South Orange-Maplewood Eliminates Some Midterms for Middle Schoolers

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Editor’s note: We have added a recently updated schedule of SOMS exams, released Friday afternoon by Principal Joseph Uglialoro.

The South Orange Maplewood School District (SOMSD) is changing the way middle school students are assessed in certain subjects this school year.

“This year we are looking at the way we assess our students in different content areas and are making some changes,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Susan Grierson in a recent memo emailed to parents.

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Here is an updated schedule of exams for SOMS students:

Download (PDF, 145KB)

Students at South Orange Middle School and Maplewood Middle School will continue to take traditional midterms in Mathematics and Spanish during the week of January 26. The results of those exams will be reported as they always have been on report cards.

But there will be no midterms in English Language Arts (ELA), Social Studies and Science this year. Instead, students will take common assessments that are aligned to the Common Core Standards and are consistent with the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB MYP).

There will be no changes to midterms for Columbia High School students. Recently some school districts have elected to eliminate midterms and/or finals at the high school level, in response to the extra testing time required by the PARCC state tests. But officials at South Orange – Maplewood said PARCC had nothing to do with their decision to alter midterms for middle schoolers.

“The PARCC, midterms and mid-year assessments are really three different tools which are being used to ensure that students are mastering the content, skills and strategies for their grade,” said district spokeswoman Suzanne Turner in an email to The Village Green.

She continued, “…midterms are the tool we have traditionally used in SOMSD to assess students’ mastery at this point in the year, and will continue to be administered in mathematics and in world language (Spanish). They will be reported as midterms on the report card.”

“In keeping with the IB MYP approach to evaluating student work and the Common Core State Standards, we will be using new assessments in Language Arts, Social Studies and Science which are not traditional tests, but rather give students an opportunity to demonstrate understanding of the concepts and skills they have learned thus far,” Turner said. “For example, students will be asked to analyze and respond to a short text on a topic related to what they have been studying in class. They will be graded as any other assignment, and will be reflected in the 2nd or 3rd quarter report card.”

According to the email from Grierson, ELA assessments will take place the week of January 26 and social studies and science assessments at the end of common unit assessments. However, at least one SOMS ELA teacher told students and parents the common assessment (which she said “mirrors the PARCC”) in her class will be after the February break.

Asked whether there would be changes made to final exams, Turner said, “We have no current plans to change final exams. We will review the effectiveness of the new approach to assessing students in ELA, Science and Social Studies at the midpoint of the middle school year. This may prompt a review of the end-of-year assessment protocols at some point. We will keep the Board and the community informed if we determine changes are warranted.”


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