Say Goodbye to Exam Exemptions

By Natalie Wanasek, Current Staff

Exam exemptions are a thing of the past.

Before this year, students could skip up to two semester exams by earning an “A” average, having less than five absences, and obtaining the instructor’s signature.  It was a way to reward hard-working students, and it was a way to relieve some of the stress that goes along with exams.  After all, the very sound of the words semester exam often strikes fear and anxiety into the hearts of high school students.

So why have exemptions been abandoned?  New state requirements are going to be implemented in all schools for the 2014-15 school year, and they call for regular testing of all students.  According to Jim Curler, the WBHS building principal, the high schools are taking advantage of these new learning objectives by taking part in a pilot year.  This is why the school is now having students take “skill-based exams” in September, January, and June, said Curler.

“Teachers will be scored upon how well the students do from September to June,” he said.

One of the most popular features of the old exemption system was that AP students could exempt any of their AP classes if they had taken the AP test and had at least a B in the class.  When asked if this policy would be carried over to this year, Curler didn’t know the answer.

“Well, we’re not sure yet.  The staff Leadership Team, one teacher from each department, and I are going to get together to discuss that in December,” he said.

A major question from the student body is how removing exemptions will affect the overall grades on exam day.

“It’s going to be really weird [not having exemptions] because now I have to study for all of my exams this year,” said West senior Hayley Losey.  “This kind of takes away the motivation to do well in school.”

But Curler has a different perspective on the matter.

“In the past, we’ve had all of the A students not taking exams that they could easily pass.  It’s unfair to teachers if these students don’t take the exam and leave the teacher with an average of grades based on the kids who don’t do as well in that class,” said Curler.

While it may seem like a major struggle for students to study for all of their classes at once, in a way, it also prepares them for the college experience.  In the UW system, there are virtually no opportunities to opt out of taking a semester exam.  Also, incoming students cannot exempt placement tests, which decide what classes students will take in college.  The removal of exam exemptions may be a bummer for students, but the school’s hope is that it will end up being beneficial for the future.

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