Recently, New Jersey Glen Ridge High School officials have decided to discard the requirement of completing midterm and final exams. The goal of the school district is provide additional time to prepare for standardized testing. The real problem is that no one knows the exact outcome for this new initiative and it could damage student college entrance possibilities. Students at the Glen Ridge High School celebrated the decision. Students will no longer feel the pressures associated with the cycle of midterm and final exams. In the long run this may make them lazy and backfire against the school district and the students.
This decision will also impact college preparation because many colleges use final exams and midterms exams. The midterm can serve several purposes. First, it can tell students if they should adjust their study habits for the rest of the term or maintain them (if they perform poorly or well, respectively). It can also serve to tell a student who does very poorly to drop the class (many colleges have the last chance to drop classes a week or two after the first midterm). Also, midterms allow students to study for less material at semester’s end, in those courses where the final examination is not cumulative. Furthermore, it gives feedback to the teacher or professor about their teaching style. Teachers may also give multiple exams, such as two or three, which makes each test really a third or quarter term exam. Most Glen Ridge High School students will lack the discipline to have success in college because of the lack of successfully completing midterm and final exams.
Another consideration for eliminating midterm and final exams is how it will impact college entrance. Many colleges use the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores as a barometer for how well students will do in their first year as a freshman. This test is taken in high school which measures literacy and writing skills that are needed for success in college. The SAT assesses how well the test takers analyze and solve problems—skills they learned in school that they will need in college. Colleges use the SAT in combination with high school grade point averages (GPA) to provide a better indicator of success in college. Removal of midterm and final exams will have an impact on the students GPA and colleges may either frown upon or feel that the students who are not required to take midterm and final exams may not be better prepared for college when compared to other students who are required to complete midterm and final exams.
While many teachers are relieved, it will cause challenges with grading. The midterm and final exams were the assessment that supposedly guided instruction. Now teachers will have to rely more heavily on homework, classwork, quizzes, and classroom participation. Teachers may find themselves the object of confrontation with some parents. When grading time surfaces, for those students who made up for missed assignments through midterm and final exams that opportunity no longer exists. Parents will become angry with the teacher and the new grading structure which can become an embarrassment for the entire school district.
On the other hand, teachers are probably just as excited as the students. No longer do they have to prepare students for the midterm and final exams. Now the teachers only has to wait until the beginning of spring to prepare students for the state assessment. Teachers will find that they will have more time to do things that they desire to do. They will be able to leave the school more often for lunch and maybe watch more TV during their planning period.
The fallacy with removing the necessity of midterm and final exams is not the removal itself, but the process that the Glen Ridge High School is using. The Glen Ridge High School must pilot the initiative before full implementation. Since this is the first year for testing of ninth graders in Language Arts and Math, I would start there. In this way you are provided an opportunity to master the new initiative and work out any kinks.
Follow the following steps to pilot the removal of midterm and final exams.
- Choose a pilot group amongst the ninth grade students
- Choose the teachers who will pilot the new initiative
- Implement a shared vision process for participating teachers
- Develop the strategic plan over a nine month period
- Finalize a culminating activity where participating teachers are provided an opportunity to share the strategic plan for successfully eliminating midterm and final exams.
Looking Beyond Midterms
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
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