Proficiency grading’s purpose is defeated by finals week. Finals are pointless as students are constantly showing their understanding of the material throughout the term.
It is the week students dread.
The week can make or break the grade in a class, force students to stay up until the break of dawn with caffeine a constant companion and send their minds into a stressed, panicked flurry. It is finals week.
When students hear the word “finals,” they let out annoyed groans and roll their eyes, knowing what the time entails. Finals are something students have always taken and tests teachers are accustomed to giving; however, what is their purpose? Anyone who has ever encountered a massive test can explain in detail the aftermath of the exam: exhaustion, stress and mood swings, just to name a few. Students are forced to suffer through a miserable week that has potential to demolish their grade in a class.
From here raises the question of their exact purpose. Even before proficiency grading arrived at Marshfield, finals week was something dreaded by students and lacking reason. Now that Marshfield has become a strong advocate towards proficiency grading, the rationale supporting finals is blurred. The idea of proficiency is to assure students master a given target before moving on to the next; this way no student is left behind in the knowledge attained by the class as a whole. Students are given multiple opportunities to complete a target before moving forward with the intention of proving their proficiency. If this is the case then having a finals week at the end of each semester defeats the purpose of proficiency. Unless the final test itself provides a final opportunity for a student to show proficiency in any areas where they may be lacking, giving them a final chance to raise their grade.
If students are consistently having to prove their knowledge before moving forward then forcing them to take enormous exams at the end of the grading period containing everything learned over the course of the semester is redundant and unnecessary. By passing the given target and moving forward with the curriculum, students have demonstrated their knowledge of that subject. Therefore, enduring yet another exam repeats what they have already accomplished.
Not only are finals redundant with the new proficiency grading system, but they also take a daunting toll on students as individuals. The stress alone can cause a student to panic while taking a test, therefore resulting in a grade not reflective of their best work. Caffeine-induced sleepless nights cause students to crash during the day when having to perform well on the exam. Granted, students should manage their time when studying and ensure sleep fits somewhere in their nightly schedule, but when such a massive piece of their grade is depending on a single test, sleep suddenly sinks to the bottom of the list of priorities.
After taking a step back and looking at finals week as a whole, the entire concept appears unnecessary, only causing immense strain on students. Taking a massive test at the conclusion of the term will not prove a student’s knowledge. Rather, it shows how much material a student can memorize and regurgitate onto a piece of paper, only to forget nearly everything they learned the following day.