This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Many people think of the school day as seven hours with a bell schedule that divides it up into eight or nine equal periods. But in Philadelphia schools, what the school day looks like increasingly may vary from one school to the next.
To explore the variety in how the day is used, the Notebook lined up the schedules of 10th graders at five different high schools [see comparison of 5 high schools] – a neighborhood school, a special admissions school, a career and technical education school, a charter school, and a private school – to see what a typical day looks like at each school, both teacher time and student time. We surveyed school leaders about the structure of the day and about their perspectives on how time is used.
What we found: District high schools don’t all follow the traditional norm of a day divided neatly into 45-minute periods.
Block scheduling with double-periods is not unusual – it fits well for career and technical education, where in some subjects a class may be as long as three hours. And schools are adapting their schedules to provide regular meeting time for their staff. The level of afterschool activity varies widely – not surprisingly, the private school in our study had the most robust extracurricular program.