Friday, January 19, 2007

Final Exams

My AP insists that we give uniform finals in the math department. That is because he doesn't trust our judgement to give an exam that is fair, not too hard and not to easy. After years and years of doing this, he has finally come to see the same problems with this policy that teachers have seen for years.

1. Our school is on a 12 period day. Since teachers only work an 8 period day, we often never even speak to people teaching a different section of the same subject. I, for one, don't know what the other teachers have emphasized and can only hope that my kids are prepared for the exam.

2. Because I don't usually see the exam until right before it is given, I find that I sometimes give the same exact problems as practice problems during the week. Not a very sound testing policy.

3. My AP thinks he can stop cheating by giving two forms of the exam--one for periods 1 - 6 and other for periods 7 - 12. By the time the kids came into my 9th period class, they knew all the problems on the exam (of course too many still fail). One of my top students even asked me how to do one of the problems right before the exam.

My AP plans on asking Principal Suit for two days at the end of next semester to be devoted to final exams. Although this might prevent cheating, I'm not crazy about this idea either. How can we expect kids to do well when using this procedure they will be subjected to two to four exams a day?


Jonathan said...

I like the idea of uniform finals. They would save work, right? But when it's come down to it, I've always wanted to write my own finals for my own students, reflecting what I have actually done in my own classes.

That being said, in my little school, sometimes just two math teachers have all of one or another course. This term all the algebra classes were shared by me and one other teacher. We alternated making weekly homework assignments, making tests... We consulted about lessons, shared ideas.

It was great. It saved work. It made us both better. But it was voluntary. I am lucky that this worked. No one could have forced it to happen. We gave a common final exam today, not because we had to, but because it made sense.

Pissed Off said...

We have 8 different teachers teaching M&C. It is impossible to get together. Things taht work in a small school don't work in one as big as mine. I'm glad you found a way that workds for you.

Jonathan said...

But we also had to deal with an administrator who insisted on unworkable big school solutions to small school issues. The bottom line is that teachers need to be trusted to evaluate what will work and what will not in that particular school.

Top down instructions from administrators, especially without discussion, are likely to fall flat. The people who know best (teachers) should be making the decisions, or at least should have a major voice in them.

It could be worse. At least you still have a math AP. In most small high schools, and in several large ones, math teachers now get supervised by anything but.

Pissed Off said...

My AP (who I get along with) is no bargain. His big contribution to the department--his ability to fix the copy machine.