Following the announcement about the fall semester’s new final exam schedule last November, many students expressed their displeasure with the administration’s decision by signing a petition and stating why they were opposed to the new schedule. As a result, Concord Academy’s Interim Academic Dean, Laura Twichell, assured students that the administration would consider their opinions while constructing the spring schedule.
“[We will] use this petition as feedback for the spring and next fall, and [the administrators] will be reaching out in January to get your thoughts on how the end of the semester went for you,” Twichell wrote in an email to the student petitioners.
More recently, on February 7, the administration revealed the final exam schedule for this spring. At class meetings, students had the opportunity to hear from Laura Twichell about the feedback that the CA community provided on the fall end-of-semester schedule and the administrators’ rationale behind the spring schedule. Twichell noted that both students and teachers felt that the process of changing the schedule in the fall should have occurred earlier and with more community input and that students’ responses to the plan were “overwhelmingly negative.” She said that student feedback indicated that the least helpful aspect of the fall schedule was the continuation of classes after students had already completed their exam for that class, but that students responded favorably to office hours in the penultimate week of school and the use of the Ransome Room as a quiet space.
Twichell then revealed the plan for spring semester exams, which is very similar to previous years’ spring exam schedules. However, there are a few differences between the current schedule and the schedule from years past, and student responses to these aspects of the new plan have been predominantly negative.
First, despite negative feedback from both students and teachers regarding the continuation of classes after the final exam in that class had already been completed, the administration has decided to require that all classes meet for at least one hour in their designated exam block. For some classes, this will be when students take their final exam, but for others, this will be a time when students are asked to reflect on their semester and obtain “closure.”
Although I commend the administration for attempting to design an end-of-semester schedule that aligns with CA’s mission of “love of learning,” I do not believe that requiring teachers to hold class will accomplish this. According to the feedback that the administration gathered after the fall semester, many teachers did not like being required to hold classes in the final week of school because it “detracted from their grading time.” Likewise, 75% of students who responded to the administration’s survey said that they disliked this aspect of the schedule. When talking to my peers, they all agreed that this was because it prevented them from focusing on their upcoming exams as they were unable to study until classes had ended for the day.
Additionally, Twichell announced that the administration was still undecided about whether houses would remain open during the day and whether day students would be required to travel to campus every day, regardless of whether they had a commitment. Twichell said that this was a matter of equity, as it might be considered unfair that day students were able to remain in their homes while boarders were not. I maintain, however, that it would be inequitable to force day students to travel to school for the sole purpose of doing so. For day students, time spent commuting is time lost from studying and resting during an already stressful time. Additionally, if day students were required to remain on campus during the day, this would create a noisier and more distracting atmosphere that would be detrimental to the learning of all.