Gates Foundation funds resources to help schools 'unlock time'
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a $2.2 million grant to make free resources available to school leaders who are redesigning their schedules to better fit personalized, project-based and other learning models that call for flexibility.
- Led by Abl, a San Francisco-based company that develops master school scheduling tools, the Unlocking Time initiative features online resources related to bell schedules, case studies from schools, and the School Time Assessment — a survey that school leaders can administer to learn more about how they use time.
- Abl staff members will use data collected from the survey to share with schools how they can use time more efficiently, and the results will also inform a national "Unlocking Time" report that will include strategies to help leaders create more “agile, responsive schools,” according to a press release.
Teachers and school leaders have increasingly recognized that traditional class periods of the same length make less sense when students are moving at their own pace online, and they can also stand in the way of giving teachers more time for collaboration. Creating personalized schedules for students, regrouping students on a daily basis, and using elective teachers in different ways are a couple of the methods schools have used to make time more of an asset instead of an obstacle. But experts say that the challenge lies in taking a model that works for one school and scaling it across a district.
Green Street Academy, a charter school in West Baltimore, has tried several innovative scheduling modifications, including moving from five to eight periods in high school, holding middle school advisory periods in the morning — and then switching it to one afternoon a week — and having weekly one-to-one check-ins with students.
"All of these attempts were to maximize time in the classroom and looking for ways to provide additional intervention for children," Executive Director Crystal Harden-Lindsey, said in an email. Administrators also tried to observe and provide teachers with feedback on a set schedule, but that plan was later replaced with sending specialists to meet with teachers individually, based on their needs.
Harden-Lindsey also serves as a member of the Unlocking Time advisory board, which will work with Abi and other organizations to develop solutions. “This is about bridging the massive gap between innovative ideas and the complexity of implementing those ideas within schools,” she said in the press release.
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