I finished my Semester 1 Biology 12 exam grading today. If you’ve been reading my blog you already know that I had hoped to finish grading them within the first five days of holidays. You may also be aware that I gathered data as I graded and this data supported the contention that the exam was a bit long. Removed by several days from the actual teaching and learning, these exams seem like lost relics. What do these exam grades even mean? Are they currency? Are they communication? Are they authentic?

The exam was scheduled for Thursday of exam week. Some students had two exams that day after having had at least one exam per day for each of three days beforehand. It’s a lot to expect full focus, attention, and achievement through to the end of this many formal assessments in rapid succession. If exam grades are currency, I am paying the students for what is unlikely to be their proudest work.

Semester exams provide a numeric grade which is used to represent student content knowledge. The term “feedback” doesn’t fit: Semester exam grades are summative grades. “Feedforward” is also out of reach: Semester 2 contains different topics even under the generously practices-based structure of the Next Generation Science Standards. If exam grades are communication, I am most certainly on a one-way street.

The numeric grades themselves are authentic in that they do represent what each student knew and explained well under those specific conditions on that particular day. I am trying to decide if and when, since graduating high school, I have been put through an equivalent extent of testing. For what exactly are we preparing the next generation? The longer I teach the more I wonder.