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New Middle School Schedule Yields Deeper Learning

New Middle School Schedule Yields Deeper Learning

In August, Middle School teachers unveiled a new schedule after a year of research and planning. Classes are now 85 minutes long, improving both learning outcomes and student engagement.

The new 2023–24 school year marked a monumental shift in Middle School—the launch of a completely new schedule for grades 5 through 8. The old schedule, which consisted of 70-minute classes, was confusing for students due to an extra rotating block on certain days. In addition, teachers saw an opportunity to increase instructional minutes while creating a community time block dedicated to homework, extra help, and advising.

A committee of Middle School teachers from each grade spent more than a year researching options. “We knew we wanted our findings to be backed by research,” said Jason Strains, 8th grade math teacher and committee co-chair. The committee members discovered that, overwhelmingly and across subjects, grade levels, and constituencies, 85-minute classes reduced stress while improving learning outcomes.

A Middle School student walks on a makeshift runway while wearing a costume of various papers.

The committee initially assumed that it would be too difficult for a Middle School-aged student to concentrate on a single subject for 85 minutes. But their research showed the opposite. “It’s hard for children to be constantly switching gears because their executive functioning is not fully developed until they are 23,” said Michael Matera, 6th grade history teacher and committee member. The committee shared their findings with school administrators and recommended that the Middle School switch to 85-minute classes, which was approved last year and officially launched in August 2023. They dedicated a large portion of last year to onboarding the new schedule with teachers, explaining their findings, and addressing any concerns. “Pretty quickly, everybody started to realize the benefits of this new schedule and were willing to give it a try,” said Matera.

Although the new schedule required teachers to re-work their lesson plans, it’s gotten a largely positive response from both teachers and students. It’s resulted in fewer transitions in the hallways, and more experiential learning opportunities in the classrooms. Teachers now spend more time teaching and have found meaningful ways to expand their lessons. “The new schedule yields richer projects and better work because we have more time to dive into a unit or project,” said Matera. “As a teacher, I don’t feel as much pressure to rush through a lesson plan. I’m amazed at how many times kids will look up and say, ‘Class is over already?’ It’s true that time flies when you’re really engaged in something.”

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