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Editors on the Issues: Midterms

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This week, Whitman students will sit for the inaugural administration of midterms. The ambiguity and suddenness of these exams have proven to be controversial among students and teachers. To fairly preface this editorial, two formal  communications were sent out to parents within the first two quarters of the school year, and although many will refer to the January testing week as a vacation week, all other schools in the district hold normal classes.  In this edition, the Paw Print editors weigh in with their opinions on the newly instated midterms.  

 

Joseph VanGostein

 

As you probably didn’t know, students will be sitting for an array of midterm examinations this month during the week once appropriately titled Regents week. Now, I assume you didn’t know about these exams, at least not until recently, because they weren’t created until the start of the term and were not well publicized. In fact, the official letter was not sent out until a few weeks ago, giving students a month’s notice to prepare for more high-stakes examinations.

 

I do not object to these exams because I expect them to be comparable in rigor or in length to the likes of the LSAT or MCAT, but I do object to them mostly for two reasons.

 

The first reason is that I find them counterproductive. Now, before these exams were instituted (so last week), it was hard enough for teachers to finish AP curricula. It was a mad-dash to AP week, a struggle for all parties involved to complete the curriculum. Now, with midterms, time must be carved out of the overflowing schedule to review for these tests. Teachers must assign review packets instead of new material. I believe that these tests will hurt students come May as time that should have been spent preparing for the exams (that are expensive and actually matter) was reallocated. Moreover, as students were given little time to prepare, how can anyone expect us to do well on these tests that will heavily affect third-quarter averages?

 

The second reason is that I feel that the rollout was very unfair to families. People planned months ago to go on vacation during Regents week, having correctly assumed that their children had no exams, and spent exorbitant amounts of money. Now, families will either have to eat the planning and money and stay home, or students will have to retake these exams during the school day. This latter option only compounds my first problem, for now students will be taken out of class and fall further behind. Additionally, in classes like AP Macroeconomics, only students who took the test the day of the exam will be able to do test corrections for it to improve their scores. Students who can not sit for the test during Regents week because of planning out of their control will not be granted this same opportunity.

 

Ultimately, I don’t know why these tests were created. Perhaps it was to force students to prepare for the AP exams, or maybe it was to publish more numbers in pursuit of some grant. In the end, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is just another example of a myopic and furtive policy change that hurts students and families, and I hope that this maiden voyage goes the way of the Titanic.

 

Rachel Vaughan

 

On the subject of midterms, there’s a lot to say. Rather than protesting that they must take the midterms, students are protesting that they were only told about the exams a little over a month before they were due to sit for them. Letters were sent home around the same time that teachers were informing their students that these cumulative tests would be happening.  Many Whitman attendees will be absent during regents week, finding out their standing vacation plans now posed a problem. With only a month left before the tests, students are scrambling to review the lengthy material they’ve learned so far. This failure to inform the students ahead of time is inline with the communication breakdown happening throughout Walt Whitman. Teachers with every other day classes were alerted to the fact that they had to give students grades every quarter only the day before the 2017-2018 term began. In classes that weren’t test-centric, teachers had to alter their curriculum, hastening it’s pace in order to have sufficient grades on which to base quarter averages. The fact that teachers are learning of such large changes suddenly impacts the students. They can’t provide any information to the students who are confused, and some, when the alteration is presented as a last-minute change, disbelieve the change will even be implemented and therefore won’t even inform their classes. The late notice of the midterms is a symptom of a much larger disease.

 

Ashar Farooq

 

Believe it or not, there are several new midterms out this year during the Regents Week right here at Walt Whitman High School. Yes, these midterms were non-existent last year. Yes, these new tests will complicate student’s already complicated lives. Yes, they are already on the calendar for that week.

 

Many students utilized the Regents Week for catching up on a litany of assignments. Some, perhaps many, students even retake Regents exams during the week in order to potentially raise their scores. In addition, eleventh grade students take the English Common Core Regents Exam during that week. Therefore, the inclusion of midterms during a week with no scheduled classes is simply impractical and inefficient. The manner in which the initiative was implemented was poor, as many students did not find out about these new exams until late into the start of the school year.

 

Whitman junior Thomas Braglia does not believe that “students need another stressful week of examinations in the school year.” He is not wrong as AP examination weeks, Regents week, those weeks before breaks, and last weeks of quarter all feature lots of stress. Dylan Rehman, another Whitman junior, does not appreciate the “inclusion of the exams during the Regents Week.” Elliot Trester also mentions that the “midterm exams are not effective enough and will not be something to look forward to.”

 

What does this mean for you? It means that your previously scheduled long or short vacation time is dissolved. It means that you will have to potentially take multiple Regents Exam and the midterms in the span of a few days. It means that you may not be adequately prepared for these content-heavy exams that count for a significant percentage of your grade.

 

The reason for these new exams may seem logical. For example, is it wise to review content up to the halfway point of the year in order to better prepare for the end of the year exams. Theoretically, these exams are to force students to review already-learned material so that students will not have to review beginning-of-the-year-material at the crucial last moments of the school year.

 

Even though the logic behind these exams may be beneficial for the students in the long-term, the implementation of the new exams was improper. Personally, being forced to take an English regents that demands high intensity reading and writing the day before the AP US History midterm is not only stressful, but can potentially hurt my scores on both of my examinations. In addition, it can be simply nerve-racking for some students to take multiple high stakes-examinations on the same day within a week. Yes, this is similar to the college finals process and the final examinations at the end of a school year, however, the midterms are not an appropriate addition to an already-complicated high school life.

 

Meghan Italo

 

The decision to implement midterms into an already-busy week of testing is completely unnecessary. This is especially true for the junior class, whose students are already swamped with standardized testing. The juniors, who have the English Regents exam to worry about, now have several midterms to add to their stress. Let’s imagine that a junior, already having to deal with school work and SAT preparation, is getting ready to take his English Regents as well as retake an exam that he feels could’ve went better. Now, months into the year, he finds out that he has midterms that same week to worry about.

 

There was a major lack of communication regarding these new tests. Many students were not notified about them until recently, as they found out from another student rather than from the school faculty. If you’re going to implement new involuntary tests, at least tell the students at the beginning of the school year through announcements, rather than waiting a few months beforehand and leaving the students surprised, frustrated, and possibly unprepared.

 

It should be up to the teacher to choose whether or not a midterm exam will be administered to his or her class. Students would be properly notified, and the teacher would have time to create an effective in-class test instead of scrambling to create something that was forced upon him or her. The courses chosen to have midterms seem odd, almost random. Some lucky students only get to take one, while others may have three or four to take. There was no information given as to why the chosen courses were picked. It’d be much easier to have the individual teachers make the decision over midterms themselves, instead of forcing the tests on select courses while leaving others in the dark. It is the job of the school administration to clear up any problems and help students, not cause more confusion and add stress to the already busy lives of high schoolers.

 

Josh Joseph

 

These midterms did come as an annoying surprise, but I don’t find them much more than a nuisance. The exams take place in the middle of an otherwise relaxing mid-January break, disrupting a near-full week off from school. However, both of the midterms I’m scheduled to take are in half-year courses (Macroeconomics and US Government). These courses’ curricula are relatively small and easy, especially when compared to those of my full-year classes. Also, both Economics and Government are cumulative courses, requiring frequent recall of prior units in order to succeed on tests. I certainly won’t enjoy studying, nor will I cherish the act of showing up to take an exam during my time off, but the material on which I will be tested doesn’t frighten me in the least. An annoyance? Yes. But a detriment to my senior-year academics? Certainly not.

 

Kayla Sakayan

 

An issue about having to take midterms this year is that it causes complications with any vacations or getaways families may have planned. Personally, my family booked a vacation this past summer for the week we were supposed to be off. There were no indications of any changes being made to the Regents week calendar until students were notified more than halfway through first quarter. Last-minute information shared with students and parents did not allow enough time to make proper arrangements. The stress of having to take midterm exams has now increased because I now have to think about making them up while on vacation. This year I will be taking two midterms in AP European History and Honors Chemistry. With such busy schedules both inside and outside of school, it will be hard to find time to makeup these exams without missing any class time. Also, studying will prove to be more difficult due to my hectic travel plans and changes in sleep schedule. When classes such as AP European have a high-stakes midterm, it’s really important to be able to study as much as possible in order to be prepared. This is a real nuisance for students because the January break has been a time we all look forward to. It’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on sleep and get ahead of the game when it comes to homework. A much-needed break from our busy academic lives was taken away for no apparent reason.

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Editors on the Issues: Midterms