Major changes made to January finals schedule

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This January, final exams will take place during regular school days, rather than being adminstered during a designated finals week. In addition to this change, the English Regents Examination, normally administered to juniors in June, will now take place in January.

In recent years, students would take final exams on certain days and leave school after the exam. Now students will attend their regular classes throughout January.  When finals are given, students will take one to two tests per day for different subjects, each the same duration as a regular band, while following the regular schedule.

“The final exams this year will be in-class and earlier than Regents week,” said Principal Anthony Barbetta. The English Regents will be given on January 26, and only students taking the exam will be in attendance that day.

Assistant Principal of Organization Ellen Fee stated that the administration originally set aside one week for finals in order to help unify subjects. However, as THHS becomes a more annualized school, it is highly unlikely one would switch his or her teacher, rendering finals week unnecessary in the sense of uniting the classes in terms of curriculum.

Ms. Fee also said that another reason for implementing finals week “was giving a longer test more similar to a Regents, so it was good practice for the Regents.” However, negative student feedback stating how stressed students were due to long final exams led the administration to cut down the duration of the tests. The test time was decreased so much so that last year’s final exams were 45 minutes long. Since tests no longer simulated a Regents exam, this motive of finals week was also eliminated.

Senior Igor Portnoy, part of the Queens student advisory committee and member of the Student Union Board, explained that student representatives have been requesting and involved in making changes to finals week for the past few years, but he states, “This year, we did not discuss finals in consultative councils or with the administration at all and were caught off guard when the announcement came that there would be in class finals rather than just coming into school for a test or two and then leaving.”

SU President and senior Karen Su agreed, saying that the council “didn’t discuss any changes in the final exams schedule in our meetings of the previous academic year.”

In response, Ms. Fee explained that the decision was actually in response to the complaints the administration received from the students after the finals last January. She explains that this schedule creates a “win-win” situation, for it pleases both previously disappointed teachers and the students.

Teachers from different departments had an array of responses in regards to these changes. Chemistry teacher Adel Kadamani said, “Whatever the school schedules, that’s fine with me. I’ll just go with the flow.”

Language teacher Paola Sierra says “I believe that the proposal to end finals week does not affect our schedule drastically, but rather it allows us to have more quality time with the students, which is a positive consequence.”

In contrast, many of the student body seems to oppose this change in policy.

Freshman Bea Tolentino explained, “Students already put so much time and effort into studying for their finals, and it isn’t fair to give students more to deal with by giving them a full day of school.”

Sophomore Erela Datuowei says, “It’s just putting additional work on all the students and teachers who have to come in that day.”

Though students seem worried that the change will lead to additional stress, the change in the administration date of the English Regents was made to reduce stress. In particular, the change was meant to prevent an overwhelming amount of end-of-year exams, as past juniors often took at least one other Regents exam. In addition to the statewide exams, juniors were usually swamped with Advanced Placement, SAT and ACT exams.

“If we can move one exam to January, that will be less stress by the end of the year. By doing so, we can alleviate the pressure on students,” explained Humanities Assistant Principal Rafal Olechowski.

The change was discussed when Mr. Barbetta met with Mr. Olechowski. “[We] sat down together and analyzed the situation,” Mr. Barbetta said. “We decided it would be best to move the English Regents to January, as that would mean one less exam in June.”

Regarding the changes, English teacher Joseph Canzoneri has mixed opinions. “I’m a little disappointed that students won’t be able to use some of the texts we typically read at the end of the year [on the Regents exams],” he said. “However, moving the Regents gives me more time in my AP sections to focus on college essay writing after the AP exam.”

Fellow English teacher Judy Biener added, “It’s not a change I would have made myself. When I was in high school, I took the English Regents in senior year. I’ve always thought pushing them off until senior year altogether would help students perform even more fabulously. At the same time, moving them to January does make the spring semester a little nicer. We’ll have to see how this affects grades.”

Junior Adomas Hasan commented, “From what I’ve heard the English Regents is a pretty easy test. We’re smart kids and have great teachers, so it shouldn’t be a problem. If we take the Regents in January, that gives us more time to focus on SATs.”

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