There is growing attention to personalizing education to provide students with more flexibility in their education experiences and more time to master academic content (Pane, Steiner, Baird, & Hamilton, 2015). To personalize education, Legacy High School in Bismarck Public Schools, North Dakota, has implemented a schedule that allows students some choice in how they spend a portion of the school day outside of their regularly scheduled classes. Students can choose to use this flexible time, called flex-time, working alone or with classmates on school projects, visiting content-specific learning centers (to receive academic help or engage in enrichment activities), or relaxing with friends. For students who are struggling academically, however, teachers rather than students may determine how these students use some of their flex-time.
Leaders at Legacy High School and Bismarck Public Schools partnered with the Regional Educational Laboratory Central to examine how students use their flex-time. In particular, the study examined whether students with different demographic characteristics and academic achievement levels use their flex-time differently. The study found that, on average over the school year, students had approximately 80 minutes of flex-time a day and chose to use 19 percent of it for academic activities. Female students used a statistically significantly larger percentage of their flex-time (21 percent) for academic activities than male students did (17 percent). The percentage of flex-time used for academic pursuits did not vary by academic achievement level, although students who were struggling academically had a higher percentage of teacher-determined flex-time (9 percent) than did students who were meeting grade expectations (3 percent) and students who were excelling academically (less than 1 percent). Finally, when teachers determined how students used some of their flex-time, students used the largest percentage of that flex-time in school learning centers.