An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Elaine Christensen, Middle School director

This past fall, the Middle School adopted a new daily schedule. The path to creating this schedule was a deliberate one. It emerged from our work with Challenge Success — a research-based organization associated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education (they told us our former schedule was “awful”) — followed by a year of reflection, research, and design. We sought to create a schedule that would enhance student learning and mitigate student stress; that had ample time for classes and increased time for community building (including advising, assemblies, and playtime); kept the same start and end time to the day; and allowed our rich slate of academic and co-curricular offerings to be maintained.

We piloted the ABC schedule for three weeks in February 2019, gathered feedback from all constituencies, and made some additional changes in preparation for the official launch in September 2019. In January 2020, midway through our first year of this schedule, we collected feedback by surveying Middle School faculty, staff, students, and the Parents and Guardians Association grade-level representatives. I’m pleased to share that the results are overwhelmingly positive. 

Time is our most precious resource in school, and the core purpose of a daily schedule is to serve the academic program. Our new schedule reconfigured class time so that each class period is 50 minutes and students have six classes per day instead of eight or nine. The ABC rotation means that classes no longer get out of sync when we have short weeks (a common occurrence). The vast majority of respondents to the survey felt that the ABC schedule was “better for student learning” than the previous schedule.

Here are comments from three different students:

  • “I feel more organized, and my ability to focus on each of my classes has gone up. I really enjoy the ABC schedule because it is easy to follow and also to memorize.”
  • “I really like the new schedule because classes feel much longer, more productive, and less rushed with only 5 more minutes. I feel we have more opportunities to dive deeper into discussions and elaborate more on topics. Overall, I think the longer class times are great. My schedule seems a lot less rushed.”
  • “The day feels more productive because you’re not rushed from class to class. Even with less classes I feel like I'm learning more.”  

One of the biggest changes in the new schedule was the creation of ACT (Advisory/Community Time), which happens every day from 12:40-1:20 p.m. We use ACT for all manner of community-building activities like advisory, assemblies, class meetings, affinity groups, and “Friday Fun Day.” Feedback from all constituencies about ACT was positive, but there are some shifts we will consider for next year, including a reallocation of advisor time or the consolidation of community meeting and assembly. A committee of faculty will work on this in the spring.

All in all, the shift to a new Middle School schedule was a great success thanks to the flexibility and optimism of our students, and the good will, creativity, and hard work of our faculty. With their combined commitment to excellence, the Middle School program continues to improve and our students excel.

Elaine Christensen ’82 is Middle School director and Lakeside’s director of professional development. Reach her at MSdirector@lakesideschool.org or 206-440-2772.