Con: Allocate more time for studying and pandemic catch up

Exhausting. The only word suited to describe this strenuous adjustment back to full-time school. With 49 percent of students experiencing stress on a daily basis according to New York University, there is an epidemic of stress amid this pandemic.

Impacting both students’ mental health and gradebooks, finals are a critical yet difficult time for all students. As schools across Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) have to align their schedules to coincide with each other, the discussion of finals scheduling is prevalent. Traditionally, finals have been given after winter break at Irvine High School, and we should uphold this precedent. Finals after winter break guarantee better academic performance, ensure teachers will be able to account for last year’s loss of learning and will alleviate student burn out.

With more time during winter break, students will be able to space out their study sessions and enhance long-term retainment. Research from the American Psychological Association revealed study sessions over a longer period can improve long-term memory. By spreading out study time, the brain practices the process of forgetting and retrieving which improves retention tremendously. Forcing students to take their tests before the break means they will be cramming and relying on memorization rather than actual comprehension. Schools have the duty to educate for the sake of learning, not for the grade. By scheduling finals before winter break, schools are sending the wrong message.

This year, more than ever, having finals after winter break is pivotal to account for last year’s learning loss and shorter instructional hours. A 2021 report found that students were five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the school year. Coming back from the pandemic, teachers are burdened with the responsibility to fill in gaps and be there for students. Cramming teachers with even less time and forcing them to assess students before they are ready is only adding to this burden. The pandemic itself thrusted stress-levels for both teachers and students. As we were thrown into the deep end, we all had to swim our way through internet issues and the loss of motivation. Just as we seemed to be getting the hang of it, we got completely turned around and went back to the traditional in-person schedule. So, it’s inevitable that we start to feel burnt out. According to a study at Ohio State, the number of students feeling burnout increased from 40 percent in August 2020 to 71 percent in April. Switching on and off-line coupled with changes to our schedule are only making this already loopy roller coaster more difficult. Testing after winter break enables teachers to finish their curriculum smoothly and allows students to have time to process before being tested.

While some may argue that finals before winter break allows students to utilize their two weeks as a break, students can still find a balance between a productive and relaxing break. With two entire weeks, students can study for shorter periods of time and reiterate the information they learn. Not only will this help improve retention, but it will develop a positive habit of studying and keeping the brain active. Going weeks without keeping brains active can lead to brain drain. According to research from the Washington Post, over summer breaks, students can lose up to 2.5 months of math skills. Without constantly exercising knowledge, students will be set back and lose the information they aren’t regularly using.

Taking into consideration the stress levels of both students and teachers, it is in the best interest of everyone to keep finals after winter break. For schools to help us smoothen this rollercoaster and help us stay afloat, it’s best we keep finals to after winter.

 

 

 

 

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I have no preference. The advantage of before break is then students have a break to rest and recoup. But the advantage of after break is the whole point of a final—to see if a student has retained things. The excuse of “Oh, I forgot everything over break” is the whole point of giving a final. If you can’t remember it, then you don’t deserve a good grade. That’s also the reason why I give the statistics test after because I want to make sure that students have retained everything moving into the second semester.”

Richard Crowe, math teacher

 

“I think that having finals after break would make the weeks before break more relaxing and fun. We could enjoy the last few weeks with friends instead of worrying about tests.”

Lauren Lai, freshman