Flex Schedules Allow High School Students and Teachers More Time to Learn and Collaborate

     Published on 11/30/15   Tagged under:    District News   

Several SCSD high schools are experimenting with a new schedule this year, in an effort to boost student achievement by giving them more time for in-depth learning, while also providing teachers with more time for planning, collaboration and professional development.
 
Called a flex schedule, different versions are in use at Fowler/PSLA, Henninger, ITC and Nottingham. Each schedule is targeted to the school students and staff to maximize both instructional and planning time.
 
At PSLA, core subjects have been restructured to meet four days a week, rather than five, leaving a full ‘flex’ day each week to be used for students’ electives. Courses are extended in time, adding 45 minutes to last year’s schedule which leaves teachers more time to dig in to the content and students more time to make connections.
 
“We can now respond to our students’ academic needs quicker because we meet once a week to discuss issues that come up, as well as a plan to address them,” PSLA Principal Matt Williams explained. “The schedule leaves less room for students to slip through the cracks.”
 
In 9th and 10th grade, English and Social Studies classes have been combined into a Humanities cluster, while Math and Science have been combined into a STEM cluster. Teachers of these courses are matched up and placed in neighboring classrooms, allowing them to work together in blended learning opportunities over the course of three 48-minute periods each day.
 
“These blended learning opportunities allow us to think outside of the box and enhance students’ skills by creating lessons that cross curriculum areas,” Mr. Williams said. “It has led to a change in our educational structure and a stronger, more efficient team structure.”
 
Students now have staggered transition times so the building is maximizing efficiency and instruction time. Teachers are allowed structured common time to plan and respond to student needs.
 
“The in-house PD has provided me with time and opportunity to learn best practices and to participate in collegial discussions which promote improved instruction and relationships,” English teacher Kristina Sokolic said. “It has offered a venue for veteran teachers and new teachers to share ideas and ask questions about new district initiatives and instructional practices.”
 
At ITC, teachers in the Pathways in Technology Early High School College (P-Tech) program use a modified flex schedule format, in which each P-Tech teacher has one flex day when they do not teach class so they are more available to plan lessons and assist students.
 
“The goal is to increase student achievement by giving us more time to plan,” science teacher Julie Sherman explained. “This schedule allows us to be more creative in how we do things like Regents review—sometimes, we would be restricted to working with students during one lunch period or after school. This opens up more possibilities.”
 
P-Tech staff also say the flex schedule gives them the time to collaborate with teachers in other content areas.
 
Social Studies teacher Mike Krupa said his flex day allowed him time to sit in on another social studies class to see what the other teacher was doing and to collaborate. A math teacher said she has been able to collaborate with some geometry teachers at Henninger.
 
At Nottingham, a type of flex schedule is in effect in a Humanities cluster, as all Social Studies and ELA teachers have daily common planning time with embedded professional development during the school day. Teachers meet with a coach every Monday and receive PD around a specific element of instruction to support shifts in the common core standards and set out an agenda for the meetings for the rest of the week. Each pairing receives a task to complete within the week, and that task is addressed on the following Monday meeting.
 
“Our schedule is increasing the time allotted for monitoring of student data and providing time for teachers to plan and collaborate,” English and Special Education teacher Jodi Burnash explained. “This results in instructional practices that promote high levels of student engagement and leads to increased student achievement with all of our student populations.”
 
Nottingham teachers have been trained and asked to review student work and make plans for aligning re-teaching, investigate reliable sources for finding informational texts to support core content, look for trends in Regents exams across content pairings, plan projects and activities that involve students working together across contents and more.
 
Thank you to our staff who have been so receptive to these new schedules, which aim to create a more effective, efficient school environment for students and staff alike!