I hope that you had a safe, happy, and restful holiday and were able to spend some time with friends and family. I wanted to kick off the New Year with a post about one of the biggest changes coming to Somersworth High School for next school year. As many of you know, for the last several years SHS has had a number of iterations of a schedule featuring a daily advisory. This program, termed “Futures,” was originally intended to address deficiencies in literacy through silent and sustained reading but, over the years, has morphed to the point that it now operates as a short homeroom time with intermittent formal programming.
In preparation for the 2020-2021 school year we are looking at options for the introduction of a new schedule which would feature a “Flex Block.” This 30-40 minute block of time would allow for both goal-oriented advisory (formerly Futures) as well as create an established time during the day for student remediation and enrichment.
Essentially, in a “Flex” type schedule, students meet with their advisors (at least once) weekly and are scheduled for academic support for the remainder of the week. The beauty of this type of program is its flexibility. For example, the first week of the school year may be set aside for advisory while the week before finals could include a majority of intervention days.
For students who struggle to demonstrate proficiency, are behind in core competencies, or simply need an opportunity to work 1:1 or in small groups with teachers, this time is incredibly effective. For those who are caught up in their studies, completing advanced course-work, or would like to pursue a hobby or wellness venture, they could have access to enrichment type activities. Finally, students who, for a variety of reasons from athletics to work and extra-curricular activities, do not have time to meet with teachers after school would have greater access to resources and the opportunity to work independently or collaboratively with peers.
“Flex” scheduling can also help to address some of the system-wide operational needs that will traditionally require students to be pulled from class. Things like school assemblies, class meetings, picture re-takes, and student surveys for example, can make use of this time. As this schedule also includes a robust advisory component, the “Flex Time” can also be used to support students in the scheduling process and with college applications. It is also a great time for the school to disseminate information, and can serve as a “working” period for student leadership.
For faculty, one of the realities of our current schedule is that there is very little time during the day for teachers to engage in professional learning together, either in departments or cross-disciplinary teams. Getting staff together is one of the most important components of school improvement and it is our goal that a portion of this “flex” time be set aside for faculty to work in small groups developing curriculum, improving instruction, and calibrating assessments.
The largest benefit to this type of schedule is in the time it gives during the school day for us to support and meet the needs of our students. So much of what is good and necessary about high school happens outside of the classroom. From targeted behavioral interventions to socio-emotional supports and groups. From small group tutoring to event planning. From IEP goal-setting to the strong working relationships developed between students and staff over four years. If we can dedicate time for these things during the school day, the impact will be positive, substantial, and felt by the entire community.
Below, I have included a number of links to professional research about “Flex” scheduling. If you have any questions about this or any other topic please do not hesitate to reach out.
Why Create a Flex Block?
Flex Blocks, Personalized Learning, and Disruptive Innovation.
Research, Best Practices, and Local Examples