Commentary

Demystifying Midterms

When midterm reports were released on October 12, I immediately logged onto PANet, eager to see how I was faring in my classes this term. Like many, I wanted to know what I could do to become a better student. I was disappointed, however, to find that only two of the six courses I take this term had been given a grade based on the 1-6 scale, while the rest received only teacher comments.

Unfortunately, midterm comments are often as generic as, “Good start to the term!” and “Keep up the good work!” Vague comments like these leave students confused and unsure about how they are actually doing in a course and provide no actual advice for the coming weeks. If comments are vague, it is assumed that students will take the initiative to ask their teachers about grades after midterms. Some students do this, but the reality is that many do not. Often with only a “P” to guide them, students stumble through the rest of the term, uncertain of how to improve. This is especially true in classes where a student may receive cookie-cutter feedback: “Keep up the good work!” Comments like these are unhelpful and deceptive, because they mislead students into thinking they have a certain grade, often leaving students shocked at the end of the term.

Midterm reports should show the number grades so that there is no confusion between students and teachers about how students are doing academically. In addition to a number grade, teachers should write individualized comments that outline places for improvement for each student. It is the responsibility of all teachers to provide comments that give helpful guidance about how to improve, or if a student is doing well, how students can improve work habits so they can continue to excel. The intentions of midterms reports are to help students, but it is impossible for us to improve if we do not know what we can do better.

If Andover’s reluctance to include 1-6 grades in midterms is an attempt to avoid a grade-centric school culture, the school should set aside the day midterms are released for students to have individual conferences with their teachers to discuss how they are performing in the course. Meeting in person offers teachers the opportunity to go more in depth about how a student can improve in his or her class and gives students the chance to connect with teachers about their work in a course.

Until official changes are made, however, I highly recommend that all students take the initiative to ask their teachers to show them their grade and to set up appointments during conference period if needed. Even though only three weeks remain in the term, talking with teachers is a useful way for students to gain information about academic performance that may not have been included in their midterm reports.

Oct 30, 2015