Gonzaga Preparatory School

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Bullpups finish strong

Semester finalsThis week marks the first time since January 2020 Gonzaga Prep students have taken semester finals in person. By drawing on lessons from both the pre-COVID days and from pandemic learning, teachers and students prepared for two days of exams. We asked Academic Vice Principal Derek Duchesne to share some observations and adjustments in this emerging new normal:
We are impressed by the pace with which our students have been overcoming COVID learning loss and have made exceptional gains to pre-COVID levels of achievement. Students are well prepared for final exams.
That success came with preparation months in the making. To better assess our students and to prepare them for college finals, we evaluated how we conduct the end of the semester and final examinations. We talked to educators, examined current practices at universities, and gathered feedback from graduates. It became clear not all subjects are best served by assessing students with a 75-minute exam. So at the end of this Fall 2021 semester, students had a mix of in-person 75-minute exams, projects, essays, and other forms of assessment such as speaking and listening in world language classes. We also spent time last summer to address learning loss during COVID within each department's curriculum while re-instilling in-person classroom skills such as taking paper exams.  
In the lead-up to this year’s exams, we formally built three review days into our exam week to help students prepare. The Academic Success Center has been providing study sessions and open tutoring before, during lunch, and after school. They have also been available virtually at night through ASC Live, which offers online tutoring for our students. Counselors and the Learning Resource Center have been supporting students during and after school. In addition, teachers have office hours daily and had extended office hours the day before finals begin and before finals each day. 
Since September, students have had to address learning loss and reacclimate to in-person education, academically and socio-emotionally. They gained many online skills that will make them successful in the future and they have relearned in-person skills for their own success. Students are exceptionally resilient. While adults have seen this disruption to their education, for many students, this is their normal. They have adapted while institutionally we have planned to walk alongside them in this journey. Despite extra planning, revamping curriculum, and re-visioning support structures, we have been energized by their presence and growth.