Painful Questions

My youngest child graduates from high school on May 12–fifteen days before the MSMS graduation. He hasn’t had to be on campus for an afternoon class all semester. When finals roll around, he won’t have to take a final for any class in which he has an A. He chose not to apply for MSMS primarily because he loves sports more than he loves classes, though I am happy to report an interest in history and economics has begun to blossom in him. However, he also knew how much more work an MSMS degree requires.

Is it too much work? Do MSMS graduates–survivors?–actually learn more content than they learn how to game our college-oriented system? What damage would be done to the reputation MSMS enjoys if we were to let up ever so slightly on a requirement or two?

A senior recently pitched the idea that we should allow second semester seniors to earn exemptions from exams. If they’re happy with the grade earned to that point, let them go, she suggested. There’s nothing on the line for most of them at that point. They know where they’re going to college. Scholarships have been earned.

So, my friendly bloggers, should anything be changed about the final quarter seniors spend at MSMS? How can those changes involve accountability? How can they maintain–or better yet, bolster–MSMS’ standing educationally? Or should we stick with the status quo?

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34 Responses to Painful Questions

  1. Bill Arnoldus says:

    MSMS is a school that rarely follows the status quo. We don’t have a health or Physical Education class. We have study hours. We have wellness hours and wellness seminars. We have a bedtime. Embracing change will continue keeping it with the times. A system to allow seniors to be exempt from final exams at the end of the year would be nice to try to see the positives and pit falls.

  2. Kelvin Pool says:

    MSMS being the grand experiment it is should not be afraid to try something new. Final exam exemptions based on good grades for seniors doesn’t seem like a bad idea. It is my opinion that after struggling for the better portion of two years to graduate from the most prestigious high school in Mississippi those who have earned it should get a break.

  3. Jacqueline Smith says:

    At the moment, I’m inclined to believe that MSMS is too much work because of my two math classes going on at the same time. I, along with other juniors, have 2 Foundations TESTS next week along with two quizzes. I had a test every day this week except for USH test day. Many of my teachers have “thought about me” and moved my finals up a few weeks so that I can “have time for other classes”. What this has created is me going into finals week two weeks early. I’m not having that much trouble with my grades, it’s more so the amount of work (then again I have 9 classes). This made me quit a few extracurriculars, and I can not imagine what it would be like to be a student here who came from a school that wasn’t as good as my old one.

    I think it is a good idea to let seniors out of their test-style finals because, as you mentioned, they have already earned their scholarships. If a senior is satisfied with their grade, I think finals can do nothing but hurt them. A bad grade in a dual credit course could affect their college transcript. Many seniors are already stressed about studying for AP Calculus, Physics, or Chemistry tests.

    Notice how I said test-style finals? Just because it’s your last semester at MSMS, shouldn’t mean all hell has broken loose. For three of my classes, my finals are projects, presentations, or interviews. Those kinds of finals don’t require too much skill or on-the-spot performance. Everyone should still participate in those activities.

  4. Gracyn Young says:

    Though I strongly believe that these final quarter seniors have not only earned a well-deserved break, I find it hard to believe that MSMS would implement something like the exempt final exams.

    MSMS is known for its rigor and large amounts of work, every single one of us knew that before submitting our applications, and especially knew it by the time we walked into our dorm rooms for the first time. Though this isn’t to say that the seniors don’t deserve some form of break, I do agree with what most people are saying at that point (if they have a good grade in a course), forcing seniors to take the final can do nothing but take away their precious time, and ultimately hurt them.

    MSMS students sacrifice their typical high school experience for academic gain, and you earn exactly that from attending whether it be stronger knowledge in prospective fields, a head-start on residence life, etc., not a singular final. Especially since what one stands to gain from attending MSMS has already been earned. However, it is important to implement systems that allow the students to look back on their high school experience and not just remember late-night studying or gruesome finals. Exemption from finals would not only allow them to finish school a week(ish) early but would also allow them to spend their last few weeks as a high schoolers amongst close friends they’ve made in their journey at MSMS.

    However, like I said in the being, actually having these systems in place doesn’t seem very likely. When you think of the logistics, most classes have a fair ratio of juniors AND seniors. Would it hurt the juniors to exempt the seniors? How would classes measure attained knowledge through only surveying one group of students? How would final projects work if the peers one student is used to, doesn’t have to participate?

    It seems to me like this is too good to be true. My old high school does not implement systems like this, and it’s hard for me to imagine MSMS, a school known for its rigor and workload, would. Seniors deserve so much more than an exempt final, especially after a difficult senior year (compared to their old school (mostly)), college/scholarship applications, the overall mental drain MSMS has, etc., but it is hard to think about them receiving what they deserve when we don’t have anything to base it off now.

  5. Laykin Dixon says:

    I recently had this conversation with a couple of friends. Senior year shouldn’t be as draining as it is at MSMS it’s your final push till college. I feel as if seniors shouldn’t be required to take their last finals because they already know what college they’re going to. A final exam can make you fail a class and I couldn’t imagine being a few days before graduation and you fail an exam that causes you to fail a class where you aren’t even allowed to graduate. That would be very unfortunate and very hard on a student who has worked so hard to walk across a stage to receive a diploma.

  6. Kinsley Hendricks says:

    MSMS is known to be one of the number one schools in Mississippi, the students work hard, and in some cases do more rigorous work than other schools. So why shouldn’t they be able to catch a break after working hard for 2 years? I think if this was something to actually get implemented here everyone would love it. Also maybe more students will be encouraged to come back their senior year if they know that their workload won’t be as heavy or hard the second semester of their senior year.

  7. Bethany Setiawan says:

    One last final can make or break a senior who has already planned out their future after MSMS. For two years, seniors have gone through the ups and downs of this school, so I believe giving them one last break could be extremely beneficial. Allowing seniors to be exempt from their exams during the second semester would lift a burden off of their shoulders and enable them to savor the last few weeks of their high school experience. Although, it would be rewarding for this to happen to seniors, the likelihood of it happening at MSMS are slim to none.

  8. Atticus Ross says:

    I believe that MSMS should not follow the status quo. Not only will this leave a positive impact on the seniors in the second semester, but this will possibly give an incentive to make sure that their grades are still good so they can earn exemptions from their classes. I presume that seniors are just readily waiting for school to end after the first semester, so a good way to combat senioritis and give them a helping hand is to change how finals are handled. MSMS is already known for its advanced classes and learning so I doubt this change would tarnish that view.

  9. Justin Doan says:

    I believe taking class exams should be up to the student IF they have an A in the class. This way seniors will have the relief of not stressing on exams that could potentially lower their grade. If these seniors do decide to take it, however, if they make a grade lower than their average in the class, I think it would be best to let the student decide if they want it to enter the gradebook. Either way, I think taking exams should be a beneficial thing to seniors at the end of the year rather than a harmful effect. Seniors at MSMS already have a huge workload compared to other schools in Mississippi, so an exemption wouldn’t hurt.

  10. Kinsley Collum says:

    Second semester seniors should not be required to take final exams. Since most schools in Mississippi don’t even require any high schoolers to take finals, MSMS will still be at a higher standard by just allowing seniors to skip on finals. By the end of the year, seniors have already given up, they’ ve selected their college, and gotten their scholarships. I think not requiring a final exam is very reasonable. Anyone with less than a B should be required to take the final and everyone else should have the option to opt out.

  11. Alex White says:

    Referring to the question about the MSMS workload, one of the main purposes of MSMS is to provide a higher intensity curriculum that can adequately reflect a college education. That being said, the workload may be a lot, but it is everything we signed up for, so it is not too much.
    As for the final quarter during senior year, I strongly believe that MSMS needs to make some changes. I agree that at this point in the year all the things that needed to be proven have already been proven (MSMS’ rigorous curriculum, a student’s ability to excel in this type of environment, etc.). Therefore, exemptions should be a possibility. However, for accountability purposes exemptions should only be available to those who secure an A for their quarter grade.
    By doing this, we will be able to reduce/prevent burnout while also giving seniors a goal to accomplish that will encourage students to finish the year on top.

  12. Makayla Houston says:

    Coming to MSMS, I knew that this was a school that was like no other. It did not stick to any sort of status quo. From my experience here as a junior I can say that it was hard, and it was something that I had to get used to, but proposing the idea of letting seniors be exempt during the last quarter is an outstanding idea. Most seniors are ready to get out of high school and go to the college that they have already gotten into. When it comes time for all of us to be seniors, we will want a break just like the seniors do right now. The seniors need a well-deserved break. If it comes to something about upholding a good image, I don’t think we have to worry about that because our seniors get into good colleges so getting a break from taking the finals is a small step towards happiness.

  13. Vishnu Gadepalli says:

    Seniors should not be forced to take a second-semester final exam if they have an A in the class. MSMS isn’t as hard as people make it out to be if you just take the classes you want to and don’t take a bunch of super hard classes just for transcript-eye-candy, but like other people have said, seniors are basically already college students — they’ve been accepted to college and have been selected for scholarships, probably signed up for orientation, selected their college dorm and roommate, etc. If a senior has an A in the class then they deserve a break and this prize of not taking a final will only make them work harder during the school year.

  14. Lisa Seid says:

    Everyone realizes MSMS is certainly something different upon arriving. Although barely surviving, I don’t think it’s too much work. We came here for the challenge, and you choose how much you want to push yourself. I actually don’t think our reputation would be affected much if the school let up on requirements because there are talented students here who would take the class on their own. It would certainly look more impressive and let students specialize in whatever subject area they want.
    I agree with all the responses here that say seniors have worked hard for the grade they earned, and that it should not fluctuate greatly by a simple comprehensive test. However, only letting second semester seniors be exempt seems a little odd for everyone else. There must be better ways of avoiding an exam. I think letting all the seniors do final projects or in-class essays is sufficient enough to test their knowledge. An exam is too risky for everything they worked for, but I don’t think they should be let off the hook quite that easily, only for the sake of everyone else. Unless everyone with an A, junior or senior, can be exempt!

  15. Avery McMechan says:

    There’s about a million things that MSMS could change that would make it better for students, faculty, and just the education and experience as a whole. However I find that the least number of these possible changes could be found in the last semester so much as the last quarter, there are still a number of things.
    First students should not be counted on wellness with the current punishment. The punishment for failing Q4 wellness is that you do not get to walk at graduation, but you still receive your diploma. I know plenty of people that said they would like to fail the Q4 wellness just so they didn’t have to attend.
    Second is that the only classes that should require attendance is any sciences or maths that you don’t have an A in, sorry Dr. E but you can read from the dorm. The reason why is that with some exceptions, there really isn’t a reason to come to class, you sit down, barely lift a finger, and boom, one hour of your life wasted as you could have done the same assigment in 5 minutes in the dorm room. Earlier this year it felt like I could have done double the work in half the time if my teachers didn’t draw it out in hour long lectures, and instead I just got to work by myself.
    Lastly, and the change I certainly feel most passionate on, is that MSMS, for really just the senior year in general, SHOULD USE STATE GPA WEIGHTS. I mean for crying out loud I’ve never heard of another school, Mississippi or otherwise, that refuses to use them the way MSMS does. It ruins some peoples transcripts when they have all B’s and C’s because they took insanely rigorous courses like AP and Uni credits, and recieve no credit for the work they put in other than a test grade for AP. A solution to MSMS’s arrogant logic that students will be unmotivated and rely on the weight is to not show them until senior year, then apply them to all grades from that moment on. Why, BECAUSE SOME OF US WOULD LIKE OUR 100% AVERAGES TO BE SEEN BY COLLEGES!

  16. Kermit Oville says:

    MSMS is a school that was created to hold students to a different standard. This standard should not be altered simply on the fact that it is the last semester of high school. Even though many high schools are lenient to their seniors, MSMS students enrolled into this high school to be challenged and held to a higher standard. Students from all around Mississippi left their homeschools to be challenged. Many of the students were at the top of their classes back at home. I believe that if these students wanted to have a relaxing spring semester of senior year they should have stayed at their home school. To be recognized as one of the best schools in the state and the nation, this school must push us, as students, to be the best version of ourselves. This may include giving up some privileges, but I believe that is what is best for us.

  17. Bryanna Boggs says:

    I think that MSMS is more academically enriching on account that they have historically been susceptible to the needs of their students. For this reason, I think it would be entirely reasonable for second-semester seniors to be exempt from exams. MSMS exists on a principle of change and innovation, so it needs to continue to change and back the needs of its students in order to improve.

  18. Jonathan Kiesel says:

    Do seniors in college still have to take final exams for their classes? Worst case scenario is that they do, so I’ll admit, still taking a final is important for students, especially if we want to remain consistent with the kind of rigor and set of standards we have in comparison to colleges and universities.

    The biggest problem, as Avery points out, is how students are underrepresented here from the lack of a weighted GPA, making it impossible to compare to other high schools that also offer as many dual credits and AP courses, and it would be very great too if there certain elective courses, such as Linear Algebra, that have weighted courses as prerequisites were also weighted too, incentivizing more students to take courses that would prepare them very well for their majors in college.

    But hey, sure, why not. Let’s just put in these little “electives” that have the same credit as a course for basket weaving just so that our students are positively, psychologically motivated to still finish their last quarter of their last year here. This will surely reduce the likelihood that some of our students will have senioritis by the second semester as we have always correctly predicted /s.

    • Jonathan Kiesel says:

      Edit: Maybe instead of bumping up courses with a weight, maybe they should have their effects just amplified. If you choose to take an amplified course, you should be rewarded even more if you maintain an A, but if you do poorly, then it would actually reduce your GPA more than if you took a regular course and got a C. This will keep students on edge of their studies, holding them accountable for the courses they choose to take.

  19. Elijah Camba says:

    I think it would sound nice, especially for me as a senior about to graduate, however, I just don’t think it would be fair for any of the other lower-classmen. I mean, what’s to say that the juniors won’t be asking the same thing? Honestly, based on my experience as a junior, they might deserve more of a break.

    Although that would be nice to be exempt, I am extremely doubtful that this kind of implementation would assist in the goal of preparing us for college, especially since I thin professors won’t be merciful to exempt anybody. We are not an “average” high school after all.

    So, while it would be nice to have this, especially now, I don’t see how it is relevant to how our school works and it could lead int a series of more leeways that could make MSMS turn into a school of average joes.

  20. Ava Wilson says:

    I think that MSMS seniors should be allowed to be exempt from exams. Usually by the second-semester of senior year, students don’t care much about their grades. The most important exams that a second-semester senior could take are AP exams, so not having exams for other classes gives them more time to focus on getting their goal score on their AP exams, which still stands a chance to benefit them in the future. Some think this may be unfair to juniors, but I wouldn’t say so since everybody had to take their exams junior year. Sure I would wish I could get exempt as well, but ultimately I think it’s a fair policy.

  21. Victoria West says:

    I believe seniors should not have to take final exams in their second (and last) semester according to their preference. MSMS is the most rigorous high school in the state and certainly remains as such. Giving seniors the option to take their final could feel rewarding and can be a non-stressful prelude to the beginning of a new time in their life. By option, I mean that if a student would like to increase their grade, they should have the chance to do so by taking an exam. Since students already know by the end of their senior year where they are going to college/what their career plans are, there isn’t much more to be earned. Forcing students with borderline-failing grades could be extremely harmful–if they fail, the 2 years spent at Mississippi’s top school has gone to waste and graduation is revoked. If the student is content with their grade, why should they have to take something that could potentially hurt it?

  22. James Talamo says:

    Why does MSMS have the no-exemption system in the first place? If a student has an A in the class, they should be exempt. Period. To have an A in a class at MSMS represents a deep (at least to the teacher’s expectations) understanding of the concepts taught in that class. Adding this unnecessary stress to students that may have other classes that the exam could actually benefit them in is just illogical to me. it causes students to either pull all-nighters or adopt the “F*** it we ball” mindset, which is very broadly experienced and expressed by the MSMS population.

  23. Rushyendranath Reddy Nalamalapu says:

    The final years of high school are pivotal points in our lives. Our future begins to come into vision and our career options are realized. Towards the end of the year, the motivation to adhere to the content stagnates dramatically. This behavior is colloquially known as “Senioritis”.
    If students were allowed to qualify for exemptions then there be less incentive to retain the content. There is more to the final exam than just taking an arduous long test. The weeks ramping up to the final generally encompass the overall concepts of the course. Such a timeline helps prepare seniors for their next few years in college. Throughout the year, students would be motivated to truly comprehend the content if they are informed that their skills will be assessed at the end of the year. The exam itself would assist the unweighted GPA of seniors who are underrepresented.

  24. Anthony Bradley says:

    I don’t really know what is it like for the final semester of MSMS because I am not yet a senior, however, I do think there are some things that can be done to create a better environment. I will say that MSMS puts too much emphasis on the grades and not enough on actually learning the material. Teachers (mainly science ones) just spit out information then give quizzes on tests on it then never talk about it again.

    It is mostly a US high school problem as a whole, but students are given too much information that they will never remember or do anything with. So this is what I advise. For a seniors last semester, they should choose a subject to “major” in that they enjoy which they will then spend the entire semester learning and mastering. At the end of the semester they will then either do an exam or a project. This way of doing things will highly reduce stress and annoyance.

    The truth is that society does not care how much random information you know, and all high school is for is being social and getting into college. By seniors’ last semester, they are already accepted into whatever college they are going to, so why are we still forcing them to take tests on useless information? They should spend their last semester doing things they enjoy and making memories.

  25. Bradley Kuebler says:

    I think allowing exemptions from exams would greatly benefit final quarter seniors. When it comes to exams, a lot of the time the actual exam is really easy it’s just a lot of content that you have to review. Due to this, when it comes time for students to decide whether or not they want to take their final, the only students who will really opt out are the students who have been responsible and studying throughout the semester and making good grades. Any student who has been lacking and not studying or cramming will want to take their final because it is such a grade boost and all it requires to make a good grade is a bit of studying. At the same time, the exam can be a grade ender if you don’t study enough. Also, making time to study for all of your exams is so damaging to mental health as its also during the last couple of weeks you have left with your high school friends and you’re forced to spend it sitting in a room studying for all of your exams. Just knowing that I’m never going to see some of my best friends again due to locational barriers when they move off to college but also not being able to spend quality time with them for the last 2 weeks of us seeing each other makes me incredibly sad and I think its ridiculous.

  26. Gordon Welch says:

    I believe that changing what the final quarter at MSMS is like for seniors should be up to the teachers. If you have an A in that class, then the teacher should have an option to not require you to take the final exam. This will encourage seniors to put more effort in their classes throughout the year than they otherwise would. This may increase MSMS’s average GPA and encourage higher student enrollment.

  27. Myia Williams says:

    MSMS is a school where students put in relentless effort. We hardly get a break, in other words. We virtually always have an exam or quiz to prepare for. We also need to focus a lot on our wellness. I believe that seniors should be given a respite. Senior year shouldn’t be so difficult for them.

  28. Junran Zhou says:

    If a student has at least an A in a class, they should be exempt from a final exam. Mandating a senior year final exam is redundant and unnecessary. The cumulative grade earned throughout the semester is more than enough to show the comprehension and effort the students put into the course and is certainly a better metric than one singular test. Moreover, the exam puts a considerable amount of stress on the backs of people who are busy with more important things like college preparations and cherishing their last few days as high school students.

  29. georgianna mckenny says:

    I do believe that MSMS should let certain seniors be exempt from their final exam. If they have had an A for the entirety of the semester, there is no reason for them to have to take the exam. An A in the course, shows that they have mastered the material given to them in the class. A final exam, at that point, can only hurt them if they do worse that they have all year, which is possible because their minds will be more focused on graduating than passing the exams. The seniors have been working hard all year and they deserve a break.

  30. Komal Patel says:

    Being an MSMS student is a lot of work. Students learn an equal amount of school content and skills to help aid them for college. Unlike most seniors, MSMS students are saddled with heavy course loads and constant challenges. Being able to graduate from MSMS is an accomplishment and it shows that MSMS students are accountable. Allowing them to not have to take final exams would not take away the work that they have put in to be accepted into college and getting scholarships. Allowing students to be exempt could be an incentive for students to work harder for an A. There seems to be no need. So, in my opinion, it is unnecessary to make second semester students take their finals.

  31. Isabel Henderson says:

    I personally feel that seniors should not have to take the last semester final, if they are happy with their final grade. Like the blog stated, scholarships have already been given, and seniors have already decided on colleges. Most people would go into the exam with an “yolo” mindset anyways. Why make them take it if they are not going to try and do well. Also they can spend that time and energy on things that really matter. On the other hand I think they should have to take it if it is a dual credit coarse, because that grade decides if you get that college credit.

  32. Isabel Henderson says:

    I do not think that seniors should have to take their final exam, if they are happy with their grade. Most seniors would not care that much about their grade anyways, because as the blog stated, scholarships have already been received and colleges have already been decided on. There is not a point in spending that time and energy on something that does not matter anymore. On the other hand though, if it is a dual credit coarse I think seniors should have to take it. Dual credits count for college, and the final exam should be included in the final grade for that class, because that could determine if a student passes or fails.

  33. Logan Lechner says:

    I believe that if the seniors are willing to take a zero for the exam, there is no reason to hold them in school. However, I believe that the final exam exists for a purpose. Simply waiving this final exam wouldn’t be rational. If the purpose of the course is to test your knowledge on a topic, I think that it should do just that. School shouldn’t be solely focused on the promise of college. I think that being rigorously tested in a course that relates to you is beneficial.

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