day to allow time for make-ups. Some teachers of electives use different methods to assess learning, like my journalism teacher, who gives us projects instead of making us take another test. Most of my finals are worth 20 percent of my grade, although some classes are different.

Even though my teachers do a great job of preparing us, helping us understand the system and making the tests affect our grades fairly, I (and everyone I know) am put under a lot of stress at finals time. I’ve heard people say that they wish teachers wouldn’t put in finals grades, and I wish that sometimes, too. Testing might not be as difficult or as big of a strain on grades as we think it will be, but it still puts us under a lot of pressure. Lately, I’ve noticed that I’m not as excited for the holidays as usual because I have to get through finals first, and although I’m so glad that we test before our winter break instead of after, it doesn’t seem fair that we have to worry this much before the holidays.

According to the Washington Post, the largest school district in Maryland has eliminated future finals. The Post stated in an article from Sept. 8, “Montgomery County’s Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate the two-hour semester-end exams and replace them with shorter assessments taken during the quarter that could take different forms: tests, essays, portfolios and projects.”

Another article from November added that although many parents and teachers oppose the idea, the school district plans to move ahead with changing the way it assesses students. The Post said that the plan is “a change officials say will mean two more weeks of instructional time a year because there will no longer be special exam weeks when teaching stops.”

Is this a good idea? Would different evaluations decrease stress for students and help their districts assess them?

I think that my peers and I are very lucky to have the teachers and the district that we do. We are constantly supported and encouraged, especially at finals time. I wonder, though, if some of our stress would be lessened, or even if we would learn more, by following the example of Montgomery County.

What are your thoughts on finals? How does your district administer student evaluations, and how do you think students should be tested? Please comment!

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