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 February 19, 2019

Dear FIRSTNAME,

 

After 18 months of research and collaboration among faculty, department heads, and the upper division leadership team, we have finalized the details of a new schedule that allows us both to optimize all that we know about adolescent learning and to better attend to our students' wellbeing. I write to share and explain this schedule, which will be implemented for the 2019-20 school year. Our teachers have embraced these upcoming changes with tremendous enthusiasm, and we hope you will receive this news with similar excitement.


This change is the first major alteration to the school's daily schedule since 1981. Our process was supported by Independent School Management, the leading independent school consultants on scheduling, and included interviews with school leaders at other institutions, as well as the results of the student survey we conducted earlier this year with the help of Challenge Success.

 

As we considered models, we kept in mind the following design criteria:

  • Increase opportunities for inquiry-based, learner-centered teaching and learning
  • Reduce emphasis on content coverage by creating opportunities for exploring topics in greater depth
  • Increase opportunities for experiential, place-based learning
  • Retain and expand dedicated time for community activities and extra help for students
  • Dedicate more time to advisory work
  • Reduce the frenetic pace of the day
  • Minimize the number of transitions from one class straight into another
  • Reduce the nightly homework load
  • Create space for the arts more consistently within the schedule
  • Reduce focus on final exams/summative testing

 

After presenting two options to the faculty, we gathered and reviewed feedback. A clear consensus emerged in favor of one of the two options, and we adjusted this preferred schedule to take into account a strongly expressed need for a dedicated extra help period for students. The new schedule can be viewed here, and we have also created two examples of what a student schedule might look like (one for a student taking six classes, and one for a student taking five).

 

The key features worth noting are as follows:

  • Classes meet for 70 minutes, with four classes per day. Longer class periods allow for much greater depth of study, time for a variety of activities in a single class and the opportunity to reflect and review at the end of each lesson.
  • By reducing the number of classes per day, with classes meeting every other day, we have reduced the amount of homework due on any given day. On average, students will have three classes per day so will only have three homework assignments per night (as opposed to up to six in our current schedule)
  • The rotating, eight-day schedule results in classes meeting at different times and on different days each week. This eliminates the inequitable impact on certain classes of early athletics dismissals and a disproportionate number of Mondays and Fridays without school (for national holidays, in-service days, etc.)
  • There are no direct transitions from one class into another. Research shows that a significant amount of instructional time is lost when students have to adjust to a new class immediately after leaving a different subject. An absence of direct transitions also eliminates time lost to designated "passing periods."
  • With only one class meeting after 1:30 pm, fewer classes will be impacted by early athletics dismissals
  • The dedicated extra help period gives all students access to teachers, regardless of whether they have a free period that aligns with their teacher (as is the case in our current schedule). This slot in the schedule can also be used for individual advisory meetings.
  • Fifty minutes each day is dedicated to non-academic, social-emotional and community curriculum (e.g. advisory, assemblies, clubs and activities, senior forum).
  • The start of the school day will remain at 8:30 a.m., after a successful trial of a later start time this year.

 

In addition to the change in the daily schedule, the upper division will shift to two semesters, as opposed to the trimester system currently in place (the lower and middle divisions will also move to two semesters). This allows greater time between reporting periods, promotes greater depth of study in single term courses, and reduces the number of formal summative exam periods (thereby reclaiming a minimum of five instructional days). The change to semesters supports the goal of slowing the pace of the school year and allows grades to be based on a greater volume of assessment data. This in turn reduces the effect of one bad assessment on a term grade and gives teachers more information on which to base their midterm feedback comments. You can view the academic calendar for the 2019-20 school year here.


The significance of this schedule change cannot be overstated. Stevenson has followed the same daily schedule for over thirty years, and we have learned a great deal about how children learn in this time. The current schedule limits the range of teaching strategies we can use in the classroom, and the daily rhythm of preparing for every class, every day creates a relentless pace for teachers and students. The most compelling evidence in support of this change came from both ISM research and conversations with schools who have made a schedule change: hundreds of schools nationwide have moved away from the schedule we currently employ, and none have changed back.


Now that we have finalized the critical details around our new schedule, our faculty is committed to using the months ahead to preparing to teach in 70-minute classes. We have committed our February in-service day, Monday morning faculty meetings, and summer professional development funds to this task, and the faculty optimism around the impact this change will bring is truly quite remarkable. We will continue to reach out to peer schools to learn from their experience of teaching in longer blocks, and several of our current faculty already have taught in similar schedules.


A change such as this inevitably stimulates questions and we have prepared an FAQ for commonly asked questions. We will also host a parent information session during the spring trimester, so keep an eye out for further communication on this, which we will broadcast and record for those unable to attend in person. We are grateful for your support as we launch this significant evolution of the Stevenson student experience.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Daniel Griffiths
Head of Upper Division

STEVENSON SCHOOL

3152 Forest Lake Road • Pebble Beach, CA 93953 • 831-625-8300

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