As we approach the halfway point of the school year, and the end of the first semester, I am watching my teenage daughters prepare for final exams. I read the blog post Finals Fever and agree with the statement that there needs to be “a better way to end a semester” than with final exams. There is likely very little movement in grades on a final exam. An “A” student will very likely get a good grade on a final while a student who is struggling to pass the class is likely to get a mark that will either achieve a pass or a fail, but not by much either way.
I personally went to a high school that did not have final exams. When I got to University, I had zero experience with finals. Everyone said I was at a great disadvantage because I didn’t have any test taking experience. Well guess what? It didn’t matter. All test questions are easy if you know the answer, or know how to find the answer. So if I LEARNED something during the semester, I did well enough on the finals.
I think that is why teachers come up with “trick” questions, because they know they have to make something “hard” for the students who learned during the semester. There is a notion that “hard” equals “good”.
- You will not use the grade book as a weapon against your students. In fact you may want to commit to not using your grade book at all. You may need to keep one to fool the administration, but under no circumstances should it reflect what you report to the office at the end of a grading period.
- Commit, right now, to not failing a single student. No matter what. If you do this it will completely change how you work with young people.
- Never forget that you are there to help kids. Nothing else matters. Not even a little.
We are not here to “trick” kids, or make things “hard”. We are here to help kids be successful. If a teacher can make these commitments, and spend time teaching and assessing students all year long, the final exam questions should all be “easy”.