Daily life will look different for students at WCA next year, as the school will be switching from its current 9-period mixed standard and block period Upper School schedule down to a more efficient 7-period schedule on every day but Wednesday. The need comes as WCA sees transition on several fronts. The philosophical shift to a more skills-based educational program in line with a changing world of college and job market environments, the corresponding transition to the International Baccalaureate curricular model, the introduction of the Workforce Readiness track in the Upper School, and decreasing minimum standards for graduation credits from the Virginia Department of Education all factored into the change. A key factor in the decision was also the desire to get a more consistent schedule with more class time per subject.
“What truly got my attention when I arrived last June was how many Upper School students had substantive classes or had class at all during 7th and 8th period,” commented Head of School Johnny Graham. ” This was also reflected in our 8th period exam period, where half the school or better was not here because they didn’t have an 8th-period exam. This seemed to reflect that the 9-period model was not as efficient as we needed to be.”
Another primary concern was the consistency of class times, which currently jump from 30 minutes to 45 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on what day it is. This inconsistency has routinely created a problem with scheduling, setting up meetings, and teachers fairly universally pointed to that as a point of frustration. The class structure will now move to 6 equal 1-hour classes, allowing for more consistent lesson planning and more content presented in class. The change will increase the amount of classroom instruction time from 126 hours to 144 hours, which will exceed the Virginia Department of Education minimums. In 2017, Virginia Department of Education announced the following HS Graduation requirement changes: Students entering high school for the first time in 2018-19 must have 26 credits for an Advanced Studies Diploma and 22 Credits for a Standard Diploma, which means next Fall’s rising juniors.
If you are wondering where the seventh period comes from in the schedule since there are six academic periods, Graham believes that socially, lunch is a contributing period of the class schedule that cannot be overlooked. “The community engagement that occurs during lunch is part of the learning and growth experience,” noted Graham, who added that lunches will also stretch out under the new 7-period model.
Also new to the schedule will be a fresh lineup for Wednesday’s which had been traditionally cut into very small blocks of classroom time due to our weekly chapels. Wednesday will now be fully dedicated to spiritual growth and life preparation. The day will start with mandatory clubs and activities, followed by the class-specific and age-appropriate Bible study sessions, which will be led by a class advisor who will support students through to graduation. It will also incorporate time for mandatory clubs and activities, and assemblies from time to time. Graham added, “We need to be intentional about our spiritual advisement that links to our overall advisory program that helps with retention.” The Wednesday schedule will have the flexibility to be able to seamlessly add larger group assemblies like all Upper School chapels like those that exist today, general informational assemblies, pep rallies, etc.
In addition to the spiritual advisory period on Wednesdays will be life-skills electives that will count for high school credit. Several articles from major publications have shone a bright light on the alarming lack of basic life skills that most of the millennial generation and this one following it ( tabbed Gen Z). These skills range from things like how to change a tire (or even checking the tire pressure) to writing an effective email, financial literacy, or even handwriting a thank you note. Other potential life skills sessions may include dinner table etiquette (which fork do I use?), basic sewing, conflict resolution (not by text), and rudimentary meal preparation (reading a recipe, measuring ingredients, chopping and cooking terminology). These are necessary skills many of us are stunned our kids don’t know (like where to place the address on a birthday card), and WCA hopes to help our students avoid having to take ‘adulting’ classes as a college student (not a joke, a real course now offered by Cal Berkeley). These electives will qualify for two credits over four years towards graduation. There will also be additional ‘flex’ time available on Wednesdays if teachers need to execute lab experiments, or students need some extra study time.
The reduction of class periods will not impact the possibility of having study halls or taking electives due to a decrease in the Virginia Department of Education graduation credit requirements. In 2017, the Virginia Department of Education announced high school graduation requirements would change. The core change was that students entering high school for the first time in 2018-19 need to have 26 credits for an Advanced Studies Diploma and 22 Credits for a Standard Diploma, which would be next Fall’s rising juniors. But what about rising seniors who need 28 credits under the current system? WCA’s rising senior class is ahead of pace considering daily classes, the outlined Wednesday life planning and financial literacy elective credits, and the proper administration of athletic participation credits earned for PE for club sports many of our seniors play. Additionally, many students in our eighth grade are already taking courses for high school credit (such as Spanish 1 and Algebra). Students who have these extra credits can elect a study hall or other elective that may not be in their core curriculum in future school years.
Another reason for the shift is the looming installation of the school’s recently announced International Baccalaureate Program. The six periods will align very well with that structure, and the consistent class length and daily routine aside from Wednesdays. “As we transition to IB, giving kids the tools to think, there will be some longer projects where students will be required to piece their work up over a longer time period,” explained Head of School Johnny Graham regarding the IB transition. Concerning how the rigor of the new curriculum will translate to homework with the loss of some study time during school, Graham was careful to note that we shouldn’t mistake quantity of content for rigor. “Part of the transition to a project-based and inquiry-based curriculum should be reflected in the end of going home every night and working until midnight to finish homework. There would certainly be periods when the work surges, but that should be the exception and not the norm,” commented Graham. “And that is something most of America is facing; it’s not just a WCA issue. We will be training our teachers in a new instructional paradigm that should address a lot of that.”
The new schedule will take effect in the Fall of 2020, and will not impact the school day timetable as it currently exists, except the elimination of Late Start Wednesday, where mandatory clubs and activities period will now occupy the extra hour. It will also not impact athletes that currently have to depart school for practices or travel games routinely. Just as those athletes would experience in collegiate athletics, the athlete is responsible for getting any work missed and making plans for any tests that they may miss. Most of that is similar to what already occurs for most of those athletes. Also, those students that have enrichment needs will have protocols for the required time outside class for their learning support needs.
The early enrollment and re-enrollment period have now started at WCA! All new and current families can save on tuition by locking into this past year’s lower tuition rates when they enroll by February 28th. Additionally, all new families enrolling in February do not have to pay the $300 new student fee due upon enrollment. For information on how to arrange a tour of WCA and start a pre-application, call our admissions director, Cassie Bradshaw, at 757-378-5263, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the WCA Admissions website by clicking here. (https://private-christian-school.williamsburgchristian.org/admissions/).