Final exams cancelled this year as students adjust to virtual learning platform

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Late nights could impact students' brain function. Getting enough sleep is important, campus experts said.

Erin Goya, Staff Writer

Final exams as we know it are cancelled.  The final exam week, two-hour blocks and traditional sitting tests will not take place this year, school officials said. 

The new virtual learning environment and the school administration’s recent decision to remain closed for the rest of the year led to a reconsideration of final exams. Students in the virtual learning setting might not accurately be able to demonstrate what they’ve learned this semester, said Christel McGuigan, Mid-Pacific’s Assistant Principal of Academics.

“We felt that was not going to give the data, or students would not be able to demonstrate what they would have learned,” said McGuigan. “For that to be weighed 20 percent of the semester grade for this amount of time does not align with what we want for our students,” she said. 

I feel more relaxed, but at the same time it means that my final grade is determined by my work during the semester.”

— Reyn Miyazawa

Many students and teachers are still getting used to the new virtual learning schedules. 

“There is a certain kind of magic that happens in schools and classrooms, and I know that we are all missing that,” said Erin Regua, the junior class dean.

“Teachers are needing to explore different ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding,” said Regua. “Without final exams, the calculation of semester grades will need to be adjusted and teachers need to determine what the grade distribution will look like,” she said. 

Administration has been constantly communicating with the teachers on different, more innovative ways to evaluate students and test their knowledge, Regua said. They have led training sessions for teachers on digital assessments, and Mid-Pacific’s Kupu Hou Academy is leading online training for all teachers in Hawaii on adjusting to distance learning. 

Several teachers said they have been open to the idea of replacing final exams with projects and other alternate assessments.  

 “We simply will finish out the semester completing the objectives we established in January,” said Kathy Wheeler, who teaches high school language arts classes.

She said final exams ask students to take a look at the semester as a whole and make some sense of it. Collectively, what have they come to understand? What are some big ideas that can come out of their study? 

 “Not having that final evaluation doesn’t really change what the students will learn for the remaining weeks; they just won’t have a chance to pull it all together,” said Wheeler. 

Integrated science and IB/AP chemistry teacher Elizabeth Blauwiekel said her IB juniors and seniors need to be tested in exam environments for college but have excelled through the curriculum all year. 

“They’ve been tested and evaluated all year long, and I’m confident I know what their abilities are. My classes that have a final project are now just going to use that as a large summative grade in the test or lab category,” said Blauweikel. 

 “We are human; we can adjust and adapt to new environments, and we know when our students need a little extra space or help,” said Blauweikel. 

Students expressed mixed emotions as they heard the news.

“I feel more relaxed, but at the same time it means that my final grade is determined by my work during the semester,” said Junior Reyn Miyazawa.

Junior Debi Chun takes IB Biology and also plays volleyball for the school. Students were shocked and happy because they could focus more on the current assignments and summative assessments and there would be less stress overall, said Chun. 

One junior realized that things are now going to be harder without finals able to possibly improve his grades. 

“Now that I think of it, we don’t have much time to bring our grades up,” said junior Cayden Okada. 

Although finals have been cancelled, teachers still said they understand and emphasize the importance of finals but due to the circumstances, they have adapted and helped students learn more efficiently.  

“I imagine it has been an extremely stressful time for everyone, but the silver lining is seeing our amazing community come together to support each other through this. We will get through this and we will be so much stronger for it,” said Regua.