The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

Alternative Finals Relieve Exam Stress

As the year is ending, students are getting nervous about finals.

Last semester I was told my finals would be easy because I’m a freshman. Instead, the tests turned out to be very stressful, and I studied very hard to pass all of them. I was extremely nervous to take first semester finals and I am just as worried for second semester. Adding to my anxiety is that we do not have a long weekend to study this time around.

It would be much less stressful to take alternate finals, in which teachers assign their classes a project or essay instead of a sit-down test. These finals are weighted just like traditional finals. They are not widely used, but some English teachers offer them.

“My students that took home an essay instead of the sit-down final said it was a lot less stressful than a sit down test,” English teacher Elaine Mason said. Mason’s 11 Advanced English class students wrote an essay as a final first semester. “Different classes have different finals,” said Mason, department chairwoman. “It depends on the class.”

English teacher Cathy Lawlor also gives an alternate final second semester for her Social Issues class. “I feel that my alternate final is a better test of student learning and creativity and critical thinking than a traditional pen and paper, sit-down final exam,” Lawlor said.

With alternate finals, students can relax a little more with all the studying. They still have to work hard, but the projects are more fun and less stressful than a test. However, students must put effort into deciding the focus of their essay or project rather than simply answering questions provided by the teacher.

“Each student must decide on a social issue of focus that we did not cover during the school year,” Lawlor said. “He or she must then get to work in designing a unit―much the same way that a teacher designs a unit of instruction for his or her students.”  Lawlor’s  students must include a lesson plan in their unit, and students present their lesson plans during the last few days of school. The project also includes a review of at least two films and one book. Lawlor said the project is worth the same amount of the student’s grade as a sit-down final.

Beginning next year, teachers will be evaluated by their students’ performance on standardized tests offered at the beginning and the end of the school year. Eventually, these tests may replace all teacher-created finals.

Indeed, Lawlor is nervous that the in a few years the administration will cut her final. Lawlor said she does not know if her students find her alternative final more or less challenging then a regular exam. “It has worked beautifully for my classes in the past.  I am just hoping that with what seems like a movement towards uniformity and common assessment, I will still be permitted by the administration to continue alternate assessment,” she said.

 A version of this article appeared in print on 8 May 2013, on page 4 of The Shakerite

Comment using your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail account


Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Comment above using your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail account. If you don't have an account with any of these websites, you can comment below with your full name and a valid email address.
All The Shakerite Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *