Silly thought experiments arise when one begins to think significantly about designing school schedules; a Sisyphean task that means models for 2019-20 school days are already occupying partially discarded pieces of paper on my desk. Noon may not be at 4:00 PM, but this does not negate the problem that drives the absurdly formulated question. Specifically, students tend to learn better in the morning than in the after NOON. Ergo, it would be ideal if no learning took place after NOON.
This is not to say learning does not take place in the afternoon. Of course it does - our classrooms are full of meaningful and value-added educational experiences deployed by strategically thinking classroom experts. It is also not to say that learning that takes place at 5:00 AM is more effective than learning that takes place at 7:00 PM. For every CEO functioning on four hours of sleep there's hundreds of children suffering the neurological cost of sleep deprivation.
All stated, the reality is the overwhelming majority of school days take place in the range of time between 7:00 AM and 5:00 PM. ISDenver's academic hours, 8:30AM - 3:30 PM comfortably fit within this range. It is also a reality that instruction must take place in the after NOON time-slot. Nevertheless, one can be intentional with how classes and periods are distributed.
Subject Placements in the School Schedule
At ISDenver, we strive to be intentional about placement of subjects in our schedule. There is a wealth of literature on the subject matter (cf. Carrell et al, 2011; Wheaton, 2016), however it would be fair to argue that this debate is primarily centered around the start time of classes. Over the past two years, I have been heavily influenced by Nolan Pope's research on the organisation of academic subjects in a school schedule. Pope's study of over two million school days and his conclusion that 'Math classes are more affected by the time of day than are English classes' (Pope, 2016 p. 10). There's a flexibility in Pope's approach that appeals to my pragmatic disposition - there's no way to ensure all learning happens before NOON so let's maximise the effectiveness of what we do in our school day. Consequently, I continue to ensure that all Mathematics classes taught by subject area specialists in our Upper School take place before lunchtime. For me, this is about being "intentional" - thinking through a problem and designing a solution which is both sustainable and effective.
Implementation of Target Language in MYP
The implementation of Grade 6 Target Language Individuals and Societies this year is another example of being "Intentional". Providing French, Spanish and Chinese learners with the opportunities to have c. 30% of their Grade 6 education in the target language was a long-term goal of mine given the success of this model in our peer schools in Atlanta, Indiana and Houston. However, making changes to our schedule to make this change took some time and required a critical mass of students to enroll into our Grade 6 before the economies of scale supported the educational preference. In a world with a bountiful operational budget and significantly more staffing, we might be able to offer a world of alternative options to supplement our MYP.
Enhancing School Learning
Our school will continue to develop and modify its service provision in our Upper School to enhance what we educational experts believe to be the learning of your children. We put significant thought into these changes and consider many variables before we make modifications). Ahead of 2019-20 we will doubtless consider the plausible, the possible, the likely, the "that'll never happen" and the "wouldn't it be nice". At all stages, our conversations in the Upper School are guided by the determining principle - "would this be good for learning?" and the secondary question "would we want this for our own children?".
Do take a moment to read some of the older blog posts if they take your interest and, remember to read e-News for school updates.