Why Moving Finals Before Break is Stupid

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Why Moving Finals Before Break is Stupid

Andrew Toban, Editor

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About two weeks ago, all students received an email sending them a survey regarding a very important question. It’s a question nearly all DHS students have pondered before, a natural occurrence in the experience of being a Deerfield Warrior: “Should finals be before winter break”? On the front of it, the question merits consideration. Factors including potential stress over break and the high amount of coursework given before break to account for limited class time before finals often seduce students into believing that finals before break would be beneficial. In fact, according to Dr. Richard Grady, in a survey conducted by a committee he is on composed of faculty from District 113, as well as both elementary school districts in Deerfield and Highland Park, 60% of 2500 student responses said that they believe having finals before break would have a positive impact. 60% of student responses to this survey are wrong.

The farcical belief that having finals before break is a good idea falls apart when looked  at closely. There are two proposed schedules for the 2018-19 school year that would move finals to December, one with balanced semesters that shifts school up by about 10 days to begin on August 13 and end on May 24, and another with unbalanced semesters that has school starting on August 22 and ending on June 7, as per usual. The adjusted schedule has the most obvious problems, but don’t let the other schedule trick you; its flaws are just more subtle.

The adjusted schedule is problematic on several fronts. Firstly, moving the first day of school to early August, conflicts with overnight camps. While definitely not universal to all students, the interference of school with overnight camp disrupts a major part of the summer culture of Deerfield. It is no question that students who attend overnight camp would be incredibly upset, and rightfully so. It is unequivocal to disallow opportunities for students to attend or work for their overnight camps, places that, given my own experience, mean a great deal to students who are involved in them, in exchange for, ultimately, the perceived convenience that having finals before break permits. No opportunities are lost because of where finals are currently placed. Why create loss where there already doesn’t exist any? Further, just think about what the weather is like during the month of August compared to the month of May. Yes, there is air conditioning throughout the whole school, but honestly, the difference between sitting in class during the spring weather of May versus doing so under the summer smolder of August is enormous. The current schedule, purely in terms of weather, is better suited.

When it comes to the other proposed schedule that would move finals before break without adjusting the school year, there are still issues that lurk behind the shiny details that it promises students. The unbalanced semesters that this schedule creates makes first semester, a proposed 81 days long, fifteen days shorter than second semester, a proposed 96 days long. Moreover, fifteen additional school days would be three full cycle schedules, so each class in second semester would have twelve additional days of instruction than each class first semester. While at first glance unbalanced semesters may not seem like much of an issue, once you consider single semester courses, the problems become more apparent. Twelve additional days of instruction during second semester is simply unfair to students in first semester, as their grade is based off of a smaller selection of work than second semester has, making higher grades more difficult in first semester than second.

Beyond any issues with the proposed schedules themselves, having finals before break is really an empty promise. I understand that, for some, the looming threat of finals creates stress during break and may cause problems during that time, but honestly, the stress during break, which occurs over the third and fourth week before finals,  doesn’t even compare to the you have during the two weeks actually right before finals. If anything, having the time to study over break is helpful, as little to no course work interferes during that time, when during the two weeks preceding finals, there is usually no break from work until the actual weekend right before exams. Also, the abundance of work given directly before winter break by teachers to make sure that they fit their curriculum in before finals is often cited as a reason to move exams to December. By moving finals, it’s argued, then that extra work will just become finals. This argument, though, doesn’t account for the fact that teachers would then only move that cramming up of curriculum, giving more work directly before finals, and therefore less time for students to study. This could even result in teachers potentially moving work up into Thanksgiving break, which would be similarly situated about four weeks prior to finals as winter break was.

Students often say that they want their break to truly be a break, and that the presence of finals just around the corner makes the break less enjoyable. While this is fair, look at the issue from the perspective of a teacher. Teachers want their break to truly be a break too. By moving finals right before break, we students may have less work to stress over, but teachers would now have to grade all of our finals over their break. While the more anti-teacher inclined may cheer this consequence as a form of revenge, I believe it is plainly obvious that annoying teachers by giving them more work over break is not good for anyone. By having to grade finals over just one weekend, teachers are forced to compromise on their grading, often giving easier tests and speeding through them, giving us, students, higher grades. Given a full two weeks of break to grade, teachers are not only bitter about having to grade over their break, but they have time to dissect every detail of our finals, leading to tougher grading, and nobody wants that.

The issue of moving finals before break is very emotional for many people, and I am sure that my arguments may have caused some blood to boil, but I encourage a healthy discussion about the costs and benefits of making the switch. Unlike other debatable topics that the school presents, given the implications about overnight camp and how winter break and finals week is experienced, this would have a pretty significant impact on the way student life operates at DHS, and issues of significance deserve conversation. Sophomores and freshmen specifically, it’s all of you who would actually be affected in your time at DHS by this change, so make sure you understand what would happen if a decision to move finals is made, and make sure that your voice is heard. Not to be political, but the school is here to serve your education, and it should do so through the methods that you believe are effective. Now, if the method you believe in is to have finals before break, go back to the top and read this article again, cause, as I said at the beginning, you’re wrong.

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