That very question recently stopped me in the hallway of a local high school, posed by the school’s head principal, Dr. XYZ. I’ve been stopped by principals in hallways for the better part of 30 years, and before I’ve always had a quick answer or response, usually something along the lines of ‘I’m on my way to the bathroom,’ before this latest inquisition. This just wasn’t a topic I had considered.
My primary experience with final examinations was as a high school student and a high school teacher. In both cases, finals were part of the unquestioned landscape of the school situation and were proffered, most often, as a way of preparing students for the rigors of the finals in college. I remember water balloon fights were the norm after and in between finals at Medicine Lodge High School, at least until T.J. Rausch’s windshield shattered.
But those were different days. School is unlike my experience in the 90’s or 00’s when I was a high school student and then high school teacher. I’m not sure looking to the past does much but provide a reference point. The number of standardized tests have increased at such a rate that yesterday is hardly recognizable in today’s terms. For example, I took the Iowa Basic Skills tests two or three times and took the ACT twice in the 84-96 era of American education. Students today take more tests designed by someone-other-than-their-teachers in first grade than I took in 12 years of school. Read the last sentence again for emphasis.
The chief defense or reason given for final examinations in high school is that they prepare students for college, prepare them to be in a stressful testing-like situation (hey, kids, do you need more practice at being stressed-out?). Back in the days of yore, I see that preparation argument being more appropriate than it is today though perhaps still false in its motives, a little like what John Mayer alludes to in his song “No Such Thing.”
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world/
Just a lie you got to rise above.
Versus further pontification on the merit or value of finals, I’m opening EduSanity to our readers to contribute to a discussion, one I’ll share with Dr. XYZ. Here are some questions to get us started—feel free to use the comment box or email me your contributions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Should high schools stop giving final examinations?
To what extent do colleges still give finals and what do those finals look like?
What finals do you remember in a positive light or struggle to try to forget?
Do students today still need more experiences in high pressure testing situations?
What would be lost if high schools stopped giving final examinations?