Opinion | The consequences of removing finals at ETHS

Linnea Mayo, Assistant Opinion Editor

On Wednesday, March 24, ETHS officially announced their changes for the 2021-2022 school year, and amongst this was the decision to eliminate final exams. In my experience, the entire finals week and time approaching these final exams were full of stress and anxiety, knowing that the significant 20 percent weight it would have on my grade would serve as an overwhelming fact to navigate. Not only are finals over-stressed on students, they often aren’t an effective way to evaluate a student’s knowledge or understanding in the class, considering students may not be good test-takers, with many of the exams being large multiple-choice tests. Simply put, there are better ways to assess students for their growth and their skills than doing a comprehensive and stressful final exam that encompasses 20 percent of your grade and doesn’t work for every single class, student, or even teacher.

So, while at first glance this news seems very exciting, some argue this change would negatively impact current and incoming ETHS students, specifically the underclass freshman who will consequently have close to no standardized testing experience. This becomes important, because the unfortunate reality is the experience of finals week and having significant exams at the end of a student’s semester is common in many colleges and universities. Often referred to as midterms, these exams are often seen as tough and require effort throughout the semester and proper studying leading up to it. 

“I think some of my counterarguments would be what is the role of school and what is the role of school specified to ETHS. Is the role of ETHS or schooling in general to strictly prepare you for things like final exams in the future, even if those exams aren’t necessarily best practice or what’s needed to access those skills. If our school doesn’t want to lead the way in proposing some alternatives or doing some alternatives, who will?” says Civic and APUSH teacher and ETHS Student Union sponsor Michael Pond. 

While it is important to note that removing these experiences for students could impact students, nowhere in the new format does it say a teacher can’t give an exam or that teachers can’t find ways to measure a student’s exam growth. It simply means there will no longer be one week of final exams required from every single class. 

So, this gives ETHS and its teachers an opportunity to be innovative, and truly think creatively about how we can measure student growth in their skill and their content without final exams, as this is still an important factor for those underclassmen. 

Another concern with the lack of finals is that final exams and projects will all get crammed into the last two weeks for students, with all-encompassing tests and projects trickling in during the final weeks of the semester. Again, this would likely not be the case, because nowhere does it state explicitly that no exam can be given to students. This will overwhelm both students and teachers. 

“Whether it’s an administrative approach to say in this week, these three courses will have opportunities to do exams or [have] projects do, and then two weeks later, these three different courses will have it, the benefits of not having a final exam week won’t be met,”  explains Pond. 

ETHS cited a loss of instructional time and added student stress from the exams as the reasons for moving away from them. While there are many aspects to consider, it’s admirable that ETHS has taken the opportunity to recognize the need for change in the antiquated final exam schedule, and now our administration has the chance to disrupt the norms and see what could work best moving forward.