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School tests new exam schedule

School tests new exam schedule

Students and faculty will adjust to a new exam schedule to wrap up the first semester, with all eight classes meeting for 90 minutes each over a four day period. There have been conversations regarding this transition for years, and the exam schedule was at the forefront of Head of Upper School Deano Smith’s mind when he served as Dean of Academics from 2019 to the middle of the 2022-2023 school year. 

“I seriously was looking at the exam schedule and trying to find ways to recover some instructional time while still honoring people having exams, because there is data that shows that a cumulative final exam is a useful exercise to go through, particularly when we are preparing students for college and looking at courses that are pretty intense,” Smith said.

Talks of the transition were further bolstered by the pandemic.

“Since the pandemic, we have noticed fewer teachers giving final exams and it felt like we maybe weren’t using that week for the best,” Dean of Academics Susan Beamish said. “There has been a lot of reflection about what we’ve been doing and following the trends and patterns that we see in the building to really keep the students’ well-being at the front of our minds,” said Beamish.

Teachers are now able to use a 90-minute class period as time for a final exam or for other cumulative activities, like projects or presentations. 

“In English class, oftentimes you’ll have a final paper, and this [new schedule] gives time to reflect on that paper and get peer feedback during exam week,” Beamish said. “The goal is for that week to really feel like a wrapping up of the whole semester in all of your classes. I’m excited to see what some of the wellness classes are doing. The goal is to have some sort of culminating activity for all the work that’s been done throughout the semester.”

Many times, semester long classes do not have a final exam, so teachers do not get the chance to fully wrap up the semester.

“As a semester teacher, I often feel like not having that week to formally conclude the semester with my students can feel like getting washed out from underneath us, so it’s a really nice opportunity to have some real closure for semester classes,” wellness teacher Sara LeBlanc said. “In Foundations of Fitness, we will be doing some peer project sharing for our final project. Students will be creating workouts and then they’ll share feedback with each other. Culminating activity-wise will be fun Winter Olympic themed activities.”

The new schedule was also created with logistical convenience in mind, especially for families with both middle and upper school students, as pick up and drop off will be the same times. Additionally, upper school students do not need to be present during their free periods. Although families may enjoy the newly consistent schedule, students may feel less flexibility in their schedule due to required attendance for classes that would not traditionally have final exams. 

“In some ways, the freedom will feel like a bit of a loss to upper schoolers in particular,” Beamish said. “You will probably be in the building more than you were in previous exam weeks. Having two classes back to back might be an adjustment, especially if you have an exam in both of those classes.” 

This loss of freedom is in fact being felt by students. 

“Let’s say it was the last period of the week, and I have orchestra, which I would not usually have a final in, but I can’t be on break yet because I’m stuck at school not taking an exam,” Violet Weizer ‘25 said. “Being at school when I don’t have an exam is also taking away from my time to study.”

Teachers will also have to adjust to the new schedule, as they may choose to create different exams for each section of the classes that they teach. 

“If there are three different calculus classes, each class will take their test in their classroom during their class time, so you might have some people taking it on Monday and others taking it on Thursday,” Beamish said. “For students that will mean figuring out how to prioritize their time when studying and realizing that how they study could look different from their classmates based on their schedules.” 

Some students have expressed concerns about there being multiple versions of tests for the same class.

“First of all, it’s a lot more work for the teachers since they have to make more exams,” Weizer said. “I don’t think that’s fair to them. Also, what if the exams are varying levels of difficulty? That’s not fair to us as students who are all taking the same class.”

The Academic Office hopes to balance these adjustments by creating lower-stress test taking environments. Students will be taking their exams in their usual classroom with their classmates in their period.

“I’m hopeful that it takes a little bit of stress off of students,” Beamish said. “Sitting in a gym with 100 kids taking a test can be really stressful, so being able to take that test in your own classroom with the classmates you are used to being around and having your teacher more accessible will hopefully lower stress levels during that week.”

Testing accommodations will be available, however, students with accommodations feel an increase in stress due to the new schedule. 

“It’s pretty inconvenient because according to my accommodations, I don’t have to take two tests in one day, but with this new schedule, I’m going to have to do that.” Skyla Shea ‘25 said. “It’s also going to be hard for me to access my accommodations because I’m going to be going from one test to the next test quickly and if I’m not able to finish my test during the class time, I’m going to have to come back later, which is just ten times harder.”

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