Interim Director of the Upper School Carolyn McKee and a midterm committee decided how KO will approach midterms this year by laying out key goals, reviewing feedback, and talking to students over the course of the last several months. Together, they have decided that midterms will take place the week before winter break, Dec. 10 to Dec. 14. The week before winter break will also be a no homework week. There will be two days of classes where English teachers can assess and then three days of exams.
To make this decision, a committee was formed that consisted of several faculty, including Ms. McKee, science teacher Tim Allerton, English teacher David Hild, Dean of Students and math teacher William Gilyard, math teacher Sandi Goss, and Spanish teacher Juan Martinez.
The committee’s goal when creating the plan for midterms was to maximize class time while minimizing the students’ stress. The committee decided to avoid testing in Jan.because then students would be stressed and would feel like they had to study over break. All these precautions didn’t prevent any stress though.
Last year, midterms took place over the course of the five weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break. The midterms were integrated into the school day, so despite No Homework days in classes, students still had to attend class on the days of exams. Students had at least one midterm per week, depending on what courses they took.
After midterms, the KO News sent out a survey asking students about their experience with midterms. The survey received 230 responses from the students. The general feeling of the students was that the schedule didn’t do a good job of reducing student stress because going to exams and then class wasn’t productive.
Many students reported that it was difficult to keep up with other classes when exams were happening at the same time. “It was stressful because we were studying for midterms and taking them while we also had other classes and assignments going on,” senior Amy Mistri said. Students also had tests right before exams which meant that they didn’t get feedback on what they had been tested on before they took the exam for their class.
Ms. McKee made a summary of all the responses and presented them to the midterm committee. The midterm committee met a few times through February and March, and then the committee welcomed feedback from students. Many students said they were mystified as to why KO would decide to implement midterms into the curriculum when the curriculum was already so rigorous. Ms. McKee said that the reason was college students had come back to visit KO and said that KO was not preparing students enough to take longer exams. College students said that by the time they went to college, they hadn’t taken finals in two years because of APs during junior year and then seniors don’t take final exams.
There was also concern that final exam grades were lower because kids hadn’t been used to that kind of assessment before. The only similar style of exam other than finals that students took were the AP exams. Midterms will still occur for AP classes because AP teachers feel like it’s important that they have time to administer a practice exam that is in the same style as the AP exam for each class.
Every year, Ms. McKee said she will try to improve the midterms to make the experience better for future students. She said that she values her role in the decision.“I think it’s important to continue to solicit feedback and make [midterms] better,” Ms. McKee said. “I’m very hopeful that this will be better than last year.”