Students completed alternative assignments, such as group activities and videos, as well as traditional cumulative midyear tests in December as part of the new assessment schedule. In addition to moving assessments before winter break, the administration scheduled tests by periods, with two periods meeting each day for their assessments.
“I feel that the new schedule was beneficial because it was, in a way, less stressful since we did not have to study over break and spend two weeks of our vacation worrying about midterms,” Marina Weidmann ’17 said.
Although Weidmann said the schedule change was beneficial, some students believe the change added stress.
“The schedule was a little inconvenient because I had a biology and history exam on the same day due to my schedule,” Tiana Cole ’16 said.
History teacher Ken Neisser also took issue with the new schedule in terms of how it prepared students for an AP test.
“Many, if not most of the members of the History Department believe that a comprehensive mid-term exam for cumulative courses such as ours is an essential component of a ‘best practices’ college prep curriculum,” Neisser said. “Preparing for such an exam requires students to make the kinds of big-picture connections across centuries, cultures and economic, political, social and technological developments: in short, the essence of critical thinking. Further, given that many history students take AP exams in the spring, many of us believe that we should provide students with at least one exam prior that approximates the content, duration and setting of those exams.”
The changes to the assessment schedule were intended to allow students to relax over the winter break rather than studying.
“The week before winter break this year was less stressful than the week before winter break in any other year that I can remember,” Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said. “I believe that finishing work off before winter break allows students to feel less pressure over break and a greater sense of freedom, and that is all that we can measure right now.”
As a consequence of scheduling tests by period, students in the same classes but different periods took their exams on different days of the week. Therefore, many teachers gave different exams, and students were not allowed to speak to teachers the entire week to ensure they were not given an advantage.
“I think many teachers felt somewhat conflicted or concerned about the fact that they weren’t able to work with their students right up until the test, so I think that that is something we need to look at,” Huybrechts said.
During assessments, Prefect Council and the administration provided students with food and brought puppies into the lounge. Because teachers do not know how students will perform on year-end and AP tests, Huybrechts said it is unknown how likely it is that the schedule will remain in place next year.