End of Course Exams

Hi everybody.

I spent all last week working on my end of course exams and pacing guides for Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. We have never used end of course exams and I wanted to get some feedback from you on how we are planning to use them, possible setbacks, and also how you use them.

The plan is we will no longer have semester exams at the end of each quarter. Before, each semester ended with a comprehensive exam of that semester, but not the entire year.

Now, at the end of the year, students will have to have a passing grade as well as pass the end of course exam in order to pass the entire course. This prevents two things. One, a student can't slack off all year, then do awesome on the EOC and pass the class. Two, a student can't do awesome all year, then slack off on the EOC and pass the class. I like both of those.

Also, the test is pass/fail and will not go in the grade book to avoid it being a double whammy on a student's grade. The test will be given at the end of April. For students who don't pass, there will be remediation during class time while the students who did pass are doing some sort of project. The test will be given again in May. If students don't pass the second time, then they will come to summer school, re-take the course, and try their third attempt at passing the EOC. If they still don't pass, then they will repeat the course in the following school year.

The intention of the EOC is to help stop the cycle of passing students who aren't ready to move on. We spend too much time reviewing the previous course because we feel students are unprepared and then we get behind in teaching the course itself. I'm not sure how well this will combat that problem because the student has three chances, and if they do pass, will they be prepared enough to start the next course?

I suppose that is where our rigor on the test comes in. The test is a two-day test and the math is set up so that session I is all multiple choice and session II is all open-ended involving at least one writing piece.

To kill two birds with one stone, we will also be using the EOC to show student growth over the course of the year (a key part of our teacher evaluations). We will give it at the end of each quarter so that by the 'official' time they take it, they will have seen it three previous times.  

I have two options here. One, I can count it in the grade book as a regular test and grade it according to the quarter: 25% right in the first quarter would be an A, 50% in the second quarter would be an A, and 75% in the third quarter would be an A. Two, I could not put it into the grade book at all but just keep a separate record of their scores each time to show growth over the year. I'm leaning toward the second option just because it would be an easy document to turn in for my summative evaluation. Also, if I did it in Excel then I could create fancy impressive graphs. Yay me!!

I am worried because my students can't even pass my semester exams which are easier than the EOC and I've had to curve grades every semester. But the students will be more familiar with the EOC after taking it three times. In addition, I built my pacing guide so that I can see which EOC question matches up to each concept. My hope is that when I create my lessons and assessments, I will remember to include questions similar to the ones on the EOC so that hopefully, nothing will be a surprise!

This is the closest I've been to actually using backward design/UbD so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

What drawbacks do you see to this process? How does your school use EOC's differently? How do you show student growth?


  1. Wow. Heavy duty stuff here.

    To be completely honest, it all seems very contrived and although there clearly has been a lot of thought put into this, I'm not convinced that this EOC will help advance your goal. I suppose if your goal is to filter out students and prevent them from moving on, it may do that. But will it filter the right amount of students? Or the students most in need of filtering?

    I also find these two statements odd:

    Now, at the end of the year, students will have to have a passing grade as well as pass the end of course exam in order to pass the entire course.
    the test is pass/fail and will not go in the grade book to avoid it being a double whammy on a student's grade

    Who cares if it's a double whammy if they fail it? They are toast anyway....?

    Finally, I'd feel much more comfortable with something like this if it was clearly connected with the learning targets within the course. Do you know that at some point students have met some sort of basic learning target? If they at one time reached that target and then forgot, are they now treated as if they had never learned it? And if they never met the target in the first place what is the point of giving them the EOC?

    I applaud the quest for retention, because that is important, but I am skeptical if the EOC's will give you the outcome you're looking for.

  2. Marshall,
    I'm not sure it will filter out the students who need it; I'm also not sure how to decide who needs it.

    The double whammy thing- they may retake it the second time and pass but if the first time counted as part of their grade, it might make their class grade below passing which means they could fail the course. And on the other hand, a student who makes a 90 might want to retake it to get a better grade and bring up their class grade. In this case, not putting it in the grade book avoids both situations.

    We are using the tests to create pacing guides, lessons, and assessments so they will definitely be tied to a learning target.

    How does your school use EOCs?

  3. Well we don't really use EOC's since we are measuring their progress for each individual learning target constantly along the way. We do have end-of-trimester tests that measure retention for that trimester, but the stakes are very low for those (1/3 of a grade movement at the most).