Virtual learning influences changes in fall semester exam format

Fall semester finals will take place on Thursday, Dec. 17 and Friday, Dec. 18, leading into a two week winter break. Periods 0 and 1 will each have 90 minute final periods on the 17th and periods 2 and 3 will have the same schedule on the 18th. With the new remote learning format that the fall semester has been held in, the San Marin community has raised questions and concerns about the administration of first semester finals. 

The Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) of department chairs and other administration held a meeting to determine how finals will be formatted this semester. It was decided that later in the semester, individual departments will collaborate and choose what format of assessments will be held.

“Some students will have finals that go through GoGuardian and some will have projects or presentations,” Principal Mark Sims said. “For test security everyone should be on GoGuardian on their school-issued chromebooks so we can identify what students are doing if we choose to do a traditional final.” 

Teachers have had to alter the fashion in which they format finals in order to compensate for the lack of instructional time that the virtual semester system has allowed for.

“Just by virtue of the fact that it is impossible to teach quite as much, the final won’t represent a full end of year final on a basic level of fairness,” English and philosophy teacher Wesley Swedlow said. 

Students have expressed uncertainties about their level of understanding going into finals week. The freshman class, in particular, has never engaged in high school finals before and does not know what to expect. 

“It’s nerve wracking not being able to go in and meet with teachers outside of class time to review the material,” freshman Claire Sullivan said. “I feel stressed out because my score affects a big portion of my grade, and with this year being crammed into one semester, there is a lot that will be covered on the final that I will need to comprehend.” 

Teachers also feel as though one semester was not enough time to teach all course material, especially in Advanced Placement and honors classes. 

“Over the summer, I had paced my Fall semester calendar to cover each unit (that I would normally cover) for all my classes and the only class I have been able to stick to my original pacing guide with is AP Calculus BC,” AP Calculus teacher Jordan Merkin said. “Students just need more processing time than what a semester can give.”

With the change that virtual learning brings, administration encourages students and teachers to go into finals with a positive outlook and adaptable mindset. 

“It’s not a perfect situation but I think our students and teachers have done well to make the best of it,” Sims said. “Like most things we encounter in life, if you are confident, if you prepare and just have the attitude of ‘I am just gonna do the very best I can’ you will do the very best you can.”

Above is a calendar demonstrating the timeline of the dead week and finals schedule. Fall semester finals will take place on December 17 and 18 this year.

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