Teachers Reflect on Unique Extended Period Assessments

From in-class football games to cumulative tests, teachers at Phillips Academy have embraced a variety of final assessments during Extended Period Week. Thomas McGraw, Instructor in English, organized a completely unique final assessment in 1991 when he decided to have a “football” game between his two classes of Juniors. McGraw said, “My two classes had read David Copperfield, so I thought it would be fun and interesting for the students in my two freshman classes to compete with each other in an in-class football game. “To make the game work, I drew a football field on the board, made a felt stick-on ball, made up thousands of questions related to the book, and divided the questions into six categories,” he continued. McGraw said that the questions varied in difficulty and that the yardage a team would gain depended on how challenging the question was. “Some questions were worth only three yards, and were therefore questions on vocabulary. As the yardage increased, so too did the scope and depth of the question.” “I also made up a roster with fake heights and weights with some ninth grade kid listed as an offensive tackle at 6’5” and 280 lbs. I then got an old Andover-Exeter program, substituted the names of my students, changed the names of the teams to the Eight O’clock Emus and the Nine O’clock Newts, and photocopied pictures of those two animals on the sides of the helmets of the two linemen squaring off against one another on the program,” said McGraw. To boost the spirit and enthusiasm of the students, McGraw also borrowed athletic equipments and jerseys for the occasion. “I went to Blaine, the former equipment manager, and got both home and away JV Football jerseys for my students. I also borrowed a referee shirt for myself, along with two penalty flags, which I actually threw three times during the two hour game for excessive shenanigans,” said McGraw. “The game went on for the required one and a half hours, and the teams moved up and down the field, but there was no score! By the end of the exam period, the students got so involved with the game that they refused to go. After going into the sudden death round, Allison Bartlett won it for the Emus when she answered one of the hardest questions at the last minute.” he continued. Even years after the football game, students still appreciate the unique experience in McGraw’s class. “Fifteen years after the assessment, one of the kids in the class who became a sports writer for the Eagle Tribune in Lawrence saw me at a reunion and said the in-class football game was the best thing that ever happened to him in school,” said McGraw. Vuyelwa Maqubela, Instructor in English, added a unique twist to her final assessments by sharing a variety of food with her students. “My students always have this idea that we should celebrate as they share their final projects or watch a film, and celebrating, of course, means food,” said Maqubela. “Last winter was especially memorable because [when] my senior elective class was looking into the cultures of different immigrant groups, many students volunteered to make food pertaining to different cultures,” she continued. “I can’t remember all the different menu items, but they included a Cuban dish by a student who had written a moving narrative about her family’s experience emigrating from Cuba and a Russian dish by a student who wrote a beautiful story about her Babushka,” said Maqubela. “One even did a presentation on Mr. Maqubela and myself as immigrants from South Africa, and guess who made a South African dish for that one?” she continued. Although these two teachers have special memories from extended period week, many teachers also feel that their extended period week routine has been fairly consistent. Patrick Farrell, Instructor in Mathematics, said “Although extended period week has gone through some changes over the years, the changes have had little impact in how we do things.” Paul Tortorella ’80, Instructor in English, said “When I was a student here at Andover, there was no Assessment Week or Extended Period Week.” “The final assessments for my class have been fairly consistent over the years. I just try to apply the school motto ‘Finis Origine Pendet’ [which means that] the end depends upon the beginning,” he continued. Elizabeth Korn, Associate Dean of Studies, is in charge of scheduling assessment meeting times for classes. Korn said, “My goal is to minimize the number of students who would have time conflicts with assessments and to keep the total number of students being assessed in the Smith Center below its capacity.” “My other function with regard to extended period week is to approve and make arrangements for the rescheduling of assessments when there is a testing conflict or a truly exceptional circumstance that warrants such rescheduling,” she continued. The more general tasks are distributed to bigger departments. John Rogers, Dean of Studies, and the Academic Council, which consists of all the department chairs, are responsible for verifying the efficacy of the extended period week and assessing whether any changes are necessary.