At Wilde Lake High School last week, the teachers stood in the front of the room, answering questions about the coming midterm exams.
Hands went up. Would calculators be allowed for the algebra exam? How many of the questions would be multiple choice? Was the test cumulative?
The people attached to those hands, however, were not students.
They were parents who were visiting the school for its annual "Midterm Mania." The idea, said Eugene Rose, the school's instructional team leader for ninth-graders, is to give parents the tools they need to help their kids do well on midterms, which count for 10 percent of the total grade in each subject.
Throughout the county, high schools are hosting Midterm Mania study sessions for ninth-graders and information sessions for parents.
David A. Bruzga, administrative director for secondary schools, said that at least half the high schools hold the sessions. "It's totally voluntary," he said, "and it's for parents as much as for students."
For ninth-graders, midterms, which take place Tuesday through Friday, are a new experience, but one they will repeat many times throughout their high school and college careers. "It's the first time they're asked to synthesize a semester's worth of material," Bruzga said.
And they can make a big difference in a student's final grade. Countywide, high school midterms plus finals count for 20 percent of the final grade, Bruzga said.
About 110 families preregistered for the Wilde Lake parent night. The school has 325 ninth-graders, Rose said. On Tuesday night, parents and students gathered in the cafeteria, clutching detailed packets about the exam schedule and what the students needed to know.
As parents walked in, they received packets with information about each midterm their children would take. Teachers had filled out papers stating the form of the exam (essays, true- false, etc.), whether the test is cumulative and suggestions for students. A detailed review guide was on the back. Volunteers had created folders for each student.
After parents met in the cafeteria and heard about the exams from Rose and Assistant Principal Adam Eldridge, they divided into smaller groups and went into classrooms to hear about the tests from teachers. This year, parents stayed in the classrooms while teachers rotated from room to room, allowing about 15 minutes for each session.
Students, including Kat Schuster, like Midterm Mania because they take the exams seriously and snap up any tool that will help. "I really want to pass them," Schuster said, while attending the Wilde Lake night with her mother, Carol.
Parents said that knowing what is on the test can help them to help their children study.
"This will be helpful in preparing because they haven't had midterms before," Carol Schuster said, flipping through her folder.
But parents also viewed the parent night as a show of support.
"It's just another link that shows her that Mom and Dad care," said Laura Neidlinger, who attended parent night two years ago for her son, and was now back for her daughter, Christina. The information, she said, means "there really should be no surprises, which is a big help to parents."
She said her daughter is studying hard and taking the exams seriously. "It's very important to her because College Park [University of Maryland] is on her agenda for four years from now."
Wilde Lake has been holding Midterm Mania about six years, Rose said. Algebra teacher Holly Erickson said the event is so popular that some upperclassmen have said they want one, too.
Rose said one possibility is that the school could add a similar event for finals. "We're just trying to come up with a cool name for it," he said.