Evening Out the Waterford Workload

***Full text of email sent by Dr. Brandon Bennett, PhD, Associate Head of School on 08/29/2018***

Dear Middle and Upper School Students and Parents,

I’m writing to announce and explain a new strategy we will be using this year to help even out the substantial workload required of Waterford students.

We admire our students’ commitment to their learning, and we know they appreciate the role of sustained effort in achieving true excellence across all the elements of the Waterford program -- academics, arts, and athletics. What we have heard consistently, though, when we talk to students about their workload challenges, is that it is not so much the total amount of work that is difficult, but more the “lumpiness” of the workload distribution. It seems students struggle most when major summative assessments come due on the same day. 

Last year, we partially addressed this problem by instituting a rule that allowed students to reschedule an exam when they had more than two scheduled on the same day. This year we want to go further. Each academic block will have an assigned day of the week on which teachers who teach in that block will schedule those major summative assessments -- the unit tests, major essays, or culminating research projects. By following this schedule, we will force the evening out of workload that our students have been requesting.

There will, of course, still be daily homework. Teachers will still give smaller formative assessments without restriction (reading quizzes, vocabulary quizzes, short math and science quizzes, etc.). All the research on learning demonstrates the value of frequent, low-stakes formative assessments, so students should expect to see them with the same frequency as they always have. What is new -- and crucial, we believe -- is our commitment to spread the major summative assessments out over the days of the week. 

In addition to implementing the major assessment schedule, we are committing to having all assessments graded and returned to students before final exams. We feel this practice will be helpful in preparing students most effectively to do their best on the final.

Here is a link to the summative assessment schedule showing the assigned days for each academic block. We are hopeful that students will appreciate the more evenly distributed workload, and will learn more effectively as a result.

We will, of course, provide opportunities as school gets underway for students to ask questions and seek clarification on any details. We invite any parents with questions to reach out as well. 

Thanks for your attention to this important announcement. We are excited to see the students back on campus on Tuesday!

Brandon B. Bennett, PhD
Associate Head of School