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The New Exam Week

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The New Exam Week

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End of semester assessments have many students stressed out and frustrated, another stresser on student’s minds is the way these assessments are handled. Originally students had a week of exams similar to the finals week in May, but 3 years ago that changed.

The new exam week consists of two days for a teacher to give their final assessment. The new assessment schedule is allowing for learning to continue while other classes are giving their presentations or turning in their projects,” Dean of Studies Chad Woods said.

The new exam week is meant to prepare students for college exams.

“I do believe the current schedule is beneficial for the students, because they are getting some type of alternative assessment instead of a traditional exam. At the college level, a final exam for a course is sometimes a traditional exam and sometimes it is a cumulative project.  Darlington is trying to prepare students for both of those possibilities,” Woods said.

The old exam week was not only taken away for college preparation. But also because of the impact the exams had on grades.

“In the old model the exam was worth 25% of your grade. A student has a 73 average going into the exam, and they fail the exam with below a 55 now fails for the semester. Which may make you ineligible to play sports or may mean we don’t invite you back next year,” Head of Upper School Matthew Peer said.

The change was not only for students but also for the teachers.

“We want to give teachers flexibility. The teacher now has the flexibility to say ‘I want to use a different mechanism to assess my students in what they’ve learned’, and that could be projects, papers, or presentations,” Head of Upper School Matthew Peer said. “Teachers used to do that in the old system and then you’d still have an exam.”

While the students have exams, they are also allowed to have homework and minor assessments in other classes.

“The idea of the way it is now is to have continued learning, so not to stop for a whole week of exams where nothing else happens. So yes, I try to keep my homework to under thirty minutes even in my AP classes,” Head of World Languages Crystal Cleveland said.

The teachers understand the stress students are under not only due to the multiple assessments but out of school activities too.

“There’s a lot of things going on this time of year outside of school. Whether it’s Big Little Sis or Boy’s Life and then the basketball game last night, there’s just so much going on and I think it would help the teenage brain if they could just have a set amount of things to focus on,” Cleveland said. “The attention is going a million different directions and I think that’s one reason it’s perceived to be so much.”

While this change was with good intentions, it is very controversial among students.

The old exam week was so much better and was more structured. It restricted teachers to only giving one exam [not a test, essay, and project] and designated a specific time period for the exam. The half days of the old exam week gave the students valuable reviews and study time, and the teachers time to grade and finalize grades. The workload is much more with this new system because after your exam you still have classes, which means opportunities for excess testing. It is more stressful and more chaotic,” senior Kathryn Chunn said.

While all exams are stressful, the new exam week is especially stressful for some students.

“The workload and the rigorousness has made an impact. I already struggle with anxiety and depression each day, and during a normal week it takes me extra effort to get my work done on time (or at all), so having everything piled on me right now is extremely difficult to manage and cope with,” senior Natalie Horah said.

While the administration hears the students, they think this exam week is truly beneficial for the students’ future.  

“I understand our students feel overwhelmed and very stressed right now. The end of the semester will always be a stressful time for students at any level. I do believe the current schedule is beneficial for the students, because they are getting some type of alternative assessment instead of a traditional exam. At the college level, a final exam for a course is sometimes a traditional exam and sometimes it is a cumulative project.  Darlington is trying to prepare students for both of those possibilities,” Woods said.

The administration appreciates the students’ opinions as they are vital to the betterment of the school.

“I have heard from a lot of students who have a lot of assignments right now.  We hear and understand their concerns. We are always looking for ways to improve.  Student feedback is an important part of making those improvements,” Woods said.

 

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