We are officially halfway done with spring term, just 33 school days away from swimming pools, summer school, and scooping ice cream. This turning point, while surely a cause for celebration, is also a reminder that while only five weeks remain in the academic year, the year isn’t over yet. But when midterm grades were released on Monday, the absence of teacher comments told a different story, signalling to us that there is no time, and no way, to change before classes end.
A new policy introduced Winter Term stated that teachers are no longer required to write comments if a student has a grade of 4 or above at midterm. Having received no explanation of the change in policy, many of us were left feeling confused and forgotten as we logged onto PAnet after finals last term. We understand that, by requesting comments, we are asking our teachers to sacrifice their time and energy. Yet we feel that these comments are an important aspect of our education. They provide an opportunity for teachers to acknowledge students as individuals, and they give us direction as we strive to become the best students and people that we can be. Opening our school reports this week and finding nothing but numbers and letter grades, many of us were provided only with information that we already knew: the number of problems we solved incorrectly on a math test or the grammar mistakes we made on a foreign language essay. Numerical and letter grades neither advise us on how we can improve upon our weaknesses nor commend us for our strengths. With the omission of comments, midterm reports exclude information about the complexity of our identities, distilling us into blunt numbers that fail to reflect our distinct personalities, work ethics, and interests. In a school that so often claims to value personal teacher-student relationships, it is an unfortunate oversight that teachers are not required to write comments about who we are beyond the 1-6 scale.
Before this Winter Term, midterm comments served as a way for students to not only gauge our performance in the classroom but also to understand ways to improve our academic practice. Midterms especially serve as an opportunity for us to gain an understanding of our progress in academics and our evolution as students. Comments provide a crucial combination of compliment and criticism that help us develop as intellectuals and learners as we continue with our work for the term. Without comments, our midterm and end of term reports are much less valuable than in previous terms and years.
Not only do we hope for the reimplementation of these comments, but we also ask that the midterm report system mandate teachers to write specific reports for each student. If the expectation is that Andover students feel comfortable relying on their teachers as a support system on campus, we ask that the administration ensure that teachers have the time to complete comments thoughtfully and to recognize our individual identities as students and human beings.
To our knowledge, the new school schedule will have time built in for teachers to write comments. We hope that this will remain a priority as the administration develops the new schedule. Receiving constructive criticism from teachers, especially at the midterm and the end of term, is essential to Andover students’ growth as learners, helping us cultivate skills that are valuable both inside and outside of the classroom.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, vol. CXXXIX, except Kalina Ko ’17.