At the start of the spring semester, the school board decided to implement a new policy in an effort to boost the school’s attendance rate. This new policy, informally known as the “Final Exam Exemption Policy,” rewards students by exempting them from finals for good attendance and grades. However, there are rules and requirements in order for students to be eligible to participate in the exemptions.
“Our campus attendance is lower than the state average,” principal Angela Gamez said, “It is one percent lower, and we know that students being in class is beneficial, so we thought, what are some ways to get kids to class?”
In order to encourage and persuade students to consistently attend school, they are now given the option to be exempt from some or all of their finals, if their grades meet the minimum requirements. In order to qualify for the final exam exemption, students are only allowed to have three absences per class (see the chart for an example). The school administration wants students to have the desire to learn the subjects taught and remove the stress of testing.
“I think [this policy will help with] prioritizing what is done in class, over a one-time final exam,” Principal Gamez explains.
For each grade, the number of classes that are allowed to be exempted are different. For the 9th and 10th graders, they are only allowed three exemptions, and only two of those can be core classes. 11th-grade students are allowed four exemptions, with only two being core classes (core classes consist of English, math, history, and science). 12th graders are allowed to be exempted from all finals if they meet the policy requirements.
“The attendance committee looked at lots of other schools to see what they do, and we took the best,” Principal Gamez said, “the reason we chose to make the exemption policy different for each grade is so that students still have at least some final exam experience.”
A few years ago the school officially switched over to project-based learning. Due to this switch, classes that give projects as the final will have flexibility compared to a class that gives a test as the final. It will be up to the teacher on what will need to be done in order to get the final project grade. For example, if the English teacher gives a project, he/she may count completion or participation as a six weeks summative and another aspect of the project as the exam such as presenting the project. It all depends on the teacher and the project. A teacher might count the project as both a six weeks summative and the semester exam grade. So this means the students cannot just exempt the project completely.
For the classes that give tests for the final grade, the exempted tests can be totally skipped or the student can take the test and if it helps their grade they can use it and if it does not they can keep the exemption.
“Teachers are worried that students will not have the cumulative exam,” Principal Gamez said, “and that final grade and that final experience to prepare them for college.”
Ultimately the Spring Final Exam Exemptions Policy is a way to boost attendance at school even if it is just a small amount and helps the school financially for projects they may want to pursue in the future.
“It is not going to increase attendance the amount we want,” Principal Games states, “It will not fix the problem, but it will encourage students to be here. Some students will not care, but it is still going to help.”
By Evelyn Peterson, News Editor