Students yearn for the end of spring and beginning of summer, but before they are released into the fresh freedom of summer, they must overcome the torturous obstacle of finals. These overarching exams have served the purpose of testing students on their knowledge and retention of information of the general material covered thus far in the school year. They are also a way to refresh the memory of previously taught topics and to prepare students for the future, both inside and outside of the course. However, measuring this change and growth is a difficult task, which the traditional system has decided will be done through a number between 0 and 100.
This system provides many students with an opportunity to score high on a final and raise their grade. However, it also causes much stress for students who want to maintain their grade or focus on other activities. The effectiveness of finals has also been called into question, and some schools have decided to make some revisions. If students meet certain requirements, such as having a high B or an A in a class and 3 or less absences in a class per semester, they should be given the privilege of being able to opt out of taking the final exam at the end of the year. This will relieve students of a lot of the stress that overwhelms them at the end of the year, reward them for the hard work they have put in throughout the year, and gives students more incentive to miss less school so they can fulfill these requirements. Everybody benefits in this scenario: the students, the teachers,who have to grade less, and the district, as students have fewer absences.
Some schools that have decided to implement an optional final or reform the current system include Montgomery County, Loudoun County, and some schools in Texas, including Woodland Hills High School. Daniela Narvaez (12) is a former LCHS student and current senior at Woodland Hills High School. At her school, zero to two absences in each class each semester and a minimum grade of 85% are needed to be eligible to opting out of the final. If a student misses 3 days, the grade requirement bumps up to 90% in order to maintain the privilege. However, a student can miss no more than 3 days, no matter what their grade is. Everyone still has to show up to class, but not everyone has to take the exam.
Daniela enjoys the system and believes it really helps the students. She justifies that “Because of this system, I was able to focus more on my AP tests and the SAT. and because I didn’t have to take any of my finals it took away a lot of my stress from school.”
This is a common desire for many students, especially because of the rigorous courses and exams at LCHS. If they did not have to take final exams, students would have time to focus on many other activities and responsibilities, whether it be AP tests, extracurriculars, or a plethora of other jobs teenagers have to fulfill. This would benefit the mental health of students and they could enjoy their lives more.
If we are going to take an AP test or a standardized test, taking a final would be redundant. If they want to practice and test themselves before these exams, then eligible students can still choose to take the final. However, some other students would rather practice on their own and not have to worry about their grade in the class fluctuating in case they do poorly.
In addition, finals in their traditional form of assessments and exams are often not effective. Cramming the night before a final, as many students do, does not entail learning and growth but just eliminates sleep. They will soon forget this information after they have taken the final. It would be better if students could decide the methods in which they would like to demonstrate their growth in knowledge, whether they may be in the form of a video or a presentation, but that is a topic for another day. For now, we will stick to encouraging schools to allow students who meet certain requirements to opt out of finals if they choose to do so to relieve them of stress and increase their general happiness.
*picture from creativecommons.org