Save the tests

Elim­i­nat­ing fi­nal ex­ams in Mont­gomery high schools would do stu­dents a dis­ser­vice.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

WHAT MIGHT seem like good news for Mont­gomery County stu­dents is more likely to hurt schools than to help them: The county is re­think­ing high school fi­nal ex­ams and may elim­i­nate them al­to­gether. Though we’re sym­pa­thetic to the plight of exam weary teenagers, scrap­ping fi­nals is not the way to en­sure bet­ter teach­ing and learn­ing in Mont­gomery.

This year, Mary­land schools adopted new ex­ams de­vel­oped by the Part­ner­ship for As­sess­ment of Readi­ness for Col­lege and Ca­reers (PARCC). These tests, aligned with the Com­mon Core State Stan­dards, are valu­able tools for gaug­ing stu­dent achieve­ment. But they also cut weeks out of in­struc­tional time, prompt­ing crit­i­cism that stu­dents spend too many hours tak­ing tests and too few ac­tively learn­ing in the class­room. In re­sponse to these con­cerns, school board of­fi­cials are con­sid­er­ing pro­pos­als to cut down on ex­ams. The plan to elim­i­nate twice-yearly fi­nals and re­place them with smaller assess­ments through­out mark­ing pe­ri­ods has emerged as the front-run­ner.

Cer­tainly, schools should ex­am­ine how they can al­lay exam ex­haus­tion for over-tested stu­dents. As Mary­land State Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Lil­lian M. Low­ery has sug­gested, there’s a good chance manyof the tests piled on top of the state-man­dated PARCC ex­ams and Mary­land High School Assess­ments are re­dun­dant. These assess­ments should go on the chop­ping block in fa­vor of al­ter­na­tive modes of eval­u­a­tion. But high school fi­nal ex­ams play an im­por­tant role not just in hold­ing schools ac­count­able for teach­ing fail­ures but also in pre­par­ing stu­dents for the next aca­demic step: To suc­ceed in col­lege, stu­dents must study a broad body of ma­te­rial and un­der­stand both the big pic­ture and the fine de­tails. Those are ex­actly the kinds of skills fi­nal ex­ams help stu­dents hone, and that’s why they’re nec­es­sary.

Stu­dents en­rolled in Ad­vanced Place­ment and In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate cour­ses al­ready do not take ad­di­tional fi­nal ex­ams. And PARCC ex­ams test only a few sub­jects, such as al­ge­bra and English, while the stan­dard­ized Mary­land as­sess­ment ex­ams re­quired by the state cover just bi­ol­ogy and gov­ern­ment. That leaves plenty of classes where, with­out fi­nals, stu­dents would have no cu­mu­la­tive as­sess­ment at the year’s close. That shouldn’t hap­pen. And even in PARCC-tested cour­ses, un­til school of­fi­cials have de­ter­mined that, like an AP or IB test, a PARCC exam cov­ers the same ma­te­rial with the same speci­ficity as a fi­nal exam would — and that mas­ter­ing this ma­te­rial re­quires the same level of study­ing— that class’s test should also stay.

Fi­nal ex­ams may seem painful in the mo­ment, but in the long run they are prof­itable to both schools and stu­dents. In a county where stu­dents have been fail­ing al­ge­bra ex­ams at high rates for years, the an­swer is not to re­move the tests: it is to equip stu­dents to han­dle them. Get­ting rid of fi­nals would be a short­sighted move that will not do Mont­gomery County high schools any fa­vors.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.