Projects over traditional final exams


School’s out for summer—almost, at least. With the coming of June comes the comforting feeling that school’s almost out. APs are over, seniors have committed to colleges, and posters on the walls have started coming down in preparation for the mass summer cleaning. Despite this vibe, however, work for students and teachers is far from over—with finals quickly approaching, students dread the idea of sitting in a room spending two hours taking a test for each class. Recently though, with PARCC and other changed and new standardized testing, final exams have been replaced by projects, research papers, and other activities completed outside of the final period.

Earlier in the year, the administration put out an announcement to teachers saying that administering midterms was optional because of the loss of class time resulting from so many standardized tests, mainly PARCC. Even without the PARCC disruption, in previous years, midterms in classes with AP exams were occasionally replaced with two-hour lectures or movies in order to utilize the extra time to cram in more information in preparation for the exam. With this option extended toward non-AP classes, other teachers were able to use this alternative to their advantages. Although many teachers decided to keep tests in place, a few made an optional test or cancelled it altogether. With a similar option available for finals, teachers are taking the opportunity to take some stress off students and create more hands-on and applicable experiences for students’ final ten percent of grades.

While final exams can gauge how well a student has absorbed content in a class, projects can provide opportunities for students to apply what they’ve learned to different mediums. Projects give students a way to apply their creativity and talents into classes and lessons they’d otherwise be unable to, allowing them to incorporate activities like music and art. They allow students to take a break from excessive studying and instead let them take a step back and see how their knowledge can be used in real-world situations. For example, in place of studying for a final exam, AP Physics 1 students have spent their time after the AP creating their own projects and lessons to present to the class on applications of introductory physics knowledge.

Other classes take this time as the year winds down to allow students to individually explore concepts. Some English III and AP English III teachers have replaced a final essay with various types of research papers, which allow students to create their own prompts and views on concepts rather than being assigned a specific aspect to comment on. Granting freedom with projects lifts a layer of stress existent when students have to tirelessly work to recall dozens of concepts from throughout the year to be regurgitated in yet another exam.

In classes where projects are being offered over exams, more lax environments create an easier way to ease into the end of the year. While students previously faced intense stress while studying, that stress gives way to much more relaxation with projects, as there is no intense buildup of work leading up to a single test day.

While some classes still have tests, the combination of projects and tests provides a good mix of workloads. Students aren’t having to cram concepts learned as long ago as September and at the same time aren’t having to prepare eight separate powerpoints to present in each subject. Although some classes are better concluded with a test, projects give the opportunity to express individuality and show applications of courses that otherwise wouldn’t be available.

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