Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Case of the Monthlies

Approximately every four weeks, the whole school (elementary through high school) goes into exam mode. The semesters here are structured around four exams: the first monthly, the midterm, the second monthly (technically given during the third or fourth month of the semester), and the final. This week, we're in second monthly mode. For students, this means a week of stress and pressure (as they have exams in all of their subjects) and for teachers, this means writing, copying, proctoring, and grading exams until our minds are a little bit numb.
Students' grades (again, from elementary through high school) are entirely dependent on how they do on these four exams. As teachers, we're required to assign - and grade - homework daily, but can only count those scores toward 20 percent of the two monthly exams (which, combined, account for 30 percent of the total term score - the rest is made up of the midterm and final exam scores.) This can lead to some frustration, as some of the most diligent students aren't great test takers, and visa versa. Still, these test scores are hugely stressed and students are well aware of how they rank against their classmates. Teachers are encouraged (and evaluated on their ability) to design and grade tests in such a way that the average falls within a certain range. For 9th and 10th grade, that range is high 70's to low 80's (as students get younger, the allowed range gets higher.) The idea behind that is to curb grade inflation and to foster a rigorous academic environment.
All a little bit different than my memories of high school!