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Westfield High School to eliminate midterms and finals

Westfield High School Principal Charles Jendrysik (AMY PORTER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD – During routine approval of student handbooks at the Aug. 23 School Committee meeting, the process stalled around a change proposed in Westfield High School’s handbook to eliminate references to midterms and finals, engendering a lot of questions from committee members.

Kate Perez, the district’s supervisor of math for grades 5 to 12, said the decision was made to eliminate midterm and final exams in favor of other assessments during the year, a concept she has been working on with WHS Principal Charles Jendrysik and Curriculum Director Susan Dargie.

Perez said in the past, four teaching days were devoted in January to midterms for full-year courses and finals for half-year courses, with another four days spent on finals in June. She said students miss a lot of class time, and the tests are weighted to be ten percent of their grades for a 90 minute “moment.”

She said students will benefit from regaining the eight days of instruction that they miss, which she said in reality is more than eight days because teachers spend a lot of time reviewing for the tests. “They end up missing a lot of instruction time,” she said.

Perez said instead of midterms and finals, district staff are working with Linda Jordan of the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) on rigorous curriculum design, looking at standards, the way they teach and assess. Jordan recommends ongoing formative assessments with immediate feedback to students.

She said the district already added I-Ready diagnostics in reading and math, which are standard based assessments taken three times a year. She said having teachers look at data three times a year is a lot more valuable for both the teachers and students.

Perez acknowledged that it is important for students to learn how to take tests. She said teachers are doing all the work to prepare students for midterms and finals. “We want to teach students how to do that, to get them ready for MCAS, SAT’s and college. We need to do our job and teach them how to take those tests rather than just giving them a test.”

“I love the idea of getting rid of them,” said School Committee member Heather Sullivan following the presentation. Sullivan added that she wants to make sure the type of testing that is used is showing how the schools and students are doing, where they’re weak, and relaying that information to the next teacher. “I’m just making sure across the board that tenth grade teachers are talking to ninth grade, and that seventh and eighth results are being passed on, too,” she said.

Perez said the i-Ready diagnostic tests for math and reading are for K-12, and are adaptive exams of different lengths that assess what grade level a student is working in. She said they produce very detailed reports to teachers and students.

“A lot of the data we get when we’re doing the midterms and finals isn’t useful data, because we’re getting it after the fact. These other assessments, such as I-Ready, have more useful data. We feel that the work that’s being done with other formative assessments should be more than qualified for making progress. If students or teachers are doing poorly in a certain area, we’ll know that,” said Jendrysik.

Jendrysik added that dropping finals won’t preclude a teacher from giving a cumulative test in their subject. “It’s more the time on learning we’re concerned about. This will give a lot more class instruction time. We’re also looking at anxiety levels at a time when students are already stressed.”

“I’m a little disappointed this discussion isn’t happening in a sub-committee meeting. The process for me is not okay,” said School Committee member Cindy Sullivan. “I do appreciate the conversation, I don’t think midterms and finals should be 10 percent of anyone’s grade, however they do happen in college. If I have to vote on the WHS handbook with this in it tonight, I’m voting no because I don’t think the process was followed. There will be a lot of questions from people about this,” she added.

Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said the midterm and final exam piece is exclusively in the WHS handbook. “I have a question if the concept belongs in a handbook at all,” he said, adding, “Right now we have one school with a policy about midterms and finals and no others. We can vote to approve the handbook without the entire clause, and take it up in a subcommittee separately.”

“I’m not sure assessment is under our purview,” said School Committee member Diane Mayhew. “I think we’re crossing a line here with the superintendent. We have no subcommittee for how we assess our children; that’s not us, that’s the superintendent. For you to come in front of us is informational,” she added. before the vote was taken to approve the handbook without the section on midterms and finals.

Following the meeting, Dargie said she would be scheduling a special meeting on curriculum and instruction to provide an overall update to the School Committee and answer questions.
She said the decision to eliminate midterms and finals was made at the school level, but it is supported at the district level because it is a direction they have wanted to move in. She said they haven’t held midterms or finals since the spring of 2020. “It’s more of an evolution in terms of something we’ve been talking about for a long time,” she said.

Dargie also spoke about consultant Linda Jordan of the International Center for Leadership in Education, a national educational organization of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, with whom the district leadership team has been working for three years through a Title 2A professional development grant. (

Dargie said this year Jordan will be giving the keynote address on the first staff development day on Aug. 26 for the whole district. “Then she will be working with each school on the goals set by the principal, connected to our district goals,” she said.

The district also used the Title 2A grant to fund a curriculum summit in the beginning of August, which Jordan led and where she trained the 60 teachers in attendance on strategies for continuous improvement. “They will be the leaders back in the building as we train all of our teachers to work with this process this year,” Dargie said.

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