Cumulative assessments return for SHS

Final exams will return this year, after being canceled last year due to the pandemic and block scheduling. The decision to reinstate the normal finals week was reached through discussions between department chairs and the administration. 

“Department chairs meet with administration monthly and we discussed it as a team,” said Amanda Jamerson, associate principal. “We were able to get stakeholder input so we could involve all departments in the decision making.”

In the past, final exams were administered over three days at the end of each semester. With two to three 90 minute class periods per day, final exam week was used as a culmination of students’ hard work. Part of the reason finals were brought back this year was to bring back this sense of normalcy to the school.

“The biggest thing that Mr. Kenney and I talked about in starting this school year is we wanted to do things as normal as possible,” Jamerson said. 

For teachers, finals have long been a standard part of their curriculums. Because of this, the return of finals seemed inevitable.

“I think all teachers expected it to come back, since last year was the outlier, and we weren’t thinking last year when we were taking tests at home that [not having finals] would be the new norm,” said Brett Aiello, math teacher. 

The biggest thing that Mr. Kenney and I talked about in starting this school year is we wanted to do things as normal as possible.”

— Amanda Jamerson, associate principal

Along with teachers, many students also anticipated the return of final exams.

“They have always been around, so just because they were gone [one year] doesn’t mean they shouldn’t come back,” said Vincent Musante, sophomore. 

While finals are a useful way to measure students’ learning over a semester, many teachers also see them as a way to prepare for the rigor of college classes.

“Having that experience [finals] the first time as a college student with much more on the line, it’s a lot scarier if you’ve never done it before than if you’ve done it all through high school,” Aiello said. 

Finals also provide an opportunity for students who have struggled in the past to demonstrate their academic growth.

“I do think that finals allow students the opportunity to showcase their understanding, but it’s also for students who might have struggled,” Jamerson said. “This is a way for them to show their proficiency in academic areas.”

Aiello recognizes that while upperclassmen have experienced final exams, neither sophomores nor freshmen have experienced them before. 

“I think some of it is going to be difficult for kids since they aren’t used to finals, especially for freshmen and sophomores who haven’t taken finals,” Aiello said. 

Though it will be a change for students, especially underclassmen, Aiello believes that his students have had the chance to prepare themselves. 

“We’ve been telling kids not to just learn things for the unit tests, but to make sure that they retain information,” Aiello said. “The kids who made sure to learn by the day and asked for help when they needed it are definitely on the right track to doing well on finals.”

I think some of it is going to be difficult for kids since they aren’t used to finals, especially for freshmen and sophomores who haven’t taken finals.”

— Brett Aiello, math teacher

For students that have never taken high school finals before, the exams or projects can sound daunting. Even so, Musante feels confident that his teachers will support him if he has questions or concerns about finals. 

“You can always go in after class for help if you need it,” Musante said. “All of my teachers are super nice, and they help me with anything I need.” 

As for what final exams might look like, it will be up to each teacher. According to Jamerson, teachers have received guidelines, but are generally free to make their criteria for finals whatever they choose.

“Teachers are aware of ways they can make finals their own, and that’s the Shorewood way for me, really making it the best for students,” Jamerson said. “They do have all of our information we’ve given them, we’ve given them some expectations surrounding finals, but teachers definitely have autonomy to do as they may.”

With finals coming up soon after winter break, students should expect more information about final exams directly from teachers, in advisory and on school social media pages.