New Assessment Week Eliminates Dean’s Week, Increases Teaching Time

The fast paced finale to classes at the end of the term is about to undergo a change. Last spring, Andover faculty chose to replace the former “Exam Week” with “Assessment Week.” The Academic Council, comprised of most department chairs and headed by the Dean of Studies, then Margarita Curtis, devised the schedule. Assessment Week modifies the usual Dean’s Schedule, allowing teachers to gain more teaching time. In place of Dean’s Schedule is a new schedule requiring that any regular tests or essays be due during the penultimate week of classes, while any term projects and papers are due during the final week of classes. During each day of Assessment Week, there can be up to three blocks. One block each day is scheduled as a general exam for multi-section courses, while the two other blocks are assigned by period for smaller classes. These smaller classes that meet in the allotted period will have some sort of assessment exercise decided upon at the discretion of the teacher. However, if a class has an assigned term project during the last week of classes, then there can be no major project or final exam during Assessment Week. Instead, classes can choose to share and discuss the term project or can look back on previous work, all at the discretion of the teacher. One day is reserved at the end of the penultimate week to resolve conflicts between classes under the new schedule. No additional major assignments can be due that day, but students can take any tests or hand in any papers that had to be postponed because they had two other assignments due on the same day earlier in the week. Multi-section exams, such as History 300, will be given in the gym simultaneously at the subject’s allotted time rather than the period’s allotted time, as was done in the past. Classes with multi-section exams are not allowed to meet during their Assessment Week period. The schedule intends to increase teaching time. In the past, if an English class had their Dean’s Day at the beginning of Dean’s Schedule, they might read another book after that and the teacher would not be allowed to test students on the material. Now, the teacher could assign a final paper or test during Assessment Week that would cover that book Some students are hesitant, “It sounds annoying. As a 4-year Senior, I’ve looked forward to leaving school after the first day of exams,” said Mary Grinton ’07. John Rogers, the new Dean of Studies, said, “Faculty talk to students a lot…[and] I think this was done with an understanding of student workload in mind. Instructor in History J. Derek Williams came out in favor of the plan, but noted some reservations. “The theory behind the institution is legitimate, as it opens up new possibilities for assessment, but some of the practicalities are open to question.” Mr. Williams noted the requirement that teachers use the assessment time, whether they want to or not. According to the outline of the Assessment Week schedule offered by the Dean of Studies office, “all courses should use the assessment week in some way, even if it is only to return work and/or confer with students.” A different version of Assessment Week was first proposed four years ago to the faculty and was voted down. Bruce Bacon, Chair of the Theater and Dance Department, said that the schedule was not initially passed because teachers did not understand it. Last year, the Academic Council met with each department individually to explain the new Assessment Week. They also took suggestions on how to adjust the plan to fit the needs of that specific department. Last spring the entire faculty voted on Assessment Week. Mr. Bacon said, “The vote was pretty unanimous.” Mr. Rogers said, “Hardly any students knew about it when we voted…we had several votes that we were trying to fit into the faculty schedule…I don’t think it was a deliberate decision to leave students out…Student welfare is always at the heart of these [faculty] decisions.”