Changing Midterms

This is the time of the year when students cry hearing about the week-long tests. They want to rip their hair out after studying for one test filled with two quarters worth of information. Their stress level becomes so high that after the week is done, they cry tears of joy.

This dreadful week is known as midterms.

However, is this midterm tradition changing here at Pentucket?  It can be said that traditions have changed since Principal Mr. Seymour was in high school. He said himself in his email regarding midterm changes, “I don’t recall having midterms and finals in HS, but that may be because it was 1987.” If traditions changed from 1987 to 2015, why can’t the changing traditions keep evolving?

English teacher Dr. Bent said, “From what I remember, all the midterms and finals were all traditional tests.  At the time, I think educators believed that this was a good way to test knowledge.  Things have changed.”

For example, writing lab classes here at Pentucket did not have to take a midterm or final for the past 14 plus years. Now, freshmen involved in writing lab have to write an in class essay during their exam block. Mrs. Fichera said, “The Writing Lab thing for this year…well, that did come as a surprise, but I don’t think the new guideline is for Writing Lab specifically.  My impression is that the administration wants all students to be here during midterms doing something meaningful.  So Writing Lab students are not taking a test; they are continuing with their work of the semester, writing essays and working on grammar, which makes sense in the context of the purpose of that class.” Mrs. Fichera puts a positive outlook on this test. However, the freshmen this year don’t seem to be too pleased by having to come in during their exam block to write another essay.

English Department Head, Mr. Ruland, also states his opinion on writing lab. “Giving a midterm right now, this semester, does seem a little disconnected, but I understand the reasoning for requiring one.  Moving forward, we will have students assess their skills, reflect on their growth in writing, and develop specific areas for each student to focus on to improve their writing. There is value in this and it will be time well spent”

However, midterms do not necessarily need to be a test. “I would think everyone would want to check on the progress of their classes, and since we have some extended, dedicated time for this, we need to make good use of it. It does not need to be the same for all classes, so this leaves space for teachers to make it as meaningful as they can for their own class,” said Principal Mr. Seymour. To most students, hearing this is a big relief.

English Teacher, Dr. Bent, also said, “I think the design of a midterm depends on the class and the teacher.  Not all midterms need to be tests.  The assessment can take any form, oral presentation, long term cumulative project, writing, or a traditional test.”

Mrs. Kal, a math teacher here at Pentucket, said, “I think a midterm exam should be an opportunity to demonstrate cumulative learning.  I think it should be an opportunity for a teacher and student to put together concepts and skills acquired throughout the year and be able to apply it in a cumulative way.  That is how I try to design my midterm exams here at Pentucket and I think the majority of teachers in the math department agree.” This is just one type of way to test a student’s learning.

Whether some teachers give a traditional test, or assign a project, the point of midterms are to demonstrate what the students have learned throughout the first semester of the year. Midterms will always apply to all schools, but the traditional midterm testing week seems to be evolving as the years go on.