Superintendent's Blog

“The true currency of life is time, not money, and we’ve all got a limited stock of that.”  – Robert Harris

Over the past several months, we have made the community aware that we are reviewing how we schedule students for the purposes of instruction. More generally speaking, we want to have a better understanding as to how to use time as a component of improved student learning. The manner in which time is allocated during the day for the purpose of student learning is often called the “master schedule.”  The vast majority of school master schedules and calendars in the U.S. are based on the 19th century agrarian cycle and reflect the antiquated needs to keep afternoons free for farming chores and summers free for the related harvest. What works for growing crops may not necessarily work for student learning – although ending the school day around 3 p.m. does permit a variety of after-school enrichment activities.  In any case, the Tappan Zee High School Master Schedule Inquiry Team was organized to review the attributes of a potential master schedule that will best serve our young learners in modern times.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs frames this task by referring to “time as currency (Jacobs, 2017).”  More simply stated, how do we “spend” time to accomplish the tasks associated with learning.  The period of time spent should be a function of the time required to master the learning. With this in mind, the TZHS Master Schedule Inquiry Committee surveyed a representative group of stakeholders (students, staff, and parents) in order to identify the top three most important attributes of a high school master schedule.  These attributes are:

  • Accessibility of elective classes for students
  • A community lunch, preferably with an advisory/enrichment component
  • Common academic planning time for teachers to ensure continuous and responsive curriculum.

In the weeks ahead, our committee will look at other school districts in the surrounding area to learn how they match time frames, or periods, to tasks associated with student learning.  We are aware that the habitual 40-minute “block” of time to complete a daily task in a course is becoming a more infrequent instructional practice in contemporary learning environments. Indeed, employing a habitual block of time to complete a task in an innovative, modern-day workplace would be impractical (if not just plain silly).  For instance, can you imagine a bio-tech research facility or software design company working on a high school schedule? As comical as that scenario may sound, an analysis of how we schedule students’ time for the purpose of learning is a fundamental principle of a 21st century learning environment.

We will keep the community posted as to the progress that the Tappan Zee High School Master Schedule Inquiry Committee is making.  As for now, no decisions have been made and no changes to the schedule have been identified. We are currently investigating those options that will permit a more flexible approach to matching the time to the task of learning.  It is important that as we conduct our review and analysis that we avoid preconceived notions about what works (and what doesn’t) and that we are open-minded to the possibilities that lay ahead. We recognize the significance of transparency and communication throughout this inquiry process, and the need to be deliberate and thoughtful in our planning.

We have not committed to any definite changes to the Tappan Zee High School master schedule and we are aware that we have a responsibility to create contemporary learning structures for our students (to include redesigned learning spaces).  Over the coming weeks, the team will be identifying schools and conducting site visits. Once site visits have been completed, members will reconvene to discuss their findings and form recommendations to present to the South Orangetown community.

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