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Administration weighs pros, cons of optional finals

Principal Phil Winston hopes to make finals optional next year in order to reduce the immense amount of stress that affects virtually every student at Paly during finals season.

In addition to reducing student stress, Winston believes that allowing voluntary finals will help transform school into a more enjoyable environment for students. If students have worked hard all throughout the semester, Winston sees no point in piling further stress on students and assigning large tests that could potentially drop borderline grades

“There could be a tremendous reduction in student stress and in the amount of time that young folks study for tests, and just an overall better experience and an easier end to the semester for everybody,” Winston said. “If you demonstrated competency all semester long, do you really need to take a final?”

Although most students would certainly enjoy having a choice in whether they take finals, Winston says that if his idea is implemented, seniors will be the first target group to try optional finals because they are the most mature, intellectually developed and experienced group of students.

Decreased levels of stress and building a more enjoyable high school experience are two of the positive and immediate aftereffects of Winston’s idea.

But, true to the saying that there is no free lunch, Winston acknowledges that there may be repercussions to making finals optional. To try to prevent these detriments, he plans to research the full effects of his idea and the possible effects of the policy.

Although most students would certainly enjoy having a choice in whether they take finals, Winston says that if his idea is implemented, seniors will be the first target group to try optional finals because they are the most mature, intellectually developed and experienced group of students.

Decreased levels of stress and building a more enjoyable high school experience are two of the positive and immediate after effects of Winston’s idea.

But, true to the saying that there is no free lunch, Winston acknowledges that there may be repercussions to making finals optional. To try to prevent these detriments, he plans to research the full effects of his idea and the possible effects of the policy.

“I know that there are some other schools that have a system [similar to my idea], so we definitely want to contact them and see what unintended consequences happened,” Winston said.

Winston maintains that allowing finals to be optional will not affect eligibility or conflict with any standing requirements. He does not want teachers to bypass his idea by substituting another test that would serve the same purpose as finals.

“There are some restrictions for UC classes that we want to make sure that we meet,” Winston said. “I wouldn’t want a big accumulative test to take the place of the final. [The staff and I] have to talk about it.”

Furthermore, if the system is implemented, it will not affect the rest of the district because Winston is only responsible for Paly. Winston has the power to lead the discussion, but unless the district School Board approves the plan, Paly will be the only school with the innovation.

Winston stresses that making finals optional is currently just an idea; he has not proposed or started any conversations regarding this idea as of yet.

“In the next year, [I’d love to] have a conversation with staff about the purpose of finals,” Winston said, unsure of fine details. “Part of my job is to start conversations, to have a vision and to try to chase that vision.”

There still is a long process of transforming the idea into a functioning system, and it seems unlikely to come into effect this year and possibly even next year.

“I’m always a forward thinker,” Winston said. “[We have] a great staff that is very innovative and totally interested in doing new things.”

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