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UPrep’s New Schedule: Student-Centered and Built for Student Success

We are excited that our new daily schedule reflects many of the Challenge Success principles to allow our students to thrive.

Matt Levinson, Head of School

Stanford-based Challenge Success, founded and led by Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, takes a comprehensive approach to help schools rethink, reimagine, and implement changes to improve student success with student health and wellness as a core principle.  

We are excited that our new daily schedule reflects many of the Challenge Success principles to allow our students to thrive. We used Denise’s book, Overloaded and Underprepared as one of our resources to design our new schedule. (On September 25, Denise Pope will be conducting a workshop for our faculty during professional development and speaking at a Parent Education Event co-sponsored by UPrep and the Northwest School that evening.)

On the Challenge Success website, they share a story of a student bound by a traditional school schedule:  "The traditional school schedule was so rushed that students had no time to meet with teachers, to have breaks during the school day, or even sometimes to eat lunch.”  

Sound familiar?  This is what our students had been combatting, especially on our Blue Days, where all seven classes met with a 30-minute lunch period.  The helter skelter pace of the Blue Day left students bewildered at the end of the day, facing up to seven classes of homework at the start and end of each week. 

Challenge Success goes on to explain the shift in the quality of student life when a school makes a schedule change to bolster student success coupled with student health and wellness:  

"Instead of a traditional schedule, they adopted a modified block schedule, with a seven day rotation, four seventy-five minute classes a day, a common work period, and a daily meeting/club period. Now Maddy wouldn’t have to scramble during lunch to meet with a teacher, and she would have two days to do homework in between classes.”

Our new schedule mirrors the new schedule described above.  We have moved to a seven-day rotation, with four 70-minute classes per day, a common work period in the morning before classes begin, and a daily community time where meetings and clubs will happen.  

Schools that have moved to the type of schedule we have adopted report significant positive changes to school culture and an improved academic experience where students are able to dig deep and focus on fewer classes per day, while also being able to personalize learning during the school day through one-on-one and small group meetings between students and teachers.  In fact, one school reported that one of its students said, as a result of having four longer classes per day, instead of seven classes: “I can now remember what happened during first period at the end of the day.”  

The early days of implementation have revealed a notable difference in the daily pace for students and teachers. 

New Daily Academic Schedule:  Highlights

·         Overall, the new schedule is more student-centered than our previous schedule.

·         Longer, but fewer class periods each day provide the opportunity for more in depth learning, greater academic focus, and a more reasonable and sustainable daily and weekly pace and rhythm.  Each day, a student has up to four class periods of 70 minutes in length.  Nightly homework centers on fewer subjects and more depth.  

·         One of the key takeaways from Challenge Success was the need to design a schedule that allowed for more meaningful, substantive interactions between faculty and students and to include time for non-academic activities during the school day.  Our new schedule addresses both of these issues.    

·         The late start benefits bus riders who now will have access to see their teachers for extra help and work with their peers on group projects.  This underscores our ongoing commitment to educational equity and access.  For those students who have different transportation options, the late start allows those students to arrive early or in time for the start of first period at 8:25 a.m.  Another benefit of the new start time is that it mitigates traffic flow and congestion, which is positive for the neighborhood.  

·         The seven-day rotation ensures variety in terms of when an individual class meets during the cycle.  For example, math class will be first period on one day and last period on another day of the cycle.  If a student is more of a morning person or more of an afternoon person, the new schedule provides equal benefits.  

·         Class times occur at the same time each day to create predictability and structure to reduce the number of transitions a student encounters in the daily schedule.  

·         Daily community time gives space for clubs and other co-curricular activities to take place.  Under our previous schedule, students and teachers were often scrambling to find time to meet during lunch.  And, the community time is another opportunity for students to meet with teachers or to collaborate with peers on a group project.  An important point to note:  in our prior schedule, we had daily community time of 25 minutes per day, with the exception of an 80-minute community time on Flex Days. 

·         For seniors, the new schedule is especially beneficial, as the first semester pace of senior year is often harried and challenging as students try to juggle their academics and extracurricular activities, along with college essay applications and test preparation.  By reducing the number of classes per day, but creating time for increased depth, seniors will be able to better manage and focus on fewer things per day.  We have long wanted to address this particular stress point for our first semester seniors, and the new schedule takes considerable steps to create a healthier daily pace to mitigate and moderate student stress, while strengthening our academic program with sharper student focus on a daily basis. 





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