27 Jan 2016

Are Finals Necessary

Are Finals Necessary

As I watch my daughter prepare for her high school finals I ask myself are finals necessary?  The institutional practice of finals is a part of how schools operate but do they assess the 21st century skills our students must have to be successful employees?

I admit I gave finals as a teacher and adjunct professor largely because that is what teachers do. A summative evaluation is not a bad form of assessing students but it is largely disconnected with measuring the right skills of our students.  The disconnect with traditional finals is the fact is they primarily measure isolated information recall.   Students must have a strong fundamental knowledge base but that is not enough.   Assessments must change towards a growth model that gauges a students progress towards connecting their knowledge base with interconnected application. Typical recall assessments do not accomplish the goal of measuring critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Schools must adapt knowledge assessments to measuring application.  Public schools are in essence a 13 year work force development pipeline.  When students enter the workforce they will be required to apply their knowledge and experiences and will rarely be tasked with simple information recall.  Supervisors will not give their employees a test twice a year to measure their knowledge.  Rather, there will be continual progress monitoring on how effective their employees apply their skills and knowledge to complete a task.

Are finals necessary?  Yes and no.  The current structure of high school finals are not measuring application.  A form of summative evaluation can be a value add if it measures the students ability to synthesize and connect the concepts into real world connections.  To prepare our students to successfully enter the 21st Century workforce schools must scrap the current practice of biannual recall assessments.

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