The student newspaper of the Ramaz Upper School

The Rampage

Midterms at Ramaz: Should There be Other Options?

Julia Levy ’18

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As expected, midterms are a time of great stress for most Ramaz students. They require the ability to study a semester’s worth of material for eight different classes within a span of eight days of consecutive exams (with only one weekend serving as an interruption). As midterms progress, students get more and more tired and many find it hard to focus towards the end. Consequently, their level of performance goes down closer to the end of exams.

My own experience with midterms is very similar to the one mentioned above: I become progressively tired as the eight days go on, and I don’t always offer my best on every final, as it takes a while to recuperate from the previous final. My experience is that what I get on a final either keeps me where I am or has the potential to lower my grade, even if I have been doing perfectly well throughout the semester.

I think it would be extremely effective for there to be alternative options to midterm exams in certain classes. An alternative option could be, for example, a creative project that requires a lot of work but can be done at home over the span of a few days, ridding students of some of the midterm week stress. During the school year, many teachers give alternative assignments for students to do along with classic tests. Some teachers, such as Mr. Jaffe will give a take-home test once a semester. Others, such as Rabbi Stern, will sometimes give small projects or longer homework assignments to grade. Through this system, Rabbi Stern’s students have a set amount of time to answer harder math problems that ask them to apply their knowledge in a different way. This alternative method of grading is also becoming popular in the english department. Dr. Gaylord’s new system allows for students to submit creative work to be graded along with the classic essays, quarter test, and vocabulary quizzes. In science classes, students not only do homework assignments and take tests, but they also get to perform labs to get a more hands-on experience with the material they are learning. They are then graded on the lab assignment or the lab report.

If many classes aren’t only based on tests, shouldn’t there be an option for a midterm to be replaced with a larger project instead of a formal final exam? This system would allow students who have greater strengths creatively and even artistically to demonstrate their best abilities and skills in a class. “I would really appreciate it if this kind of option were available,” said Elana Shalomoff ’18. “Most of the time my midterms either keep me where I am gradewise in a class, or bring me down a grade.” Instituting a class project to complete instead of the classic midterm exam would also make students put more thought into what they are doing, spending more time integrating what they learned over the semester and applying it to something new and fresh. “I feel like midterms just show how well someone can cram information into their heads in one night,” said Kyla Mintz ’18. Shalomoff agreed, saying that “no one actually starts studying for midterms two weeks before, when winter break ends. Everyone is just frantically studying within the given eight days of midterms, and we are all stressed. Not everyone is able to gather all that information in that given time and then take a two-hour test on it the next morning.”

This system would not mean that every midterm needs to have another option of the same weight to go along with it. For some classes, such as math, a traditional final exam might be the best way to test how well the student knows the material. A project that could be substituted for this kind of midterm would have to be very big to equal the weight of the exam. Rabbi Dov Pianko said, “this could make sense as long as the project would test the skills of the student equally to how a midterm would. In math, it probably makes more sense to have the actual midterm.”

Overall, I think that it would be a good idea to reconsider what a midterm means and how it evaluates students. Perhaps giving students an alternative choice would not only lower stress levels, but also allow students to explore and showcase their different abilities and put more thought into what they have learned in class.

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The student newspaper of the Ramaz Upper School