If our work-days don’t have 7 or 8 bell-driven 50 minute chunks of time unrelated to one another, why do we make kids do school that way?
Our schedule follows the best research for a ‘learning-centered’ schedule: Instead of studying 6-7 subjects spread out over the course of an entire school year, students study only two subjects in a single trimester. They earn the same number of credits each year, but learn more.
In contrast, the typical high school schedule is ‘content-centered’—designed around lecturing, the most efficient method for delivering ‘content’ but also the least effective way to learn.
The Waterloo school day begins at 9 a.m., Monday through Friday. Monday through Thursday, students study one subject before lunch and another subject after, with the school day ending at 3 p.m. Friday is left open for the personal extras— tutoring, hobbies, test-prep, college applications, community life, internships, discovering Austin, service, rest—and what it looks like will vary throughout the year and for each student. That gives us the opportunity to develop students' ability to handle unstructured time, one of the hardest but most important adjustments students will need to make in college.
The characteristics of the content-centered schedule: hurried, shallow study, stressful, frenetic pace, busy work—and more learning that has to happen after school through 'home work.’
The characteristics of a learner-centered schedule: slower, deeper study, focused, engaged learning, purposeful work—and 20% more real learning time (time lost in physical transitions and attention residue).