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Loudoun County Public Schools considers dropping mid-term, final exams

Loudoun County Public Schools consider dropping mid-term and finals exams.
Despite media reports to the contrary, no decision has been made regarding Loudoun County Public Schools dropping mid-term and final exams.

“After surveying stakeholders and discussing the issue at public meetings of the School Board Subcommittee on Curriculum and Instruction, LCPS administration is currently considering a change to mid-term and final exam practices,” said Loudoun schools spokesperson Wayde Byard. “No final decision has been made as Division leaders continue to gather input from stakeholders.”

According to Byard, it is an administrative decision that will ultimately be up to Superintendent Eric Williams. And although considering action, Loudoun County Public School administration is still collecting feedback from principals, school board members and other members of the community.

“By removing the requirement that mid-terms and final exams be conducted in all classes in middle school and high school, the change would allow teachers and administrators more autonomy to choose valid methods for assessing students," Byard said.

This has been a topic of discussion at multiple Curriculum and Instruction Committee meetings between principals, teachers and administrators. At the June 23 School Board meeting, school division administrators announced they were considering the action.

“This was something that the principals and teachers were very supportive of so I think we need to rely on that wisdom from those that are educating our students,” said School Board Vice Chairman Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) at the June 23 meeting. “This type of archaic way of assessment isn’t something that Loudoun County, who wants to be moving forward, should be looking at perpetuating.”

The division conducted an anonymous survey of teachers, principals, parents and students regarding mid-term and final exam policy. They also conducted teacher focus groups for perspective. After review of the research material, the staff is considering four actions moving forward.

Number 1: LCPS will no longer require mid-term or final exams.

“This fits in very well with PBL [Project-based learning] and “One to the world” lesson plan design where we are having more authentic assessments,” Barbara Nichols, director of Middle School Education. “I think that can fit in perfectly at the end of the year in lieu of a paper and pencil exam.”

Number 2: No one assessment can cause significant damage to a student’s grade.

“It doesn’t preclude a mid-term assessment from being given because the teachers could still do that,” School Board member Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) said at the meeting. “It takes away the 20 percent and I love that part of the document where it reminds professionals, teachers ‘don’t be giving something that could cause a devastating consequence.’”

Number 3: The high schools’ designated exam week calendar will no longer be in place.

According to the proposal, the eight days of early release for high school students at the end of the semesters will now be regular instructional days.

Nichols argued that time wouldn’t be wasted at the end of the year preparing for, taking and reviewing exams. It could be used for additional instruction that include student demonstrations, projects and presentations.

“Tacking on instructional hours at that point in the school year when people are just done, does not sit well with me,” said Bergel, who is also a Fairfax County teacher.

Number 4: Students will not be required to take numerous assessments on any one day.

School Board member Bill Fox (Leesburg) stressed the importance of making it clear that classes would continue to be as rigorous and that they are not eliminating assessments, but looking for more authentic assessments.

“This is not a move towards a more touchy feely education where everybody wins,” Fox said. “We want to keep the rigor with a more productive model.”

Multiple members of the school board voiced their intent to reach out to members of their community to hear opinions, concerns and questions to ensure input from the people they represent in the discussion.

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