Pace Rotating Schedule Under Constant Scrutiny

Junior Graeme Davidson spends his free time on his phone. Photo: Anna Stone

Junior Graeme Davidson spends his free time on his phone. Photo: Anna Stone

At Pace Academy, high school students have an eight-day rotation schedule. It rotates by having the third and the last period of class drop each day, only for the last dropped period to become the first period the next day.  Generally, two of the eight periods are free periods, unless the student takes a double-period AP class. In these frees, students can do anything from homework to playing ping pong. Although the frees are loved by students, one has to ask if having free periods and classes that rotate out is the best approach for students’ academic pursuits.

Students’ and teachers’ opinions vary on this topic and there have even been committees that have instituted schedule revisions over the years. Most students are probably unaware that the Pace schedule used to include all classes meeting every day. Over time, it changed to one class rotating out, followed by two classes dropping each day.

“We spend time covering material as opposed to having time to explore and to work on what we care about individually,” said history teacher Helen Smith. “What supporters [of the current schedule] miss is that we sacrifice continuity and creativity to the demands of the schedule.”  Ms. Smith would prefer if we only dropped one class per day.

Since classes rotate out, kids may forget the material they learned previously, and it interrupts the flow of their learning. AP classes should optimally meet 140-150 times during the school year, according to Ms. Smith. Due to Pace’s schedule, they meet only about 100 times. If classes met the appropriate number of times, AP students would actually have less work and therefore reduced stress. Ms. Smith also believes that teachers would assign less homework because they would have more class time to go over what they teach.

Head of Upper School Michael Gannon, on the other hand, is pleased with the schedule. “I don’t think any schedule is ideal but this is a good one,” he said. “The rotation allows periods to drop so there isn’t homework each night in every class. It allows for community times like morning assemblies, and provides more time for testing like with the 80-minute period, and also has break.”

Mr. Gannon came to Pace when they had seven periods per day with shorter classes. He says that it was exhausting for students and didn’t allow for flexibility for things like assemblies and lab periods. Many students agree that meeting for every class is exhausting. Students have this experience with X-days, days in the schedule where every class meets for a shortened period of time.

“It is unfair how we have less time to do work by dropping frees,” said junior Caroline McRae. “I have a busy after-school schedule and a hard course load so it’s difficult to do my homework after school since there’s so much work to be done.” Students said that the worst things about the schedule is when both frees drop on the same day and X-days. So, one could presume that a reversion to the old schedule and/or having fewer frees would not be well-received.

A good schedule must be built around what holds the maximum benefit for the students. Having X-days or losing free periods may be good for the students’ comprehension of the material but if it exhausts them, is it worth it? The loss of frees or the switch to X-days would be a crushing blow to student morale, therefore the Pace schedule may currently be as ideal as it can be.