It’s that magical time of year again, not Christmas, not the New Year, not even National Soup Month, but exam time. The end-of-semester exams mix up everyone’s regular routines, from the freshman who have never taken an exam in their life, to the seniors stricken with senioritis that have three gym exams.
Regardless of age, something that’s become a huge staple of exam time is exam exemptions. Every semester, each student has the potential to earn at least one exam exemption by completing the portfolio requirements in their homeroom. Past that, Juniors and Sophomores are able to earn up to 4 extra exemptions (three of which they can use), for having good scores on their standardized testing. Next semester, both sophomores and Juniors will have the same opportunity for various standardized tests. This means, if a student has a study hall, they have the potential to only need to take 4 exams, total.
This wealth of exemptions brings into question why we think exams are so important in the first place. If we are allowing students to exempt so many classes, then why even have them? Some teachers and students have different opinions on these exemptions and the exams, themselves.
“I think we should be able to save exemptions for second semester,” said sophomore Allison Barrett, who currently can use 3 of her exemptions. This raises an interesting point, at it can seems almost like we often treat these exemptions like a tradable currency instead of a reward or incentive. One teacher who wishes to stay anonymous stated “I’m not dead set against exam exemptions, I‘m sometimes a little worried about them. I come from a school where there are no exam exemptions, and if you look around, not many people give as many exemptions as we do. I think it’s great that we give them out as incentives for things like the ACT, but I do wonder where we draw the line.”
With the ever-growing pressure on school districts to increase their standardized testing scores, it’s understandable why exemptions are given out as an incentive for these things, but does this incentive actually motivate students? When asked if this was a helpful incentive, Senior Christian Zaballos stated, “I would try my hardest on standardized testing regardless of the exemptions, and it didn’t really motivate me, as I was usually always above the cutoff point.”
I think our schools willingness to give out these exemptions can put into question the importance of exams in the first place. If a student is already getting a good grade in a class, should they really need to be re-tested on all the information? If these exams are trying to prepare us for college, then why are we so willing to let students skip them? Regardless of the solution, exam exemptions, and how students use them have become a huge staple of Whitewater High School, and changed exam time into something completely new.