In years past, there was always a nervous buildup that kicked in around November.
Will midterms be cancelled again from snow? Will I have to study for them for the first time in my high school career?
However, in the end students always seemed to get lucky.
This year, there’s no need to be nervous. The week before the school year began, Henrico County Schools’ Division Leadership Team decided to cancel all midterm exams after consulting with a committee that studies ways to improve how schools approach testing.
According to the official news release from Henrico County Public Schools, “Henrico Schools has decided to reimagine traditional midterm exams in order to restore more classroom instructional time.
Feedback the committee got from high school teachers suggested that when exams were administered they resulted in the loss of valuable instructional time.
When asked about her opinion on the decision, Godwin Principal Leigh Dunavant said, “I am indifferent. But I do believe that less testing and more project-based learning is a good path to take for students. The county is moving to a vision for more project-based learning and the Henrico Learner Profile with less emphasis on testing.”
The decision about midterms has been in the works for a long time.
“We have talked about this in Henrico County for five or more years. Other school districts have already made the switch to not having midterm exams. The decision was not a vote, but multiple stakeholders had the chance to give feedback,” said Dunavant.
Several have wondered why it took so long to come to the decision.
There is no definite answer other than speculation that snow cancellations were a factor.
“There was a committee formed a few years ago, but I am not sure why it took so long to come to a decision on whether or not to get rid of midterm exams,” said Dunavant.
Though midterms are cancelled, other changes have been made in regards to Henrico County’s testing policy.
“Students will still take final exams for all classes. Semester one classes will take final exams at the end of semester one.
AP and senior final exam exemption policies are still intact. Students may not be exempt from final exams any longer for SOL tests,” said Dunavant.
The new policy of no exam exemption from SOL tests has mixed reviews from teachers at Godwin.
Geometry teacher Rob White is worried about how this policy will affect students’ performances on the SOL.
“I am concerned with the removal of exam exemption because I think that it motivated a lot of students to study for their SOL test in order to get a better final score,” said White.
On the contrary, English teacher John Reaves thinks this policy is a step in the right direction.
“I like the new policy because not everyone’s a test taker. So when you have a big scary situation like the SOL, you’re not going to have people perform at the same level than when they’re testing in the environment you’ve built with them since September,” said Reaves.
History teacher Jessica Harvey thinks the decision has both pros and cons.
“Only half of the students in my classes will have to take the SOL. I think the policy is fair because we all prepare the same way and it’s unfair for some people to be done and not others. However, it’s unfortunate for the kids that have to take both, but I do think it’s fair,” said Harvey.
Another part decision was that students no longer have the option to take a midterm exam in an attempt to raise their semester grades similar to previous years when midterms were cancelled due to weather.
“I’m happy with the new midterm policy, and I don’t mind that midterms aren’t optional like in years past. I think it gives teachers more time to teach students for AP exams, finals, and SOLs, with less stress to create a midterm exam so close to winter break,” said senior Tim Do.
In the past, whether final exams covered material from the entire school year or just material from the second semester was the decision of the teacher, and it has been finalized that the choice will stay in the hands of the teacher.
Furthermore, teachers are allowed to choose whether they want their final exams to be in the form of a traditional test or take an unconventional route, such as a final project.
Junior Ria Misra is satisfied with the new midterm policy, but has her own outlook on what she thinks final exams should cover.
“I really like the new midterm policy. Before and after winter break is already stressful enough, and on top of maintaining our grades we shouldn’t have to work on a cumulative exam. I’m glad that teachers get to choose what material is on the final exams, but I wouldn’t be opposed to them covering everything to ensure that we remember and will continue to remember the information we have accumulated from the whole year. It will enrich our learning and it displays how well we understand concepts as a whole,” said Misra.
The years to come will be a test on whether this decision was the right choice.
However, the goal behind it is to make learning the best experience it can be for every Henrico County student.
“Students will not have to prepare for midterms and can spend more time working on meaningful classroom experiences through project-based learning and communicating, collaborating, thinking critically, being creative, and learning to be a global citizen in the world,” said Dunavant.