Language Finals: What’s New?

By Marleigh Canter

Are you studying for finals, but confused on why the language finals for levels 1, 2, and 3 are in a “new format?” This article is here to help explain the changes!

According to Ms. Melissa Stahl, the World Language Chairperson at BHHS, the department recognized that the “current final exams aren’t serving the quality of the language students we want to create for the future.” The old format of the final resembles the “actual old, old Regents exam” with reading comprehension, two long passages with multiple choice questions, and listening comprehension passages.

Ms. Stahl explains, “We realized that we wanted students to leave the program with the ability to communicate in the language. Students need to be able to speak and respond spontaneously to various situations and prompts. So, we do have to change our assessments along the year, in order to make that culminating project make sense.” In addition, the language teachers felt it was more important to teach students how to use the language in the real world, rather than simply preparing students for a traditional pen and paper final exam.

The new exam will involve nationally recognized models associated with the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages (ACTFL), focusing on three modes: the interpersonal, between two speakers; the interpretive, understanding concepts; and the presentational aspects of language learning, conveying that information to others. Ms. Stahl explains, “Although our instructional strategies during the year align with the modes, not all of our assessments and final exams align with them, so we plan to make this transition beginning in the 2018-2019 school year.”

With regards to the administration of the exam this year, Ms. Stahl explained: “We were not comfortable with [changing the exam] so late in the game and not preparing kids in the beginning of the year.” Faculty “recognized the need to have a final assessment, but didn’t want to stress students with an outdated format.”

The Language Department is keeping the final as a fifth quarter grade for this year; however, the exam’s weight in the future is still undecided.

The language exam this year is a middle ground between the old exams and the new ones. It consists of 40 grammar multiple choice questions and an email response. In the future, the language department hopes students will have a conversation with ease, and apply their skills to real-world situations. She explains that “we’re changing the format for this year only because students were expecting a fifth quarter assessment opportunity. Next year, we plan to roll out a performance-based assessment focused on solving a real-life problem in the target language.”

The final this year is in a transition phase and Ms. Stahl explains that there is “this big plan in place for next year, on how [they] are changing [the] entire grading protocols for the middle school and levels 1, 2, 3.”

Ms. Stahl states, “It is going be transformative and it’s going to be exciting.” We’re fortunate at Byram Hills that our faculty care that the content students are being taught prepares them for practical target language use.

We hope that this information will help you prepare for your exams! Good Luck!