Mark Segalfrom Mark Segal, Upper School director

Editor’s Note: Periodically, you will find a guest Head’s Message here from members of the administrative team. We hope you will enjoy reading their thoughts and reflections about life at MPA.

The pressure to end the quarter on the “right note” is frequently a focus for students and their families this time of year. Next week in the Upper School, most third-quarter English, math, science, social studies, and world language classes will be offering final exams to students in grades 9-11 (seniors do not take final exams.) End-of-term final assessments serve as a crucial tool to assess students in educational systems worldwide. They play a pivotal role in evaluating students’ comprehension, retention, and application of rigorous course material.

Research underscores their significance in measuring learning outcomes and guiding instructional strategies. According to a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, “Final exams contribute substantially to students’ overall academic performance, with performance on these assessments strongly correlating with their final grades.” End-of-term exams also highlight areas of strength and vulnerability, informing students and their teachers of areas of focus and adjustment.

MPA faculty do a wonderful job of asking students essential questions based upon the material taught and discussions had throughout the quarter. According to the Institute of Education Sciences, “Cumulative and larger end-of-term exams have been proven to improve long-term knowledge retention, cementing the very reason we go to school in the first place.”

As students work to prepare for their final exams, a recent “Psychology Today” article shares the following four benefits to end-of-term assessments:

  1. “The experience of preparing for finals is a quintessential opportunity for focusing on time management skills.” Students should use time ahead of the exams to organize their materials and use their resources to prepare. Waiting until the last moment to “cram” will not provide the foundation needed to appropriately review class materials.
  2. “Final exams are an opportunity to get better at stress management.” We all react differently when the stakes are raised, and finals provide a chance for us to sustain our attention and momentum while finding ways to stay calm amid a pressure situation.
  3.  “The ritual of finals reminds us that we are not alone.” There is something about the communal experience of gearing up, or in some cases procrastinating, for end-of-term assessments. All students in grades 9-11 experience this together at the same time and there is benefit in working together. This exemplifies the collaboration over competition approach that is so prevalent at MPA.
  4.  “The best part of final exams is the sweet reward and pleasure afterwards.” Students who prepare and plan ahead often experience a feeling of accomplishment and, hopefully, success when they are done with their exams. They can breathe a little easier, feel a weight lifted from their shoulders, and look back and realize that their final exams weren’t as bad as they expected or anticipated. And, importantly, they can help celebrate their classmates’ successes just as much as their own.
  5. On Thursday, April 4, and Friday, April 5, there are no regular Upper School classes—there are only final exams during these two days. Upper School students may be on campus before and after their final exams and lunch will be available for those students on the MPA lunch plan 11:20-11:45 AM. Light breakfast and snack items will be available throughout the day to all Upper School students outside of the Upper School office. This kind gesture is thanks to a long-standing Parents Association tradition. Please note that Middle and Lower School students will follow their regular class schedule all week and only Upper School has a modified schedule for final exams.

Thursday, April 4: 8:45-10:15 AM: Upper School Science Final Exams, 8:45-10:14 AM

Thursday, April 4: Upper School Science Final Exams, 12-1:30 PM

Friday, April 5: Upper School Math Final Exams, 8:45-10:15 AM

Friday, April 5: Upper School Social Studies Exams, 12-1:30 PM

Upper School students are not required to be on campus on Thursday or Friday when they do not have a final exam scheduled.

Those students who are allotted extended time for exams will work directly with their teacher or Upper School learning specialist, Ms. Schwalen, who will communicate directly with students and their families.

According to the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University, “Final exams remain one of the most common genres of cumulative assignments, set at the end of courses in order to give students (and instructors) the opportunity to synthesize and reflect on the full arc of the grading period.” Good luck to all—may your hard work and preparation pay off!


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