Upper School takes a close look at the daily schedule
By Upper School Dean Jay Harvey
Last year, under the thoughtful and impressive leadership of Academic Dean Randy Granger, the Upper School undertook a review and study of the daily class schedule. In February 2016, Independent School Management (ISM) Senior Consultant Simon Jeynes spent a week with us. At the conclusion of that visit, we were as wowed by his thorough understanding of our school as we were by his blunt assessment of how we could better serve our students and faculty.
Throughout the late winter and spring we all participated in healthy, mindful reflection on who we are and who we want to be as a school through the prism of Mr. Jeynes’ learned study. We debated, we studied, and we reflected leading up to a recommendation at the conclusion of the school year in May.
The collective wisdom of the body has been heard and earlier this summer Randy and I took the recommendation of moving to the seven-day rotating schedule to President Kevin Rea. After further reflection with Kevin this summer, I am happy to report that we plan to implement this new schedule in the fall of 2017. It is difficult to fully explain the seven-day rotating schedule in this format but I want you to know that we will be holding presentations for parents throughout the year.
Since the inception of this conversation about a year ago, Randy has emphasized that we review our schedule from a position of strength. Our talented faculty have continued, year in and year out, using our rigid 1-8 schedule, to deliver on the promise to provide a challenging, rich curriculum to our diverse and exceptional student body. But there is room for improvement as well as a step forward, and I believe we make this change also from a position of strength bolstered by the path of careful reflection and honest debate that got us here.
Mr. Jeynes, in his report, is convinced that a change such as this will provide these anticipated outcomes:
• Better student learning
• Happier community
• Better ability to meet the needs of each unique student
• Professional learning community of teachers
• Remaining competitive to bolster admission
• Clarity about mission
• Improved mission delivery
And here are some comments from the faculty:
• Difference in class lengths will foster the introduction of more varied teaching methods.
• My understanding is that we want to make school transformative. We want to change it from ‘grind’ to learning ‘experience’.
• This change will move our classrooms toward a model where the teacher is less the center of the action.
• Students will be less stressed and hopefully won’t be living test to test.
• The extended period will give us more time to work on more in-depth writing and speaking skills.
“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Jack Welch
Change, particularly at an institution preparing to celebrate its 175th birthday in the not too distant future, can be daunting. We will have to rethink the way we do many things here from assemblies to lunch to labs to curriculum sequences. Here are a few things we will be looking to do this year to help this change run as smoothly as possible for everyone.
1. We will contact ISM and get a list of regional schools that have undergone similar change. We will support faculty visits to those schools.
2. We will explore bringing in a speaker who is an expert in the transition to a schedule of this type.
3. We will create time to utilize our own staff who have taught in this structure previously.
4. We will set aside seven consecutive days in the winter term to run through a complete cycle of this change. This will give us a chance to experience potential challenges and address them fully before the opening of school next fall.
5. Randy will lead a conversation with the department chairs on potential modifications to the seven-day template that Mr. Jeynes left for us.
6. We will meet with student leaders early in the year to get them involved in the planning for the change.
7. We will continue to create Professional Learning Community time for faculty so that their concerns can be heard and we can all share in the transition equally.
This is an exciting and understandably apprehensive time for all of us. However, I am quite sure that the positive energy I felt after Simon departed will be affirmed by this decision. Your continued support and input is a must. Thank you to the parents who participated in the study last year. We will keep parents informed as we prepare to make this significant change. We move forward together!