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Final exam week is finally gone (kind of)

The phrase “finals week” may trigger apprehension and distress in some students. As a result, the administration has chosen to abandon both “finals” and “week” for a new cumulative assessment system. Each teacher will now decide how to address first-semester topics, either by administering a final-like cumulative test, a unit test or no assessment at all. Regardless of what kind of assessment a class chooses, the weight of this test will not be 20%, like finals have been in the past. Another large shift resulting from this change is that assessments will be spread out over three weeks, instead of the conventional one week for finals, and given during class periods within the regular schedule.

Director of Upper School Laura Hotchkiss ‘86, Director of Middle School Sean Fitts, department heads and a faculty scheduling committee reworked the finals system to ensure that assessments benefited students and teachers.

“We have taken the three weeks after Thanksgiving and identified classes which can assess on those days, which would be a paper that’s due, a test [or] a lab report,” Hotchkiss said. “Teachers in the Upper School are allowed to give another smaller quiz… at some point during that time, but it cannot be a second test.” 

The new schedule will have two days for each academic department during which they can offer assessments. On Dec. 3 and Dec. 4, the first two days of “crunch time” will be world languages exams, followed by two days each for history, science, English and math, respectively. 

In between the science and English exams will be a work day on Wednesday, Dec. 11. Hotchkiss said the purpose of this day is to give Upper School students time to study and a class-free day to offer alternative activities. For example, Chemistry Honors will be holding a study session for the SAT Chemistry Subject Test in anticipation of the spring exam. The day could also be used for students in Honors Research to go to their labs.

The Middle School work day will function differently. While Upper School students have a flexible day, Middle School students will have a structured curriculum. 7th and 8th graders will be taking the PSAT 8/9 in the morning, and in the afternoon, they will participate in a wellness activity and have time to work on projects. In the morning, the 9th graders will be choosing class colors and engaging in bonding activities. The afternoon will be free time for them to study. 

Fitts helped organize the work day for the Middle School and is also planning a supervised study to teach Middle School students study skills and how to use free time effectively. The assessments schedule will work like the Upper School schedule for the Middle School. 

“The schedule for our work day is very effective because it balances everything that needs to be covered in one day,” Jina ‘23 said.

The change in assessment policy was, in part, due to the new
daily schedule. Because of the late start time, the schedule needed to compensate for lost class time, and the previous finals system eliminated a week of class time. The new schedule also called for a work day because the rotation would have otherwise had an extra purple day, leaving white day classes a period behind. Another reason for the change is to prepare students for a college schedule. 

“A lot of colleges are not even doing finals… at least not in the same way,” Fitts said. “Everything that I’ve seen lately has been more project-based or used for something else, like finishing up a presentation.” 

There have been mixed responses thus far to the schedule plan. Many of the Lower School students are excited for the new work day. In particular, many of the new 9th graders are looking forward to the bonding activity the 9th graders will be participating in. Students will be “speed dating,” which entails conversing with one another to learn more about each other. The purpose of the event is to assist with the integration of the new students. 

“It’s a strategic way that allows us to break our studying into sessions, so we aren’t too overwhelmed over the weekend,” Casey ‘23 said. “As a new 9th grader, I’m also very excited for the bonding activity we have planned.”

On the other hand, others are not as optimistic about the new arrangement. 

“Most of us don’t have finals anymore, so we have nothing to do during the day, and we aren’t allowed to leave campus, so we might as well be able to go home,” Simran ‘22 said. “Also, the CEI will be crowded, and with everyone having a ‘free period,’ no one will be able to focus.”

Hotchiss and Fitts said they will be looking to integrate student feedback from the assessment schedule for next year. 

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