Assessment Period Begins Today

For the past three semesters, COVID restrictions and online learning have led to a cancellation or adaptation of exam periods.

Before COVID, the exam period consisted of suspending classes and co-curriculars and evaluating students through major projects or cumulative exams. It also included a “reading day” with no classes, co-curriculars, or assessments, and all teachers offered review sessions or were accessible for extra help. Mr. Richard Davis, dean of academic life, explained the initial reasoning behind this format. He said,  “We wanted to give classes the opportunity to have summative assessments… but also not [overwhelm] students [with] classes and sports.” However, the possibility of almost seventy students becoming remote over break due to COVID restrictions caused the replacement of the exam period with the Assessment Period.

The Assessment Period, which stretches five days from Friday, December 10 to Wednesday, December 15, will have a regular class schedule with a modified athletic schedule for only varsity athletes. Furthermore, teachers will be able to evaluate students through any type of graded assignment, including unit tests, labs, quizzes, projects, etc. The assessments for each subject will be administered by schedule blocks rather than by department, so that the assessment period can be condensed into fewer days. Last spring’s Assessment Period was organized by department, as each department had one day to assign a test or anything graded.

Though students are still expected to attend all classes prepared to work, no homework or graded assessments can be assigned from a class outside of their assessment time. Students who are currently remote will make up the assessments that need to be completed in-person when they return in January.

Although the Assessment Period will replace the exam period, its goals are the same. According to Mr. Davis, “[the Assessment Period] is meant to give our teachers the opportunity to assess in the ways that they want to, and to pace it in a way where students can do their best work. The principles are the same, but the approaches are different.” 

Although the Assessment Period is meant to make the end of the semester more paced, some students believe that the new format is stressful due to the continuation of classes. Rena Peng ’22 said, “ I do think one thing [the administration] could do is to have a proper ‘overseeing’ of what assignments people are getting because even though they aren’t cumulative, a lot of classes have incredibly long assignments. There shouldn’t be as much work as you should put in for an exam period [given that students still attend classes].” However, other students believe that the Assessment Period has made their schedules less stressful. Luke Louchheim ’22 said, “Having an assessment period instead of having midterms is a much better way to end the first semester. Especially for Seniors, who are already tired from college admissions, the new format has helped a lot with managing our workloads and the amount of information we need to worry about retaining.” 

The grading approach within departments has also undergone changes. In the math and science departments, tests administered during the Assessment Period will not be weighted more than any typical unit test. Mr. Jason Maier, head of the math department, said, “This year, students are going to take a test or quiz during the Assessment Period, and it’s going to count the same as any other test or quiz that students took all semester. It’s not automatically fifteen percent. It [is worth the same as] the rest of the work students did in the semester.”

Because many students are new to this format, Mr. Maier recommends students to develop effective study habits. He said, “[My] advice is to sit in front of a calendar and make sure that you know what classes are assessing on which days, and make sure you are getting information from your teacher about the kind of assessment you are getting.” Mr. Maier also suggested scheduling devoted time for each subject while planning ahead. 

As the assessment period wraps up the first semester, Winter break will begin on noon of Wednesday, December 15.