December assessments alleviate stress, though not without some drawbacks

Chronicle Staff

When students left school Dec. 19 to enjoy their long-awaited winter break, they left with their midyear assessments already finished. Students no longer had to spend their winter break thinking about midterms just enough to be worried while attempting to enjoy time away from textbooks and study guides. The administration’s main goal in this overhaul was to decrease the stress students experience during traditional midterms, and although we agree that they succeeded overall, some changes were better than others.

There are three actions of which we all approved: moving the testing period to before winter break, taking shorter tests and more alternative assignments, and providing treats in collaboration with Prefect Council during breaks between assessments to alleviate stress.

In past years, students have been forced to spend their winter breaks with midterms hanging over their heads. Although most students chose not to study during winter break, many still felt guilty not preparing for exams. Having the assessments before the holiday season allowed students to truly enjoy their breaks and fully appreciate a time that is meant to be work-free.

The shorter tests and alternative assignments alleviated stress by reducing both the amount of material students had to study and the exams’ weight in determining first semester grades. In addition to just being an exercise to determine the amount of information retained throughout the first semester, they served as an active learning experience by engaging students with the material in new and unique ways.

As for the food, any teenager will tell you that’s always welcome, especially during stressful times. Bagels and orange juice, donuts, a catered cereal bar and Diddy Riese cookies made every exam a little more bearable, and showed that the administration’s heart was really in the right place.

Our least favorite change was the rule that teachers were not allowed to answer students’ questions once the first assessment in that class had been given. This meant that some students who had exams on Friday had to spend an entire week without being able to ask their teachers for help or clarification on the material that would be tested.

There were a few other drawbacks — the awkward two-week limbo period following break ensured new material couldn’t be tested until second semester, and the system of scheduling meant some students had their two hardest tests on the same day while others conveniently had their tests evenly spaced out. Additionally, seniors who had just received college rejection letters had little time to recover before the week of testing began.

Yet overall, the new assessments are a vast improvement upon previous years’, and it is heartening to see the administration take effective action to address inceasing student stress levels.