Graphic by Julia Herlyn ’23
The 2020-21 school year has been filled with surprises: the hybrid model, COVID-19 scares within the community and even institution of virtual concerts. As a result, life at Staples and other Westport schools has altered significantly since last March. An unprecedented consequence of these changed circumstances is the elimination of midterm week–this academic year is the first year at Staples without required semester-based exams.
Staples students would normally prepare for exams in mid-January and have designated exam blocks to both study and take their exams. Exams were distributed over the course of approximately five school days and were limited to two per day.
However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this process will not take place. Students who do not have any midterms this year are relieved by the news and are thankful for being spared of additional anxiety.
“I think canceling [midterm week] is a good thing because many students are already stressed out due to our situation with the pandemic,” Kate Valante ’23 said. “It is important that students don’t have another stressor.”
In accordance with the hybrid model, conducting an official “midterm week” would consume 18 instructional days. This prompted the administration to believe that inputting midterm week into the schedule this year would be impractical for time reasons.
Some students are glad to see this change because of the scheduling complications and the academic integrity (or potential lack thereof) of these exams.
“I think it was a good decision to cancel midterms this year because the modified schedule and cohort system would have made midterms week difficult to coordinate,” Sarah Thomas ’22 said. “Also, the exams would have needed to be adjusted significantly to be available for both in-person and remote students.”
Although the midterm block-schedule has been removed this year, teachers are still permitted to give exams during normal periods and some are planning to do so. Some departments, including the math department, have collectively decided to not administer midterm exams this year. But many other courses are holding midterm-like exams during normal class periods in the upcoming weeks. Thus, although students may think that they are free from midterms this year, a significant group is not.
Max Vexler ’23 appreciates the elimination of midterm week for stress reasons, but worries that the removal of exams will inhibit his performance and understanding of a class’s material long-term.
“Having to prepare for a midterm exam reinforces our understanding and shows us how well we’re doing in a class by the half-way mark of the year,” Vexler said. “I’m not a big fan of taking midterms, but I can see why we had them in the first place.”
Despite this concern, most students, including Vexler, are just grateful for the extra time they will have to themselves this year.
“I can’t complain if I don’t have any midterms this year,” Vexler said. “We’re really living the dream.”