Upper School
Academics

Block Schedule

Block Schedule FAQ's

List of 10 frequently asked questions.

  • When will the new block schedule begin?

    Our Upper School community will begin using the new block schedule in the 2018-19 school year.
  • Why is the Upper School moving to an alternating-day block schedule?

    As educators we are driven by the question of how we can best serve our students. After careful research and evaluation, a committee of St. Andrew’s faculty and administrators determined that an alternating-day block schedule (or simply “block schedule”) would best meet the needs of our students.
     
    A block schedule with longer class periods has been proven to lower student stress levels and increase student engagement in classes (see below for more details). A block schedule format also prepares students for their transition to college coursework and schedules.  
     
    We personally visited peer schools that already use block scheduling: schools like Hockaday, St. John’s, Episcopal High School in Houston, and Fort Worth Country Day. The student and teacher experiences at these schools convinced us of the block schedule benefits.
  • How does a block schedule benefit students?

    Educational research and best-practices from top independent school consultants are clear that block schedules improve a student’s learning experience by:

    1. reducing the stressful, frenetic pace of preparing for and transitioning between several classes a day, and  
    2. increasing student engagement with more time for project orientation and teacher interaction in all courses.  

    Reduced stress - A block schedule allows students to prepare for 3-4 classes each evening (instead of all 6 in the current schedule). During the day, student stress levels are lowered by fewer interruptions in their learning.
     
    Increased engagement – A student attending 3-4 academic classes a day (instead of 6) will benefit from more minutes of learning in each class, which leads to increased content mastery. Projects and labs can be completed in one period instead of several, and deeper relationships can be formed in classes with groups spending more concentrated class time together. Students will only be preparing for 3-4 classes each evening, which will lead to greater depth of learning and more opportunities to seek help from teachers before their class meets next.                    

    You can read this block schedule case study on the National Association of Independent Schools website (“Deeper Learning, Reduced Stress” by David Flocco)
  • What has the preparation and planning been like for this shift?

    During the 2017-2018 school year, Professional Learning Communities (PLC) groups of teachers and administrators have been meeting weekly to plan and prepare for the new alternating schedule with longer class periods. Faculty members have collaborated to share ideas and plan out curriculum/teaching techniques. Each PLC has been guided to start with big picture view, then to think about specifics.  Members of the St. Andrew’s community are also visiting other schools that use the block schedule to explore instructional techniques and use of time. Additionally, much insight has been gained from both faculty and student surveys.
     
  • How will the new block schedule's 80-minute classes differ from the old 50-minute classes?

    Eighty-minute classes will allow teachers more time and a greater range of options for how they can use that time. Examples might include:
    • Watching an hour-long video and having time to discuss it on the same day 
    • Teaching a lesson and giving students opportunities to practice immediately to receive feedback
    • Group or individual projects
    All teachers are aware of the need to vary activities and experiences daily and to give students regular brain and movement breaks.  Additionally, teachers recognize that regular review of previously taught material is important because of the gap between classes.  This need, however, is also a strength of the block schedule: the regular review of material will aid acquisition of knowledge and skills.
     
  • How does a block schedule support a student when a student is absent? How does my student get caught up?

    If a student misses a class period on an even day (e.g., Day 2), not having the class the following day (Day 3) will give the student a day to meet with the teacher to get caught up before new content is delivered the following even day (Day 4). Advisors are the main point of contact for students when they return to school after being out for any reason.  They can help students to navigate a plan to make-up coursework. The Learning Specialist is also a valuable resource.
     
  • What is considered a normal or full course load for students?

    Six courses are considered the normal/full course load for students, plus one study hall/free period and one 8th block.  Students will continue to be required to petition to take a seventh class.
     
  • Can students take an additional class in the 8th block?

    As one of our goals is to reduce stress and because we do not intend to diminish the rigor of our courses, students will not be adding an academic class in the 8th block.  Six classes will still be the norm and students will continue to petition if they would like to take a seventh class.
  • How will students use the extra 8th block?

    In the spirit of our Senior Project, we hope that students will use the 8th block to follow a passion, pursue an interest, create something, investigate, serve, and immerse themselves in something of their own choosing.  We imagine that students might design and create something in the M-Lab or work with younger students in our CruPARK. Others might tutor in the Writing Center or STEM Center, focus on strength and conditioning, or learn a new programming language.  
     
  • How can students/parents give feedback?

    Students and faculty were surveyed about schedule preferences prior to the new schedule being chosen during the 2017-18 school year. Six weeks after the 2018-19 school year begins operating with the new schedule, students and faculty will be surveyed again to provide feedback on their experience with the new schedule.  Parents will be invited to an information session to hear about administrator, teacher, and student experiences with the schedule, to ask questions, and to provide feedback.
     
Questions? Contact us!

Todd Stephenson, Head of Upper School tstephenson@sasaustin.org

Kate Jones, Upper School Dean of Students kjones@sasaustin.org

Carrie Nelson, Upper School Registrar cnelson@sasaustin.org

List of 2 items.

  • Lower & Middle School

    1112 West 31st St.
    Austin, TX 78705
    Lower (512) 299-9800
    Middle (512) 299-9850
  • Upper School

    5901 Southwest Pkwy.
    Austin, TX 78735
    (512) 299-9700

Located in Austin, Texas, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School is a private co-ed elementary, middle and high school for grades K-12. Students benefit from dedicated faculty, a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.