Counterpoint: Should teachers assign tests after the winter break?

Timothy Serignese, Contributing Writer

There is a debate as to whether exams should be given before or after break.  Although many students would prefer the latter, teachers generally give tests on the days before break.

Many key details about subject material learned are forgotten over especially long vacations.  According to the American Educational Research Association, “A review of 39 studies indicated that achievement test scores decline over prolonged vacations.  The effect of the break was more detrimental for math than for reading and most detrimental for math computation and spelling.”

Taking tests before the vacation, rather than after, leads to higher scores and averages, while taking a test directly after the break can significantly harm a student’s grades.

“Over a vacation, it is easy to forget about the material you learned,” said senior Paige Torres. “In addition, breaks should be spent relaxing and spending time with family and friends rather than studying. They should not be used for schoolwork.”

An argument can be made that the two-week vacation allows students to spend more time studying. However, most students go away for a portion of the vacation and thus do not study at all.

Even those who stay at home during the vacation do not study sufficiently.  To be proficient at a specific topic, students need to learn and review the information in class.  Doing twenty problems over the course of two weeks is unlikely to help students retain information, much less help them understand the topic.

Many psychologists agree that short-term memories, such as the information retained from a textbook, are likely to be forgotten after a protracted time period of not thinking about the information or rereading the textbook.  Tests directly after break would require a student to reread the text every few days or so to remember all of the important details on a test.

Furthermore, two weeks without the analytical thinking done in school could make it harder for students to make the complex deductions and logical decisions necessary to make educated guesses.

“It’s such a relief to have a test before break,” said senior Ilana Zweig. “Students don’t have to worry about balancing social life with schoolwork.”

Inversely, if teachers do not have a test before the break, they might assign homework or material that a student must teach him/herself.  This can also have an impact on test grades.

An influx of information without proper reinforcement by a teacher disturbs not only the clarity of the new information learned and memorized, but also the old information that can be forgotten.

“Many people go out of the country during vacation and for some, this is the only time they can meet their relatives and childhood friends,” said senior Anan Rayn. “I personally can’t focus on or remember the material when I’m in Egypt.”

Finally, a recent study suggests a correlation between exercise and increased student performance in school.  A significant percentage of students get a majority of their exercise from gym class.

Two weeks without this exercise, coupled with the characteristically unhealthy eating habits of the winter, could negatively affect cognitive functioning.

It is in the best interest of both students and teachers to assign tests before break as it is the most effective means of ensuring mutual success.