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Opinion: Senior Exemptions

By: Shalom Montero

   Senior year is stressful for any student. If there is ever a doubt, ask the first senior you come across and they will let you know just how much they agree with my statement. It starts off with college applications and ends with a headache and much needed sleep. It’s music to a senior’s ear to hear about the infamous Senior Exemptions. Thinking in a different vein, however, what are teachers’ opinions on senior exemptions and the regulations placed on the classroom? Is it fair for the student? But most importantly… is it fair for their instructors?
Some of the rules are understandable. The LCPS website explains, “Cheating or any other integrity violation that results in disciplinary action removes the student from consideration for exam exemption in all classes” because it goes against conduct, but there are also other policies that seem preposterous such as “All other non-school related absences – whether excused or unexcused – will be counted as absences from class.” This causes a problem for kids with family members who are hospitalized, and for those who are hospitalized themselves. This also raises the question of deaths in the family and kids who are going through hard times also having to worry about taking exams.
To an extent, these exemptions make certain things for both students and teachers easier. It’s not hard to imagine the joy that the seniors feel towards their exemptions, and the overwhelming urge to just get the year over with so that they can leave school. It’s harder, however, to know what the teachers thinks about it unless you talk with them about their opinions. Different teachers will say different things. A teacher with only a couple of seniors might have a different opinion since they will already need to make a test for the rest of the class. A teacher with an all senior class might be more vocal on reminding the students the regulations, and even though both of the teachers follow the rules to the T, they have different factors affecting them.
THS is no exception to the matter. Ms. Haney, a Spanish teacher, teaches some seniors in Spanish 3, 5, and AP, but her entire class is not made up of only seniors. “It’s a good reward for students who are doing their work and learning the material they need to learn, ” she says. “[It’s] good motivation for the seniors to continue studying.” Some teachers do see the changes that the seniors have made as they make sure all of their work is done so they do not have to take the test. This shows progress since at this time “senioritis” has taken over.
There are, however, other teachers who do not completely see the difference. Mr. Martel, a teacher in the history department, believes, “There are some [things] that are in the gray areas. There are so many interpretations to certain rules that need to be ironed out,” he said. Mr. Martel spoke about the different seniors he teaches and the effects that the exemption could have on them.. One example he gave was a student of his who is homebound. Since there is a teacher who goes to this student’s house, there is no problem concerning absences. That, however, is not always the case, and even though it’s rare, students sometimes have things happen to them that are out of their control, and it feels a lot more like a punishment to make them take tests when others do not need to.

 Mrs. Cadang-Kristan, an AP Literature teacher, sees the positives and negatives of the policy, but overall does not agree with senior exemptions. She points out that “it does make it physically easier, but just because it’s easier doesn’t make it better.” As true as her ideas are about the challenges we as students face going into the real world , it doesn’t make it fair for the small group of kids that do have to go to regular doctor visits or need to leave school for specific things. In general, Mrs. Kristan does not agree with the policy because she sees that since it’s seniors’ last exam before they go off into the real world, “they should [be able to] demonstrate mastery.”

      There are differing opinions where teachers are concerned, and mostly universal ones when students are involved, but overall senior exemption is a policy that needs to be looked at once again and maybe changed in order to make some exceptions to certain things that do affect students every day.

Loudoun County senior exam exemptions guidelines here

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