MCPS made a decision during the fall of the 2015-2016 school year to get rid of final exams for the current school year. The Board of Education replaced final exams with Required Quarterly Assessments (more commonly known as RQAs). These RQAs are taken every quarter instead of at the end of the semester like final exams. Instead of being its own separate grade, RQAs count as 10 percent of a student’s quarterly grade. This also changes how the grading system works. A student’s semester grade is now measured by taking the higher of the two quarter grades instead of two quarter grades and an exam that culminates the course. For example, if a student were to get an “A” one quarter and a “B” the next, their semester grade would be an “A”. MCPS implemented this to not put students under as much stress as they had been under with final exams because the RQAs would cover quarterly material instead of the whole semester’s material. While this change was designed to benefit the well being of the student body, not every student likes the new system.
Bringing back exams would mean changing the grading policy back to what it was before this school year. A large concern with the new grading policy is that it could make grades look inflated because they don’t include the grade of an exam, which would show how well a student knows the material from the whole semester instead of just one quarter. Grades being inflated may make it harder to get into a desired college because the college could think that the semester grade that a student earned doesn’t show how much they knew the topic because their would be no final exam grade.While stress was the driving force in abolishing exams, students having to worry about if colleges will think their grades are legitimate could be a large concern for them. Students such as sophomore Alec Yassin believe that bringing back final exams would be beneficial for the student body as a whole. “Bringing back exams would be the best solution because there are too many RQAs in the year,” Yassin said.
Keeping RQAs would reinforce that the Board of Education’s goal in reducing the stress among students. Since there are only one-period long RQAs, students do not have to put as much pressure on themselves as they did with two hour long tests that culminated everything they learned that semester. RQAs allow students to have more free time at the end of each semester by not forcing them to being studying for hours upon hours to get the grade that they desire. According to the MCPS website they have no plans to bring back final exams for next school year. Students such as junior Gabe Pollack enjoy RQAs but believe that they aren’t perfect. “I like not having exams; it makes the end of the year less stressful. But I think not having exams is poor prep for college,” Pollack said.