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Nov 11, 2014 2:42 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton One Of Few Local School Districts To Eliminate Midterms And Finals

Nov 11, 2014 3:00 PM

This year, students at East Hampton High School may be able to breathe easier over Thanksgiving and Christmas break: The administration has decided to eliminate midterm and final exams, noting that the major tests are often hyped up, prompting students to “cram” for them, and detracting from them actually learning the material.

The administration is replacing the assessments with four unit tests throughout the year in an effort to better prepare students for higher education, and to shift the way they process and apply knowledge.

In the past, midterms were given sometime in mid-January, and there would be a break from regular classes to administer the tests, resulting in a loss of nearly a week of classroom time.

“The purpose was to put a grade on a report card,” Dr. Robert Tymann, the school’s assistant superintendent, said by phone, referring to midterms and finals. “Now, we’re giving tests within the confines of one or two days of class—we’re not changing the schedule, we’re not losing a week of instruction, and the purpose of the test is not only to let the students know where they are but to give us information on academic progress.”

Dr. Tymann said the unit tests will allow teachers to reteach concepts if there is an obvious struggle among students in a particular class before weighty exams like Advanced Placement tests or Regents.

“We’re hoping that kids learn not to cram, we’re hoping that teachers don’t spend a ton of time reviewing for a singular test, and we’re focusing on improving our instruction,” he said.

The revamp is part of the district’s shift toward the Common Core curriculum, and while the new module may seem like more tests, Dr. Tymann said the reframing of the exams will, with luck, change the way students prepare and thus improve learning. “When you make the midterm an event, a big event, both teachers and students really are taken off task of learning and forced to go into this test prep mode—and that’s not a good use of our time,” he said.

But East Hampton seems to be alone in its decision to do away with midterms and finals, at least among districts on the East End, with Bridgehampton being the exception.

In an email last week, Dr. Lois Favre, Bridgehampton’s superintendent, said that the district doesn’t give midterms as “a matter of course,” and for classes that require students to take a Regents, that state test usually counts as a final exam in an effort not to “over-test students.”

Pierson, Hampton Bays and Westhampton Beach high school students can expect to see traditional midterms and final exams, however.

Michael Radday, superintendent for the Westhampton Beach School District, said elective classes do not necessarily have midterms, with final projects often assigned instead of final exams. Even so, there has not been “any formalized discussion or push to move away from final exams” or midterms in core academic classes, he said.

Similarly, Hampton Bays has no plans to do away with midterm and final assessments, Superintendent Lars Clemensen said in an email. Instead, the district offers quarterly assessments in certain classes at the high school during the first and third quarter “as part of progress monitoring and that culminates in either a midterm … or final exam/[R]egents.”

Katy Graves, the superintendent at the Sag Harbor School District, said in an email that teachers are not required to give midterms to students, but that the district has no plans to move away from the practice. She could not be reached for further comment.

Dr. Scott Farina, the Southampton School District’s superintendent, could not be reached for comment.

“A teacher, two minutes ago, came into my office, excited about test results, not because they were so great but because it told him exactly what students were and weren’t understanding,” said Dr. Tymann. “And it’s a high-level chemistry class—these are smart kids. But that was a thrilling moment for him, and for me. So I really think we’re on to something here.

“Common Core is really so much better than what we’re doing. It’s gotten a lot of negative press, and there are some things that need to be improved. But I really do think it’ll help better prepare kids for a world outside East Hampton High School.”

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This is a genius idea. Now we will truly never know if students retained what they learned.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Nov 11, 14 5:32 PM
Time will tell on the "world stage".
By realistic (472), westhampton on Nov 11, 14 7:12 PM
Soon attendance will be optional too. You wonder why our educational system is lower and lower in world rankings. This is part of the reason. Hey kids don't plan on going to college if you don't like mid-terms and finals. Oh and come i to school later, get that beauty sleep in. What a bunch of over payed "crap for brains" administrators they have over yonder...
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Nov 12, 14 8:58 AM
Newsflash!! I have 2 kids in college and guess what? They have midterms and finals every semester. This is not "preparing kids for higher learning". Life is hard.. This is NOT helping them. The workplace is full of deadlines and highschool should be preparing them for college, not coddling them through it. Although this is the generation where every kid got a trophy...riduculous!
By springsmom (29), East Hampton on Nov 13, 14 11:41 AM
spelling error-ridiculous!
By springsmom (29), East Hampton on Nov 13, 14 11:42 AM