Teachers discuss revised finals schedule for distance learning

Jeffrey Tu and Jason Lin

Palo Alto High School teachers are reacting differently to the new finals week schedule that includes non-exam class periods woven between hour-long testing blocks.  

The new Finals Week Schedule is significantly different from previous years’, with shorter class periods, as well as short class periods in between the testing windows. The change is largely reflective of the Paly admin’s hope to improve student health during the pandemic. “This year has been like no other we have ever experienced in education,” Assistant Principal Michelle Steingart said. “We hope that not having back-to-back finals will help alleviate student stress.”

Unlike previous finals weeks, the schedule for middle and high schools are the same throughout PAUSD. 

“We needed to keep the same schedule at all schools to accommodate the teachers who are teaching students from more than one site,” Palo Alto High School Assistant Principal Michelle Steingart said. 

Paly has also incorporated extra periods mixed within the testing periods. 

According to Steingart, the administration felt that back-to-back finals online would be more exhausting for students than in real life, so the extra periods are designed to maintain student’s mental health. 

Jack Bungarden, AP United States history teacher, said he will give a presentation on the history of Christmas in America to students who have already taken the final, and give those who still have finals a period to study.

To adjust to the new schedule, AP Research teacher Andrea Struve said she will have to administer final exams that are summative assessments assigned prior to review days and due on the final exam day for each class. During the additional periods, Struve said she will host scaffolded support time for the completion and submission of their summative assessments.

Struve also said she will provide options for either class activities or asynchronous time for the students to have study time for their other courses.”

Another approach, taken by Margo Wixsom, AP Studio Art teacher and Photography teacher, gives students an opportunity to improve their mental health.

Wixsom said she will “very likely start with a social-emotional activity and then let students study for other finals or check in late work.”

Classes that do not use exam-based finals are not affected. Wixsom, for instance, said she will use a “project final” in which students work on their last project in the same way that they do for other projects. 

Overall, teachers are learning to change to new circumstances.

“I don’t think accommodating 75 minutes will be difficult,” Psychology teacher Melinda Mattes said. “Especially this year, teachers are quite adept at adapting.”