The Final Cut
With responsibilities ranging from final class assessments to last-minute prom preparations, the end of the year is defined for many by a culmination of concluding events and a great deal of stress. With recent changes, however, a new district policy might help lighten the load.
Starting this May, all AP classes will have optional finals. The decision to opt out of the final exam will be open to all students who take the AP test in that class at the end of the second semester.
Though not required, the final exam may not necessarily be something all students want to get rid of. “For instance, if you have a ‘B’ and you want an ‘A’ and you realize that if you get an ‘A’ on the final you get an ‘A’ in the class, then it benefits you to take the final,” Principal Dr. Audrey Haugan explained.
Since finals will be determined by individual decisions, many find that this change will help reduce the end-of-the-year stress students will face. “I think the change is a good idea,” said senior Megan Kalinowski, who took four AP tests her junior year. “As somebody who will take the [AP] tests as a senior, if I don’t have to worry about the final afterward, that’s great. One less thing for me to worry about before graduation, prom and when all the college stuff starts.”
The change was made this year particularly to address scheduling conflicts: by moving senior graduation earlier in the year than ever before, the new schedule would place senior AP testing in almost direct conflict with final exams. “To then study for finals, seniors would only be given two to three days after the AP exam, which cuts really close into graduation,” Haugan said.
District officials also foresee that the new change will bring about an increased number in students who not only take an AP class but also follow through and take the AP exam, and, according to recent statistics, they may be right. In a Westerner survey of 121 current AP students, 80% agreed in saying that the new policy has motivated them to take the AP test more than before.
Though the change gives way to a notably different practice from recent years, its impact on actual in-class assessment may be small. For many teachers, the final summative assessment is given in preparation for the upcoming AP test, not afterward.
“We used a practice test as a possible final exam and during the normal final exam time. We would do a second final exam that could replace the original score. The practice test is still going to be there either way so it’s not going to have a major effect on my schedule,” BC Calculus teacher Brian Muscia said.
Either way, with 81% of students saying that the change will have a positive impact in reducing stress, opinion of the change remains generally supportive. “Looking forward, I think the new policy change will overall help students and is a good idea,” Muscia said.