In April, the Deerfield community implemented a No-Accountability-Points trial, during which APs were not given to students for missing commitments. The Student Council devised this plan to see if students could be held accountable without the force of Accountability Points. This meant that if a student missed an event, such as a class or practice, there would be no definite “punishment.” Instead, students were encouraged to communicate with their teachers when they planned on missing an appointment.
The community could keep track of the trial’s progress on The Daily Bulletin, which charted the number of missed commitments. It has since been reported that the information might have been inaccurate because many did not bother to send emails to get their justified absences cleared as there was no incentive to do so. Furthermore, it has been reported that teachers were more strict on assigning APs for tardiness and dress code during the trial.
Dean of Students Amie Creagh said, “The purpose of the trial was to see if we could rely on a sense of personal responsibility and accountability to the broader community in making decisions about how we prioritize our commitments.”
Maggie Shilling ’14, chair of Student Council, explained, “The question we posed before deciding to implement the trial was—do we keep trying to change the culture and then implement something, or do we go ahead and implement something that could change the culture?”
Shilling elaborated: “The fact of the matter is that over the past four years we’ve tried to change the school culture, with the respect statement and the honor code, and we have seen that we are not going to be able to change the culture before we do something. That’s why we decided to give it a shot.”
“The other half of the AP trial run,” she continued, “was that we wanted to encourage face-to-face interaction, and have more of a moral will for students to be accountable themselves. If a student skipped class they would have to email their teacher, or if they skipped a meal they would have to contact their table head. I think a huge flaw in APs is that a student can miss a commitment, receive an automatically generated email and they’re fine, without any real accountability.”
Originally the trial was to run for a total of four weeks, but, as Shilling noted, “The AP trial ended early because there was a huge drop in attendance.”
“But that was just because of the data on The Daily Bulletin,” she said. “If it were up to me, I would have taken a closer look and seen who was actually skipping what, before ending the trial.”
Looking to future reform, she said, “The Council has been brainstorming ways to incorporate positive reinforcement, because we think that’s the way we can bridge a very punitive and more or less allowance system, to [its] being a system where students are expected to go to attend every commitment. . . . One idea is not assigning APs for missing classes. Students are currently given 12 APs per term, which can be used for missing classes. That implies that it is okay for them to skip three classes a term. ”
“The Council agrees that the trial was not, in any way, a failure,” Shilling concludes. “We learned that we cannot change a culture overnight.”