Area Districts lead the way in exam exemptions

Kaitlin Lewis | Staff Writer

While Mason students cram for the next three days, some nearby high schoolers are escaping the chaos that is Finals Week.

With tomorrow being the start of the end of first semester, many students at Mason High School feel the pressure of studying for potentially seven upcoming tests. Other high schools in the area, however, have exam exemption policies, allowing students to get out of some, or all, of their exams.

Lebanon High School uses exam exemptions as a Perfect Attendance Incentive and allows
students to dismiss one final exam of their choice per quarter they receive perfect attendance or all of their second semester finals if the student has perfect attendance for the full school year.

Springboro’s exam exemption policy differs between all four grades at the high school and is based off of students’ attendance and grades. Both Colerain High School and Kings High School offer a way for seniors to exempt their finals second semester, provided the student has a high enough grade as determined by the teacher and/or administration.

While Finals Week may strike fear in many students at MHS, exams allow teachers to assess if students are retaining the material they have been learning all semester. In classes where information builds over years of school, some teachers argue it is important to make sure that students are gaining all necessary information before they move onto a higher level course. Spanish II teacher Debbie Perry said that for her department of teachers, final exams allow them all to make sure the students are learning the same information throughout all the different classes.

“We have to take all our children and put them to the next level,” Perry said. “We have worked hard to (use) common assessments so that we have a common goal. I think that (it) shows that we’ve all taught, not to the test, but to that common goal.”

Opposition to this argument includes students and teachers who claim having exam exemptions would give students another push in their classes to work harder throughout the semester. Senior Ivan Mercado said exam exemptions not only area great incentive to do well and attend class all semester, but also provide students who struggle with test taking a way to still finish strong in a course.

“I know plenty of people who have 4.0, and they get (lower scores) on their ACT,” Mercado said. “It’s all to their own strengths. Some people are just better at tests.”

Advanced Placement Psychology teacher Paul Reedy agrees that exam exemptions can be an extra incentive for students to do well all semester long, but, similar to the policies at Colerain and Kings, Reedy said exemptions should be offered exclusively to seniors and only second semester. The chance to avoid tests could be a way to motivate seniors who start to lose momentum towards the end of their last year.

“My philosophy is that would be a way to counter Senioritis,” said Reedy. “I’ve worked at two other school districts prior to Mason where they had some sort of senior exam exemption. I felt like it was a nice incentive to offer students in their final year.”

Honors Accounting co-teachers Debbie Gentene and Lori Toerner offer a way students can exempt their final exams. If students complete all homework assignments during the semester, they do not have to take the final test. Gentene said offering an exam exemption is a great incentive throughout the semester and that the tests students take during the course, versus one final exam, better indicate the students’ learning.

“We are trying to prepare them for college,” Gentene said. “Even though college will have final exams, we feel that those assessments we capture along the way show their learning. When we get to the end, sometimes that one final exam isn’t a good indicator of the learning. It’s just what they have crammed for the night before.”

Assistant Principal Shanna Bumiller said senior exams next semester are currently a big topic for teachers and administrators. Because the AP testing schedule in May 2018 starts later into the month, seniors could potentially be taking AP tests even after their official last day at the high school. This could cause overlap with days that seniors would typically be taking their final exams, meaning the chance for seniors to exempt final exams in their classes could help counter the crammed scheduling.

“The decision has to be made collectively,” Bumiller said. “Teachers, our view as administrators, the AP test coordinators, all those different components are a factor. We will come to a decision in the next three weeks about senior exams.”

As far as underclassmen exams, the discussion of creating an exemption policy is not as high of a priority. Coming to a conclusion on senior exams must be done by the first day of second semester, January 8. Similar to other schools’ policies, Bumiller said that some criteria for exam exemptions should be in place for seniors as a way to make students hold accountability to the end of the year. Final exams or not, teachers and administrators are here to help students to learn, even all the way to the end of their senior year.

“I came from a high school that had exemptions for seniors, (but) there were some parameters on that,” Bumiller said. “From my perspective, that worked. There was still some accountability, because ‘Senioritis’ does set in. We like to hold onto you for as long as we can. You are still a member of our culture and our building. We are here to educate you and help you grow as a person, and in the end, we are going to do that.”