I would like to take a deeper look at final exams. Most classes, other than diplomas, put a weighting of 30% on their exam, and thus makes the exam meaningless for some. WHY? Let’s dig deeper, on the exams for classes that are not a Grade 12 course, to understand why….
If we look strictly at this percentage, this means that any student over a mark of 71% cannot fail the class and students under a mark of 28% cannot pass the class. Therefore only students in the range of 28%-71% should be writing the exams. Now that we have eliminated many students from the final, we should dig even further.
Most students, even in the 28%-71%, don’t need to write. As most exams are multiple choice or at least heavy with multiple choice, with 4 choices on each question, then a student, by strictly guessing, should score a 25%. The interval now becomes 28%-61%, as, only students in this range, are dependent on a certain mark on the final to determine whether or not they pass the course. I would hope that few students fall in this range, but most classes would have a few in this range.
Now let’s look at the students who have a mark between 28%-61%. For the most part, these students are weak, having troubles with an important concept, and most likely have gaps in their learning. We now come to crossroads as a teacher, as two options present themselves. Do we take these students, who are obviously struggling with the course, and test them again or….do we teach them?
Now we should only be talking about very few students in each course, and the exam usually takes 3 hours to write. Imagine the learning which could occur with 1-1 help in a 3 hour block with a weak student? Does this same learning occur by giving them a scantron sheet and ask them to sit in a row?
I suggest that school take a look at their exam week and ask “Is this week for learning or determining who passes and fails?” If the answer is the latter, then I suggest you be upfront with your stakeholders and put a sign outside your school saying “For an entire month, two weeks during each semester, your child will not learn at this school”. If the answer is the former then the school should be re-evaluating exam week.