New Finals Schedule: Worth It?

Maeve Butler, Managing Editor

As a freshman, I was always a little skeptical about having finals after winter break. It seemed illogical to me—I thought having that awkward break during the last few weeks of the semester right before a cumulative test would make remembering things harder. However, since I really had nothing to compare it to, I got used to it pretty quickly. Now, with the 2018-2019 calendar change, students have had to get used to the opposite schedule—finals before winter break.
I think it’s safe to say that there are pros and cons to either schedule, but when looking specifically at which makes it easier for the teachers and students, having first semester exams after winter break truly was the way to go.

One major problem with the new schedule is that the semesters are unbalanced. When administration sent out a survey asking students and parents their opinions about shifting the finals schedule, most were in favor of having finals before break but did not want to start the school year earlier. To accommodate this, the schedule was changed so that first semester had 82 days and second semester had 94 days. The 12 day difference may not seem like much, but for most core classes where concepts are covered in a single day, it forced students to learn more content in less time.

Not to blame the teachers for not adjusting their classes–I could very well tell that some tried to reduce the amount of information covered within first semester. Unfortunately, regardless of whether or not the teachers tried to make that change, those last few weeks were still super busy, and more importantly, they were noticeably more stressful than 2016 and 2017 when finals were after break.
Another problem the new schedule presents is that there is no period set aside for in-class review. With the old schedule, there were three weeks between coming back from break and taking finals. Typically the first two weeks were devoted to finishing up the semester, and that last week was spent reviewing for the final. When I compare that process to this year, the former seems much more beneficial to students for obtaining higher grades on tests.
Not only did we get to study for exams in school under the previous schedule, but having that week was like a transition between ‘school mode’ and ‘finals mode’. There was no homework, no projects, no new material (during my experience)—all time could be devoted to finals. This ultimately improved my performance on exams, because it encouraged me to space out my studying, boosting my retention of information.

The sole redeeming quality of the new schedule is, of course, not having to worry about anything remotely-school related for two whole weeks. I’ll admit, the Friday of finals week was kind of incredible. I remember coming home, dropping my backpack to the floor, and literally collapsing on the couch—I was exhausted, but I was also ecstatic. The stark contrast of just having had one of the busiest weeks of my entire life to having no obligations of any kind was great. But I question now whether or not it was really worth it.
When I think back to winter break of 2017 or 2016, it really wasn’t all that different. I know, in defense of the new schedule, many people will say that they used to spend winter break studying or doing homework, but how realistic is that? I know from my own experience and asking my peers that studying over break really didn’t happen. I found myself doing hardly any school work, and I certainly never studied for finals.

I may have had a little bit of homework, but students really had no need to study for finals over break with the old schedule, thanks to those three weeks between finals and winter break. I think it’s safe to say that if students started studying after break—maybe even waited until the week before finals—they would have been totally prepared. So, finishing out the semester before break really didn’t make much of a difference anyway.

My final thoughts are as follows: if DHS families don’t want to start the school year earlier than August 20th, semester exams should take place after winter break as they have in previous years. Finals are already an incredibly stressful time for students and teachers, so the community would probably be better off with a relaxed end to the first semester rather than the one DHS faced this year. It’s also important to keep in mind that while a calendar change is obviously a long and hard process for administration to make, it’s entirely possible that this change will be reversed, all depending on feedback received from the community. So, if you have some strong opinions like me, be on the lookout for surveys on the new calendar! To freshman and sophomores, you may very well be taking finals after winter break like many before you in the years to come.