In Depth

According to Archivist Quattlebaum, ‘[PA] used to be a cold shower.’

One of the main reasons for apparent grade inflation during Andover’s recent history is a significant change in PA’s academic atmosphere. Ruth Quattlebaum, Instructor in Art History and School Archivist, said, “Andover used to be a cold shower.” According to John Rogers, Dean of Studies, grades have been interpreted to mean different things. Victor Henningsen, Instructor in History, said that he thought students have been getting better grades gradually over a long period of time. “The result: grade compression. More students earn grades in the middle to upper ranges.” To create a more supportive environment, the school created the Academic Support Center and conference period. Henningsen agreed with this sentiment. “Society changes a lot and the nature of the school changes. Andover used to be a ‘sink or swim’ experience. We have become a more supportive environment.” The history department at PA is a reasonable example of an important academic shift. Henningsen said, “The nature of assessment has changed.” The history department initially conducted common examinations and “blind grading,” where a student’s final exam is not necessarily scored by their instructor. All the instructors would meet to consider the rubric for each particular exam. However, these elements of the department were changed to allow for greater teacher-student interaction. The composition of the student body also has changed PA’s atmosphere. Henningsen said that Andover used to have students who excelled at one or two subjects. “For example, one student might be an excellent actor but a poor math student…But then in the early 90s, the importance given to science and math began to rise.”