Tuesday, December 26, 2000
Steamboat Springs Although some may say the workload is too heavy and that children should be allowed to be children, students and faculty members at Lowell Whiteman School know that intense two- to three-hour, three-day-long comprehensive semester exams are worth the stress.
The faculty members at Lowell Whiteman are helping make sure their students are fully equipped for the real world.
The comprehensive exams cover material from the entire semester, and students are given an exam in every subject. Lowell Whiteman views the semester exams as an educational experience critical to the school's college preparatory mission.
"We offer education for real life," said Walt Daub, head of Lowell Whiteman School. "Our students learn critical-thinking skills, get a strong grasp of fundamentals and obtain analytical skills that they are going to need no matter what they choose to pursue."
Joanne Lasko, head of school at Lowell Whiteman, added, "Our main goal is to prepare students for college where one or two exams are their entire semester grade."
Matthew Whitacre, a ninth-grader at Lowell Whiteman, took the exams for the first time this year. Whitacre had exams in geometry, world history, English, Spanish and biology. A typical English exam would ask the students to compare the protagonists in three novels that they read; a math exam would include example problems of all the concepts the students had learned that semester.
"We had a day of review and then I studied all weekend," Whitacre said. "I think it's worth it though, because I want to go to a good college and I know that this is what I'm going to be expected to do."
And that is what it all comes down to, because the more the students take these exams, the better prepared for college they will be. By the time the students reach their senior year, they have the task of preparing and taking comprehensive semester exams almost down to an art.
"More often than not, by the time the students are seniors, they realize how much their skill levels have improved by taking these semester exams," Lasko said. "They are able to synthesize information and relate it, and they realize that they are getting a quality education."
Senior Katie Spillane said she believes the system of exams and study patterns at Whiteman will help prepare her for college.
"I think you definitely get better at preparing for the exams each year," she said. "I was not nearly as daunted this year as I was when I was a freshman."
Many students even come to see the semester exam as a way to showcase their knowledge and what they have learned over the previous semester.
And as Daab points out, it is not as if life at Whiteman is all work and no play.
"We have a very healthy relationship with our students if they were having problems with the workload we would know," Daab said. "The kids at our school lead very full lives, in the winter class is over by 1 p.m. The kids are here because they want to be here."
It seems as if Whiteman is accomplishing its mission of preparing its students for college.
"Our feedback from former students is wonderful," Lasko said. "They call us and tell us how everyone else is freaking out about exams, and our kids know how to prepare and are able to go into the exams feeling confident."
Scott Borden, who graduated from Lowell Whiteman in 1990, agrees that the exams in college were not a shock for him because of the comprehensive exams at Whiteman.
"It definitely helped prepare me for the cramming and intensiveness of the college exams," he said.
And as Lasko adds, "We have to deal with comprehensive semester exams, but then we get really good vacations!"