New Midterms & Finals Policy Won’t Prepare Students for College

Jack Nelson, Staff Writer

In early October of this year, Scituate High School Principal Robert Wargo announced a change to the school’s policy regarding midterm and final exams. Starting this year, grades for midterm exams will be included in calculating quarter two grades; additionally, final exam grades will be part of quarter four grades. Cumulative tests and projects will no longer be standalone grades that account for 20% of a student’s final grade in each class.

When news of this decision broke, many members of the Scituate community expressed their displeasure by posting and commenting on the Facebook group, “Scituate Monthly ~ Our Town.” Many comments suggested the school should stay with the previous policy in order to prepare students for a college-level education, where big exams are vital to academic success.

When I first heard about the policy change, I was stunned. For the entirety of my high school life, the system of midterms and finals has always been the same, and today I thank it for helping me to develop strong study habits. But all of a sudden, the policy changes just like that? I’m appalled, and as a sympathizer of the backlash, I believe the new policy is deliberately counterproductive to students’ future success.

What bothers me the most is this policy change intends to alleviate the stress of midterm and final exam weeks at SHS. Although health teachers and doctors advocate that high stress can be detrimental to your personal health, it’s that same stress that teaches us invaluable management skills. Each person’s ability to manage stress in the later stages of their life is an extremely useful tool when facing high expectations in the college environment and subsequent workforce. To put it bluntly, if you can’t properly handle stress in high school, you’re in trouble for the future.

Obviously, dealing with an unhealthy level of stress 24/7 is not something I recommend or support, but in the midst of exam weeks, it is completely natural and needs to be dealt with accordingly. Developing stress-management during youth is the best way to prepare students for the reality of the job market, yet this new midterms/finals policy supports simply postponing it. That postponement will create even more stress for students when they get to college, as they will quickly have to learn how to manage and apply stress under great duress.

As an SHS Senior, I am accustomed to the previous policy, and as a result, I feel ready to test my knowledge at the college level, which is why it’s not me that I’m worried about. I am concerned for the freshman of today and high school students of tomorrow who will know nothing else but this new pillow-soft policy. They will have no practice whatsoever in the concept of one exam determining a grade, and thus when they take on college academics, they are much more likely to be blindsided.

By eradicating the original midterms/finals policy, SHS also sheds some of the necessary weight of preparing students for success in the real world and expects significantly more from them. This is a foolish expectation. All high schools need to be held accountable for maximizing student learning, and this policy avoids accountability.

If Scituate High School is truly committed to preparing its students for the rigor of a college curriculum, they should already know a key component of the formula. After all, they supported it for years–it’s the former midterm/finals policy, and they’ve chosen to expunge it.