This past fall, the Academic Dean’s Office introduced a new five-day exam schedule consisting of seven two-hour assessment periods.
Academic Dean Ivory Hills explained that after learning about both students and teachers’ frustrations regarding the past schedule, the admission has decided to make modifications.
Elaborating on the issues of the old three-day, three-exam schedule, Dr. Hills commented, “there was a desire to accomplish many things simultaneously which made things very complicated.”
Philosophy and Religion Teacher Benjamin Grimm explained that the new exam schedule was beneficial to his class because it offered him a time slot to assign a proper assessment.
Mr. Grimm said, “I felt I had to squeeze exams into the last week of class when many students were preparing for exams, and so they were not in a position to do their best work. [The new schedule] allowed me to create a real exam and be creative about it.”
Describing the reason behind the adjustments of the new exam schedule, Dr. Hills said, “The hope was that this new schedule would lead to more interesting types of assessments that would be less stressful and better display [students’] knowledge of the subject.”
Dr. Hills also explained that the new schedule reflected the variety of exams seen in college, but Thatcher Smith ‘20 shared different opinions, saying, “I’ve spoken with friends in college who have said that the new exam schedule is very different than what they are experiencing now.”
Another consideration that largely influenced this decision was the wish to diffuse the highly stressful penultimate week. Some students believed the new exam schedule helped them properly prepare for all their assessments.
Ruthie Spencer ‘22 commented, “Last year, during the week leading up to the three days of exams, I had a lot going on, and I struggled to get in the right mindset.”
However, not all students felt that their schedules reflected more variety and less stress.
Jaxon Palmer ’21 said, “Personally, I didn’t really like the exam schedule because there was so much going on in that two week period. It was too much for me to handle. It was mentally exhausting.” She continued, “Many of my teachers still had major assignments the previous week.”
With a similar sentiment, Kaitlin McKenna ’21 added, “The busy week leading up to exams combined with a study-heavy weekend led me to feel already worn out by the time exam week began, with still 6 exams to go.”
Similarly, Smith preferred the previous exam schedule because it “gave us a sufficient amount of time to study properly and complete all of our work.”
Despite the backlash towards the new exam schedule, the results of the survey that was sent out to the student body relayed a different sentiment. The survey asked students to reflect on their experience and allowed students to give feedback regarding their concerns about the new schedule. The survey was created and reviewed by Dr. Hills.
According to Dr. Hills, “[There] were approximately 260 student responses. The majority of students were fine, but then a handful of students made hyperbolic statements, like the whole school was on fire and everybody was upset. Just because they’re the minority doesn’t mean I’m ignoring them, but they were a small number.”
Assistant Dean of Faculty and Science Teacher Dr. Mark Acton also viewed the change positively.
Dr. Acton said, “I really liked the flexibility it gave in terms of what type of exam experience I could offer. This year, I was able to stray from the typical written examination that could be proctored by other people and do a lab practical.”
Other students welcomed the change as well. Kareena Bhakta ’20 said, “Clearly, this shift is a big adjustment; however, I feel Dr. Hills has really taken his time and been there to answer questions both in person and in email for students.”
While many classes, such as humanities and sciences, benefited from the ability to have project-based exams, the math department retained its written exam format.
Math Department Chair Darnel Barnes said, “For many of us, the new schedule was similar to what was done in the past. There was variation: some were unit tests, while others were more cumulative.”
Dr. Barnes continued, “Because our schedule did not change drastically, we were more concerned with how students would fare since they have assessments over all their classes.”
Overall, the new exam schedule has garnered mixed reactions amongst students, with several students having voiced their concerns as well as those who prefer this new structure.
Regardless of the contrasting viewpoints, this new exam schedule will continue for the 2019-2020 school year. Whether or not the school will continue with this revised schedule is still ambiguous.