Midterms and Finals: Should They Return?

Desks set up in preparation for final exams and midterms. Photo provided by John Hays.
Desks set up in preparation for final exams and midterms. Photo provided by John Hays.

High school prepares students for the next part of their life, whether that be trade school, the work force, a gap year, or college. Loudoun County is extremely well rated in terms of college preparedness, however, could they be doing better? In 2015, Loudoun County changed their policy to where they no longer require teachers to administer final exams. Although, teachers are still allowed to administer the exams as long as they are worth less than 15 percent of a student’s final grade. 

Many teachers at Woodgrove believe that mandated midterms and finals should return to Loudoun County. History teacher, Mrs. Heidi McPhillips, shared her opinions on how midterms and finals are good for students in terms of college preparedness, but life as well. She stated, “The benefit is huge. It teaches discipline, how to study, how to organize things, and how to plan.” McPhillips explains that it not only teaches students the discipline and school skills needed to succeed, but that these skills such as “organizing, planning, and consolidating information” can be used in other aspects of life as well. McPhillips shared that many students from Woodgrove who came back after their fall semester of their freshman year said they felt unprepared for finals and their grades reflected that when she asked how their semester went. McPhillips also explained that messing up one of the very few grades in college can have a drastic effect on your final grade and grade point average (GPA). 

Additionally, Woodgrove’s Principal, Dr. William Ship, shared the opinions of McPhillips. He explained that he still endorses and encourages teachers to administer midterms and finals in accordance with the county policy, which was altered because of the significant impacts finals caused on final grades. Before the policy changed, finals were worth ⅕ or 20 percent of students final grade, which was the main concern. Shipp also explained, “I’m a believer in having those types of assessments. I think it is important for students to take the essential knowledge they learned and synthesize that information to demonstrate what they have learned.” He explained Woodgrove still creates a schedule where students are not overwhelmed with the amount of finals or tests on one day, however, it is no longer an abbreviated half day. Finals allow students to learn how to pool information and take the important parts from everything they have learned over the course of a semester or year, while it also gives the teachers an idea if students understood what the teacher was teaching. 

By practicing midterms and learning how to fail one can gain significant life skills that can be applied to any aspect. McPhillips shared a quote from Lao Tzu, “Actions become habits, habits become character,” explaining that starting study habits and organizational habits early is essential for success. 

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