Upper Division Schedule

The upper division schedule was implemented at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year after 18 months of research and collaboration among faculty, department heads, and the upper division leadership team. This schedule format allows us both to optimize all that we know about adolescent learning and to better attend to our students’ wellbeing.

The key features of our schedule worth noting are as follows:

  • Classes meet for 70 minutes, with four classes per day. Longer class periods allow for much greater depth of study, time for a variety of activities in a single class and the opportunity to reflect and review at the end of each lesson.
  • By reducing the number of classes per day, with classes meeting every other day, we have reduced the amount of homework due on any given day. On average, students will have three classes per day so will only have three homework assignments per night (as opposed to up to six in our current schedule)
  • The rotating, eight-day schedule results in classes meeting at different times and on different days each week. This eliminates the inequitable impact on certain classes of early athletics dismissals and a disproportionate number of Mondays and Fridays without school (for national holidays, in-service days, etc.)
  • There are no direct transitions from one class into another. Research shows that a significant amount of instructional time is lost when students have to adjust to a new class immediately after leaving a different subject. An absence of direct transitions also eliminates time lost to designated “passing periods.”
  • With only one class meeting after 1:30 pm, fewer classes will be impacted by early athletics dismissals
  • The dedicated extra help period gives all students access to teachers, regardless of whether they have a free period that aligns with their teacher (as is the case in our current schedule). This slot in the schedule can also be used for individual advisory meetings.
  • Fifty minutes each day is dedicated to non-academic, social-emotional and community curriculum (e.g. advisory, assemblies, clubs and activities, senior forum).
  • The start of the school day will remain at 8:30 a.m., after a successful trial of a later start time this year.
Image of the Upper Division Schedule


Our teachers are working hard on developing lesson plans that contain a variety of activities—we will not have 70 minute lectures, or 70 minute unit tests. All too often, a class discussion just gets going, or a student makes a breakthrough in a class, and it is time to leave! We are focusing our faculty meeting time and a significant amount of professional development funding on building engaging, learner-centered classes.

In the current schedule, we have 8 “containers” for classes, and these containers repeat every day (our A-H cycle). In the new schedule, we still have these same 8 containers, but it takes 2 days to cycle through all 8. Classes meet every other day, rather than every day, but each class is nearly twice as long. Students can still take the same number of classes as in the current schedule.

With only four class containers per day, students will likely average 3 classes per day as opposed to 5 in the current system. Classes meet every other day in the new schedule, so students will not have to do homework on one night and submit it the next day—this makes free periods a great time for completing homework (students will most likely have at least one free period, which will be 70 minutes long, to get a lot of work done before a class meets again). In short, students will have to prepare for 2 or 3 classes at night for the next day, as opposed to at least 5 in our current schedule.

Teachers are being given strict guidelines on homework, and they are absolutely not permitted to double up the amount of homework given in between each meeting of a class. Our goal is to limit work outside of class (to be done in free periods or at home) to between 2 to 2.5 hours per night, as per the Challenge Success research guidelines.

We will regain five instructional days to the school calendar by eliminating one set of final exams. We are also examining the way we assess student understanding, which may further impact our current practice of a dedicated week of preparing for and taking exams at the end of a grading period. We will still send out midterm narrative reports and end of term grades, along with end of year narrative reports, but the midterm reports will be written after two to three more weeks of classes. We will therefore have more assessment data and observations to report on, and there will be less of a scramble to generate data to base a midterm grade on (which in turn will result in tests and major assignments being spread more evenly across the term).

We have published the term dates for next year, and they are essentially unchanged from this year. We still break for a week at Thanksgiving, and our spring break remains in the same place (it is now the spring semester mid-term break, rather than a break at the end of the winter trimester).

The first semester is shorter, but we received strong advice that we should finish the first semester before the winter break to enable all students to have a genuine break and not have work hanging over them while at home. A longer second semester allows for more meaningful, project-based capstone projects towards the end of the year when students have greater mastery of the skills and content presented earlier in the year.

We will publish a full year calendar with the cycle day clearly marked on each school day. We will also put notices around campus announcing what day in the cycle it is. Those who came through the Carmel Campus will be familiar with this (the day of the cycle was posted at the entrances to campus and in the office, and the full year-long cycle was published in the Pirate Planner).

ISM’s research informed us that up to 13 minutes of learning time is lost at the start of a class as students transition from their last class into the new one. In our current schedule, there are four transitions per day in 40 minute classes (with over 30% of instructional time compromised by this transition), and in our new schedule there are no transitions like this, thereby preserving the full 70 minutes for learning.

We are aware that we won’t be able to cover as much content in this new schedule, but we believe that students will retain information better when we can teach in a more immersive style that builds in time for reflection and review. This means you have to spend less time on reviewing concepts taught earlier in the year as the AP exams approach. We asked this very question of several peer schools who have made similar schedule changes, and they found that AP scores were either unaffected or improved as a result of greater depth of understanding and engagement.

ISM research for language learning showed that level 1 classes benefit from shorter classes that meet every day. However, if the comparison of language skills is extended through level 2, students in block schedules outperform those who have been in shorter, daily classes and this improvement is further increased when considering a third year of language learning. Given that we have a three year language requirement, research supports our belief that students will be better off at the end of their course of study in the new schedule. There is no equivalent data for math, but our teachers are excited by the possibility of teaching in a schedule that allows  for a greater variety of activities in class and more time for reflection.

Grades and Schedules

Grade reports, schedules, and upper division transcripts for the current year will be available on your Pirate Page.