Course Renumbering Tries to Create Consistency in Course Rigor Between Departments

The 2009-2010 Course of Study features a new numbering sequence in order to help colleges and other outside groups better understand the difficulty of Andover courses. This year, many courses have been renumbered under a new system that aims to create uniformity throughout all departments. “The changes in numbering were made to make numbering consistent across departments, so that a 500-level class in English means roughly the same thing as a 500-level course in a world language or in math,” said Elizabeth Korn, Associate Dean of Studies. Paul Cernota, Scheduling Officer, said, “Course number changes allow external groups, like college admission officers, to determine the difficulty and expectations of a course more easily by looking at the course number.” Under the new numbering scheme, the Course of Study defines 500-level classes as “courses equivalent to college freshman classes, sometimes, but not always, indicated by explicit preparation for an AP exam.” “Courses that would typically be taken by majors in the subject in college, or courses typically taken after the first year of college” are now designated as 600-level, according to the Course of Study. Performance-based classes, such as music ensembles and dance groups, will be denoted as 900-level classes. Under these designations, many English and music classes have been renumbered. “The changes that are most significant are the 500-level English electives. The numbers mean things now, whereas before they were often random,” said John Rogers, Dean of Studies. “This was an internal change made within the English department.” The Course of Study now groups English courses into subcategories, including Writing Courses, Genre Courses, Special Topics Courses, Interdisciplinary Courses, Single Author Courses and Culture Studies Courses. Jonathan Stableford, Chair of the English Department said, “The Dean of Studies Office and the Academic Council decided we needed to look at all our course numbers. I, as department chair, thought this was a great opportunity to organize the English electives under a system that made sense.” Rogers said that Andover’s AP Music sequence numbers also increased in order to reflect the difficulty of the courses. The yearlong sequence—previously Music 300, 440 and 450—has been replaced by Music 400, 540 and 550. A few of Andover’s courses, such as Theater 240, were eliminated for the 2009-2010 school year. Other courses, like History 340, are still listed in the Course of Study but will not be offered next year. Korn said that each department determines the addition and removal of courses, “sometimes with input from the Academic Council.” She continued, “These changes happen every year, usually with respect to electives. Sometimes they are simply the result of changes in staffing. A teacher might go on leave so the electives they normally teach aren’t offered that year. Occasionally, changes come about because a teacher has developed a new course.” Rogers said that all departments staff diploma requirement courses first, and then sections of continuing-sequence courses. He continued, “Term-contained electives are often the courses that are cut by departments because there are no teachers or because they want to offer new courses. Departments decide what electives are offered as well as the complete content of the courses.” As reported in last week’s Phillipian, the yearlong modern European history elective, History 340, will not be offered because of a lack of staffing. Peter Drench, Chair of the History and Social Sciences Department, said that no teachers were able to teach History 340 because they were first needed for diploma requirement courses such as History 100, 200 and 300. Despite the changes in course numbers, course curricula in most departments will remain identical to previous years. Korn said, “I don’t believe that there is anything special in the number of courses being added or dropped for next year. The big change is in course numbering. Thus the curriculum really isn’t being affected in a big way, but the course selection process will have to be done very carefully.” The Academic Council instituted the new numbering sequence in the Course of Study, based on faculty recommendations. Last year, the Council established new diploma requirements for students matriculating in fall 2008. These changes reduced the total arts requirement from six terms to three, and also provided Juniors with more options for introductory art.