Midterms: what went wrong


Before I start, I know many people have already written articles about midterms throughout the year. However, I feel that, as we approach the end of the year, there are some things that need to be talked about regarding midterms next year.

First of all, I want to talk about the format of midterms at KO. The midterms were spread out over a month of time. This format was a new concept at KO and was a counterproductive failure.

The purpose of the midterms was for students to be assessed on the material they had learned during the first semester, hence the “mid” in midterm. However, the first midterm, language, took place on Nov. 14, only two and a half months removed from the start of the school year.

This especially noteworthy “mid year” assessment is supposed to cover a certain amount of material, half a year’s worth, while ours only ended up covering two and a half months of material. This leads me into my next point which is how the midterm format this year set students up for failure.

By spreading midterms out over a full month, student stress was maximized as instead of preparing for a week of assessments, as is done in the spring, we were expected to be able to manage studying for summative assessments while juggling work in other classes simultaneously.

Not only does this breed an environment in which students are overwhelmed with their workload, but it inhibits success on such exams, and on assessments in other classes. For example, in a week before a midterm, teachers were allowed to assign homework, quizzes, tests and papers. Only the weekend before an assessment was a designated “no homework” period.

While this was well intended, it was flawed in a myriad of ways. Two days before an assessment is not nearly enough time to prepare for a large, summative exam. In the spring, we have a “finals week,” in which teachers are only allowed to prepare students for their final exams.

For the midterm exams, students had to prepare and study for other assessments in other classes while completing various other homework and assignments in the week leading up to such an exam. This leads to cramming over the weekend, which is not an effective study strategy, especially with months worth of material to review.

The second major flaw with this plan was that while the weekend before the exam was designated as a no homework period, there was nothing specified for the day(s) following the exam. This meant that teachers could assign tests or quizzes in the days following an exam, meaning that a student would have to prepare for such an assessment over the “no homework” period in addition to preparing for the midterm.

Lastly, even if the no homework weekend was flawless, many teachers still ignored the no homework designation and assigned work. In doing so, they created more stress for their students, inhibiting them from succeeding on the work they assigned and on their summative assessments.

Now, it would be unfair of me to criticize the midterm process this year without offering up a solution, so here goes. I propose a plan in which the midterms, for all classes, take place in the first week of December. This allows enough time for teachers to implement enough material to give a midterm, and not just a large test. In addition, it centralizes the testing process much like finals in the spring. This minimizes the stress for students, as we only need to worry about a week of tests rather than a months worth.

Like finals week in the spring, I would also want to see the last week of November as a review week, giving students adequate time to be prepared for their assessments and not have to deal with additional work and assessments on top of having to study for a midterm. While I recognize no plan will please everyone, I think mine is a major improvement on the system implemented last year and I hope that a similar plan is instituted next year.