Teachers find alternative ways to administer finals

December 14, 2020 — by Ethan Lin and Allen Luo

Students now take their final exams online, given the remote learning environment.


Principal Greg Louie has told teachers that under the remote learning circumstances this year, there is no expectation they give finals during the allotted 75-minute periods that start Dec. 14 and end Dec. 17. 

The Falcon interviewed several teachers and found that all had altered their plans compared to an ordinary year. 

Some have altered their finals by simply shortening the test. AP Calculus BC teacher Audrey Warmuth and AP Physics teacher Matthew Welander both  decided to follow this route.

According to Warmuth, the previous final was two hours long with 30 multiple choice and two free response questions. Because of the time limit of 75 minutes this semester, the final has been altered so that its length is proportional to the amount of time given.

Welander has changed his final to free-response questions focused only on the units not covered in the midterm exam. This format parallels that of the midterm he administered earlier in the semester. 

Due to the limited class time, other teachers have decided to not have a cumulative final altogether and are instead holding a unit exam or assigning projects. 

AP Biology teacher Cheryl Lenz and AP Chemistry teacher Janny Cahatol have both opted to simply administer an exam on the last unit of the semester. For Lenz, the main difference between unit exams and a normal final exam is that the regular final is closed notes while all unit exams during remote learning have been open book. 

Similarly, AP European History and World History teacher Jerry Sheehy said that he may administer a shorter test on the most recent unit, but he will also assign a project that students will present on the last day of class.

English 11 Honors teacher Natasha Ritchie said that previously, she would have students act out a scene from “Hamlet” and write a literary analysis paper. Given the remote learning situation, students cannot act scenes in front of the class the way they normally would, so she just had her students write a take-home literary analysis paper on “Beloved.” English 10 teacher Marcus Cortez is also using this approach, replacing the  “Julius Caesar” performance with an in-class essay and a Socratic seminar.

English 11 Honors teacher Amy Keys has chosen to take a different approach. Keys’ final will give students an opportunity to connect prose, poetry and nonfiction through collaborative activities that will connect the themes of “Beloved” with current events and the students’ own lives. 

“I don't want to give a spoiler right here, but the activities will give students some choice in their reading and response and will also be a way of building community and celebrating our hard work together all semester,” Keys said.

Still, some teachers chose to keep finals similar to the ones administered during in-person school. AP Computer Science teacher Thomas Wang’s students are currently working on an open-ended final project using either Java or a program called Processing, and they will present their final products to the class. The only requirements are for the program to include key features learned throughout the semester, such as arrays or loops.

For many teachers, assessments were initially difficult to conduct as a result of remote learning, but now, with finals underway, they feel that assessments have run much smoother. 

“Administering assessments remotely is challenging, but I feel like things have been getting better throughout the semester,” Sheehy said.  “I am blessed to have such great students!”


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