Key West High School without it's normal parade of cars. WEEKLY FILE PHOTO
The chart above details 26 students’ reactions to taking end-of-course exams eight months after the class ended. ELLA HALL/Key West High School

The first week of December was exam week for several Key West High School students, but COVID affected even this traditional high school rite of passage. Due to delays, closures and online learning, the end-of-course exams that some classes require were administered a full eight months after the class was taught.

Students got a reprieve from the exams during the last school year while the COVID pandemic unfolded. But the Florida Department of Education announced in August that the EOC exams would be given in the 2020-21 school year. Students’ performance on the EOC exams help determine a school’s letter grade that’s assigned by the state education department. 

While the classes were taught last year, the EOC exams weren’t given until Dec. 1 through Dec. 9, prompting complaints and concerns from several students.

“Many students, myself included, had thrown away their studying materials for the EOCs as soon as they heard that the governor bypassed them all last year,” said Madison Fernandez, a sophomore at Key West High School.

Fernandez was far from alone in feeling unprepared for the EOC exams. 

On Dec. 9, an online survey asked KWHS students how they felt about the exams and allowed them to respond anonymously.  Of the 26 students who responded, 88.5% said that taking the EOCs eight months after the class ended was not a fair measure.

Some students who took Biology 1 last year expected to take the take and pass the EOC exam and thus check off one of the requirements for the Scholar Diploma at KWHS. But things didn’t always go as planned

“It is outright wrong to give a test after a long break from the subject, especially when we don’t even have our biology teacher anymore,” one student responded. “The test should have been waived from the Scholar Diploma requirements.” Another 73.1% of the 26 students agreed, saying the EOC exams should have been waived. 

Adding to the series of unfortunate events, Fernandez said, the testing environment was not appropriate for the EOCs. There was an overflow number of students in each room, which caused a lot of chatter, confusion and most importantly, wasted time, she said, but added that the COVID precautions were executed perfectly, with students positioned 6 feet from each other. 

According to the survey, 53.8% of the students said they felt uncertain about the test, while 42.3% feared they may not have passed. “Although I studied the material, I walked into the exam room with very low expectations. I must’ve looked like a deer in headlights after reading the first few questions,” said Fernandez. 

For many students, college acceptance is a top priority, and passing the EOC test is critical. If you pass, then sure, the test was worth it, but what does that mean for those who didn’t pass? Will they blame it on the school, the state education department  or on COVID-19?

Students don’t know what will happen next. Will the school district throw another curveball at the students? Will COVID-19 further impact our academic future? 

Only time will tell, but from now on, perhaps officials should consider students’ perspectives before enacting certain changes.

(Reprinted with permission from the Key West High School newspaper, “The Snapper.”)

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