Promises of a slow-paced day and more in-depth learning dangled before us like carrots in April 2011, when faculty members introduced students to the idea of a new schedule. 75-minute blocks! Office hours! Ten-minute passing periods! Less rush! So, how is the new schedule really working out?
Pretty well, according to the results of the New Schedule Survey students took in early October. Students complained that ten-minute passing periods between blocks were too long, and that the four-day-week schedule of short periods was too rushed, but other than that students were generally positive about the effects the new schedule has had on their lives. On Dec. 6, in response to the major areas of complaint, the administration announced that the second semester schedule would be altered so that each class will meet twice for 75 minutes each rather than three times for 45 minutes each during four-day weeks, and that the time spent in ten-minute passing periods will be reallocated to create a more consistent break.
Students seem to be responding well to the changes.
“I thought ten-minute passing periods were too long, so I’m glad they’re changing that. And I wanted a break,” Alex ’14 said.
Of the 316 students who took the survey, 70% said they like the schedule a lot or somewhat better that the daily schedule from last year, and 24% say their stress level has decreased as a result of the new schedule, compared with only 4% who say their stress level has increased because of it. According to Director of Upper School and Assistant Head of School Laura Hotchkiss, the survey results were fairly consistent.
“The results were very positive, and the only negatives really were that students wanted the times [to be] more predictable, and [said] that ten-minute passing periods are too long. Many students also are also requesting a [longer, more consistent] break, something the faculty is looking into,” Hotchkiss said.
While the survey reflects the many positive aspects of the schedule, including the slower pace of the day and the reduced homework load on block days, it may have failed to fully capture the student response to the changes. Some students think that the new schedule is making it hard to get through content-heavy AP classes and is increasing the amount of self-directed review they have to do at home because their classes meet fewer times than they would have last year.
Director of Academic and Administrative Technology Stuart Posin said he believes that the survey accurately reflected student opinion, even if it failed to ask about certain things. “I was surprised by the clear answers the survey produced, and I do think we actually asked the right questions… but we didn’t ask any questions about adherence to the homework policy,” Posin said.
Another issue with the new schedule that students have been discussing involves Honors Research, which the survey failed to ask about. Honors Research student Annie ’12 mentioned the adverse effect the new schedule has had on the ability of students to go off-campus to their laboratories to study.
“The whole point of me having I and B free was so that I could go to the lab with a big chunk of time free, but with the new schedule they never come together,” Annie said, referring to the fact that the letter periods in the new schedule do not always appear in alphabetical order, as they did in previous years.
While students pointed to a more relaxed pace and longer periods for art classes as positive side effects of the new schedule, some feel that the survey may have failed to fully capture student opinion.