Assessment Week Draws Mixed Student Responses

Fall Term Assessment Week provoked varied responses from the Andover community. While some students appreciated the advantages of the new testing period, others were disconcerted by the change. A brief Phillipian poll showed that 64% of students disliked the new assessment week structure, while 36% liked the alterations. The first group claimed that the new system actually added to stress, wasted time, and caused general confusion. Students who liked the schedule said that they benefited from more spread-out assessments and the opportunity to meet with teachers at the end of term. John Stableford, Head of the English department, said, “My general impression…is that Assessment Week has delivered what it promised – a chance to end each course in a way that made sense. We have some small kinks to work out, and we can do a better job at making sure our colleagues follow the rules, but for a first run I believe it went well.” The new assessment schedule was meant to relieve the stress of Dean’s Week and encourage teachers to create innovative final assessments, and to teach until the end of the term. Other students found themselves in similar situations having to turn in papers, take exams, and attend end-of-term meetings on the same day. “The only all-nighter I pulled all term was during Assessment Week,” said Nat Lavin ’07. As Dean of Studies John Rogers pointed out, that was not the faculty’s intention. He said that students should still have had enough time to study as well as write their papers, since they “still only have two major assignments and should basically have been assigned them from the beginning of the term.” Students also complained that teachers wasted their time in unnecessary class meetings. “My teacher had us play Pictionary for forty-five minutes,” William Thompson Butler ’09 complained. Mr. Rogers again blames this issue on miscommunication. “I think we might have over emphasized the expectation that every teacher use [the assessment periods],” Mr. Rogers said. Furthermore, students were frustrated to find that they were stuck on campus longer than in the past. “Many students were done with their exams by the weekend, but had to hang around campus for an extra four days just to attend some unimportant assessment,” said Annalee Leggett ’09. Other students found that excess time tsdempted some students to disregard school rules. Taylor Hall proctor Matt Silva ’07 said, “I had some friends who finished on Tuesday and had nothing to do until that Saturday, which left the door open for them to break rules.” Mr. Bacon, head of the Theater department, explained that the “weekend would have been there even if the faculty had not voted in the Assessment Week…[the] change in the calendar was a direct result of losing the two class days in Thanksgiving Week.” One of the principle goals of assessment week was to reduce the stress of Dean’s Week, yet many students found that their teachers only assigned more work, or moved it forward. “I realize that the new schedule didn’t eliminate the stress, but postponed it,” said Mike Discenza ’09. With regard to student stress, Rogers said, “It is incumbent upon us as a faculty to try to not add to that stress unless it’s necessary for optimal learning…If in the process we are increasing stress then we need to do something about that.” Eliminating this stress and confusion over the new Assessment Week will be a priority of faculty for this year. Associate Dean of Studies Elizabeth Korn will be taking a more extensive poll in the coming weeks, asking for feedback from roughly 50 students from each grade. Like many administrators involved in this issue, Rogers hopes that the new assessment system will be beneficial for students and teachers alike. He was disappointed with the confusion, and admits that the system is complicated. “Maybe we don’t have the formula right yet,” he confessed.