Several FHC teachers find midterm exams necessary

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Ashlyn Korpak, Staff Writer

As students get ready for exams, all they see is their side of the story. It’s all about what we have to study for and the exams we have to take, but there’s more to exams than that. What’s behind the scenes of exams?

I enjoy the symbolism of the culmination of a semester’s learning, but I do find that it can be difficult to authentically assess that learning.”

— Lisa Penninga

Penninga’s words are like that of many other teachers who see the importance of exams but worry that it’s not an accurate measure of a student’s intelligence.

“Overall, I think exams are useful,” math teacher Jessica Post said. “I don’t know if they truly tell the comprehension of what the students know. Sometimes, it’s more of what did they memorize from what the teachers gave them as a review.”

To combat the issue of exams not being a great test of intelligence for all students, especially ones that have a hard time taking tests, some teachers opt to split up their exams into different parts.

“I provide a few types of testing to reach an encompassing feel for how students are doing,” American Sign Language teacher Kimberly Williamson said, “but I don’t agree that [exams are] about [a student’s] overall intelligence. Some students thrive in areas that others don’t.”

Unlike many students may think, exams don’t actually come from the local government or the school district.

“We decide what is the must haves and we fill in with the things that are what we need to keep practicing, because you’re going to see it again second semester, so it just keeps progressing.”

Teachers try and think about what students will need to know to be successful on exams when putting reviews together.

“We create the review sheets from the exam,” Post said, “so that the kids know what these topics are and what they’re going to see. We’re not out to trick you in any way; we give a variety of topics in a broad way and try to direct you to the types of problems that are going to help you with that topic.”

Some teachers, like Mrs. Penninga, try to not only make a review sheet, but have other things students can study from. This is especially nice for students who do not retain information from study guides.

“I usually have a review guide of what students need to study, while also reviewing the literary terms and stories in a fun Kahoot,” Penninga said. “I create a review guide, create interactive games, and keep prior work up on Google Classroom for students to review.”

Much like Penninga, Calvin Anderson, an Economics and American History teacher, tries to do more than just the basic review guide.

“I identify what students will have to know on the exam so there is no guessing game involved,” Anderson said. “I usually provide a study guide for students. Sometimes I provide  Quizlets, Kahoots, and other online reviews, and sometimes we spend time in class reviewing material.”

Though most teachers use similar review techniques, every teacher is different in how much time they give students to prepare.

“I usually give the review guide out a few weeks ahead of time,” Penninga said, “but technically, [students have] an entire semester [to prepare].”

While Penninga gives out her exam review earlier with less time to work in class, Post goes through the entire review with her class.

“Typically, I try to give three full days of question and answer sessions about the exam and what you don’t know,” Post said. “But this year was kinda weird with the snow days.”

Many students think exams are pointless, but teachers who used to have to take them, just like students, say that now that they are a teacher, they can see the need for testing.

“I understand why exams are given,” Post said. “It’s a curriculum where they have to prove they have mastered the content. I understand why it is now and try to help prepare [students] as much as I can because exams aren’t just a day to do something.”

Many students at FHC have a difficult time understanding the need for midterm exams.

“I think in most cases, exams are necessary,” Anderson said. “There are some instances where a student can demonstrate competency in ways other than answering questions. Examples might be verbal discussions with a teacher or presentations.”

It’s not just for teachers to see where the students are; it is also for students to see where they are at.

“[Exams are also] for students to see how well they are doing,” Williamson said. “Hopefully, they will adjust and take the habits they learn and apply them to life outside of high school.”