On November 15, the Concord Academy administration unveiled this fall’s new schedule for end-of-semester assessments. While I commend the attempt to improve this often stressful period, the actual process to reach the plan allowed no opportunity for student feedback before its announcement. This omission not only created a finals schedule that serves neither students nor teachers most effectively, but it also threatens to undermine CA’s commitment to student leadership and opinions.
I have always deeply admired CA for its inclusion of students in the decision-making process, true to the mission statement’s values of “honoring each individual” and “purposeful collaboration.” I have friends who serve on committees including the Environmental Sustainability Steering Committee, the Discipline Committee, and the Food Committee, where student feedback is not only encouraged but also incorporated into all final decisions.
I personally make a point of attending every available lunch with prospective faculty members so that I can play a role in continuing this culture that I cherish. At most of these lunches, the table brims with other students eager to offer their input. Recently, the administration even invited students to meet with members of the firm conducting the search for a new Dean of Program and Equity so that our experiences could help guide the decision.
These opportunities for student feedback set CA apart from its peer institutions by cultivating an environment where students feel empowered to build a more inclusive culture, one that fosters common trust between the student body and the administration.
This new finals schedule feels different than any past major school decision. The administration emphasized that this schedule has been in the works for over five years. If that is the case, why was there no opportunity for a student working group during those five years?
Our All School Council, comprised of twenty-three elected student leaders that represent all grades and backgrounds, is charged with advocating for and improving the student experience. As such, not consulting with them earlier in the process seems like a missed opportunity.
I respect that the administrators reserve the ultimate authority over any school decision. But, I believe that given how central this period is to the student experience, students should be given the opportunity to share their suggestions mid-process, whether or not their opinions are ultimately incorporated. Doing so would reaffirm CA’s respect for its students and eventually produce a schedule that could satisfy all parties.
Amid echoes of frustration, including a petition signed by over half of the student body, Laura Twichell, the Interim Academic Dean, issued a statement to all petitioners. She explained that, “based on student feedback,” the administration had made a number of changes, notably adjusting the open hours of the houses, allowing day students to arrive later and leave earlier, and creating more availability for faculty office hours.
These amendments will certainly reduce some of the anxiety around the new schedule. However, the same suggestions would have arisen much earlier in the process if students had been consulted, thereby averting most of the stress to begin with.
Twichell further wrote, “We will also use this petition as feedback for planning for the spring and next fall, and we will be reaching out in January to get your thoughts on how the end of the semester went for you. We hope you’ll share feedback then, too.”
I am hopeful that student feedback from the end-of-semester period this fall will be considered in future iterations of the schedule. More importantly, however, I hope that the opinions of students continue to be valued in major school decisions moving forward, an example of common trust in action.