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Buckling Down For a Breakdown

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Regardless of their date, finals rarely receive a warm welcome. Immortalized through memes generated as an expression of the collective suffering of social-media-using students across the globe, their very mention brings groans of disgust and fear. Congratulations, Clovis High, finals week is upon us.

Within the past few years, faculty and administration voted for the finals schedule they prefer – two-day schedules with three finals, or three-day schedules with two finals. Based on majority rule, the three-day schedule has made its comeback on campus.

This year, however, the week will begin with regular schedule on Monday, proceeding three days of finals and concluding with a Friday rally schedule. Finals days will consist of two periods per day for three hours as to allow students an hour-long review period and two hour exam time.

This decision was ultimately approved by Carrie Carter, current Deputy Principal. As a previous attendee and mother of children who have and are attending Clovis schools, Carter aims to create the least-stressful environment for students.

To accomplish this, Carter and Principal Stephanie Hanks congregate with the chairs of every department on campus each month.

“Back in October, I processed two different finals schedules we’ve had in the past at Clovis High with them – not necessarily stuck with either one, we just wanted to use them as guidelines,” said Carter. “We asked department chairs to take it back to their department to facilitate conversations about what each preferred.”

Carter added, “One was a three-day schedule, one was a two-day final schedule; we told them to vote and let us know, we were going to go with the majority. Finals schedules is one of those things that – depending on what you teach or how you look at your subject area – you can see the benefit of different schedules. We know we can’t make everyone happy, but the three-day schedule is the one the majority voted for.”

Depending on the subject of instruction, the current finals schedule can be the difference between an A or a B, a passing grade or not.  For Advanced Placement instructors – who typically include writing portions on their tests – makeups can be a thing of nightmares.

“I believe many instructors shorten their tests and may opt out of a written response portion due to time constraints,” said Svenja Oliver, a teacher who has been instructing Modern World History for three years and A.P. Art History for one. “I prefer the two-day schedule because of the timing issue.  I cannot give a two hour final if students only have 40 minutes to make it up on the Friday of Finals Week. If we had a two-day schedule, finals would presumably be over by Wednesday. This would allow for two make up days.”

“Another factor that needs to be considered is student attendance the last week of school,” added Oliver.  “Both last year and this year, Semester 1 is not ending until right before the beginning of the holidays.  I expect a considerable number of absences near the end of Finals week, especially on Friday, as families beginning holiday travel.”

For STEM teachers such as Carolyn Mendonca, the schedule tends to be less hectic with the exception of A.P. science classes, one of which Mendonca instructs: A.P. Environmental Science. To accommodate this sort of shift, Mendonca writes finals at the beginning of each semester and then plans units to ensure all material is covered before finals week.

“I think it is most important to consider what is best for students,” Mendonca said. “When I discussed the same topic with my students around fall finals last year, they preferred to take finals over a three-day schedule because the possibility of taking more than two tests in one day was extremely stressful for them.”

“ I also think that the review period before the exam is helpful for reducing anxiety for students and allows teachers one more opportunity to review, to reteach content from early in the semester, or to address misconceptions,” Mendonca added.

Based on student interviews, the schedule appears to make little actual difference – the threat of the final is enough to send a majority of Cougars running for the hills. It simply depends on their course load.

Bianca Medina, a Clovis High senior who recently moved to Clovis from San Antonio this year, views schedules as arbitrary, although her ideal schedule is one in which students only take two tests per day until they are able to finish.

“Since everyone knows finals are only weeks or days away,  every teacher starts handing out study guides and tries to cram all of the semesters work into one packet,” said Medina. “Finals weeks was just as hectic in San Antonio- kids rushed to turn in late work and teachers constantly reminded students how important their finals were even though every final is important.”

“The only difference is that we had 8 periods and three different lunch schedules,” Medina added. “Monday was our review day and was regular schedule, and then Tuesday through Friday our finals exam schedule which gave us two exams per day for 90 minutes each class.”

Similarly, Senior Francisco De Los Santos feels the pressure of cramming for exams, but tends to prefer the additional space the three-day schedule allows him.

“I’m stressed about the ginormous tests, but I feel the current finals schedule is my ideal schedule,” said De Los Santos. “I prefer three days because it gives us a more spread-out week.”

For underclassmen, the struggle is just as prominent. Seeing as sophomore year is the first year in which CHS students enroll in AP classes, this can contribute to stress beyond that of the traditional time constraint issue.

“I am most stressed out about final grades,” said sophomore Ithiel Amador. “Finals are probably going to make or break my grade. To me, finals are a useless system which simply benefit the man, not the weakling – me. But, I do like the three-day final schedule more because you have extra time to study.”

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Buckling Down For a Breakdown