Weight of finals vary among classes, helps student wellness

For the 2018-2019 second-semester finals, individual course teams in each subject area will decide if final exams will count anywhere between 10 percent to 20 percent, according to Principal Dr. Lauren Fagel.

In the past, finals have been worth 20 percent, Fagel says. Due to concerns over this one-size-fits-all approach to courses that vary from each other, the decision was made to allow course teams to determine the weight of their final, Fagel states.

“The makeup of the work students do over the semester [is different in each class that] it doesn’t make sense to insist on a common 20 percent across the board,” Fagel said. “A research project in social studies might allow students to demonstrate mastery of the reading, writing, critical thinking, and historical analysis skills that they practiced all semester.”

The decision was made after meetings between administrators and teachers about the potential future change in finals themselves, Fagel says. The universal 20 percent final across all courses was a concern voiced, according to Fagel.

“It wasn’t that all teachers weighed in, but there were enough representatives from the teaching faculty that were very supportive of giving teams the option, that the administration eventually made that decision,” Fagel said.

One factor in the option to change was the concern over student wellness when exams are worth a large amount of their grade, says Fagel and Jeffery Rylander, Science Instructional Supervisor.

“Students stress over finals because they represent a large fraction of their final grade,” Rylander said. “Changing the percents of finals would take away some of that stress.”

This is the first opportunity course teams have to switch their final percentages, but Phil Gartner, Mathematics Instructional Supervisor, anticipates that most teachers will not want to change the percentage in the middle of this year, or even for next year. He says that revisiting material, is essential to retaining the information.

“In many cases, we do not anticipate a change next year, either, as the teams value the review,” Gartner said. “The math teachers say that with our review materials provided and the creation of a fair test, most students do just fine with the exam and learn from it.”

Some departments haven’t made changes to the percentages regarding any of the courses, according to Dr. Thomas Kucharski, English Instructional Supervisor, Jeannie Logan, Social Studies Instructional Supervisor, and Danita Fitch, World Languages Instructional Supervisor. Fitch says the multi-component design of the language final was the reason that course teams decided to keep the 20 percent.

“The final is not about how much a student ‘knows how to study for a final,’” Fitch said. “But [it’s] rather a reflection of their skill development.”

Most finals will not be changing this year because many teachers think that a 20 percent final is fair. However, some teachers would like to finish this semester and think about possibly changing finals next year, Fagel says. The decision regarding the switch is not completely finalized, however Fagel would like to give course teams the option of not even giving finals at all.