Modified midterms cater to pressures of virtual learning


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The HVS Board of Education has announced its plan to send high school students back to in-person instruction for midterm exams.

Riley Coesens, Editor in Chief

After months spent virtually learning from home, students have slowly grown accustomed to the challenges that originally seemed unconquerable; nonetheless, the exhaustion of this academic alteration has made students’ patience and endurance thin to a point of frustration and inquiry toward an already traditionally stressful event: midterms. From home, it can be difficult to find tranquility when sharing a workspace with family, as well as dealing with personal pressures and an immense lack of motivation. Senior Cayla Stec was inspired to take action on the issue on behalf of her peers, based on her own experiences with online school: “It got harder for me to focus on school when I had a lot of personal issues on my plate, which led me to start procrastinating. I talked to some of my friends about it and they had similar experiences,” she said. “I decided that I wasn’t sure how to best reduce my stress of school, but maybe I could during midterms, which is evidently one of the most stressful weeks of the school year.” Even so, students have persevered through a tough semester, pushing themselves to accomplish what is necessary for academic achievement while recognizing that finals will pose more of a challenge than years prior. Recently announced by HVS Superintendent Dr. Paul Salah, high school students in the district are to attend in-person exams, returning to school on January 19th to begin the first 4-day week. Regardless of the decision, most students are uncertain of how they will perform on exams and are wary of the idea of being tested on material covered during such an unprecedented, harsh time.

Midterms have long represented a major component of assessing learning, and are worthwhile in showing academic retention. Since the pandemic, many students have struggled to feel as engaged in their studies, as their confidence in the pursuit of knowledge declines and emotional turmoil rises. This was a primary incentive to Stec’s initiative: the process she took in representing the student body’s distress involved a brief survey and a presentation for the HVS Board of Education to analyze. “I began my advertising process by contacting friends and classmates I knew would reply to me the quickest and I had them fill out the form and share it,” Stec explained. “Then, I decided I needed a more efficient way to advertise, so I posted the links to my Instagram and Snapchat stories and asked students to DM me with any questions. I had over 10 of my friends post the links on their stories and I had over 40 people share links with HVS students in school clubs that they participate in.” In less than two days, she received nearly 600 responses on her survey, using the data from responses regarding situational and academic anxiety present among high schoolers. 

Stec was not alone in her insights; many of her peers had similar stressful experiences with virtual learning as they tackled one assignment after another without usual engagement; cheating has also been another concern for many. “This year has been really tough to be able to learn with all of the changes that have been made and I know that doing a [normal] midterm wouldn’t be fair since many would try and get an unfair advantage,” said Senior Caleb Holmes-McGahan, who helped spread the survey among classmates. “The process was very simple; Cayla did a great job making the petition and it was very easy to spread around. My peers feel very strongly about this and all want the same result that I do.” Senior Makenna Bastionell, who has attended the HVVA this semester, felt obligated to participate in the cause as well, based on the common rationale that the traditional midterm experience would be inapplicable to current circumstances. “Whether it’s personal, or worldwide, this year brought many uncertainties, challenges, and many other worries to us. Midterms just felt like another burden that was unnecessary,” she stated. “I couldn’t imagine what other students, staff members, and others are going through this year that had it much worse than I did, so I wanted to do my part and do what I could to change it this year.” 

It didn’t take long for the idea to gain traction among the student body: “Once I got more than 60 submissions in less than the first 30 minutes, I knew the form was going to work. I just continued to advertise and hope for the best,” Stec shared. “My main goal was to get 100 responses in two days, but I was completely blown away when I got that many in less than two hours.” After emailing her results and an accompanying presentation about the issue to the board, she received a response the next day from President Tom Wiseman, complimenting her work and sharing it with the superintendent and assistant superintendent for review. 

The HVS Board of Education had been debating the topic since Huron Valley turned to virtual learning in the spring, knowing that perspectives on assessment procedures were diverse. “The number of students that responded really stood out,” said Assistant Superintendent John Tavernier. “It is evident that our HVS students are engaged in their own learning and are willing to share their insight to impact change. The leadership team used the survey results as a significant data point in considering the possible impact of midterm exams on reported grades and grade point averages.” As a result, midterm exams this semester will only reflect essential standards of curriculum, reduced or revised in many classes, and will only be weighed at a maximum of 10% of the semester grade. Tavernier also explained that students who have not shown academic success in a course will receive a score of H for no credit, or an I for incomplete, as well as potential accommodations–no students will receive E’s that would be detrimental to GPAs. 

Ultimately, like many of the academic pursuits students have embarked upon so far this year, midterms will be an opportunity to demonstrate resilience and responsibility for one’s learning. It is without a doubt that students will still be apprehensive about testing, but it is understood that the nontraditional situations all have faced leave room for flexibility. Tavernier, on behalf of the board, concluded by saying, “Students have a unique perspective, along with knowledge and experiences that can bring relevance and authenticity to school reform efforts. Cayla’s presentation is an example of why it is important to collect and use data in the decision-making process. We value the student perspective and we will continue to listen to this very important voice.”