Post-exam assignments consist academic necessity
By Michael Kim
When entreating teachers to refrain from giving out summative assignments, students often plead their case by claiming that the AP exam in May is the culmination of their academic career. Yet, the AP exam is not the be-all and end-all, as some would have us believe. Indeed, the very academic motivation is reason enough to warrant post-exam summative assignments being assigned. It is for this reason that students must accept that summative assessments after the exam are not only acceptable, but also necessary.
When in the course of student events an administration requires students to take summative assessments after the exam is over, a decent respect for the educational abilities of teachers should compel students to heed the requirement. Students hold the right to complain about apparently useless assessments, but upon closer examination, it is clear that post-exam summative assessments are far from useless.
Students have historically been able to demonstrate their skill and dedication in academic study by taking AP classes. For most students motivated enough to invest their time, getting a perfect score on the AP exam is a matter of personal pride, not just academic necessity. For those students, it is clear that summative assessments after the exam are a welcome addition to their workload: they are able to demonstrate their understanding and knowledge further. For students without this sentiment, it should likewise be clear that post-exam assessments are a way of motivation where motivation does not exist.
Inherently, the post-exam assessment complaint is countered by the fact that students cannot gain a deeper understanding of more advanced concepts than those that appear on the AP exam without a structured learning environment after the exam. While the goal of gaining more in-depth understanding is not a goal on paper, it is an objective that students should work towards: AP classes are taken by students to gain an introduction to material that they will encounter in college. By sidestepping this goal and looking only to the objective students throw away the unique opportunity AP exams give them to prepare for study in college.
Granted, the opinion that the lack of summative assessments translates into a lack of effort on students’ parts is untested and unclear. The opinion that students are unwilling to learn material on their own without teacher-guided assistance, in the form of summative assignments is also not an undeniable truth. Yet the fact remains that the AP exam provides a demarcation between hard work and less effort. Nobody pulls off all-nighters studying after the exam has passed. The AP class is tailored for the exam, but is in no way beholden to only the exam.
Clearly, students have voiced their opinion recently that post-exam assignments are undesirable. Clearly, the exam completely satisfies the academic drive of most students. And it is because of this that teachers must take students’ opinions into account—they are the ones learning the material. One potential solution is to give students the choice of whether the assignments are summative or not. Choosing the degree of effort students put into assignments should be a choice after the exam, at the very least. But the existence of such assessments should not be a contested fact, nor should it be a point of contention between the student body and the administration.
Feasibility, necessity of post-exam summative assignments questionable
By Eva Hong
From the first day of AP classes, students are consistently reminded of the importance of AP exams, which are administered during the first two weeks of May. As the core of the course experience, the AP exam determines the course curriculum, schedule and assessment. Because of this heavy emphasis on test preparation, teachers cover much of the course content a month before the school year ends. As summative assessments have become increasingly common during the post-exam period, many have questioned the necessity of such additional workload.
In deconstructing the term itself, the first question arises with the “post-exam” notion.
With the exception of AP Physics, which SIS currently offers two levels of, most content regarding the subject is already covered, rehearsed, and tested prior to the post-exam period. Ideally, AP classes are packed with eager scholars craving the learning experience or seeking to pursue the subject at the college level. However, even teachers themselves readily admit that the primary purpose of the course is to prepare students for the exam. When the remaining AP curriculum—if it exists—is not even required for seniors, is the administration not admitting that the core aim of the AP course rests in the exam? If the course content is sufficiently covered and the class purpose well accomplished, is there a need to beat the dead horse?
Indeed, the exam is not and should not be the sole determinant of the learning process, even in AP courses. But even if there is an obligation for students and teachers to strive above and beyond the purpose of the course, how this extra mile is achieved is also of importance. Utilizing summative assignments to motivate students, for one, directly contradicts the administration’s envisioned self-motivated scholars.
Furthermore, assigning summative assignments after the exams leads to potential uneven grade-changing opportunities and raise practical concerns, especially as many AP classes include seniors who do not even attend school during this post-exam period. As only underclassmen are present after exams, seniors who have already graduated do not even get the opportunity to potentially boost their grades with these assignments. This is hardly fair for seniors, especially those who want or need to improve their transcript grades.
The absence of seniors further poses obstacles in assigning summative assessments. While the ratio varies from course to course, the departure of seniors leaves several AP classes with only a handful of juniors. Particularly for classes like AP Psychology, which has a section with only one junior, teachers are forced to coordinate across sections and such.
There is no contention that the more learning occurs in these classrooms, the better it is for both students and teachers. Whether in the form of film studies or individual research on specific concepts of the course the student found engaging, the post-exam period should focus on fostering, not forcing, further learning and interest. If the unfortunate truth is that whichever form of learning cannot occur in the absence of summative assessments, teachers should gradually transform this culture by beginning with solely rewarding extra-credit or participation grade for post-exam work, and transitioning into a completely formative and voluntary environment over the years. Learning and grades can be separate entities, and the first step in fostering this culture is for the administration to separate them.