September, Wed 10, 2014 - Sage International
I am writing in response to requests for additional information regarding the decision to alter our daily schedule for grades K to 7th by having their school day end 30 minutes earlier. Please know our administrative leadership put a lot of thought into this recommended change. As a general matter, we have been carefully studying all aspects of our school operations since our students arrived four weeks ago and we have been making changes, small and large, where we identify areas we can improve. We understand change is hard, but want our community to know that when we find a way to make our school better, we are going to make/recommend that change and will do so in the least disruptive manner possible and with as much lead-time as possible. While change is hard, Sage International’s ability to make changes when we see a need is a huge part of what makes our school great, different, and innovative.
With respect to the proposed schedule change, a core value at Sage International is creating an enjoyable and professional work environment for our teaching staff - our approach is to hire great, inspired educators and create a professional work environment where they can thrive and grow. Placing a well-prepared, energized, well-trained, professional educator in front of our students is the single best thing we can do to ensure academic excellence and success. With our current schedule our dedicated K-7th grade educators are beginning their days as early as 7:00 AM (to prepare for the day) and may not return to their classroom from their end-of-the day pickup duties until 4:20 (or later). Some educators then spend an hour straightening up their rooms, contacting parents, and reflecting on the day. Coupled with this long Monday - Thursday schedule, this year, my leaders and I increased the length of our Professional Development Fridays - extending the Friday work day for our educators - as a means of providing our educators more time to thrive and grow through collaboration, training, discussing students, etc.
Over the first three weeks the top concern my principals have brought to me is the burden this schedule is placing on our educators - the day/week is simply too long and is impacting our educators negatively. My leaders and I believe the current schedule places Sage International at risk of losing some of our excellent, valued educators. After working with my principals to identify the best approach for relieving this work load without impacting academics, we developed the proposed schedule change. We believe this change will improve, not detract from, the academic programming we offer our students - it is still a long day/week with ample instruction time - while providing our educators with a bit of much-needed relief. The schedule changes are as follows:
For 6th and 7th grades, they currently finish their day with a 120-minute Exploratory Class period. Our typical middle school class periods are 70 minutes and this is the first time Sage International has ever scheduled a 120 minute class (as mentioned, we like to innovate). The Exploratory class consists of 6 six-week units that the students rotate through during the year. We extended this class period to 120 minutes as this class involves leaving campus for ‘exploratory’ field trips in our community - either walking or by bus - and we wanted to afford the time for these off-campus trips. After 3 weeks of running our first-ever 120 minute class period, our educators and principals found that:
(1) 120 minutes was proving to be too long of a class period on those days where students remained on campus - we could accomplish our academic goals in less time; and
(2) 90 minutes provided enough time to continue the off-campus trips. Accordingly, we will shorten this class period from 120 minutes to 90 minutes to more-closely align with our typical/standard class period while still affording the extra time needed to take off-campus ‘exploratory’ trips in our area. The academic calendar for these students is not otherwise impacted.
For elementary grades, Principal Bettencourt and I spoke with our elementary educators and determined to adjust the schedule as follows. We will decrease the ‘specials’ classes (art, music, PE, and French) for our 3rd grade class from one hour to 45 minutes. Our typical class schedule are 45 minutes and in prior years our specials classes were always 45 minutes. Thus, we have 4 years of experience delivering our specials curriculum in 45 minute class periods and are confident our educators won’t miss a beat with this change. For all other elementary grade levels the only change is as follows. These grades currently finish their day with 1.5 hours of their science and social studies portion of the PYP unit. We will decrease this class to one hour (still an extended period/focus) each day. We feel confident this is the right change for a number of reasons that evidence our progress incorporating IB/PYP into our entire school day after 4 years offering our IB Units of Inquiry. When Sage International originally launched its PYP offering, our Units of Inquiry were largely taught as a separate/distinct aspect of our elementary students’ academic day. This is typical for schools when they initially obtain PYP World School Authorization. Per IB’s direction and encouragement, and under the leadership of Principal Bettencourt and PYP Coordinator Zwolfer, Sage International has been working to incorporate our IB curriculum, and the science and social studies portion of the PYP units specifically, into all aspects of our academics and the students’ day. With IB/PYP well-integrated into all classes throughout the academic day, even with the change to a one-hour PYP class period, our students will be receiving more IB/PYP instruction than in past years. Our ability to make this change reflects our progress as a school as we integrate IB/PYP into our entire curriculum - we are delivering more than ever in less time.
We will not be adding Fridays or extending the school year to accommodate this change.
Just last night our school leadership attended a presentation by two national education leaders who offered the following closing recommendations: (1) find inspired educators and create a professional work environment that fosters their love of teaching (don’t burn them out); and (2) it is the quality, not quantity of the time at school that matters - the time a student spends with an energized, prepared, engaged, happy educator is invaluable. I agree whole-heartedly with both of these sentiments and believe our focus on these two elements is what makes Sage a great place for both students and educators.
I hope this addresses your questions and shows the thought that went into the proposed schedule change. If you have additional questions, please contact Lori Howard to schedule a meeting time with me on Monday the 15th.
Sage International School