Changes Proposed to School Schedule


Matt Lanetti

Jack Marchesani ‘15/ Matthew Lanetti ‘15

Consultants start Malvern on discussion towards change in schedule.

When the student body had off for an in-service day on Friday, October 11, Malvern’s faculty gathered in the Duffy Center theatre for a four-hour presentation by Independent School Management.

Independent School Management (ISM) is a consulting corporation hired by Malvern to complete a scheduling analysis.

ISM has completed over 4,500 previous consultations, and they have a great deal of experience in schools like Malvern. You may have seen two strangers walking around campus throughout spirit week. You may even have been interviewed by them – ISM interviewed 13 high school students and 15 middle school students, as well as many of Malvern’s faculty and staff.  In the October 11 presentation, Roxanne Higgins, president and senior consultant at ISM, shared an in-depth analysis of Malvern’s current schedule and programs, and concluded by proposing three different possible schedules for the future.

Higgins defined a schedule as “the framework from which you deliver your mission.”   She presented that a school’s schedule has four complex dimensions – time, people, space, and program.  “We can’t even draw four dimensions,” she said.  “My goal is that everyone has to give up something.”

One main theme of ISM’s presentation was that changes to the school and schedule must reflect best interests of the students. Examples of changes proposed on this theme included more predictability in school life (teachers should stick to testing days and not overdo tests), less homework, unstructured times and breaks in the day for socialization and relaxation, more rally points during the year to increase morale, and a more productive 9th period-style time.

The student body may remember taking an online survey during spirit week. This poll, which was sent to each class, asked question on how much you enjoy Malvern and how you feel about your education.  Based on the survey and student interviews, ISM composed a list of the school’s rally points throughout the year. The list of upper school events contained the homecoming dance, prom, the Christmas talent show, and others. ISM also made a list of rally points for the middle school, which was 2 pages long and had several times as many events, containing familiar things like Halloween costume day and spirit week, but also having unusual events such as “fake facial hair day” and other activities.

Another survey finding was what Higgins called a “sophomore slump”. Although Higgins noted that Malvern’s scores were almost always above average, showing that in general Malvern students enjoy school more than most other schools, one exception was the sophomore class. A noticeable dip could be seen in both dedication to school work as well as enthusiasm for school, when compared to the other 3 classes. Higgins explained this by noting that there may be fewer activities for the sophomores and possibly less attention given to them, and recommended a focus on improving the sophomore experience.

Another theme of the presentation was how the school currently uses time.  “Every minute is not equal to every other minute,” said Higgins.  Higgins noted that Malvern wastes a great deal of time in areas such as 9th period and transitions between classes. The idea was to use these times for more applicable (and enjoyable) purposes.  ISM’s proposal recommended no more than three “traditional” classes in a row without a break for students or teachers.

Although a great deal of what was discussed was conceptual, ISM did present three possible  schedules for Malvern – grids, numbers, colors, and all.  Proposed models included a nine-day rotation, an eight-day rotation, and a block schedule.

All example schedules presented had no homeroom period – instead homeroom time was absorbed throughout the day.  A proposed shorter lunch period and fewer periods during the day allowed for some longer class periods and different models of rotation.

In all proposed schedules, Higgins presented that 9th period could be transformed into an extended break period during the day.  Of course, it would no longer be called “9th period” – instead this would become more of an open creative period where students can get homework done and see teachers mid-school day.  Activities, specialty homerooms, and students involved in projects could use this time for in-depth work.  Higgins demonstrated that it makes more sense to have this flexible time during the school day, noting that it can seem like a punishment to go to a teacher after school, and that this time is not used efficiently in our current scheduling model.

Higgins noted that Malvern is “not yet ready” for the proposed block schedule, due to insufficient classroom space. She said that if the space is available in the future, the block model would be an excellent fit for Malvern.

With all of this to consider, it is certainly a lot to process. Dan Hoban ’15 reflected a common student assumption that any new schedule will be block.  “We do not want block scheduling because of the overbearing work we will get at school instead of at home,” he said.  “Sometimes when you have a class you don’t like as much, a block schedule would just drag out your day, which would ruin the Malvern experience.”

Alex Yablonski ’15, however, is open to some changes. “If there is less homework as a result of the change, do what you want to the schedule.”

Both Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot and ISM made it quite clear that this is only the beginning of a conversation on changing the schedule. “ISM is here to give us a starting point… set terms of the conversation.  We will all be collaborating over the next several months,” said an enthusiastic Mr. Talbot.

Nothing is definite on a revised schedule for 2014-2015.  But as an introductory slide in ISM’s presentation indicated, “The only non-starter is doing nothing.”