Students are required to juggle their academic, artistic, and athletic commitments with a remarkable degree of grit, determination, and effort. Countless hours are spent each night completing homework assignments, perfecting projects, and studying for scheduled assessments. This does not take into consideration the hours also spent on extracurricular sports, musical, and volunteer endeavors.
For a large majority of students, this life is lived in pursuit of one thing—to be a well-rounded student with stellar grades on a transcript. Students expend great effort, vigilance, and planning with the expectation that their academic goals will be achieved.
And yet there is one thing that can be a hindrance to their success. Pop quizzes. With sometimes-high point values, pop quizzes can be the nightmare of a diligent and busy student. Without the benefit of notice and preparation, even top students may find themselves disappointed with their grades on a pop quiz, as the grade one worked so hard to achieve can be erased with one unexpected assessment.
Why are these surprise attacks administered? What do the results of a pop quiz really prove? Not all that much. Not only can pop quizzes negatively impact students’ grades, but they also remove one of the main reasons for taking scheduled assessments—to train students to understand the material, stay organized, and practice time-management skills.
The guesswork and anticipation of a pop quiz force students to cram in knowledge at an unnatural pace, and take away from efforts at something with an planned deadline.
“I think you run into an equity issue when some students know there will be a pop quiz and some don’t, depending on the time of day their class takes place.”Isaiah Shuchman ’23
Sixth Former Isaiah Shuchman raises other noteworthy concerns.
“I think you run into an equity issue when some students know there will be a pop quiz and some don’t, depending on the time of day their class takes place,” Shuchman said. “One class is always disadvantaged. Also, I think students should be trusted to do their readings and homework assignments. If they do, it will be reflected in their grade.”
Why do some teachers support these assessments? According to Ancient World and Modern World History teacher and pop-quiz enthusiast, Mr. LaJuan Foust, these quizzes demonstrate to teachers how well their students are completing their homework.
“The sole argument for pop quizzes is that they force students to stay up to date with material, and avoid a situation where students slowly fall behind the class curriculum.”Mr. Lajuan Foust
“My pop quizzes are based on homework assignments. I tell my guys what to pay attention to as they read, and I’m just ensuring that they have focused on these ideas. It’s centered around accountability,” Mr. Foust said. “The sole argument for pop quizzes is that they force students to stay up to date with material, and avoid a situation where students slowly fall behind the class curriculum.”
When presented in this manner, Mr. Foust’s argument makes sense—pop quizzes serve as a sort of “check-in,” making sure students are caught up with the class material. However, it is natural to occasionally forget to do an assignment, and the grades of good students shouldn’t be greatly impaired due to a small error.
This is not to say that hybrid pop quizzes cannot be used effectively. For example, Latin teacher Dr. Andrew Fenton uses an assessment format in which students are warned about minor quizzes one to two days in advance, allowing some preparation time while also ensuring that students have not fallen behind.
The purpose of pop quizzes should be reassessed by the teachers who make the unfortunate decision to administer them.
However, the general approach to the way pop quizzes are utilized at The Haverford School is highly problematic and defeats the greater goals of learning. The purpose of pop quizzes should be reassessed by the teachers who make the unfortunate decision to administer them.