North Atlanta’s New Exam Exemption Policy Stirs Ripples Among the Student Body


Max Ramos

Operation Avoid Tests: Students are chattering about changes to the policies associated with who can and cannot exempt their end-of-semester finals. Shown are students in Ms. Lashawne Miles’ Algebra 2 class: Front row: senior Sandra Zurita, junior Aaliyah, Roach, sophomore Jairo Venancio; middle row: junior Mitchel Harbolt, junior Destini Togba; back row: sophomore Bryce McGowan, junior Graham Barnette and junior Kate McCabe.

Final exams. For the administration, they are the symbol of a student’s retention of knowledge and information for that year. The leaders of our school believe finals to be beneficial both informationally and grade-wise. But for most, if not all students, final exams are nothing but stress and anxiety for those that must take them. No one looks back upon finals week fondly, as they are often filled with intense cramming, late night study sessions, and buckets of coffee. That is why many choose to skip it entirely and opt out of taking their finals. North Atlanta has a final exam exemption policy that allows students to skip certain finals should they meet the requirements. But don’t be fooled- these requirements aren’t easy to fulfill. And for many Warriors, these requirements just got a whole lot harder to meet.

For months, rumors have been circulating among North Atlanta students about the administration’s implementation of a new final exam exemption policy. The policy itself is roughly the same, save for some stipulations as it relates to attendance requirements. But these simple changes are what has many Warriors upset. Different from last year’s policy, this year’s targets the number of excused and unexcused absences that a student can have to meet the requirements. It is outlined in North Atlanta’s Student Handbook that “students can have no unexcused absences” and “no more than three excused absences” to qualify for exemption that semester. Now keep in mind, a student must also have a weighted 90 percent or higher average in the class, no ISS or OSS, and no referrals for cheating or plagiarism. It must also be noted that “approved school field trips, recognized religious holidays, and two days for approved official college visits do not count against the final exam exemption.” But for many hard working Warriors that meet the academic and behavioral aspects of the policy, their attendance is simply not up to par.

Junior Graham Barnett is one of the many students that finds a problem with the school’s new policy. She is currently enrolled in the IB CP program and is a member of the varsity soccer team. She feels that the previous years’ policies were fair and gave students an opportunity to balance academics and their busy schedules. But the change in attendance to this year’s policy has her frustrated. Like many hard-working Warrior student-athletes, Barnett has to leave school early for away soccer games, something she can’t control. “Students have busy lives. We may have health issues, religious holidays, or family emergencies,” she said. “We also may need a mental health day every once in a while so we don’t get burned out.”

So why not just take finals? Barnett points out that there is overwhelming stress that many students feel when preparing for finals, as they must pour over the entire year’s material in the span of a few days. Finals are mentally demanding and having multiple can really stress students out to the point of burn out. Barnett feels that being able to take this stress off students’ shoulders can really help one’s mental health. “It causes students to cram and it is just a really stressful process that students would like to avoid.”

Final exams are a culmination of a year’s work, but they are also a representation of the amount of stress that academics can bring. Many students are upset at the administration’s decision to toughen up its exemption policy as it relates to attendance. Students like Graham Barnett are just eager to get a break from the stress that finals bring. It’s certain the new rule is the way things are going to be. Equally true is that some students are not in love with the new reality.