Highlands Blog

Highlands' Rotating School Schedule

Highlands School’s mission is to provide an academically challenging program, to create a love of learning in every student, to instill the habits of success in every student, and to prepare the student to be a responsible and productive member of the community. To fulfill this mission, we are always looking for ways to support student learning, increase community and decrease stress. Part of this process is the continuous analysis of our student experience and how we can improve to the benefit of our students. During the Spring of 2016, we decided to examine our class schedule, how it affected student relationships, learning and stress and how it could potentially be improved to enhance student experience.

Working with Dr. Bryan Smith of ISM, we compiled survey responses, in-person interviews, school data, and other defining information to help us craft a schedule that would allow our students and our campus to function at the highest possible level and with overall harmony. Dr. Smyth took this wealth of information and went about the process of creating the best rotating schedule possible for Highlands.
Here are the schedule priorities he identified through his research:
  1. Create a schedule that supports a project-based learning environment 4k-8
  2. Implement a schedule that facilitates and deepens teacher:student and student:student relationships within the school to build an even greater sense of community
  3. Design a schedule that provides faculty time to collaborate, share, develop, support and plan with their colleagues
  4. Create a paced day for students and teachers
  5. Find time for more purposeful social emotional learning / advisory
To achieve these priorities, he recommended that our lower school schedule do the following:
  1. Avoid bits and pieces of time
  2. Strive for longer “chunks” of time
  3. Reduce transitions
  4. Have the right amount of “specials” (time when students travel to other classrooms)
  5. “Specials” are protected from imbalanced days off (i.e., Mondays)
  6. Rotate instruction
Also, our Middle School schedule needed to:
  1. Rotate classes
  2. Add a Mid-Morning Break
  3. Longer class lengths to allow for active learning
  4. Reduce transitions
  5. Insert Study/Project time
  6. Advisory Time
  7. Interdisciplinary Organization
On August 25 and 26, Dr. Bryan Smith from ISM visited Highlands to discuss the new Highlands rotating schedule. He discussed the current research behind school management and scheduling and how updating the logistics of the school day can enhance community, increase student learning and decrease student stress. To the right is a video of Dr. Bryan Smyth’s talk at Highlands.
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    • Dr. Bryan Smyth of ISM

Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

For more information, visit www.highlandsschool.org.