Final exam cancellation lifts weights off of Westwood students’ and teachers’ shoulders


Amanda Acosta

Marking almost a year into the shift to virtual instruction due to the global pandemic, Westwood Regional High School’s principal, Frank Connelly, announced the cancellation of annual final exams for the 2020-21 school year. The school’s administration thoughtfully made this decision, taking into consideration the numerous inevitable adjustments that not only students, but also teachers have had to make that might hinder proper test-taking and test-administering abilities.

Focus on the Curriculum

Connelly stated in his email regarding the cancellation of exams that one reason this decision was made was to stress the importance of continuing the set curriculum for the year rather than preparing students for their final exams. This will allow teachers to take the necessary time to cover all information in their curriculum instead of being burdened with the task of creating exams and exam prep materials to cater to both all-remote students and students who attend in-person school five days a week.

Because of this new virtual learning environment, many students have had to unfortunately endure various distractions during school hours, preventing them from retaining the same information they would during normal in-person classes. A student’s test-taking ability often does not reflect their knowledge of a certain subject, so it is a huge advantage that Westwood students are now able to prioritize their education rather than brushing up on their test-taking strategies during this difficult time.

Reduction in Instructional Time

Westwood Regional High School’s schedule has also changed drastically this year to accommodate both students working from home and in school; all Westwood students currently have a seventy-minute lunch period followed by two thirty-five-minute periods in the afternoon  instead of their regular hour lunch with three hour-long classes in the afternoon.

Because of this scheduling change, teachers have been subject to a decrease in their overall instruction time, forcing them to either omit or adjust certain aspects of their curriculum. It would be unfair to then give these teachers even less time to teach their students in order to fit in time for a final exam, nonetheless have them create an entirely new exam that adheres to these unfortunate adjustments. 

Final Exam Weight

Final exams at Westwood usually account for 15% of a students overall grade, but this grading system would not be ideal for today’s school environment. This 15% could either drastically improve or impair a student’s grades depending on whether or not they are attending school in person. 

Students learning virtually have a much greater chance at cheating as they are not being monitored as closely as students in school. Students attending school in-person might feel as if they are at a disadvantage as they lack the same resources virtual students have during test-taking periods. Therefore, if final exams were administered, there could possibly be a large disparity between grades of students testing at home versus in school.

Mental Health

Over the course of this global pandemic, there has been an upsurge in trends of mental illness amongst teenagers worldwide, particularly teenagers dealing with anxiety and depression. For many teens, test anxiety is a prevalent issue, so taking a final exam during a global pandemic will only worsen this. Instead of Westwood students stressing themselves out over testing, the cancellation of final exams allows them to prioritize what’s most important: their mental health.

The Westwood High administration made the right decision in cancelling these stressful final exams. Hopefully, this will allow students and teachers more time to heal and an opportunity to enjoy the aspects of their lives that are slowly yet surely returning to normalcy.