By: Mahathi Uppuluri
There is no doubt that the COVID pandemic has changed daily life drastically, especially for students. One change brought by this pandemic was the cancellation of midterms and finals.
Midterms were summative assessments that students took halfway through the school year. They were used to measure how much a student has learned up until this point and to figure out the areas where they excel and the areas they need to improve academically. Finals were taken at the end of the school term and showed students’ overall performance in different subjects throughout the year. These tests helped determine what type of classes the student should be taking in the next school year or semester based on their educational performance.
“I do think that midterms and finals are beneficial because they help teachers know where students are at and where students can improve. But, I also think that they are a pain in the neck and wouldn’t want them,” said Danielle Pareja (‘24).
Now that these exams are gone, many students, teachers, and parents alike have contrary opinions on whether this change is advantageous or detrimental to students’ intellectual abilities.
“I don’t think that finals and midterms help students improve their academic abilities because they cause a lot of unnecessary stress in addition to the everyday worries of high school students, especially in the covid affected world,” said Sammy Sendersky (‘24).
Many students agree that the lack of midterms and finals is a positive contribution to students. This is primarily because of the negative impact these tests have on students’ mental health, such as increased anxiety and stress. Students already have a tough time balancing schoolwork, extracurriculars, social lives, and time for their families. Adding these assessments does not help at all, especially because it is difficult to remember all the information learned throughout different semesters in such a short period of time.
“Midterms create mental strain. All the topics learned in a semester can be stressful to study by letting a letter grade determine whether you fail or succeed,” said Rebecca Calvillo (‘24).
On the contrary, some parents and teachers believe that midterms and finals are needed as a means to measure student performance and accountability.
“I feel conflicted about high-stakes testing, but I believe student midterms are necessary measures of student achievement and help in terms of student accountability. I recognize that my opinion is unpopular with students and even some staff, but we just went through a time where students were learning completely online or in a hybrid setting. Throughout this time, I saw lots of copying of work, some cheating, and noticed that at least a quarter of my students seemed apathetic about their education. Students did not have to worry about taking midterms or finals. Without these tests, students who did not master enough Spanish/French/Italian from the previous year were able to move on and are now in higher levels of Spanish/French/Italian without the foundations that they need to be at the appropriate levels of our world language courses. I love teaching, I love Westhill, and I am all about student achievement, but I wish we had midterms and finals to support students, academic integrity, and pride in learning,” said Len Lavallee, a Spanish teacher at Westhill.
Some have concerns that students are lazier in school now and do not care about their work as much as they used to because they don’t need to. They are able to pass and move on to higher levels without mastering the skills and concepts they are being taught, which is especially frustrating for teachers who expect students to be prepared for higher level courses. Parents also become disappointed when they see low academic performance since students no longer have an incentive to learn.
Midterms and finals have their own advantages and disadvantages. Overall, it seems that parents and teachers are more likely to support these tests to evaluate student performance, while students are more likely to voice concerns over mental health. Questions still remain about the future of midterms and finals, which were canceled first at the end of 2020, and remain canceled to this day.