Sunday, January 29, 2012

Final Exams Have It All Wrong #EdChat

This past week was final exam time in my district for the high schools. It's a pretty standard affair. Students are given 1.5 hours to complete an exam that is supposed to evaluate all of their learning for 20 weeks. The exam is worth 20% of their overall semester grade with the two 10-week marking periods being worth 40% each. Before this year, I've never really had an issue with the setup, but it really bothers me this year. I'm not sure why, but I feel like this is the dumbest idea conceived for evaluating student knowledge. How can one test be worth so much? There has to be a better way. 

Surprise, I have a better way (in my opinion). The emphasis for a class should be placed on learning the material in the class during the two marking periods, not cramming for an exam in the hopes of bringing up a grade. I would like to see a different plan that looks like this. 

Instead of 1 exam that students need to cram for, I would like to see the average grade earned on unit assessments be taken and used as 10% of the overall semester grade. The two marking periods would be assessed as 45% each and the average grade on the unit assessments would be used for the remaining 10%. I feel this places more emphasis on the learning during the marking periods and less emphasis on cramming for one exam. 

Why I think it would be good:

- This new method would relieve these kids of the burden of studying for 7 exams take over 5 days. 

- Teachers would not be hammered with 120 essays to check in the course of one week to get the grades entered in on time. 

- Instead of spending a week of half days testing, the time could be spent on learning. 

- It's a better assessment of what a student knows. All it takes is for one bad day or one misread essay question to potentially kill a student's grade by 20%. A final exam should not be punitive. 

It seems to be me that students are getting more and more stressed each and every year and I feel that schools have a responsibility to keep the kids as sane as we can while providing top notch learning and assessment? I wonder, do we even need final exams at all? Is that discussion even happening in school districts?

- @TheNerdyTeacher