On December 30 in the middle of the holiday break, Sr. Kyle Lantz sat down for dinner with his family. He received an email from his pre-calculus teacher, reminding him of the three exam packets to complete. He had three additional exam packets in his backpack. Thinking about the work he had ahead of him caused the stress to build. Suddenly break didn’t feel like much of a break.
One would think schools would do everything they can to prepare students for exams, but by having exams only ten days after a two-week holiday break schools are doing the exact opposite.
Let’s be honest, the work put into school over break is minimal. Finding the motivation to do anything for school over break is difficult. The work causes stress; nonetheless, students do not necessarily complete that work. Instead, students devote these two weeks to family, friends, work, travel, and general relaxation. The exam packets given prior to break go untouched, and knowledge that a student had gained throughout the semester slowly slips out of their mental grasp.
Once break concludes, teachers have only a week to prepare students for a test that will cover the entire semester. Often, this week dedicated to exam preparation isn’t even used for that purpose. Classes have such a packed curriculum they end up using this week for an additional unit. Teachers need the week to complete the curriculum, which leaves students completing all the exam preparation on their own at home.
In Lantz’s pre-calculus class, the final week before exams was devoted to half of a chapter that they would conclude following exam week. This left him with only opportunities before and after school to talk to his teacher about exam review, because class time was devoted to the final chapter. He was tasked with completing all three of his exam packets with help only from the online answer keys. This system is broken, and it leaves students stressed and ill-prepared for the most important test of the semester.
The solution is simple: place exams the week before break. This schedule of testing is used by almost all colleges and some West Michigan high schools like East Kentwood and Grandville. This schedule of testing is so much more advantageous for both the student and the teacher. Having exams just before break would not only give students the break they deserve but also give teachers ample time to grade exams and calculate final grades instead of having to do so as they prepare and begin the next semester.
Many college students such as Hope Sophomore Sean Hoey loved the collegiate exam schedule. “Having exams right before break allows students to truly enjoy their break without homework or studying. It really lets us have a true break from our studies.”
Grandville students have had the same experience as Hoey. Soph. Carly McCrumb said, “I think it is way easier on us to have exams before holiday break because when you finish up the semester before going on break, you have a fresh start coming back to school for the new semester. Also, you don’t have to worry about retaining all the information or studying during break.”
Educators, as well as students, have found the benefits in having exams prior to break. East Kentwood teacher Janelle Miles identifies benefits of the schedule. Students have time for focused learning before the big AP and SAT testing month, and they truly have an extended break.
Of course, there are downsides to testing before the break. If exams were a week and a half earlier, then school would need to start a week and a half earlier. This would mean that students would lose the warm weeks at the end of the summer and instead trade them off with the weeks at the end of the school year, which can be rainy and cool. Also, Miles felt it was necessary to mention some cons she noticed with East Kentwood’s system of testing. “There are very few short breaks leading up to December 21st, thus causing many to burn out and increasing the incidence of toxic stress among all at school. Fewer breaks are because of the need to get all the days of learning in before time is up.”
The benefits to the collegiate schedule clearly outweigh the harms. For the sake of the students, West Ottawa should make the change.