Honors Collab Chooses Portfolios Over Exams

COMMUNICATING IN COLLAB: Students in the collaborative class work hard all semester, however this classwork is not culminated with a midterm. | Photo by Lucy Sinclair '11

Sometimes a midterm just is not a fitting culmination to a semester’s hard work.

In U.S. History Honors and English 2 Honors Collaborative, dubbed affectionately as Collab by the Staples community, students do not take a midterm exam at the end of the semester.

The Collab class—instead of taking an exam on the portion of U.S. History they have examined or the novels that they have read—will spend their exam period preparing for CAPT testing and creating their end of quarter rubrics.

“Our philosophy is that every day is a test,” said Cathy Schager, a U.S. History Honors and Collab teacher. “Our assessments tend to fall under four categories: verbal, writing, presentations and the end of quarter rubric.”

The rubric—used in both Collab and U.S. History Honors—is designed to have students to think critically about their performance during the quarter. The rubric serves as 20 percent of a student’s quarterly grade.

“The nature of the class doesn’t promote itself to midterms,” Schager said.

Students in Collab agree, as they feel the class doesn’t lend itself to testing, especially in the form of a midterm.

“I’m happy I don’t have a midterm because I really don’t think it fits with the nature of the course,” U.S. History Honors student Sarah Cooperman ’13 said. “Both focus a lot on exploring yourself and reflecting while learning, so I don’t think it would be right to have a test assessing information since we learn so much more than just facts.”

In addition to learning about U.S. history, students are also reflecting on their own learning through their end of quarter rubrics.According to Schager, Collab and U.S. History students were relieved to not be in the pressure situation that a test brings, but “moan and groan” about completing the end of quarter rubric.

“Not having a midterm takes a lot of pressure off my back and I can use the extra time to focus on other subjects, but it is not like we don’t have anything to do,” Collab student Frankie Lynch ’13 said. “We have the end of quarter rubrics, which require a lot of time and effort.”

When Jackie Whiting and John Chiappetta created the course, they wanted to create a class that could be differentiated from the respective A and AP level courses. Whiting and Schager set U.S. History Honors and Collab apart from the A and AP levels by having the classes learn U.S. history from point of views of the era-specific social groups.

This type of learning and assessment, for one Collab student who wished to remain anonymous due to this student’s current enrollment in the course, would be better evaluated with a midterm rather than end of quarter rubrics. The student feels that midterms and finals are good standards to base whether or not a student has actually learned the designated material.

However the majority of students appreciate the reflective thinking about a student’s personal learning and writing that Collab entails.

“It is a really tough class with a lot of work, but I have already seen improvement in my writing and the way I think,” Collab Student Sam Koenig ’13 said.

Corrections Appended: Sarah Cooperman ’13 is a U.S. History honors student, not a Collab student.  The rubric counts for 20% of a student’s quarterly grade, not 50%.