- Many school leaders are looking for innovative ways to find more time for teacher collaboration and implement models, such as personalized learning. But they often don’t consider redesigning school schedules to allow for more flexibility during the school day, The Hechinger Report notes.
- Furman Brown, CEO and co-founder of Tegy, a school scheduling design consultancy, stresses the need for schools to rethink traditional ideas about class length, the number of class periods in a day, and the time set aside for lunch. Some of these ideas include varying class lengths and time depending on the content, building in time for teacher collaboration, and employing team-teaching techniques that can reduce student-to-teacher ratios without increasing staff size.
- The Unlocking Time Project, which is operated by Abl, an education software company, and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also offers access to free resources that can help schools examine school scheduling options, along with 17 different strategies schools are currently using. The organization is also researching approaches to school scheduling to open up a larger conversation about how time is spent at school.
Discovering the best way to structure the time that students and staff members spend at school is a challenge. As school leaders rethink educational spaces, a related issue is how time is used in those spaces. This is a growing area of research, and some schools have made changes, such as starting school at later times, personalizing student schedules, incorporating the use of master schedules for students, and creating fewer and longer class periods.
Some school districts employ block schedules in high school so students are taking only three or four classes a day instead of seven or eight. Other schools are experimenting with “power lunches” that build in time for self-selected enrichment opportunities or additional tutoring time.
The idea of creating innovative school schedules is not new. In a 1995 article, Robert Lynn Canady and Michael D. Rettig laid out a case for rethinking the issue. More recently, a Center for American Progress report recommended that the school day allow for more teacher preparation and collaboration. The authors note that teachers in the U.S. spend roughly 27 hours of every week in active instruction, much higher than teachers in high-performing countries, such as Finland or Singapore.
“Effective school schedules maximize the time teachers spend with their students but also recognize teachers’ additional responsibilities beyond instructional time,” the report noted. “Unfortunately, not enough schools successfully balance these priorities.”