May 6, 2022
Stevens Cooperative School serves more than 430 students on two campuses in Jersey City (K–8) and Hoboken (PK–8) in New Jersey.
Founded in 1949, the school’s strategic vision is framed around its four pillars, or core values, of Diversity & Equity, Community, Progressive Teaching & Learning, and Continuous Improvement. In the words of Board Chair Emeritus Kim Lew, “Stevens is a child-centered school that understands the power of progressive teaching and learning.”
The Challenge: Rectifying a Schedule That Was Driving the Program
Given the school’s commitment to child-centered programming, Rhiannon McElwee, Director of Curriculum and Innovation, remembers the day she lamented to a colleague, “Our schedule is always the reason we can’t do the things we want to do. The schedule is driving our program. It should be the program that’s driving our schedule.” Rhiannon says now, with a chuckle, “That might be the wisest thing I ever said.”
The Answer: Attending the ISM Workshop on Student-Centered Scheduling
The answer to her struggle came in an email from ISM about a workshop on Student-Centered Scheduling. She and Shehla Ghouse, Principal of the Jersey City Campus, attended the five-day virtual workshop. “The course was amazing … brilliant!” said Rhiannon. “It was so engaging, lively, and infused with real-life stories. It truly brought scheduling to life for us.”
Rhiannon and Shehla were energized by the group discussions with their peers. They found even more value in the 30-minute private consultation with ISM Senior Consultant and Director of Research, Dr. Bryan Smyth—an added benefit of the course registration.
As for the next steps, “We are fortunate to have a forward-thinking Head of School who was sold on what we suggested. The data we received dispelled many myths about timing of classes and specials, and strongly urged 90 minutes of community activity per day. Additionally, while we had recess, it was not consistently scheduled.”
The leaders of Stevens Cooperative found these initial suggestions to be so useful that they engaged ISM Consultant Shannon Schuster, Ed.D., to help incorporate more time for the student affinity groups as well as time for faculty collaboration. All the teachers were eager to accommodate these schedule changes. Rhiannon is most excited about Shannon’s recommendation for a “Da Vinci Day”—an extra day in a six- or seven-day schedule with no regular classes, to make time for STEAM collaborative learning, (that is, science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), professional development, and faculty office hours for students.
“Change can be hard and scary,” said Rhiannon. “But the final presentation from ISM—that took over four hours—just flew by. Our teachers are so excited now!”
At the beginning of the 2021–22 academic year, Stevens Cooperative contracted ISM for a scheduling consultation and invited interested faculty members to join its student-centered scheduling committee. This committee met recently for a meeting to review priorities and models to decide how to move forward. Pending the decision, they will work toward implementing schedule changes in the upcoming school year.
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