Andover Administration to Consider Replacing Dean’s Schedule with Shorter Assessment Week

In response to the fatigue of students at the end of this term, the Phillips Academy administration is now exploring possible alternatives to Dean’s Week. Dr. Curtis is concerned that this term’s Dean’s Week has been a particularly difficult one for students. She noted that many students were under intense pressure last Friday. In considering solutions to this problem, the Academic Council has come up with two possible resolutions. First, the administration is considering returning Dean’s Week to its prior form, in which each subject was only allowed specific due dates during the last two weeks of classes, instead of simply the last one. According to Dr. Curtis, this solution would make the last few weeks of classes more “artificial.” The second option the Academic Council is considering is replacing Dean’s Week with an Assessment Week. This Assessment Week would be one week during which all end-of-term major assignments would be due or take place, including exams, papers, portfolios, and performances. It would replace both finals week and Dean’s Week. Since the Dean’s Schedule was put into place over a decade ago, there have been several revisions to its original form. While the schedule is designed specifically to help students manage their activities, there has been much concern over whether or not the schedule helps or hinders students’ busy schedules. The Dean’s Schedule came into being over a decade ago thanks to former Dean of Students and current Chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies Susan McCaslin. The schedule attempted to lessen the intense workload students face during the last several weeks of each term. Several years ago, the format of Dean’s Week was changed to make students’ schedules more flexible. Originally, the Dean’s Schedule included specific due dates for each class for the final two weeks of each term. In the current format, major assignments and exams in classes without final exams must be due or take place during the second-to-last week of classes, but are no longer limited to certain dates. Dean of Studies Margarita Curtis believes that this change has created “a more natural and organic environment towards the end of the term.” To help ease the burden of the last few weeks’ assignments, the Academic Council has strongly encouraged the faculty to create comprehensive syllabi. The Council believes that detailed syllabi allow for students to prepare and organize their time well in advance, making the final two weeks of classes less hectic. Dr. Curtis hopes that such an Assessment Week would encourage innovative forms of final projects. For example, Dr. Curtis cited the benefits of “multimedia projects” which test areas of expertise outside the realm of the classroom. Dr. Curtis encourages the implementation of an Assessment Week because she thinks that it would serve as a “real culmination of the term.” An Assessment Week would also increase teaching time by allowing classes to continue as usual until the very last week that school is in session. When Dean’s Schedule began, lecturing was still the predominant method of teaching at Andover. Since then, however, Andover has adapted its curriculum to fit a more hands-on style. With the faculty “engaged in many types of teaching methods,” Dr. Curtis believes that the concept of finals week has become outdated. The Academic Council hopes to reach a final decision on June 10 about changing the Dean’s Schedule. Associate Dean of Students Cilla Bonney-Smith said, “We are between a rock and a hard place. The end of a term, especially Spring term, is a stressful time of year. I don’t know if there’s a creative solution to this situation.”