Beginning in the Fall of 2015, Carroll will implement a new daily academic schedule that seeks to better deliver to each student what she or he most needs. A small but motivated group of parents accepted our invitation to come into school on June 1, 2015 for a discussion of the new schedule, and that meeting generated a list of important frequently asked questions:
Why was there a need to change the academic schedule?
- The current schedule lacks flexibility. Once a student’s schedule was formed in the summertime, it was extremely difficult to make alterations. As children learn and grow, the schedule needs to be able to respond; our current schedule, despite our best efforts to accommodate, is too locked down.
- If a child’s greatest need is language remediation, the current schedule is quite effective in delivering those services. If the child’s greatest need is something other than language remediation, our schedule is rarely supple enough to respond.
- The combination of structured, focused academics with targeted cognitive interventions (designed to remove a child’s learning obstacles) is proving to be powerful in generating better outcomes for students. The schedule needs to respond to the new reality of how best to help Carroll children.
What was the process to create this change? Was it inclusive?
- The Academic Leadership Team (ALT) has been studying potential improvements to the schedule for three years.
- Throughout the three years of study, ALT continually tested out ideas with the faculty. New schedule ideas were cross-referenced with ongoing feedback from parents about how best to help their children succeed.
- Carroll hired a consulting firm, Independent School Management, to study Carroll and then offer recommendations of how best to proceed.
- ALT developed a list of guiding principles by which the assess any schedule change proposals.
- Integration of Curricular Topics and Activities
- Differentiated Course Offerings According to Children’s Greatest Needs
- Cognitive Development
- Project Based Learning Opportunities
- Social Emotional Learning
- Developmentally Appropriate
- More Time for Math
- Teacher Collaboration
- A Combination of Longer and Shorter Blocks
What does the new schedule look like?
- The Lower School and Middle School (including C8/9) schedules are different, in developmentally appropriate ways. Therefore, it is not possible to post a single visual model of the schedule that will be accurate for each grade level. Yet there are commonalities. Therefore, a sample for the Lower School and a sample for the Middle School are attached at the end of this message.
- The new schedules feature a rotation so that a given class meets at different times on different days. This addresses an existing problem with important classes that always meet at the same time of day, often catching a child at his or her worst learning cycle.
- The new schedules also provide a combination of longer blocks (roughly 60 minutes) and shorter blocks (about 45 minutes) to provide variation each day for deeper and more hands-on learning experiences.
- There are fewer transitions from activity to activity in the new schedule, supporting increased learning time.
- Any particular class meets frequently but not every day in the rotation. Actually, with our existing Friday routine, classes don’t meet every day under current circumstances.
- The new menu of classes will include a period called Flex Block, which is perhaps the most important of the changes we have made to the schedule.
What is Flex Block?
- Flex Block is a period of the day in which we are able to design a more flexible response to what a child most needs.
- Flex plays out a little differently at different grade levels, but the basic concept is consistent throughout the school.
- We will be able to provide cognitive interventions, academic skill development based on analysis of a child’s needs, project-based learning experiences, and health education.
- Flex Block also allows us to remove from classes some of the necessary but derailing programming that is currently stuffed into the academic classroom time.
What is the impact of schedule change on language remediation programming?
- Carroll is uniquely designed to address the language basis of a child’s learning struggles. We believe the new schedule has done nothing to impair that focus and, in the case of some children, the new schedule improves our ability to customize and focus.
- ALT committed to the following statement before engaging in schedule change: The indisputable top priority in Carroll School’s academic program is language remediation and language development for children with language based learning difficulties, such as dyslexia. Any alteration in the academic schedule that diminishes the school’s effectiveness in teaching language skills would be debilitating to our students. Our current schedule enables us to focus on teaching decoding, encoding, comprehension, vocabulary, and oral and written expression in profound ways to each of our students. With a clear understanding of this #1 goal, we sought improvements to the schedule.
- For a student who greatest need is concentrate on language and reading remediation, the new schedule does nothing to jeopardize that focus.
Does this allow for more time for math?
- Yes. The new schedule provides more time for math for virtually all middle school students.
- For those lower school students where it is evident to the Lower School Academic Leadership Team that math is the primary weakness facing a child, we are able to structure Flex Block to provide more math time.
How does the schedule change impact other academic areas?
- ALT has analyzed the frequency and quantity of academic learning times.
- Adding Flex Block to the schedule affects other subject areas, but ALT was careful to protect essential components of our existing program especially in language areas and in math.
- Content areas, such as history and science, benefit from the new schedule due to the longer blocks where more in-depth work can be accomplished, including projects and lab-based learning. Similarly, the Multis will experience the same changes in frequency of meeting and longer blocks for instruction and activities.
How will parents find out what their children are doing during flex block?
Parents will learn of their children’s Flex Block focus over the summer and more specifically during fall parent conferences.