Algonquin implements mid-term exam policy (Updated)

by beth on January 20, 2015

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Algonquin Regional High School’s mid-term exam period is taking place this week. According to the school’s newspaper, it’s a new policy this year.

The Harbinger reports that ARHS implemented new school-wide midterms with an “open-campus” schedule similar to Finals. The paper posted:

The new midterms policies and a new midterm schedule will optimize mid-year testing and reduce stress in students, according to administrators and faculty.

The new policy is touted as better preparing students both for final exams and for “future heavily-weighted comprehensive assessments in college.”

It also allows teachers to “measure student growth, and allow teachers to see what material needs enforcement in term three.”

In previous years, midterm policies varied by course:

some courses gave heavily weighted mid-year exams that would appear on term-two grades, as opposed to a separate category on report cards; there was no official midterm schedule, so students took tests and attended classes in the same day.

The new system weights midterms uniformly: 

The tests will count for ten percent of a student’s final grade. Numerically, that’s a letter grade’s difference for students who score a 100 percent or zero; whereas in the old system, scores had a higher possibility of greatly affecting final grades.

ARHS’ Science Department head explained the importance of midterms:

Lorraine Zanini said. “There’s a difference in preparing for a comprehensive exam versus preparing for a single chapter test. I want kids to be prepared comprehensively for the big picture, [and to understand] the overarching ideas that I’ve taught for that first semester.”

The policy was developed by a committee of department chairs and school administrators. To help in their decision, the committee first surveyed teachers on the issues.

For the full Harbinger article, click here.

According to the school website, midterms are scheduled today through Friday. Two exams are scheduled per day. You can read the school’s guidelines and schedule here.

Updated (1/20/15 11:52 am): I just stumbled on an interesting opinion piece on mid-terms also published by The Harbinger.

According to the writer, students have opposed the change. The opinion posed is that the issue is less about the change and more about the administration/faculty not having done a good enough job communicating the reasons to students. You can read that piece here.

1 ngolf1 January 20, 2015 at 3:41 PM

The new midterm schedule and policy is NOT well thought out. If the argument is to prepare kids for the college experience I would be hard pressed to find any college in the country that would have students have 7 midterms in a 4 day period (with two a day for the first three days) Nor would they start at 7:20 in the morning four consecutive days. The new midterm schedule totally defeats the “time in learning argument” as we now are missing an entire week of classes to accommodate this new schedule. Finally this continues to feed on the “pressure” that these kids are already under. Not only do they feel they have to continually challenge themselves academically and do community service, and hold a job and play a sport there is nothing that gives for these kids, so adding another “high stakes test” just adds to the pressure that they are under already.

2 Bill January 20, 2015 at 4:08 PM

I agree. Well said.

3 AB3 January 20, 2015 at 7:33 PM

I agree with ngolf1 as well and want to add a few points. If the faculty wants to change the weighting system of the tests, can’t they do that without implementing mandatory midterms in all classes? Last year, teachers were given the option to give or not give a midterm at their discretion. In my opinion, it is ridiculous to give midterms in classes that don’t need one. It just adds to the stress of the week. But in addition to that, the students were loaded with end-of-term work last week. So going into mid-term week, many students had multiple tests on several days last week. There was never a break between the curricular work, tests, projects and the midterms. And finally, why do the students need to prepare for college at this point? Maybe that would be appropriate for the seniors (although they have a full year of maturity before college midterms) but why all grades? The lower school students are not even close to college – why treat them older than they are? If the faculty wants to have midterms, I would encourage them to give adequate study and prep time leading up to this week. Not simply add midterms to an already packed curriculum.

4 JuniorParent January 21, 2015 at 10:54 AM

For my own child, I think this new schedule is better than in the past. In the past she had both mid-terms and classes on the same day. She is home by 12:00 and has time to study for her mid-terms the next day. I worked at a charter school which had midterms and finals starting in 6th grade. It trained students to not just study for a unit, but to retain the information for the long haul. Granted, this new schedule is tough on some kids but work isn’t easy. School should be challenging and kids need to learn that they need to step up to the plate. My daughter studied for 5 hours for pre-calc on Sunday and said her test was “easy” — that’s what happens when you put in the effort. Now she really knows the content for the second half of the year, which will make learning the new content easier as well.

5 ngolf1 January 21, 2015 at 1:18 PM

junior parent:
I am thrilled for your daughter on her success. She is of course a junior with several years of high school (and testing) behind her. Sadly my child with 7 midterms doesn’t have 5 hours to prepare for each one, combined with a job, sports and some mandatory family activities over what was perceived to be a “long weekend” . Having had several kids through the middle school I can assure you that they did NOT have cumulative testing from the 6th grade on, so the poor freshman who is walking into ARHS and now faced with up to 7 midterms (having had almost no previous experience with cumulative testing). I agree whole heartedly with AB3 that testing would be fine if ample study time was provided. But as work was ramped up all through last week and some “study guides” weren’t even distributed until Thursday (giving no time to go over with teachers) seems to me like this is just a way of adding more pressure to these kids. I have a child in college whose reaction to this was “so glad I’m not there anymore that’s way worse than college testing” Incidentally their school doesn’t even have “midterms” they assess twice a semester and then a final. I have no issue with classes having midterms. I have a great issue with the timing of these and the amount of prep time these kids have; as well as missing a week of classroom time (critical especially in AP classes who test in May and already have a heavier work load)

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