Final Exams? Try “Roundtables” Instead

 

 

Melanie didn't need to pass a final exam to prove that her civics class had taught her a ton about effective political organizing.

 

Through an alternative year-end evaluation, Melanie, a junior at Metropolitan Business Academy, read excerpts from a research paper and talked about the skills she’d picked up in writing it — a self-assessment that her teacher argued gave a better sense of her growth than a single test could ever measure.

 

In a trend that’s taking hold across Metro, a regional magnet school known for its critical approach to pedagogy, more and more teachers are holding "roundtables," instead of giving final exams. In those sessions, students share a portfolio or perform a task for an audience, while reflecting on what they’ve learned to get to that point.

 

During Metro's last full week of classes, students in 9th Grade English, 9th Grade World History, and 11th Grade Civics all participated in these roundtables, while math and chemistry classes completed similar presentations.

 

The switch is part of a broader national movement away from standardized tests and more toward grooming students to think for themselves. Metro has been at the forefront of that movement in New Haven. (Click here for a previous story about how teachers there laid the groundwork for the idea.)

Metro's roundtables are adapted from the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a network of 38 public high schools, primarily in New York City, that created a state-accepted alternative to the high-stakes Regents exam that most other students must pass to graduate.

 

Rather than bubbling in answers on a test, Melanie talked about strategies utilized by student-led political movements in a presentation for three classmates, a City Hall staffer and a news reporter.

 

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