Transforming Education for Girls

The new schedule at Duchesne

Beginning in the fall of 2020, Duchesne Academy will roll out a six-term modular schedule — the "mod" schedule. This modular system will allow Duchesne to lead the way in providing a transformational 21st century education.

In Middle and Upper School, the schedule will shift from two semesters per school year to six terms per school year. Each term, or "mod," will be 29 or 30 days and students will take four to five courses during each mod. The Lower School will adopt an eight-day rotation for the specials in order to increase time in learning in the homerooms.

The start and end times of the school day will not change, but the school year will begin and end earlier. The 2020-2021 school year will begin August 10, 2020 and end May 18, 2021.


Why Are We Doing This?

Education for the 21st Century

Life in the 21st-century is radically different than it was 100 years ago, yet our educational system hasn't changed. In order to best educate our children to thrive in 21st century economies, we need to rethink how we're teaching and respond to developments in the globalized world.

Backed by Research

The new schedule at Duchesne was devised after thorough examination of research that documents how students best learn. The following represents the culmination of research on schedules and best practices as identified by Independent School Management, NAIS, Learning & the Brain, ASCD, TABS, and others. For each category, we have identified a body of supporting research:

Neurological Functioning in the Educational Process

  • "In R. Shweder's (1990) terms, Gardner is encouraging parents and educators to help adolescents develop a cognitive schema that is more evenly balanced between an ethic of autonomy and an ethic of community. The challenge, however, is that, according to Jensen (1995) and Arnett (2004), the developmental stages of late adolescence and young adulthood are one in which individuals are particularly focused upon individualistic choices and behaviors" (Developing the Ethical Minds of Gifted Adolescents, Scott Seider).
  • "When you provide students with opportunities to apply learning - especially through authentic, personally meaningful activities - and then provide formative assessments and feedback throughout a unit, facts move from rote memory to become part of the memory bank These opportunities activate the isolated small neural networks of facts or procedures, which then undergo the cellular changes of neuroplasticity that link them into larger neural circuits of related information" (Brain-based Teaching Strategies to Build Executive Function in Students, Judy Willis).
  • "Until students fully develop these pre-frontal cortex (PFC) executive functions, they are limited in their capacity to set and stick to realistic and manageable goals. As they develop these executive functions, they need guidance to recognize the incremental progress they make as they apply effort towards their larger goals" (Brain-based Teaching Strategies to Build Executive Function in Students, Judy Willis)
  • "Planning instruction and teaching units that activate executive function processing takes teacher and student time - and it's time that's already severely taxed. However, that time is regained because the learning in these units is successfully retained in long-term memory and re-teaching time is vastly reduced" (Brain-based Teaching Strategies to Build Executive Function in Students, Judy Willis).
  • "The [pre-frontal cortex] PFC undergoes its most rapid maturation between the ages of 8-18 so students' experiences during the school years, especially the guidance of their teachers, profoundly influence the strength of the cognitive, social, and emotional resources they bring with them into adulthood twenties (Giedd, 2004). Guiding optimal PFC development is promoted when students have opportunities to actively process, evaluate, deeply understand, and transfer knowledge, social, and emotional experiences using its developing executive function skillsets (Gogtay et al., 2004)" (Brains for Now and the Future, Judy Willis).
  • "Information learned only by rote practice has limited representation in the brain. Facts learned and practiced in isolation from larger contexts are stored as unincorporated, isolated circuits. These are like dead end roads that don't get much traffic" (Brains for Now and the Future, Judy Willis).
  • "When the new information enters the hippocampus, related memories are triggered in various parts of the cortex. These related memories are stored in different parts of the cortex depending on which sensory receptors initially responded to the input. [...]Tobe innovative and benefit from the new volume and availability of information, students need learning experiences to develop more flexible patterning skills sot he brain can literally think outside the box defined by the most repeated patterns. Opportunities for transfer through Project & Integrated Learning with problem solving, inquiry, critical thinking will build flexible and extended neural patterning matrix needed for innovation and creativity" (Brain Research to Help Students Develop Their Highest Cognitive Potential, Judy Willis).
  • "Carol Dweck of Standford University has found that the children who avoid challenges tend to have a "fixed mindset:" they see their intelligence as a fixed trait and therefore are reluctant to undertake challenges that "stretch" them. The children who are willing to take on challenges have a "growth mindset" where they can see their abilities as something they can develop" (Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky).
  • "The dramatic remodeling of the brain during adolescence holds tremendous opportunities for development and learning but also appears to enhance a teen's vulnerability to the long-term effects of environmental influences such as stress and drug experimentation" (The Psychology of Change: The Challenge of Adolescence and Insight, Dr. Joseph Shrand, Erich Engelhardt).
  • "The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model focuses on positive emotional and physical learning environments, the development of "big picture" concepts, the mastery of content, skills, and processes, "real world" application of learning, and the continual evaluation of student learning. Fundamental to the application of the model is the integration of the arts to foster retention of new information, conceptual development, and higher-order thinking" (The Creative-Artistic Brain: Education in the 21 st Century, Mariale Hardiman).
  • "Research during the past 10 years, powered by technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, has revealed that young brains have both fast-growing synapses and sections that remain unconnected. This leaves teens easily influenced by their environment and more prone to impulsive behavior, even without the impact of souped-up hormones and any genetic or family predispositions. [...} As Jensen told some 50 workshop attendees at Boston's Museum of Science in April, "This is the first generation of teenagers that has access to this information, and they need to understand some of their vulnerabilities." [...] This cellular excitement, or "long-term potentiation," enables children and teenagers to learn languages or musical instruments more easily than adults. On the flip side, this plasticity also makes adolescent brains more vulnerable to external stressors, as Jensen and Urion point out" (The Teen Brain, Debra Bradley Ruder).
  • Increasing the amount of time students spend in one class is more "brain­ compatible," Smilkstein says - and it is the key to helping all students, not just the quick ones, achieve at high levels. In longer classes, teachers can help students connect their new learning with prior knowledge. They can stay with a topic long enough to help students turn new knowledge into skills, and they can allot time to give students more authentic practice and ongoing assessments" (What We Know About Block Scheduling and Its Effects on Math Instruction, Steven L. Kramer).

Importance of Pace and Time in a Schedule

  • "The use made of time is more important than the amount of time itself. In-depth teaching is typically associated with more intense experiences and varied teaching approaches carried out in longer class periods. Design a daily schedule that promotes deep learning" (How Much Time is Enough?, l&P v32 nS, ISM).
  • "Exam periods imply that a particular calendar date is the appropriate time for an assessment, and that a written, tied exam is the appropriate form of assessment - in every course, for every student. They equally imply that sorting students by their ability to perform on a particular date is good educational practice. We disagree and recommend that schools eliminate formal exam periods in favor of appropriate assessments (including a variety of formative and summative assessments) that make the most sense for the students. [...] ISM recommends that each school learning community consider the following directions. The goal is to create and maintain conditions that facilitate high levels of student performance throughout the year. Exam periods significantly decrease the number of teaching days in the year. Although most colleges still have exam periods, most do not require exams be given during the scheduled time, and more than 60% of professors opt for alternative assessments. There is no evidence that exam periods advance learning or retention" (The 21st Century School: Exam Periods, I&P vol.37 no.14, ISM).
  • "It's interesting how, as alumni, they come back and say how easy their first and second years of college were, and how no one could be as tough as their favorite teacher. It's equally interesting how we take that as a great compliment, when we should actually take it as a warning sign. Why is it a compliment that the student's life is harried, stressed, and over-involved? What makes it a good thing that the great universities that they go to aren't as "tough" as their sophomore or junior year? Surely these are not mission objectives for our schools" (Scheduling and the Harried Teen, I&P vol.35 no.4, ISM).
  • "The Josephson Institute 2008 "The Ethics of American Youth" survey demonstrated the immense pressure that high school students face, and the conflicts that they attempt to manage in their high-stakes lives. High-performing students, in their pursuit of high grades and success, are in constant ethical battles not to cheat, lie, and scheme to get ahead" (Scheduling and the Harried Teen, I&P vol.35 no.4, ISM).
  • "Does [the schedule] allow for sufficient sleep once activities, homework, social networking, eating, and relaxing are taken care of? Are the needs of students taken care of during the day-e.g., access to food or the ability to get help from a teacher? The schedule, as determined by your school's mission, should strive for balance in the lives of your students" (Scheduling and the Harried Teen, I&P vol.35 no.4, ISM).
  • "Force choice-make the students act in an adult-like way. For example, place your drama/musical programs after school concurrent with the athletic seasons. Students can take the arts as an option and still do two seasons of sports if they wish. The ability to do it all is not compromised, but you have spread the "all'' out into a manageable load" (Scheduling and the Harried Teen, I&P vol.35 no.4, ISM).
  • "Schools should begin to think about how to transition to this kind of learning architecture. Learn about, access, and utilize blended learning in its many forms to accentuate, enhance, and enrich curriculum. Encourage, support, and reward activities outside school as intrinsic to the school experience, and not as a detriment to it. Develop choices that can be delivered using both teachers and technology. Applaud passion and encourage students to create space to explore and be excited in their passions. Consider the kind of facility that supports this learning. Talk about achievement as the constant in all conversations about: schedule, curriculum, and teaching practice" (The 21 st Century School: Students and Individualized Instruction, I&P vol.35 no.6, ISM).
  • "Fundamental Myths: Credit learning occurs only in the classroom. All course content, and groups of students are equal. No one can tell time. Academic classes belong in the morning and others in the afternoon. If a class doesn't meet for a long time the content is forgotten. Courses can only be taught by using a slice of several days in a cycle throughout the year" (Scheduling Without Conflict, ISM Summer Institute).
  • "Move stress from being destructive to constructive character. Build community in various forms at each level. Foster enthusiasm and esteem in self and group" (Scheduling Without Conflict, ISM Summer Institute).
  • "In general we overestimated the retention loss if the student had a sizeable gap between sequential courses. It can still be a problem, but it wasn't as much of a problem as we thought it was going to be at the outset. To the extent that we have moved away from a lecture format, and have involved the student in the learning process - to that extent, the problem of retention after a gap has been reduced. More simply put, if Spanish gets put into the student in new ways, with him using the language, teaching it to his peers, and being involved in a way that he never was in the past, then it stays with him in ways that it never did before" (Block Schedule Impact: Wasson High School, Scheduling Without Conflict, ISM Summer Institute).
  • "You want to avoid peaks and valleys during the school year and build consistency into the annual cycle. [...] A rally point is an event that is eagerly anticipated, brings the school community together, provides a break in the routine, generates participation, and falls into the "fun" category. [...] Consider that, within three to five years, such events will have become "traditions" at your school. Make sure your new traditions not only contribute to more positive performance and higher enthusiasm levels, but also integrate into your school's overall vision for itself' (New Traditions Combat Winter Doldrums, To The Point vol. 5 no.7, ISM).
  • "Teens who get an early start and don't eat well after noon can't be expected to stay focused in class. And if they have the added stress of multiple back-to-back classes the result can be debilitating, especially if this situation occurs day after day. There is an easy, no-cost solution to both the time and stress issues. Eliminate passing time and instead implement a block of time to accommodate students' and staff members' physiological and mental needs. [...] The break should be at least that long to allow for a variety of activity. More than 35 minutes can produce idle time and problems.[...] Be sure food is available and that nothing else is scheduled. Yet allow any group to meet during the break on any day, if it is arranged ad hoc" (More Time, Less Stress: It's All in the Schedule!, To The Point vol.15, ISM).
  • "Obviously, some time is required to move from one classroom to the next, but eliminating passing time, you send the message that class times are important. Ask teachers to start their sessions as soon as possible and to respect stopping times. Then, tongue-in-cheek, ask students to move "instantly" to their next class" (More Time, Less Stress: It's All in the Schedule!, To The Point vol.15, ISM).
  • "In fact, as they move through their teenage years, adolescents need increasing amounts of sleep (Carskadon, 1982). Maas (1995) reports that teenagers need nine hours of sleep nightly, compared to the eight hours needed by adults" (School Start Time Study, Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement).
  • "Research information on adolescent sleep patterns and needs: As teenagers move through teenage years, they need increasing amounts of sleep. Nine hours per night is the necessary amount to avoid behaviors associated with sleep deprivation. Risks with teenage sleep deprivation include mood and behavior problems, increased potential for drug and alcohol use, and vulnerability to accidents. 20% of all high school students fall asleep in school (Maas, 1995). Over 50% of students report being most alert after 3:00PM (Allen & Mirabile, 1989). Forced awakening does not appear to reset the circadian rhythm, and school sleep lag is worse for earlier starting schools (Allen, 1991). Additional weekend sleep does not ameliorate this negative effect. Students who evidence a sleep lag syndrome correspond to those having poorer grades. Causation is not implied here, but the relationship does statistically exist (Allen, 1992; Carskadon 1993; Wolfson & Carskadon, 1995)" (School Start Time Study, Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement).
  • "In fact, utilizing Dunn's Learning Styles Inventory assisted one school in changing the time of day that various instruction was held, and consequently, dramatically improving learning and reducing behavior problems (Stone, 1992)" (School Start Time Study, Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement).
  • "Dahl & Carskadon (1995) claim that adolescents experience a natural circadian phase delay and, therefore, tend to stay up later and sleep in later than in preadolescence" (School Start Time Study, Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement).
  • "Indeed, research shows that there are other outcomes to commend block scheduling, such as improvement in school climate and lowering of stress levels of teachers and students. [...] Having only four classes a day to prepare for may be enough to help students better handle their workload and meet teachers' expectations" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change. Carol Freeman, CAREI).
  • "High school educators believed changing to a block schedule would help their schools raise student achievement. The premise was that student achievement would improve if teachers engaged students in more active and in-depth classroom instructional activities. Advocates believed that with a longer class period, teachers would be supported, even motivated, to change their classroom teaching practice. Marshak (1997) saw the block period as a "structural lever, because its length simultaneously invites and impels teachers to change their teaching" (p.1)" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change. Carol Freeman, CAREI).
  • "Teachers with a block schedule reported that laboratory activities were more easily completed on a block schedule" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change. Carol Freeman, CAREI).
  • "The traditional schedule was seen as a major roadblock to implementing more effective teaching practices (National Commission on Time and Learning)" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change, Carol Freeman, CAREI).
  • "Reasons given for teacher and student satisfaction with their block schedules included: a calmer school climate, a less rushed and stressed atmosphere, and deeper relationships between teachers and students" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change, Carol Freeman, CAREI).
  • "In a review of the research on stress and children, the National Scientific Council on The Developing Child concluded that stress caused by everyday challenges are positive and an essential feature of healthy development. The impact of more severe stress is not necessarily negative. It depends on how long a severe stress lasts and whether there are supportive adults who can help children learn to cope and recover" (Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky).
  • "The development of the prefrontal cortex is believed to play an important role in self-regulation, thinking and anticipating consequences of one's actions. Adolescents do not handle social pressure, instinctual desires, and stress the way adults do. (Johnson et al. 2009)" (The Psychology of Change: The Challenge of Adolescence and Insight, Dr. Joseph Shrand, Erich Engelhardt).
  • "Brain research supports the notion that a positive emotional climate paves the way for higher levels of learning and performance. Creating a positive learning environment and eliminating factors that cause stress are essential to a teacher's instructional program" (The Creative-Artistic Brain: Education in the 21st Century, Mariale Hardiman).
  • "Brain Target One: Emotional Climate for Learning- [Needs] predictability: routines, rituals, consistency" (Connecting Brain Research with Effective Teaching through The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model, Mariale Hardiman).
  • "If a student is stressed by a test and goes through fight-to-flight, student may find it difficult to write clearly as muscles are prepared for larger tasks, but blood is in the brain, and the student will be able to think. In this case, a student may find it difficult to control fine-motor movements resulting in poor handwriting.[...] If the student in flight-or-fight has trouble with the test, the student may get upset and express that response by some physical means such as yelling, throwing paper or books, or running out of the classroom. On the other hand, the student responding to the stress of a test through tend-and-befriend will get very quiet, turn pale, be unable to think, and may become nauseated or cry. The problem is that the blood, instead of going out to the extremities as it does in flight-or-fight, goes to the core of the body, and when this happens, the student cannot move, cannot think, and may become nauseated. [...] When I describe this reaction in class, many of my female students will grin, but agree that this is true. Of course, this is not true for all females or true every time a female takes a test, but it is one important factor in the development of test anxiety in females" (Teaching the Female Brain: How Girls Learn Math and Science, Abigail Norfleet James).
  • "Girls who are extremely competitive with themselves should be aware of the problems that can arise if they discover they are never satisfied with their performance. The issue is one of stress management, and focusing on how they are doing may simply be a way to direct the attention away from the real problem-that they lack confidence in math or science. Stress management is essential for many areas, but for some girls it can make the difference between failing and doing well in math." (Teaching the Female Brain: How Girls Learn Math and Science, Abigail Norfleet James).

  • "Like block scheduling, the Copernican Plan, developed by Joseph M. Carroll, also challenges the traditional organization of secondary schools. According to Carroll, a former superintendent who is now an education consultant and author, nothing is wrong with the traditional schedule "except that it prevents teachers from teaching well and students from learning well." Carroll also says the under a traditional secondary schedule, "teacher cannot deal meaningfully with every student every day...""(Block Scheduling: A Solution or a Problem?, Sharon Cromwell).
  • "Teachers and parents were concerned about student abuse of increased independent study time. Knowing that the designers of modular scheduling insist that about one-third of the school day must be free for independent study in order to facilitate the goals of increased student responsibility for directing their own learning, and noting the requirement for very frequent student-teacher conferences, the staff at Ames worked hard to achieve the maximum time allotment for this type of study" (Daily Demand Modular Flexible Scheduling for Small Schools, James W. Stewart & Jack Shank).
  • "Block scheduling may result in stronger relationships between students and teachers, as well as improved school environments and achievement as measured by student grades. Teaching practice does appear to change to allow more personalized instruction" (The Effects of Block Scheduling on Teacher Perceptions and Student Performance, Dan Laitsch, ASCD).

  • "The real appeal of block scheduling, then, is its potential to unlock time and set teachers and students free for in-depth learning. For too long, schools have been "captives of clock and calendar," according to Prisoners of Time, the 1994 report of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning. Traditional school schedules, the report argues, set boundaries and barriers that all but guarantee that teachers and students won't have time for what Rita Smilstein of North Seattle Community College calls "the natural learning process"" (What We Know About Block Scheduling and Its Effects on Math Instruction, Steven L. Kramer).

Effects of Experiential Learning

  • "In-depth teaching is typically associated with more intense experiences and varied teaching approaches carried out in longer class periods" (How Much Time is Enough?, I&P v32 n5).
  • "Prawat (1995), applying Dewey's philosophy and learning theories, concluded: "The teachers' to create discourse communities that allow students to hammer out and apply big ideas, like author's point of view in literature, or part-whole relations in mathematics, to real- world phenomena that they can then view with fresh eyes. Ideally, in this scenario, the classroom becomes a center oflively discourse, where people engage in animated conversations about important intellectual matters" (p. 20)" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change, Carol Freeman, CAREI).
  • "One of the most salient characteristics of the creative mind is an attitude of exploration. Rahter than cramming information into students, teach them methods to find information for themselves. Send them on scavenger hunts on the internet or in the index section of their textbook to find answers to questions. Help them to compile information about a topic in groups or as a class. Ask questions like: "Okay, what else do we need to know to really understand [this topic]?"" (Tips for Enhancing Creativity in the Classroom, Shelly Carson).
  • "Learning - deeply engaging, personalized and collaborative learning motivated by relevant questions, problems, real world issues, and challenging projects with a focus on quality student work" (21st Century Skills, Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel).
  • "Evaluation - student work evaluated through public presentations and by a variety of authentic performance assessments incorporated into everyday learning" (21st Century Skills, Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel).
  • "Creativity is often described as an essential skill that can and should be fostered (Wegerif & Dawes, 2004). In a review of the interconnection between technology, learning and creativity, Loveless (2002) shows how technology allows individuals to produce high quality work in a range of media that provide opportunities for creativity. Lack of attention to developing creativity and innovation skills is often based on a common misperception that creativity is only for artistic-types and geniuses - that creativity is something one is born with or without (Trilling & Fadel, 2009). Creativity can, Triling & Fadel argue, be nurtured by teachers and learning environments that encourage questioning, openness to new ideas, and learning from mistakes and failures" (21st Century Skills for Students and Teachers, Pacific Policy Research Center).
  • "An ambitious three-year longitudinal study of students in two schools in England, matched for similar income and student achievement levels, found that significantly more students passed the National Exams in the school that used project approaches to learning math than in the school that used more traditional textbook and worksheet approaches. Project-learning students also developed more flexible and useful math knowledge than their textbook-oriented counterparts" (21st Century Skills, Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel).
  • "Finally, it is important to note that a number of psychologists regard adolescence not only as a fertile period for the development of an individual's ethical mind but in fact a uniquely significant period for such development (Damon, 2008; Flanagan et al, 1998; Youniss, McLellan, & Yates, 1997). For example, psychologist William Damon (2008) has asserted that, "There is reason to believe that a person's crucial orientations to life incubate during adolescence. If civic concern is not among them, it may never arise" (p.57)" (Developing the Ethical Minds of Gifted Adolescents, Scott Seider).
  • "Similar to project and problem-based learning, inquiry, and authentic performance tasks, authentically embedded opportunities for symbolic representation prompt to the brain to extend its self-scanning of stored memory circuitsthat have not previously been used together" (Brains for Now and the Future, Judy Willis).
  • "Teaching content alone is not likely to lend to proficiency in science, nor is engaging in inquiry experience devoid of meaningful science content." (Taking Science to School, National Research Council) in (Critical Thinking: Why is it so hard to teach?, Daniel T. Willingham)
  • "When students extend knowledge by applying it in real-world settings, they engage multiple and complex systems of retrieval and integration. With [teaching for application], we are seeking to strengthen and extend thinking and learning by applying skills and content in meaningful, creative, problem-solving tasks. Examples include conducting investigations and surveys, designing experiments, analyzing perspectives, building projects, and engaging in improvisation through visual and performing arts" (The Creative-Artistic Brain: Education in the 21st Century, Mariale Hardiman).
  • "Brain Target Five - Teaching for Application and Extension of Knowledge: Best Practice - Solve problems using real-world contexts" (Connecting Brain Research with Effective Teaching through The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model, Mariale Hardiman).

Student-Centered Learning Matters

  • "The inevitable teaching/coaching/mentoring paradigm will be one of blended learning involving the individual learner, the teacher/coach, and technology. Curriculum, far from being stratified into a rigid scope and sequence determined by grade level, will be far more fluid and determined as much by each learner's passion as by school fiat. "Standardized" will become a thing of the past. At the middle and upper school levels, begin to approach curriculum from the point of view of the student. [...] Accept radically varied paths and different speeds of progress as the norm, not as an accommodation. [...] [Provide] individualization of the content and delivery of curriculum, which meets the needs and passions of the learner at the rate best suited to that learner, using blended learning as the means" (The 21s t Century School: Curriculum and Technology, l&P vol.35 no.3).
  • "Technology changes the architecture of teaching by replacing the teacher as the purveyor and communicator of knowledge, allowing the teacher to become the "coach" for each student. Technology provides the means to individualize instruction in a way that has never been imagined before. This approach treats the student as a "consumer" of education just as she/he is a consumer of technology and user of social media (little of which is teacher taught). It provides the student with a means to access knowledge in a way that is divorced from specific time and space. It changes school from an adult-centered organizational structure to a student-driven organic space where each becomes a productive expert in his/her own right" (The 21 st Century School: Students, I&P vol.35 no.5).
  • "Examine the following summary list of student needs and evaluate the extent to which these needs are met (1-9 scale): never placed "in the middle"; pre-teen and teen food and "grazing"; time to socialize; strong sense of community; a daily plan that keeps stress in check; a yearly plan that keeps stress in check; ample time to complete assigned work; adequate sleep; self-esteem; multiple means of testing out and assuming adult-like roles (and responsibility); time to be a kid; the higher the grade level the more the electives; adequate performance group participation; multiple interest group access; opportunity for privacy; meaningful and effective personal counseling" (Scheduling Without Conflict, ISM Summer Institute).
  • "Authentic achievement requires a changed role for students in their schooling. These changes include a shift from behavioral to constructivist principles of learning, implying active learning, meaningful tasks, and the ability to use knowledge. Knowledge is not in the "possession of the teacher, waiting to be transmitted" but is "mutually constructed by the teacher and the student" (Murphy, 1993, p. 13). The teacher's role in the classroom is also changed. Teaching is more like coaching or guiding, conducting dialogue, and using other methods to increase students' opportunity to "observe, engage in, and invent or discover expert strategies in context" (p. 14)" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change, Carol Freeman, CAREi).
  • "When students reported what they liked about block scheduling, they mentioned lessons that are more hands-on and project-oriented (Rofes, 2001)" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change, Carol Freeman, CAREi).
  • "Students in blocked schools spent significantly higher amounts of their class time reading or researching, while students in traditional schools spent significantly higher amounts of their time watching or listening during the class period" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change, Carol Freeman, CAREi).
  • "When examining the categories of individual work (see Table 7), engagement and interest were lowest when students were working on "worksheets/study guides/text questions," which was the most frequently experienced "individual work." Levels of interest were highest when students were working with "computers" or "hands-on products," which were the least frequently experienced "individual work" categories. Table 8 examines seven categories of "teacher led" activity. Both engagement and interest levels were higher when students were more actively involved. Highest engagement levels were found when students were at least equally involved in a discussion or dominating the discussion time. The highest engagement level was when there was "teacher-student problem solving/ students pushed to think." The highest level of interest was observed when there was "whole group discussion with students doing most of the talking," the least frequently experienced teacher led activity, followed by when "students were pushed to think." The lowest interest levels were observed then students were "listening to lecture" and when there was "mostly teacher talk/students responding"" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change, Carol Freeman, CAREi).
  • "Levels of engagement and levels of interest differed by the type of group activity (see Table 9), being substantially higher when students were working in "cooperative groups doing reflection or a joint project or giving feedback" rather than "helping each other complete individual work." When examining a selected variety of activities across major categories (see Table 10), the highest engagement and interest levels were found when students were pushed to think or were doing most of the talking" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change, Carol Freeman, CARE!).
  • "Students reported "thinking hard about ideas" and "having in-depth discussion" significantly more often under block schedules.[...] This may also be supported by Bexell (1998) who found teachers on block schedules using teaching strategies requiring more interaction than teachers on a traditional schedule" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change, Carol Freeman, CAREi).
  • "Curriculum design requires us to make choices about what is essential now to help our learners for their future. Learners create and share knowledge differently from previous generations" (Curriculum 21, Hayes).
  • "The stress on what may be underemphasized because those skills are inconsistent with current classroom culture highlights a substantial challenge to infusing these 21st century skills frameworks into educational practice and policy. As an illustration, "students acting autonomously" is a major category for OECD that, again, is contrary to the current culture of US schooling. Similarly, the Metiri/NCREL framework stresses student "risk taking," but this is unlikely to be encouraged by many US teachers unless special emphasis is put on this skill as crucial to 21st century work and citizenship" (Comparing Frameworks for "21st Century Skills", Chris Dede).
  • "The study clearly showed that students graduating from secondary schools, technical colleges, and universities are sorely lacking in some basic skills and a large number of applied skills: oral and written communications, critical thinking and problem solving, professionalism and work ethic, teamwork and collaboration, working in diverse teams, applying technology, and leadership and project management" (21st Century Skills, Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel).
  • "Teaching teachers as learning designers, model learners, mentors, guides and school leaders" (21st Century Skills, Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel).
  • •"Emerging research encourages teachers and other educational stakeholders to a) focus on real-world problems and processes, b) support inquiry-based learning experiences, c) provide opportunities for collaborative project approaches to learning, d) and focus on teaching students how to learn (above "what" to learn). Linda Darling-Hammond, in her recent work, Powerful Learning- What we Know about Teaching for Learning, provides a meta-review of accumulated research on project-based learning, problem-based learning, and design-based learning" (21st Century Skills for Students and Teachers, Pacific Policy Research Center).
  • "The Bacteria Lab project closely followed the [21st Century Project Learning] Bicycle model. The project was well defined, the students had their project phases to manage, the teacher had hers, and they co-managed the running of all the phases of the project fairly smoothly. The teacher played the learning coach role, stepping in for direct instruction when needed, and the students did most of the mental work of the project- researching, planning, analyzing, collaborating, experimenting, evaluating, and communicating. Students had access to the necessary learning gear-lab equipment, bacteria cultures, clean room equipment, and computers for research. The pace of the project was appropriate (except for the actual experiment day, which was rather rushed), and the degree of challenge of the project was fitting for most of the students. A good balance was struck between direct instruction by the teacher and collaborative discovery and exploratory learning by the students throughout the project. Students gained a deeper understanding of science content through the hands-on engagement and questioning that naturally arose during their researching and experimenting" (21st Century Skills, Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel).
  • "Students learn more deeply when they can apply classroom gathered knowledge to real-world problems, and when they take part in projects that require sustained engagement and collaboration. Active and collaborative learning practices have a more significant impact on student performance than any other variable, including student background and prior achievement. Students are most successful when they are taught how to learn as well as what to learn. These summary conclusions are based on a thorough review of the fifty-year research base on inquiry, design, and collaborative approaches to learning by noted Stanford University education researcher, professor, and policy adviser Linda Darling-Hammond and her colleagues in Powerful Learning-What We Know About Teaching for Understanding" (21st Century Skills, Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel).
  • "In our current work with critical exploration, the subject matter might be a poem, or historical documents, or an arithmetic problem, or some writing that needs punctuating. In every case, we have sought to develop ways to keep students attending closely to the material we present them, taking their own thoughts about it deeper, attending to each other's thoughts, generating more questions that we can respond to with yet further elements of subject matter. In so doing, we find that contributing our own ideas and thoughts about the subject matter almost always short-circuits the students' thoughts, and decreases their interest. But when we help them to take charge of their own explorations of subject matter, they do remarkable work" (Helping Students Get to Where Ideas Can Find Them, Eleanor Duckworth).
  • "Without an external authority to be the judge of their thoughts, without the anticipation of an outside censor, the learners develop their own ability in making judgments. As McDonnell write, Students see the structures of the world and realize their capacities as sense-makers ..."(McDonnell, 2009)" (Helping Students Get to Where Ideas Can Find Them, Eleanor Duckworth).
  • "Authentic, student-centered activities, projects, and discussions will give students the opportunity to do the following: make predictions, solve a variety of types of problems, pursue inquiries, analyze what information they needs, and consider how to acquire any skills or knowledge they lack to reach desirable goals. This type of student-prompted information and skill seeking strengthens students' attitude about the value of learning. When motivated to solve problems that are personally meaningful students apply effort, collaborate successfully, ask questions, revise hypotheses, redo work, and seek the foundational knowledge you need them to learn" (Brain-based Teaching Strategies to Build Executive Function in Students, Judy Willis).
  • "Overly directed, teacher-initiated learning can limit and dampen children's creativity and curiosity. When children are instructed on how to do something, they tend to over imitate by reproducing the entire demonstrated sequence" (Brain Research to Help Students Develop Their Highest Cognitive Potential, Judy Willis).
  • "Student Needs: Self-motivated and action orientated in their learning; To care for others and to aim to give to the world; How to think critically about what they are finding, to check reliability of sites/sources, challenge assumptions, seek contradictory evidence, identify most meaningful data to arrive at reasonable conclusions; Think in creative and connective ways (Brain Research to Help Students Develop Their Highest Cognitive Potentiat Judy Willis).
  • "Critical thinking is self-directed in that the thinker must be calling the shots: We wouldn't give a student much credit for critical thinking if the teacher were prompting each steps/he took" (Critical Thinking: Why is it so hard to teach?, Daniel T. Willingham)
  • "The seven essential skills are focus and self controt perspective taking, communicating, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges, self­ directed engaged learning." (Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky)
  • "This approach is consistent with the educational premise "to understand is to invent," and it allows educators to target students' self-expression. The emphasis is thus on the individual, the self. Equally significant for educators is that this view posits that creativity is widely distributed. [...] Creativity is something we can find in every child" not just the gifted or highly intelligent" (Creativity and Education, Mark Runco).
  • "Children will be able to construct their own original interpretations if they have the opportunities to do so. The curriculum must allow it; there must be the opportunity to work on open-ended and ill-defined tasks which do not depend on memory" (Creativity and Education, Mark Runco).
  • "While the world has experienced a seismic shift toward a knowledge-based, information-driven era, the policies and practices of Psychologist Joy Paul Guilford (1962), however, argues that intelligence and creativity are not the same; he proposes that divergent thinking is the hallmark of creativity. As opposed to convergent thinking that seeks a single solution as the "correct" answer, divergent thinking leads to multiple solutions, all recognized as appropriate" (The Creative­ Artistic Brain, Mariale Hardiman).
  • "While definitions of creativity abound, most seem to reflect Harvard Professor David Perkins' (2001) notion that creativity is breakthrough or "outside-the-box" thinking that involves patterns of thought different from ordinary problem solving. Finding an alternative route when a road is blocked, for example, is certainly problem solving, but few would consider that a creative act" (The Creative-Artistic Brain, Mariale Hardiman).
  • "Finding one's voice involves hunting for one's personal source of energy, the instincts, the world of self encountering itself, and then turning this energy into wondrous products, merely by dint of knowing that in these moments one is leading a genuine life" (Adolescent as Discoverer, Thomas J. Cottle).
  • "All creative efforts, the adolescent learns, bring forth the child in them, the uncomplicated hunt for something missing, or for that voice that cries in all of us, or calls to all of us. Unhampered by social conventions, fearless in the face of potentially humiliating circumstances, adolescents barrel ahead in their drawings, painting, writings, self-explorations, fashions, and sexuality like willful children having tantrums in the super market" (Adolescent as Discoverer, Thomas J. Cottle).
  • "Critical thinking skills around information have never been more important. For all of the value that comes with individuals being able to publish freely and widely to the Web, the huge potential downside is that we haven't developed the literacies that are required to make sense of all that unedited content that's out there now. [...] It's an even greater challenge since few if any assessments that we give kids ask them to make sense of an abundance of unedited media and information" (Why School? TED ebook author rethinks education when information is everywhere, Jim Daly interviewing Will Richardson).
  • "The current Dunn and Dunn Model incorporates 20 elements that, when classified, reveal that students are affected by their: Environment (sound, light, temperature, seating design); Emotionality (motivation, task persistence, responsibility/conformity, structure); Sociological preferences (learning alone, in pairs, in a small group of peers, as part of a team, with an adult, with variety or routines); Physiological characteristics (perceptual strengths, time of day, need for intake, mobility while learning); and Psychological processing inclinations (global/analytic, impulsive/reflective)" (LIVES - Learning in Vogue: Elements of Style High School Assessment Research and Implementation Manual, R. Dunn and N. Missere).
  • "In addition to the increased test scores as reported above, during the 10 years of block scheduling students were able to take more courses and earn additional credits. Positive student outcomes related to this include increased number of electives offered and fewer courses repeated in summer school. The 4x4 block used by this school system allowed students who failed courses to repeat the courses during the school year and still complete high school in 4 years. In addition a 4x4 block means a student can earn 32 Carnegie units in four years. Georgia only requires 28 units to graduate. This allows students to explore six additional electives or alternatives to the required courses" (Block Scheduling Effectiveness: A 10-Year Longitudinal Study of One Georgia School System's Test Score Indicators, Ellen H. Reames).

  • "Today, it is evident that students are seeking meaningful participation in the decision-making process and learning experiences that are provided by the school. [...] In part, the modular scheduling practice requires new levels of student involvement. Vital to the accomplishment of this transition on a broad scale is a commonality of approach to instructional patterns, discipline, and general climate management on the part of the faculty. This desirable condition was achieved only be the frequent and constant communication and rapport among faculty" (Daily Demand Modular Flexible Scheduling for Small Schools, James W. Stewart & Jack Shank).

Interdisciplinary Teaching

  • "The goal of the curriculum is to serve the students-to give them access to the widest possible range of subjects and the opportunity to experience the interrelations among disciplines. But when the "five idols" [English, history, language, math, and science departments] operate in a departmentalized structure, the "ecumenical" approach all but disappears" (The Power of the "Five Idols", To The Point vol.4 no.4, ISM).
  • "In many studies, teachers reported that they changed how they taught when their school adopted a block schedule. They decreased their use of lecture (Banbury, 1998; Eineder, 1996; King, 1996; Rufino, 1999). Teachers perceived they had increased the use of cooperative and small group learning (Banbury, 1998; Hays, 1998; Hartzell, 1999; Rufino, 1999; Staunton, 1997), increased student-centered learning (Banbury, 1998; Hartzell, 1999), increased hands on projects/labs (Banbury, 1998; Hartzell, 1999), increased use of technology (Banbury, 1998), had a greater variety of instructional activities (Eineder, 1996; Hays, 1998; Hartzell, 1999; Khazzaka, 1997-98; Rofes, 2001; Staunton, 1997; Veal & Flinders, 1999), more in­ depth simulations that last longer (Hays, 1998), more role plays (Hays, 1998), more practice of concepts in-depth (Hays, 1998), and provided more opportunities for critical thinking (Hartzell, 1999). Teachers said they got to know their students better and that teacher-student relationships improved (Hartzell, 1999; Khazzaka, 1997-98; Veal & Flinders, 1999)" (Blocking the School Schedule: Potential for Instructional Change, Carol Freeman, CAREi).
  • "This review of literature on interdisciplinary studies in K-12 curriculum illustrates the complex nature of such studies. In fact, three approaches to combining disciplines/content have been discerned-interdisciplinary, integrated and integrative studies. These approaches share much in common (the advocacy of connected rather than separate disciplines; active inquiry rather than passive rote learning; authentic, student-centered curriculum instead of a discipline-centered one) but differ in important ways (the relative importance of disciplinary knowledge; the role of the teacher; the value of personal knowledge and experience). Clearly, the most prevalent of these approaches is interdisciplinary studies, which require the least change to current teaching and curriculum, while integrated and integrative approaches depart more significantly from teaching and curriculum as we know it, and thus are less common. All three approaches are, however, advocated in the literature" (The Logic of Interdisciplinary Studies, Sandra Mathison & Melissa Dreeman).
  • "A review of creativity research suggests that creativity skills and attitudes can be learned. Educators are in an excellent position to spark creative thinking. There are several areas in which educators can influence a student's creativity. These areas include: increasing exposure to creative work, providing an atmosphere in which creative effort is valued, fostering intellectual curiosity, enhancing creative cognition and problem-solving skills, and enhancing cognitive flexibility" (Tips for Enhancing Creativity in the Classroom, Shelly Carson).
  • "A major, often unrecognized challenge in professional development is helping teachers, policy makers, and local communities unlearn the beliefs, values, assumptions, and cultures underlying schools' industrial-era operating practices, such as forty-five minute class periods that allow insufficient time for all but superficial forms of active learning by students" (Comparing Frameworks for "21st Century Skills", Chris Dede).
  • "Learning the core principles and traditions of a field of knowledge and blending these with the knowledge and practices of other fields to invent and introduce new knowledge, new services, and new products, will be a high-demand skill set in the 21st century" (21st Century Skills, Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel).
  • "In 2006, Caser Lotto & Barrington conducted a survey of 400 business executives and managers, asking respondents to rank the relative importance of 20 skills and fields of knowledge to the job success of new workforce entrants at three education levels: high school, two-year college or technical school, and four-year college. The respondents ranked three skills among the top five most important skills and fields of knowledge for all three groups of new entrants: (1) professionalism/work ethic, (2) teamwork/ collaboration, and (3) oral communication. In comparison, science knowledge was ranked 17th in importance in the list of 20 skills and fields of knowledge for high school graduates and 16th in importance for two- and four-year college graduates. When asked which skills and knowledge fields would become even more important over the following five years, critical thinking/problem solving, information technology application, teamwork/collaboration, and creativity/innovation were at the top of the list, and science knowledge was ranked 16th in growing importance" (21st Century Skills for Students and Teachers, Pacific Policy Research Center).
  • "The Learning By Design curriculum developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology includes a wide range of design challenges that build understanding of essential scientific principles. In one of the Learning By Design studies, sixth-grade students designed and built a set of artificial lungs and working models of parts of the respiratory system. The study found that the learning-by-design students viewed the respiratory system more systematically and understood more about its structures and functions than a control group that read about and memorized the system's parts and functions" (21st Century Skills, Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel).
  • "The arts, thus embedded, are opportunities for the active mental manipulations that can increase memory and understanding" (Brains for Now and the Future, Judy Willis).
  • "The brain is a pattern-seeker. Embedding the arts increases memory and understanding because it gives the brain more opportunities to recognize and extend patterns. Pattern recognition links the new with related prior knowledge. Arts thus incorporated means the brain can first pattern match, then link the new to incorporate the weak, new working memory into existing networks related memory circuits" (Brains for Now and the Future, Judy Willis).
  • "The effort, planning, and class time dedicated to embedding the arts will pay off even beyond the improvement you'll see in students' engagement, memory, and thinking skills" (Brains for Now and the Future, Judy Willis).
  • "For increasing interdependence among specialties, schools need to put back together the cross-disciplinary knowledge that the Industrial Age subdivided" (Brain Research to Help Students Develop Their Highest Cognitive Potential, Judy Willis).
  • "The disciplined mind has mastered one or more professions, arts, crafts, or disciplines. It takes about a decade to achieve such mastery. Absent such mastery, an individual will be unable to occupy a meaningful niche in any developed society. Discipline also entails the capacity to continue one's own growth after the cessation of formal education." (Five Minds for the Future, Howard Gardner)
  • "Nowadays, the mastery of more than one discipline is at a premium. We value those who are genuinely interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary, or trans-disciplinary." (Five Minds for the Future, Howard Gardner)
  • "Subjects who started with more and better integrated knowledge planned more informative experiments and made better use of experimental outcomes." (Critical Thinking: Why is it so hard to teach?, Daniel T. Willingham)
  • "Here again, discretion is vital. As noted previously, children should not always be creative nor original. There is a time and place for it. Sometimes, memorization is best. Sometimes conventional thinking is best. Sometimes even conformity is best. No one wants children who are wonderfully original but do not know their alphabet or times tables. What is needed, then, is a balance (Creativity and Education, Mark Runco).
  • "Clearly educators should look to potential in addition to manifest performance. Indeed, process is more important than product. After all, if the process is used, creative products are likely to result. This may be another way of saying that education should help fulfill potential, with the probable outcome being manifest creative performance" (Creativity and Education, Mark Runco).
  • "Brain Target Four - Teaching for Mastery of Skills, Content, Concepts - Best Practices: Integrate arts into instructional activities to help sustain memory: The arts integrate thought, feeling, and action: Visual Arts seeing and doing; Dance movement; Drama acting out; Music listening & playing. The arts help to make a memory imprint of concept and skills" (Connecting Brain Research with Effective Teaching through The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model, Mariale Hardiman).
  • "Advocates of the arts agree that the K-12 curriculum should include dedicated time for arts instruction. Some have argued further that knowledge and skills acquired through the arts transfer to nonarts domains. Other claim that evidence of this kind of transfer is limited and instead argue that the arts cultivate valuable dispositions that help students succeed both in and outside of school. Another potential benefit of the arts has received little attention, however. Arts integration - the use of the arts as a teaching methodology throughout the curriculum - may improve long-term retention of content" (Why Arsts Integration Improves Long-Term Retention of Content, Luke Rinne, Emma Gregory, Julia Yarmolinskaya, Mariale Hardiman).

  • "As Daniel Pink (2006) writes, the ability to understand "relationships between relationships" may be one of the most important skills for 21 st century learning" (The Creative-Artistic Brain, Mariale Hardiman).

Achieving Strategic Imperatives, Goals & Criteria, and Accreditation Recommendations

The mod schedule will allow Duchesne to achieve the imperatives laid out in the Envision 2022 Strategic Plan, as well as meet the recommendations given by the ISAS and TCCBED accreditations. Additionally, the new schedule will allow Duchesne to more fully live out the Sacred Heart Goals and Criteria.

The following is the slide deck that was presented at campus meetings to announce the mod schedule.

What Will It Entail?


  • Term = Mod
  • Class period = Bin
    • 1 Bin = 1 credit
    • 3 Bins = 3 credits = 1 full course
    • 0 Bin = ½ credit

Example Schedules

Example Courses

The mod schedule will provide a curriculum and experiential learning opportunities unlike any other school in Texas. Each year, the course offerings will be updated to provide more choices and adapt to student interests. See an example course catalog from another school that has implemented a modular schedule to get a sense of what types of courses Duchesne will be able to offer.

Game Theory and Strategic Decision Making

Game theory, the study of strategic interactive decision making among individuals, has a wide range of application. Pressing problems of climate change, overfishing, and traffic congestion can be analyzed from a game theory perspective. This course is intended as a first introduction to the world of strategic decision making.

Addiction and the Brain



Addiction is not limited to drugs, cigarettes or alcohol; we now know that the human brain can become addicted to a wide number of substances and activities. By studying the addicted brain, science has unlocked the secrets of the most powerful tool in nature. Students will discover secrets about their own brains as they delve into the gray and white matter of the mind.



Urban Planning



This course introduces students to urban planning and design from ancient to modern cities: what inspired them, what shaped them, and what evidence they have left behind. Students will look at how factors such as wealth distribution and human health impact city design. Students will end the course by designing their own future vision of a city.





Project-Based Learning

The mod schedule will allow Duchesne to expand the project-based learning opportunities in all grade levels. Watch this video to learn more about project-based learning and why it's critical to 21st century learners:

When Will It Happen?

2020-2021 School Year

Over the next 18 months, Duchesne's faculty and staff will be making preparations to ensure a smooth transition into the new schedule. A few of the key events include:

  • February 2018: Presentation by Denise Pope of Challenge Success
  • April 2018: Presentation by Madeira, an all-girls school with a mod schedule
  • May 2018: Presentation by Bryan Smyth of Independent School Management (ISM), one of the nation's top school scheduling experts
  • September 2019: New course guide for 2020-2021 published
  • Fall 2019 - Spring 2020: Professional development for faculty to design courses
  • Spring 2020: Course registration begins
  • Fall 2020: New schedule begins

Frequently Asked Questions

The Basics of a Mod Schedule

What is a mod schedule?

A module is the period of time the academic year is divided into. The Duchesne school year will be divided into six mods, each lasting 29 or 30 days or about 6 weeks. Think of a "mod" as a term or a mini-semester.

A bin is time spent each day in class or an activity. The Upper School day is divided into five bins; Middle School is four bins. Think of a "bin" as a class period.

A, B, C, D bins are 90 minutes. A, B, and C bins will focus on academic subjects (math, science, English, history, fine arts, languages). Think of "A, B, C bins" as core courses.

0 bins are 45 minutes. 0 bin will be devoted to electives such as choir.

Detailed information regarding the effect of the mod schedule on course registration and prerequisites, including course offerings, will be distributed prior to registration.

The modular approach allows for:

  • Longer class periods – and more classes
  • Opportunities to study topics in depth
  • More interdisciplinary courses
  • More frequent advisory meetings
  • More choice in scheduling
  • More opportunities to pursue individual passions
  • More diversity in scheduling, course offerings, and travel


When will the school year and school day start and end?

The school year will begin August 10, 2020 and conclude May 18, 2021.

The start and end times will remain the same:

  • Lower School: 7:50 a.m. - 3:15 p.m.
  • Middle School: 8:00 a.m. - 3:25 p.m.
  • Upper School: 8:30 a.m. - 3:45 p.m.

How will the social awareness program be affected?

The mod schedule will allow girls more flexibility in pursuing social awareness opportunities. Duchesne is planning to launch the Institute for Global and Social Awareness to coincide with the schedule in order to provide girls time and opportunity for an immersive domestic and/or international social awareness experience.

Why Is Duchesne implementing a modular schedule?

Developing a new schedule is a direct outgrowth of our strategic plan, Envision 2022. An effective schedule that allowed for better differentiation and innovation with a focus on girls’ health and wellness that was emphasized in Envision 2022. Changing Duchesne’s class schedule constitutes a major step toward achieving these goals while employing current research on how girls learn. Furthermore, over the past several years, our program has embraced a model that encourages active student engagement, collaboration, and experiential problem solving. As the delivery of our curriculum has evolved, so must the structures that support it, including our schedule.

National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) articles that share related research:

Rigor vs. Vigor

Assessing what we value

Homework, Exams, and Time Management

How does the new schedule impact the students' homework load?

In the module system, students will take fewer classes at a time than in the current schedule. Therefore, a girl will typically be managing homework for fewer courses at one time. We anticipate that this shift to studying and learning more intensely in fewer areas at a time will reduce the homework burden on students.

How often will students take exams?

Students will be assessed at the end of each mod. Each department will determine the appropriate assessment method for its courses. This could take the form of an exam, but may also be an assigned research paper or other appropriate demonstration that the student has learned the course work.

ISM's research recommends that independent schools "maintain conditions that facilitate high levels of student performance throughout the year," noting that exam periods "interrupt and interfere with those conditions."

"Although most colleges still have exam periods, most do not require exams be given during the scheduled time, and more than 60% of professors opt for alternative assessments." This is based on ISM's "College Student Assessment Study 2009."

"There is no evidence that exam periods advance learning or retention. […] It is clear that students cram for the test and that long-term memory is rarely involved." This is based on "Optimizing Distributed Practice: Theoretical Analysis and Practical Implications," Experimental Psychology, 56(4), 2009, 236-246.

How will the new format improve life at Duchesne overall?

The new schedule will create benefits for our entire community, including the following:

  • Students will have greater flexibility, which will encourage them to explore their passions and try new things, particularly at the Upper School level.
  • Faculty members will work with fewer students during each module; as a result, they will be able to devote more time to each of them.
  • A more focused schedule with fewer classes for longer periods will reduce stress and provide a more calm pace to the day.

How will students have one-on-one time with a teacher?

Students can meet one-on-one or in small groups with a teacher. This will continue to happen during the longer classes. One of the many benefits to longer classes is the ability for the teacher to break up class time into different segments allowing for large and small group conversations and one-on-one meetings.

How do semester- or year-long courses translate into the mod system?

A year-long course is three mods. An AP course is covered over three mods with perhaps an X Bin option to review before the AP test. Each department uses its own expertise to design their courses and determine the appropriate length of their semester and AP courses.

Will Upper School students still have a free period?

The free period will be replaced by other enhancements that have already been made to the school day; these include a later start time and a designated snack time and advisory time. By instituting a later start time and building breaks into the schedule, we are intentionally slowing the pace of the day in order to create a more balanced experience for students while retaining academic rigor. We also believe that the new schedule will allow students to make better use of the time they spend in class interacting with their peers and teachers.

Teaching and Learning

How will the new schedule impact Duchesne's curriculum?

The new schedule format brings several important enhancements to our academic curriculum.

  • It reflects current research on how adolescent girls learn best by providing fewer, longer classes of 90 minutes in length that offer a better balance between the mastery of individual topics and interdisciplinary learning.
  • It provides for more in-depth study of individual disciplines, with a greater emphasis on applying knowledge both to solving problems and to fostering creativity.
  • It provides for more opportunities for girls to pursue a global experience and a more immersive, valuable social awareness experience.

How will this schedule impact students' knowledge retention?

One of the goals was to create a schedule that provided deep learning. Independent School Management’s (ISM) examination of research on time, and observations in many schools supports these findings.

From ISM's article "How Much Time is Enough?” Ideas & Perspectives, vol. 32 no. 5:

"When teaching in-depth (rather than breadth) takes place in classrooms, students suffer less short-term memory loss and little long-term memory loss.

In-depth teaching is typically associated with more intense experiences and varied teaching approaches carried out in longer class periods."

From CAL Digest, "Scheduling Foreign Languages on the Block" October 1998:

"Anecdotal accounts of students' language retention seem to point out that the loss of language is no greater after a one or two semester break than it would be after the summer recess. Canady and Rettig quote research dealing with retention rates at the college level: "Students retain 85% of what they had originally learned after 4 months and 80% of what they had originally learned after 11 months." Students tend to forget factual information quickly but have significantly higher retention rate with information they learned through critical thinking because the information is not just memorized but internalized.

Canady, R.L. & Rettig, M.D. (1995). Block scheduling: A catalyst for change in high school. Princeton, NJ: Eye on Education.

If a student has a problem adapting to the 90-minute classes, what is your plan to help her?

Our teachers work closely with students, regularly monitoring their progress. As is the case now, if a girl has an academic problem, she will be supported by her teacher, advisor, and the division office.

The longer class periods are ideal for students to engage actively in the learning process. Having more time allows teachers increased opportunity for differentiated approaches toward student mastery of concepts as well as increased opportunity to provide a variety of learning activities. Teacher attention to differentiation and variety will support student focus.

What professional development will teachers have to design 90-minute classes?

Teachers are involved in professional development on a regular basis. Duchesne has provided sessions about teaching to the longer block led by an ISM consultant, using Project-Based Learning as an option for student-centered classrooms, and we are scheduled to partner with Denise Pope’s Challenge Success during the 2019-2020 school year.

The new schedule allows us to continue to support professional development on a sustained basis and on specific teacher-selected. We continue to use experts from our own faculty as well as external consultants.

Graduation Requirements, AP Courses, and College Entrance

Will the new format affect the number of credits required for graduation?

Graduation requirements will not change during the 2019-2020 school year. Beginning in 2020, students will need to complete 78 credits in order to graduate, transcripts for current 8th graders, freshmen and sophomores will be modified to fit the required credits in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years. Each bin will count as 1 credit. Please see below for the new credit structure:

TCCBED Requirements


TCCBED requirements using Mod schedule


Duchesne Bins 2020-2021

















Social Studies








Foreign Language




Fine Arts








Total Credits




Will AP courses still be offered? Will students be prepared for the exams?

Yes, you will see a robust offering of AP courses on the 2020-2021 course list. We believe the module schedule will support the deep learning required in upper-level courses such as AP courses. The entire curriculum supports the growth of a girl's critical thinking skills.

How will the college application process work into the mod system?

College advisors will have allotted times to work with students both in groups and individually, as they do now. The college advising curriculum can be woven into the junior and senior year.

How do college admission offices consider schedules?

College admission officers look at end results: courses taken and grades on the transcript to assess a student’s performance, not at the school's schedule structure.

Every transcript is sent with a Duchesne School Profile that gives an overview of the academic and co-curricular programs at Duchesne. The college counseling team updates the school profile annually to ensure that colleges have an accurate picture of the high standards to which Duchesne holds itself.

Other Considerations

What was the process involved in designing the new schedule?

In the spring of 2018, Bryan Smyth of ISM conducted a scheduling audit for the entire school. Following three days on campus that included meetings with faculty, parents, students, and administration, Bryan presented the faculty and staff with three possible daily schedules that he thought would benefit Duchesne. Some of his recommendations were instituted in the 2018-2019 schedule such as ending the school year prior to Memorial Day, the seven early dismissal days for faculty and staff professional development and a later start time in the Upper School.

Following Bryan’s presentation, school administration met with faculty and staff in focus groups and by division to collect feedback. During the summer of 2018, school administration met with representatives from two schools that have adopted the mod schedule - Madeira School in Washington D.C. and St. Mary’s Catholic School in Medford, Oregon. It was during these meetings and subsequent brainstorming sessions that it became evident that the mod schedule was the right fit for Duchesne. From there, school administration worked to finalize the structure of the schedule and resolve outstanding questions.

Did Duchesne consider a block schedule?

Yes, a block scheduling option were two of the final three structures we considered;. However, the block schedule did not support our program well because our program includes both rigorous academic preparation and a signature experiential component, social awareness.

Do other independent schools use a mod schedule?

Many schools use blocks of time to construct their schedule. The mod approach to curriculum has been used by independent schools for many years.

Can I read more about school schedules?

In addition to the research above, see also this article which discusses the detriments of a traditional school schedule:

 The Insane Structure of High School


Who can I speak with about questions?

If you have specific questions or concerns, please reach out to your division head or Tony Houle.


Overall Expected Outcomes

  • More emphasis on skill-based curriculum and academic programs
  • Students who are critical thinkers and problem solvers
  • Increased depth of exploration and discovery in each course
  • Highly engaged students who develop a life-long love of learning
  • More authentic and immersive social awareness experiences
  • Slower pace of school day and workload to reduce stress and anxiety
  • More time for extra-curricular activities and family life
  • Stronger relationships between teachers and students
  • Opportunity for global experiences

"Education must be concerned not only with studies, but also with whatever may be required for the right ordering of life and requirements of cultivated society."

— St. Madeline Sophie Barat