The structure of the finals schedule has officially changed for this fall. Finals week has been known to be a stressful time for CA students, as the final tests of their classes impact on their final grades, as final assessments are often cumulative and are the last chance of the semester to impact one’s grades. While many students seem to have found a way to cope with the stress from finals week, a few feel like they have too much work or too many tests in the last two weeks. The administration has heard these complaints and has decided to help these students out.
Laura Twichell ’01, interim Academic Dean, announced the new schedule and said that it will be implemented with four main goals in mind. One, to spread the workload more evenly across two weeks for younger students. Two, to balance the workload for older students, maintaining engagement and preventing the overload of assessments due in the penultimate week of the semester. Three, to maximize class and learning time for all students. Four, to create opportunities for students to process feedback from the final assessment and/or reflect upon work this semester.
The new schedule officially designates two weeks of finals rather than one, with certain classes having their finals in one week and the rest of the classes having the finals in the other. Other changes include the continuation of classes after a final is taken and restricted open hours of the boarding houses. Twichell, along with the administration, believes that this new system will alleviate the work that students receive. While the administration had good intentions, many students have responded negatively to this change.
The student body has raised several concerns after hearing about this change. The first concern was the lack of study time for finals. Students argue that having classes continue after finals takes away valuable study time for other finals they may have that week. When asked why this decision was made, Twichell’s response was to continue our “love of learning and to maximize class time in the short fall semester.”
Unfortunately, this response created more confusion and may have made the situation worse. This was only elevated to a whole new level when Twichell announced that sports will continue to meet during the penultimate week of finals. A fellow junior, Tyler Ory ‘21, believes that having sports during the penultimate week “takes away crucial study time that could help our grades greatly.”
Students made a second point pertaining mostly to the upperclassmen. Many juniors and seniors believe that this schedule benefits the underclassmen the most, as it cuts the number of tests that the underclassmen take during the last week. Many seniors worried that adjusting to this new schedule could impact their chances of getting into college, as the grades from this semester are very crucial to the college process. During Council, when Twichell first introduced the new schedule, many seniors were not and are still not willing to gamble that a new schedule could benefit them even more, as it is a risky move to make.
In addition, juniors take the SAT two days before the new schedule takes place, which can cause confusion regarding what they should prioritize: studying for finals or studying for the SAT. Director of College Counseling Kate Peltz and Twichell addressed these points to the Junior class by stating that the administration has not forgotten about them and that they firmly believe that this will be more beneficial rather than a setback. Lastly, the opening CA houses was a debate early on for boarders, the administration has decided to compromise by allowing the house to close at 10 AM and open early in the afternoon, thus solving this issue.
While all of the issues above are understandable, the biggest concern that the student body expressed was the lack of communication between the administration and the student body. Twichell admitted that, while the plan was built from feedback from current students, recent alums, and parents, no current student actively worked with department heads to shape the plan.
Many believe that this breaks Common Trust, an essential part of the CA community.
When asked to comment for this article, Twichell shared, “I acknowledge that students found the roll-out of the plan to be stressful and frustrating, and I’m sorry it landed that way on students. My conversations with students suggest that once they looked at their specific schedules and then experienced the last two weeks, most have found it to be more manageable than they worried it might be. That said, I look forward to receiving feedback from students in January when we survey them about their experiences. This feedback will help us shape subsequent plans as we try to find an end-of-semester plan that works well for all members of our community.”
While many are doubtful this plan will effectively implement the administration’s goals, some students remain hopeful that the outcome will.