Bringing dead week back from the grave

Hannah Matson, Design Editor

You’ve probably heard of the calm before the storm—that peaceful moment where thunderheads hang in the sky like a warning, where the only sound is the clipped chirping of songbirds, where the whole world seems to be holding its breath.  Well, at Liberty High school, there is no calm.  There is only storm.

That’s right—I’m talking about Dead Week.  Liberty students return from a brain-dead two-week winter break, only to have two weeks to prepare for up to eight eighty-minute tests that will, in many cases, determine ten percent of their grade in a class.  This situation sounds less than ideal, but there is relief—on the second week, students have a reprieve.  Teachers assign minimal homework, give no tests, and review old material to scrape away the cobwebs from dusty September.  Students, in return, take advantage of the time outside of school that would usually be filled by homework to frantically study for the impending doom that is finals week.  As a result, students perform at their best, teachers get to give more passing grades, and everyone goes home happy.

Except there is no Dead Week at Liberty High.  The two weeks leading up to finals, students are not only expected to remember an entire semester’s worth of work; they are subsequently swamped with new material they have to digest before the fatal test date.  In some cases, students are actually tested on this new material even before the actual final.  I’ll say that again: students are taking unit tests the week before they are given the most important test they will take all semester.

Educators may think students benefit from this extra testing, since it gives them the opportunity to have another test grade in the grade book to offset poor grades from earlier in the semester, or since it gives them an incentive to study new material.  But this extra testing is ultimately detrimental for students, since it causes them to focus on these smaller, less important tests instead of reviewing for finals.  The same is true for homework assigned the week before finals: students focus on the new material the homework is teaching instead of studying material from months before.  Because these assignments are due before the finals, students of all abilities will naturally prioritize them over review for finals, even though homework is not nearly as important as a cumulative test.

From a psychological standpoint, the importance of Dead Week couldn’t be clearer: students remember information best when they have had plenty of time to rehearse it and have had a solid seven to eight hours of sleep for the past week.  Dead Week brings this idealized testing environment to the real world.  It allows students to de-stress, review five months’ worth of material, and get the sleep they will need to focus on their impending tests.  Without Dead Week, students cannot be expected to perform their best on their finals, and no one benefits from this.

Dead Week wouldn’t be as important if it weren’t for the nonsensical nature of finals at Liberty.  If students didn’t have two weeks off before the end of the semester, this wouldn’t be as big of a dilemma.  (And no, students can’t be expected to just study, study, study over winter break.  That time belongs to their families.)  Until finals are moved to a practical time before the winter break, Dead Week needs to be respected by teachers and administrators to ensure the success of all students.