De Smet Jesuit to move to 8-Period Block Schedule

De Smet Jesuit to move to 8-Period Block Schedule
De Smet Jesuit to move to 8-Period Block Schedule
Trevor Bonat
8 Period Block reduces stress and allows for more student/faculty engagment

We are in a more complex world. Our graduation requirements, for example, have crept from 23.5 credits in 1998 to 27 credits in 2017, due largely to college admissions requirements. Our present 7-period schedule does not allow for adequate flexibility, nor does it allow students to have sufficient time for study halls. In addition, our strategic planning process revealed that our curriculum and programming have outgrown our present schedule.

After extensive research to find a schedule that fits our Jesuit mission-driven and student-centered approach to education, we have concluded that adding an eighth period to our schedule and adopting a modified A/B block schedule will serve your sons the best in the coming years.

Overview of Benefits

As explained in greater depth below, this new schedule:

  • Offers more flexibility, more study hall options, and more independent work time
  • Gives students a higher chance to receive first-choice classes
  • Keeps the daily schedule more predictable
  • Allows for the Ignatian trademarks of deeper reflection, thoughtful questioning, and longer discussions
  • Emphasizes critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity while maintaining a traditional academic core
  • Develops stronger student/teacher relationships
  • Decreases discipline issues and student absences
  • Improves academic achievement with a later start that allows for extra sleep
  • Enables faculty to better serve students with time for common department planning
  • Reduces student stress

Intentional Decision

This decision is the result of our desire to fulfill our Jesuit mission for and with your sons in a more intentional manner. Most significantly, our new schedule will enable us to preserve our traditional academic core while allowing for more emphasis on empowering them to critically think, collaborate, create, and innovate.

Adding an eighth period allows your sons the ability to take the classes they need and want and also have time during the day to do homework or independent work. Block scheduling results in stronger teacher/student relationships and less student stress. The modified block simplifies and makes predictable the schedule so we can focus on each other, not on what might be happening next.

In a recent survey sent to the student body, 95% of your sons agreed that block schedules reduce stress. Creighton Prep, a high school that went to this schedule six years ago, reports that discipline issues decreased significantly after switching to the block schedule. In addition, student absences decrease.

Some specific points to keep in mind:

  • This is not a traditional block schedule--all classes will meet over the course of the year--traditional blocks have four classes a semester.
  • Homeroom will begin at 8:30 a.m. and dismissal will be at 3 p.m., offering teenagers a little extra sleep in the morning. Studies have shown that more sleep for adolescents increases academic achievement.
  • The schedule will be simplified considerably compared to our current daily schedule.
  • Students have a much higher likelihood of being placed in their first choice electives with this schedule.
  • Departments will have common planning periods for increased collaboration--a practice proven to increase academic performance in students.

Initial Doubts

As a principal, I admit, I was skeptical of making this move at first. I remember, however, my teaching experience when a great and challenging class discussion was interrupted by the bell. Those great discussions always started about 30 minutes into a period and, unfortunately, would end too soon. Blocks will help us go into the deep with the Jesuit education we hold so dear. The block will allow us to implement Ignatian teaching practices that too often are left out in a short period. Reflection, deep questioning, and the use of the imagination are all brought to the fore in a longer block.

"But my son can't stand still for five minutes, let alone 80!" Our teachers already have experience teaching your son in a block--Thursday and Friday have been blocks for years. We will be providing additional professional development to our faculty to ensure your sons are fully engaged in classwork. The block also affords more time for more highly engaged projects and more profound critical thinking and discussions. The current 45-minute class periods limit your son's ability to do the most engaging classwork.

Dig Deeper

We take seriously the Jesuit call to oppose superficiality. Former Superior General Adolfo Nicolas called us to reject the universality of superficiality and promote depth of thought and imagination. "When one is overwhelmed with such a dizzying pluralism of choices and values and beliefs and visions of life, then one can so easily slip into the lazy superficiality of relativism or mere tolerance of others and their views, rather than engaging in the hard work of forming communities of dialogue in the search of truth and understanding. It is easier to do as one is told than to study, to pray, to risk, or to discern a choice." Read more on his call here.

A block schedule will allow us to dig deeper into discussions, dialogue, content, and skills to do this hard work.

This decision is a strategic one. It will allow us to more profoundly realize our mission to inspire and prepare men for and with others to transform the world AMDG--for the greater glory of God. When we do so, your sons benefit; we, as a community benefit; and ultimately the world benefits. If you have any questions, please contact me.