Midterms call the grading system into question

From left, Nicholas Chapman and Alyssa Smith look over their midterms. —Ali Barlett

By Rose Engler

Twenty percent of a student’s course grade at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School  is determined in two hours. In other words, that single test–the midterm or final–on one day is worth more than a month’s worth of schoolwork towards a student’s grade and can determine whether or not the student is included on the honor roll.

Ideally the tests are consistent with the other grades the student is receiving in the class. Junior Evan Sauter said, “My midterms were all within the expected range. They didn’t increase or decrease dramatically grade-wise.”

Evan’s midterms didn’t impact his semester grades, but others were less happy when they got their tests back. “My midterm brought my semester grade down by 10 points,” said freshman Delilah Quinones.

The high school switched to a semester system during the 2015-2016 school year. A full-year course is now recorded on the transcript as two semester courses, so a midterm is graded as a final exam for the first semester. As a result, colleges see semester grades as opposed to one full year average of the four quarters.

“We should return to a full-year system. Then each midterm is worth 10 percent and each final is worth 10 percent. It also gives students more time to raise their overall grade after one difficult quarter,” said junior Kat Roberts.

The purpose of a midterm is to test students’ knowledge and skill base halfway through the curriculum. It is a way to solidify learned material before continuing on. But while there are advantages to midterms, the real question is do they outweigh the disadvantages?

Chemistry teacher Natalie Munn said, “Mid-year is a good time to go back globally to look at what is learned, but the four days the students are testing are four days I don’t get to see them. It is four days I don’t get to interact with my Advanced Placement (AP) students to practice for the May first AP test.”

Biology teacher Carrie Fyler said, “When it comes to midterms, there is a serious disadvantage to students who are not natural-born test takers. I have several students who will know the material inside and out and then just freeze during a formal assessment. During the year, I always allow test corrections, which is a great way for these students to gain back lost points. Midterm corrections are not available, which means midterms will hit my poor test takers the hardest.”  

Delilah said, “I get flustered about taking tests, and my scores always reflect that, even if I know and understand the material.”

Senior Whitney Schroeder said, “Even if you know the material, the way midterms are set-up some tests are just so hard. Four quarters averaged together would offer a more holistic view.”