St. Agnes and Strake Jesuit joined forces to partner with Independent School Management (ISM) to find a bell schedule that would more appropriately fit our student culture. The bell schedule change is part of a larger initiative by St. Agnes to lower student stress level while maintaining a vigorous learning environment.
The current bell schedule, in place since the 1980's, is no longer conducive to the modern classroom. Since then, our student body, programs, course offerings, facilities, and technology use have all progressed. The new bell schedule enhances our ability to deliver a Dominican education in light of these evolving parameters.
ISM presented a variety of recommendations, allowing for more active learning time. We are confident our new schedule will facilitate our students' ability to live out our four pillars to study, preach, pray, and be together in community.
With longer class periods, our faculty can spend more time actively engaging students in the classroom instead of focusing solely on covering content. With an hour, students can dive deeper, discuss and collaborate, and let concepts sink in.
An Academy woman will have a maximum of five classes to prepare for each day. With an eight-day cycle, each student will have at least one free period, allowing them time to visit with a counselor, catch up on tasks, or even meet up with friends to collaborate. Homework is only assigned the day a class meets. Faculty are developing guidelines to keep student homework to two hours or less for the typical well-placed student.
Our community time will allow clubs and advisory to meet, taking the pressure off the lunch period. Students will have more predictability about their already-hectic schedules and can commit their lunch period to focusing on food and friendship.
The average student takes 13 minutes to transition, mentally, from one subject to another. With the new schedule, students will have fewer transitions a day. This helps both students and faculty utilize more class time.
Teachers will be available during community time and during their set office hours. And, as always, students are empowered to set a time before or after school that works for both them and the faculty member.
St. Agnes began the investigation into our bell schedule a few years ago. St. Agnes and Strake Jesuit formed a joint committee to study how schools can use time more effectively. They looked at information from Challenge Success, Independent School Management and more. Putting our students' well-being first, St. Agnes decided it was time for a change to our 30-year-old, mostly unchanged, schedule. Partnering with Strake Jesuit, St. Agnes hired Independent School Management to take a deep dive into our school culture and provide us with suggestions on improving our use of time.
ISM interviewed students and faculty in small groups. They also provided a survey which all of our students took in homeroom. They poured over schedules, marketing materials, campus maps, and had a detailed site visit. After much reflection, ISM presented their findings to both schools together.
The study did not end there. St. Agnes and Strake Jesuit took the suggestions from ISM and worked together to provide a tailored version for our unique needs. While we strongly believe this schedule will greatly benefit our students, teachers, and even family life as a whole, we know this new schedule will not be a magic bullet. We encourage you to continue to partner with us as we work towards the best possible student experience for our Academy women.
Advisories will meet on Wednesdays during community time. Beginning with the Class of 2022, advisories will be about 12 students in size, allowing each student a small group to meet with. Classes 2019-2021 will continue to meet with their homerooms during this period. Advisory will allow students to discuss and prepare for upcoming assemblies, receive grade-level-specific information, and more. We plan to hone advisory programming over the next four years.
Each day will have an hour of community time for students to meet with their clubs, meet with a teacher or counselor, or even attend Tuesday Mass. Community time frees up our once jam-packed lunch period. During community time, students may find a nice quiet spot in the library or visit the new Student Commons for camaraderie—the campus will be mostly open for all students.
Faculty have had mandatory inservice over the last few years focused on engaged learning teaching. Topics have ranged from thinking outside of the box with The Creativity Workshop to cooperative learning with Kagan Publishing and Professional Development. Independent School Management also gave a presentation on teaching in a longer period to our faculty. The entire faculty is working in departmental groups to prepare for next year.
All students are required to be on campus by 8 a.m. The Dean of Students Office will have several check-in stations available for students who have a free period during first period. No matter the first period class, be it the academy support period or a scheduled open lab, all students are expected to be on campus by 8 a.m.
The best way to learn something well is to forget it! Effortless recognition creates shallow learning, but effortful recall facilitates strong memory.
According to Make it Stick, co-authored by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel, “The more effort required to retrieve (or, in effect relearn) something, the better you learn it. In other words, the more you’ve forgotten about a topic the more effective relearning will be in shaping your permanent knowledge.”
Henri Piccioto presents in his article, Teaching in the Long Period, "Because the long period is of necessity associated with greater gaps between class sessions, it undermines shallow teaching-to-the-test. If students' grasp of a technique or concept is superficial, it will not survive breaks of a few days between class sessions, or a few months between trimesters. But if our teaching is so ineffective that students cannot retain what we teach beyond a few days or a few months, why are we teaching at all?"