This year, this school will not require traditional finals and teachers will determine students’ final semester grades on a total points system. The change in structure allows more flexibility and helps students have a work-life balance. As a result, the HiLite staff commends the administrators for their decision to change the grading and finals policy. Historically speaking, semester grades have been weighted 40% from the first quarter, 40% from the second and 20% from a final exam that often encompasses content from both quarters. In this structure, the semester final exam held the equivalent weight of half a quarter. However, the exam held too much weight because so many variables can go into the outcome of a test: the environment in which the students take the test, the amount of sleep they got the previous night, the form of the test they receive, etc. Because so many factors are outside of students’ control, the semester exams held the large possibility of not reflecting students’ abilities and knowledge. Changing the policy to not include semester exams allows students’ grades to encompass all the points and assessments throughout the semester and therefore better reflect what the student knows.
Additionally, the change eliminates the finals week altogether and the toxic culture that often comes with it. In previous years, many students tried to cram one last fact before their next exams only to forget that information soon after. This year, students will not have to scramble the way they had to in the past. There are no office hours this year either; rather, should a teacher opt to have a test, that assessment will take place during the class period students normally attend. This schedule provides a sense of normalcy and brings a calm and familiar presence to the exam environment, making test-takers more comfortable and therefore in a better position to do well on the exam.
Further, while the schedule used to require that no one could take the exam earl y or late unless they had a very urgent situation, the change makes the last week of the semester normal. This then provides the flexibility that students can take their final projects or tests the same way they would any other assessment. This is beneficial because Winter Break is the longest school break and therefore many students and their families like to use this time to travel far away. Being able to take their final assessments early or after they come back allows for more travel plan options.
While one could argue that the traditional high school finals and grading scale prepares students for college grading systems, there is a major flaw to this structure. Finals week for college students are aimed mainly at students aged 18-22, rather than 14-18. For many students, they are not necessarily ready for the pressure finals bring and starting this too young can have negative impacts on their self-confidence and affect them down the line when real college finals happen, a result that is better just being avoided altogether.