Winter break cannot come soon enough for students and teachers at Pitman and Turlock high schools who are undergoing the aftermath of a district decision that saw the elimination of a final exam schedule, resulting in multiple final tests in one day.
“The finals schedules for students and staff this semester did change—a decision that was made in conjunction with both high school principals last spring in looking to increase instructional minutes,” according to Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. “We will be meeting with high school administration in January to strategize on a modified final schedule for second semester finals that more closely aligns to higher education expectations.”
Prior to this change, both high schools had a final exam schedule which designated the last three days of the semester as minimum days. During these days, students would attend two two-hour periods and be released at 12:15 p.m.
According to Turlock Teachers Association President Julie Shipman, this schedule was beneficial as it allowed students ample time to study and prepare for exams, essays and projects. The few additional hours made possible by minimum days also supported teachers, who were given extra time to grade approximately 150 students’ work.
In response to the change, which was brought to light in an email sent to all teachers last May, TTA contacted assistant superintendent of human resources Heidi Lawler with their concerns. However, after several conversations and no successful outcome, TTA made the decision to file an Unfair Labor Practice Charge, with an informal hearing slated for February. With this charge the TTA, which represents over 700 teachers in the district, has filed six Unfair Labor Practice charges with the Public Employment Relations Board over the past two years.
Shipman said that the TTA also sent out an email to the TUSD Board of Trustees to inform them of the situation and how it has effected both students and teachers.
“For as long as anyone can remember, THS and PHS had a final exam schedule. This was never discussed with TTA, nor with any teachers that I am aware of,” Shipman wrote to the Board. “This is going to be very hard on students. Finals will have to take place over several class periods— they could conceivably have five or six tests per day, and have less time to rest up and study.”
Additionally, THS teachers also came up with an alternative schedule that did not alter the number of instructional minutes or interfere with transportation needs and presented it to the district. The schedule was rejected last month.
Not surprisingly, students at THS echoed sentiments voiced by the teachers union.
“I don’t like the change because now I have to take more finals in one day,” said sophomore Makel Delgado. “I’m more stressed and extremely tired by the end of the day.”
“I liked having minimum days more because I have more time to take tests,” commented junior Emily Romo. “Now, I don’t have as much time to study, especially because I’m involved in sports.”
Although it is too late to revert back to a final exam schedule for this semester, next semester could see a change, as Da Marto and the district plan to collaborate with both high schools in order to come up with a more feasible alternative.
“There are so many other options to solve this problem,” concluded Shipman. “Teachers weren’t given the opportunity to add any input on this. The whole thing could have been avoided if they had worked something out with us.”