After many meetings and much deliberation, the administration has decided to move first semester exams to before Christmas Break beginning the 2014-15 school year. This decision comes after much prompting and support from the student body, the Upper School Student Council, and teachers.
The administration has been working for a long time to come to this decision. Mr. Michael Tiffany, Academic Dean, listed the main reasons for the change, saying that many other schools in the nation have finals in December, and that Providence may gain many benefits from a similar system.
“Student interest is a big reason,” said Mr. Tiffany. “Another one is the challenge we have to make the time after break but before exams productive.”
Currently, there isn’t really time for quizzes and tests in the two week span between Christmas Break and final exams, and Mr. Tiffany says students have complained that sometimes teachers teach new content that is assessed for the first time on the final.
A main reason Mr. Tiffany cites for the new finals schedule is student workload over break. While the administration advocates for no homework over breaks, Mr. Tiffany says, “We recognize that retention may lapse over break, and as a result some students choose to study anyway.”
Having finals take place before break would leave a “true” break for Christmas – one with no homework or impending large assessments.
While moving finals before break mitigates these difficulties, one problem the administration is currently running into is the division between semesters. Moving finals before break and ending first semester at that point would leave a large discrepancy in the lengths of the two semesters. Mr. Tiffany says solving for the division between semesters is a “work in progress.” The administration is considering ending first semester before Christmas Break, but is also exploring other options.
A second concern with the change is the fact that finals will now coincide with a time usually brimming with band concerts, choir concerts, and Christmas parties. However, again, the administration has anticipated this critique.
“We will move the concerts up enough so they won’t conflict with the week of exams,” said Mr. Tiffany. In addition, Director of Upper School Athletics, Mr. Kurt Jaegar, may take similar action regarding athletic events around the same time.
Besides the change in dates, the logistics of finals will remain very similar to the current system. While the exact dates of finals and the number of review days has yet to be worked out, Mr. Tiffany says “I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up a lot like we’ve been doing.”