State Exams Soon Count Towards Students’ Grades in Biology and Government Classes

by Connor Pugh ‘24

Eight years on from MCPS axing finals back in 2016, the Maryland Department of Education is requiring new EOC (End of Course) exams for on-level and honors government and biology classes. Unlike other state tests that students are required to take to graduate, the EOC exams are tied to grades, accounting for 20 percent of the final Semester 2 grade, with each quarter now representing only 40 percent of a semester grade. Currently there is no available comprehensive available information regarding the format or content of the exam.

As of the current school year, the new tests will only impact freshmen, but each new year, another grade level will be required to take the tests in those classes, until eventually all students will be required to take EOC exams at some point in high school. Tenth graders next year–many of whom take on level or honors government classes–will have to look out for these exams when they take the class. Currently, there are few to no people taking on-level or honors government classes in 9th grade, but any freshmen taking Biology should be prepared for these new tests this spring.
MCPS’ rollout of these new tests have been marred with confusion and uncertainty. Teachers talk of not getting proper information about the tests currently, with many details being withheld from the general public.

“We teachers have not received too much information regarding the rollout of these exams … Just that they will start to count towards a student’s final grade,” said Ryan Burnsky, a government teacher who will have to account for the exams in his classes next year. “The lack of info is purposeful so that MCPS can put out the correct info and correct wording before setting all the details in stone.”

Anxieties and concerns about the effectiveness and impact of final exams are resurafcing. MCPS’ initial justification for removing their previous exams was due to the tests “disproportionately and negatively [impacting] students of color and economically disadvantaged students,” but there are doubts as to how these new tests will be any better.

“Teaching is an art,” said Gina Martin, a science teacher at Sherwood who teaches affected biology classes. “Students learn and communicate that learning in many ways. To standardize learning and demonstrations of knowledge is to convey that there is only one way to show what you’ve learned, and in my opinion, that perpetuates racist ideas.”