How did COVID-19 change semester one finals?


Noelle Villasenor

With school campuses closed due to COVID-19, questions rise as to whether having finals online is the best decision.

Noelle Villasenor, Writer

In the past, finals week at Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) was a high school ritual that was dreaded and filled students with strong emotions. The sudden rush of excitement with the semester coming to an end and the anticipation before the week of testing created a strange and daunting shift in the atmosphere that could be felt all around campus. 

In the midst of a global pandemic and school being moved to an entirely online model, the usual tests that come before the end of the semester were bound to be completely different. Some teachers still proctored tests, while others settled for projects, socratic seminars or just having no finals entirely.

The last week of the semester at Foothill Tech normally consists of two two-hour classes per day in which final exams come in the forms of essays, tests, presentations, socratic seminars or projects followed by an early release. Not only does the format of the week look different than a usual school week, but the amount of stress students are under multiplies as cram-study sessions precede days of testing.

Kami Kada

Sometimes, the stress of finals has felt like an overwhelming roadblock for students. “Even in pre-COVID times I thought having finals after winter break was a poor decision,” said Brooke Secreto ‘21. “Nonetheless, doing them online after taking two weeks off of school just feels like an unnecessary added pressure on students. There is so much going on in the world right now, and finals, unfortunately, just don’t feel like a top priority to me,” she explained.

There were issues with the routine of finals, and while some of those issues have carried over into online learning, the distance model has shown that new methods of taking finals may be more efficient than traditional timed exams.

Foothill Tech teacher Cherie Eulau talked about how finals were different this year for her Advanced Placement (AP) Government and World History classes. She mentioned that both classes took finals in the form of socratic seminars, “which ended up being very timely. I think I may continue this and worry less about exam prep which I can do later,” she explained.

Some exams that aren’t as strict as timed tests, such as projects, essays, socratic seminars or presentations might not only work well for an online model, but could be taken into consideration as better methods for final exams once students return to in-person learning. That way, students are relieved of some pressure that finals have previously weighed on their shoulders.

Foothill Tech teachers may agree with that sentiment. “There are many things I changed this year that I will use in the future,” said Eulau. “I have really had to consider not only what to teach but how.” She mentions how she has even considered changing her grading policies due to the effect of the online school year. “While allowing students to turn in any assignment from the semester has meant a lot of grading this past week and weekend, my goal is for students to learn, so if they achieve that the timing is not important,” she explained.

What do you think?