By Luke Morissette
This year OES introduced a brand new midterm schedule and students are split on which schedule they prefer.
This year, OES’s midterm schedule had a whole new look. Instead of heading into the winter break with their assessments completed, students needed to wait until the final week of the semester for their midterms. Initially, the average OES student, including myself, found themselves afraid of this change and many were very outspoken with their concerns. What was hardly acknowledged during all of the conversations was that we were an outlier with our past midterm schedule in comparison to other local schools. In fact, the majority of schools have very similar schedules to the one we adopted this year. Nonetheless, students were still uncomfortable with the change, but this was before we were able to experience it in real life.
After the midterms week, it was clear that the new system had gotten some people to second guess their prior skepticism. A noticeable difference that Evan Hasson 21’ noted was that “before it felt like we would cram all our studying in before winter break, and instead of having an easy end to the semester when we got back from winter break, we had to learn new concepts and cram in another assessment before the end of the semester. This year seemed to flow better. I had a much easier time studying, and before winter break just felt like normal school.” Hasson brought up a very compelling point that Asha Appel, Head of the Upper School, also recognized this idea as one of her main reasons for implementing the schedule change. She felt that the previous schedule consequently encouraged teachers to fit another assessment into the semester, adding to student stress. Another flaw noticed by Appel was the wasted time in the schedule. Many teachers would plan for time to finish projects after winter break and would use their assessment blocks as simple work periods, defeating the point of the scheduled blocks. Finally, Appel spoke to me about the necessity for changes in the review week. She feels that in order for the new schedule to function well, it is crucial that the review week is truly a “no new work” week dedicated to reviewing. In the past, teachers often managed to sneak in a little bit of teaching during review week. This year students were just recently returning from a long school break and it was essential that they were given an opportunity to review and catch up on concepts to be ready for their exams. She stated that the new schedule is still a work in progress, but I personally noticed the change in the pace of the review week.
Of course, there are still doubters within the school. Max Fitzloff 20’, with two years experience in the old schedule, doesn’t think the change is necessary, “Honestly I liked not having anything to worry about besides SRP. Last year I went into winter break knowing all I had to do was work on my SRP, but I could get a lot of that done after the break, but this year it felt rushed because I knew we were taking midterms when I got back.” This is a concern that Appel is very aware of. She said that the looming pressure of finishing SRP is one of the main concerns with the schedule change and they are working to find a way to keep those due dates farther apart. Appel also acknowledged that many student-athletes were put into a tough place because there were multiple sporting events scheduled during assessment week. She is confident this will not be a problem in the future.
There are pros and cons to both schedules, and soon after the midterm week, a survey was sent out to see how current students, teachers, and parents like the new schedule. I spoke to Liz Weiler, the Upper School Director of Academics, about the survey and the results are interesting. The majority of parents and teachers are in support of the new schedule, but the students’ responses are mixed. Although the majority preferred the previous schedule, there is a significant number of the 184 students who participated in the survey who preferred taking their midterms in December. The interesting point that Liz noticed is that almost all the students are either strongly against the new system or strongly in favor of it. This could be chalked up to students rushing through the survey, or that high school students feel strongly about everything. Nonetheless, it is worth recognizing that there are distinct groups on each side of this argument, which surely was not expected when students first heard about the change.
After analyzing the survey and listening to other forms of input, the US Administration Team has decided to schedule assessments at the end of the semester in January moving forward. They are assessing the feedback from the different groups and plan make some further adjustments, with the goal being to reduce student stress.