Last year, a High School Task Force was created and met regularly throughout the year to engage in discussions about possible changes that would improve our current structures. Our goals were:
- To improve literacy
- To raise our students’ IB scores
- To increase the number of students applying to prestigious colleges/universities
- To raise the academic rigor in grades 9 and 10 to better prepare our students for the IBDP
- To increase the number of students doing the full IBDP
With these goals in mind we have introduced several new initiatives and structures for 2015-16.
Change in length of teaching lessons: Previously classes met for 50-60mins periods depending on which period of the day they were scheduled. This meant that English for example averaged 495 minutes of instructional time per 10-day cycle. There is much evidence to support the correlation between time in class and academic success. A 2011 study at California State University showed that adding 15 minutes of instruction time per day adds up to over one week of increased instruction time over the year. The result was higher achievement by students ranging between 1 and 37 percent. The changes in our program have added over 7 hours of instruction time to each of Math, Science and English. Already teachers in practical subjects such as Science and Art have noted an increased productivity in the work with the extra time.
Improved literacy: This is a school wide goal and in both Middle School and High School a reading period has been introduced. For most grades in the High School the reading period is conducted during homeroom (35mins) 4-6 times in a 10-day cycle. Students can bring their choice of reading materials or read a prescribed novel or textbook. Research shows that increased literacy improves the students’ performances in assessments. They are able to respond to higher order thinking questions more articulately and with more precision.
Homeroom: Homeroom has become more than simply taking attendance and announcements. It has become a time for reading, assemblies, CAS and Advisory. Dedicating 35 minutes per day to Homeroom has enabled us to conduct our support programs without impacting on academic instructional time.
Homeroom has also been moved to 12.45pm just before lunch. There are several reasons for this. The first is to improve punctuality in our students. When homeroom was at the beginning of the day (7.45am) we had a high rate of students arriving late. By making 7.45am the beginning of period 1 we are encouraging students to arrive on time to school.
Lunch break: The lunch break has been reduced by 15 minutes this year to enable us to increase instructional time. The students still have a 20-minute break at 10.00am and a 40-minute lunch break following homeroom. 40 minutes is still ample time for students to eat, socialize and relax. Around the world 40 minutes is a generous amount of time for lunch in schools. The 15 minutes have been added to our instructional time.
College Counseling: Our aim for this year is to increasing our HS counseling team to 3 people to better provide social/emotional and college counseling to our students. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we still need to fill the full time college counseling position. Having said that, we do have a college counselor Mr Patrick Cunningham who is here and already working with parents and students on their college applications. Both Mr Cunningham and Ms Mouganie will be meeting with each senior to map out their college plans. There are a series of workshops for seniors about college applications on Wednesday 30 September followed by a parent information session. There will be a similar session for grade 11 students and parents in early October.
Of course we will fill the third position as soon as possible to support our current counselors. We urge parents and students to meet with Mr Cunningham as soon as possible so that he may support your child in his/her application.
We are very excited about these changes, knowing that they are consistent with best practice around the world. Our students deserve the best quality education and we know that an increase in instructional time, pastoral care, and literacy will result in higher academic achievement. These programs are new to our students and we are grateful for your support and patience as they become part of the fabric of our school.