Walking into my classroom this week, I could feel it, the end is near! Parents know it, teachers know it, and the kids DEFINITELY know it. This is the time of year when one of two things always happens: kids either start to lose their minds in anticipation for summer break or they realize just how close we are to the end and buckle down to finish strong. For some students, especially freshmen, it can be this final push that determines whether they move forward into the next class or repeat the one they are currently in. Unlike many of their core classes, there is no opportunity to make up lost credit for any of my classes during summer school. So, my hope is that everyone stays focused and finishes strong.
It is also a time for students to remain focused outside of school in preparation for exams. Although my classes don't have a state mandated exams this year (one benefit to courses being in pilot status), my students will still have an exam that counts for 20% of their grade, unless they meet the exemption criteria discussed below. This gives me a little more flexibility than the state exams in determining what my students have taken away from the school year. State exams in CTE consist of 100 multiple choice questions. While many students find these exams to be quite easy, I do not like this manner of determining mastery of the curriculum. My reasoning - some students fully understand the concepts, tools, and techniques they learned throughout the year but they simply don't test well. However, in having the freedom to create my own exam, I have a solution.
This year, my classes will do a three-part exam. They will still be expected to identify important terms based on various scenarios presented in a multiple choice test but they will also be given a piece of digital art to create (hands-on demonstration of skills) and a written reflection to show mastery and understanding. While this will make grading their exams a much slower process for me, I believe it will give students a better opportunity to demonstrate what they learned this year.
In case you are wondering about exam exemptions after reading what your exam will look like, you need to satisfy two criteria: grade and attendance. If a student has an overall grade of an A for the year, they must have no more than six absences to be exempt. If they have an overall grade of a B, the attendance requirement is no more than four absences. However, it is also important to know that while this allows a student to skip the exam, they may also opt to take it as it will not harm their grade and if they are close to jumping to a higher grade (for instance, they have a high C average for the year and only need a couple of points to jump to a B) they may want to take it anyway. Doing so can boost their final grade and while it may not seem like it at the current time, this boost in grade can help raise their overall GPA down the road, which matters for college applications.
So, in summary, while the end of the school year is very close, it is important to remain focused and finish strong. These last couple of weeks can determine what you are doing next year. Save the rest and playing around for summer break, not now.
I am a high school Career & Technical Education (CTE) teacher located in Durham, NC with a focus on game art and design. This blog provides a place for reflection on relevant classroom practices.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer or anyone else associated with Durham Public Schools.