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Under the College and Career Readiness Research Alliance, Bismarck Public Schools’ (BPS) newest high school, Legacy High School (LHS), is developing a method for collecting information about how LHS students use their scheduled flex time. Through this collaborative partnership, LHS will have an online time log to begin collecting information from their students about flex time use.

Since opening its doors in 2013, LHS has dedicated its efforts to increasing student learning and academic achievement. In addition to providing students with functional spaces for large and small study groups on campus, the school recently, in 2015, made these spaces available to students during their flex time, or “Saber Time” (independent study time). With district support, LHS continues to promote personalized scheduling as self-directed opportunities for students to learn content in ways that are meaningful for them. For example, students can use the time to expand their understanding of course material through tutoring and study groups, study hall, meetings with teachers, advising, counseling, and workouts. At LHS, students are encouraged to use their flex time to become better organized and motivated learners inside and outside of the classroom.

“They are really doing something cool,” said REL Central co-project lead David Yanoski about the flex time schedule at LHS.

Each day is divided into twenty-two 20-minute segments, or “mods.” Depending on their grade levels, students can have up to nine mods—the equivalent of three hours of flex time—built into their daily schedules. The school’s goal is to promote responsible academic decisions and to help students make the most of structured and unstructured learning opportunities. Since LHS is the only BPS school to use this scheduling model, support for creating a meaningful way to collect information from its 1,100 students was paramount to understanding how those students use their flex time.

“While collaborating on the project with our partners in North Dakota,” REL Central co-project lead Marc Brodersen explained, “we identified LHS’ need for support with the development of a means for tracking how flex time was being used.”

In August 2017, REL Central staff traveled to LHS for a first meeting to support the school with the development of a research plan that focused on the effects of modular flex time scheduling on student achievement. The team discussed the system and observations of both students and teachers who used flex time. They created lists of potential variables, which were placed into three categories describing flex time activities: student-directed academic time; school- or teacher-directed time (or call-back time for students in need of greater support); and social free time. The team shared ways to measure the variables and made plans to develop and test a measurement tool for use with a small group of students in the fall.

In subsequent face-to-face meetings, the REL Central and LHS team also productively identified key variables and developed potential research questions. Through this process, the partners identified the need to create an online time log for collecting data from students about flex time use. In fall 2017, LHS tested an online time log while REL Central staff conducted informal conversations with students about their experiences with the time log. REL Central shared our findings with partners, and LHS staff were pleased with our report of possible information to be collected from the time log.

After much collaboration between REL Central and LHS staff, the online time log is on schedule to be completed in early 2018. Our partners agree that information from the LHS time log will be useful not only to the school, but also to the district and state. Ultimately, the hope is that the research plan that was crafted can be implemented in the future.