Boarding schools with modular scheduling?

Hi Everyone. I learned that one of the boarding schools my daughter is applying to uses modular scheduling system. At first glance, I am skeptical about it, mainly because of the continuity of subject learning, particularly math and language. However, I told myself to keep open, learn about it before making judgement. So here are the questions:

  1. How common is modular scheduling among boarding schools?
  2. Does modular scheduling look lik the future direction in general?
  3. For students and parents whose children are having modular scheduling, what are your comments?
  1. Not common before Covid. Some moved to it when they went remote, but reverted back once in-person returned.

  2. No, IMO

  3. No first-hand knowledge as my school followed a traditional schedule.

My daughter’s school did this last year and returned to a regular schedule this year. It was a challenge transitioning back due to the increased workload and gaps, as you mentioned, in math and languages. The overall impression from the school/faculty was that modular was not an ideal way to educate by a long shot.

My daughter does have a friend at a school that stuck with the modular system this year (Miss Porter’s) and the students there seem to have a lot of free time compared to other schools. I’m honestly not sure how well it prepares them for college in the long run.


I was at Madeira that has a modular schedule of 5 semesters each year. It allowed the school to add in a session for the various experiences in volunteering, government service in DC, and career exploration.

Students at Madeira like the break. Faculty liked that they could quickly retune classes and add in one module on a additional math topic. The downside was that if your kid misses class, they get really far behind really fast.

Madeira competes with a very powerful girls day school near its campus, so it has some trouble attracting very academic day students. It’s 50:50 day boarding.

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Cambridge School of Weston alum here - CSW currently has a 6 module schedule but used to have 8.

It works for some people, but it’s intense. As @VisibleName2 observed, students can ill afford to take days off.

People often say that it’s an issue for math and language classes, but I personally did not find this to be the case.

I doubt that many schools would consider a long term change, post-COVID. Modular scheduling requires a certain toolbox of skills, commitment and experience; it sounds like many teachers were just sort of thrown into a modular schedule last year, and left to sink or swim.

It did make applying to colleges interesting. I would receive messages like, “You application is incomplete. We are missing grades for [classes in later modules].” Tough to submit grades for a course scheduled to occur in the future.

Frankly, I wish higher education would consider modular scheduling in some courses. I took some graduate level math courses where it seemed like a good chuck of the 45 minute class was spent reminding us where we left off, and just when things got interesting, the bell would ring.

COVID changed things at Deerfield - the school did a type of “Block Schedule” last year during COVID with courses lasting @ 10 weeks per term, having 2 classes each term. This was aimed at de-densifying (if that’s a word) the buildings. The good news was that the students were in school. The bad news list, however, is long. It was very difficult to have an entire year of an AP Course, foreign language, math, science, CS in 10 weeks. As a result, there are common knowledge gaps for students who completed their math and foreign language courses last November, then were expected to pick up where they left off when returning to school. On top of that, everyone I know of who took the AP tests found it tougher to prepare after a long gap of several months, or a truncated course.

This year, DA has another type of modular system where the students have courses on different days. As a result, some classes have a one day gap or maybe 2 day gap in between, with slightly longer class periods. The aim (I believe) was to have longer class times. The problem is that most of my student’s teachers give out 2 days of homework or 2 day assignments. I am not sure if this schedule will stick next year.

You raise an important point - when applying to BS’s, do ask about their schedules, proposed changes to schedules, reading periods (if any), length of term, AP prep offered, etc.

Also, take advantage of the many kind students on this board who can share insights about course load & schedules with you. You might get more information from DM’s on CC than you would be talking to students on campus. :shushing_face:


DS school went to an eight term module during Covid and restructured to a 6 term module this year. I think partly because they were still a bit scared about transitioning back to Covid like measures if anything happened and partly because they liked doing a modular system. The courses were really interesting and kids got to take lots of different options. I’m not one to worry too much about “but for college…” although I did have to have them make a few changes to DS schedule so that he got a full credit in some areas (3 classes count as a credit in each subject area, but a kid can take anywhere from 1-6 classes in a subject area in a year) and moved some classes to the beginning of the year so they would see them for admission as he may apply for engineering.

The schedule did allow him to easily double up on math courses.

Madeira seemed to find the modules worked well. But they has transitioned to modules years ago, not due to Covid. AP test takers usually get a block at exam time for preparation.

So a Madeira student might take a “year-long” English class in 3 of the 5 available modules. Each module is about 5 weeks long.

I have a kid at a day school with 9 classes crammed into his semester. It’s exhausting switching gears for his classes and assignments. This is extreme but I’m more sympathetic to a modular format after seeing this organizational challenge.

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George School is switching to the same as CSW. You have the course on an off all year. Apparently, studies show that this is good for learning and that having only 4 classes a day (current schedule) to prepare for is less stressful. To be clear, modular is NOT block.

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Isn’t that a block schedule? I saw a school where kids take 8 classes a semester, 4 classes one day and 4 the next. Then back to the first four classes. Each class is 70m long.

I edited my post to be clearer it’s a modular schedule at Madeira.

The block schedule usually refers to one where you take a full course in half a year (much like you would in college.) There are typically two “terms” for academic classes. (There may be a short one – like a college Jan plan – in addition.)

The modular schedule rotates the courses in throughout the year over 7 marking periods. So unlike the block schedule, where you would take French 1 from September though December, you would have the course in 3 parts over the year – maybe October, Jan, and April. From what I have read about it, the numerous “fresh starts” during the year is energizing. The brief review at the beginning of the continuation reinforces learning. And the courses can be completed before AP and IB exams. It also makes some doubling up possible, so a kid could do French 1 and 2 in one year (assuming mods lined up that way.)

It must be a scheduling nightmare! But it also allows kids to drop into a class at an appropriate point. Maybe a kid who has done some programming would start that class in the second mod.

It also allows short courses and/or travel study.

Edited to add that George is currently using the same schedule you described for Madeira. Kids are liking it but it still means they are taking 8 classes at a time, even though only 4 meet each day. With a mod schedule, they would have those same 4 every day for however many weeks. Then a different 4 in the next of the 7 “terms”.

Actually the 4 a day, new 4 next day, then back to original 4 classes is not Madeira. It’s a local day school’s block schedule.

Madeira has what I call a module system. Madeira it’s 5 little “semesters” of 5 weeks each. Every 5 weeks the classes can change. Madeira may have blocks within its weekly schedule, but I believe it was 3 or 4 classes each 5 weeks. I don’t know if each day is the same. Obviously we asked a lot more questions about the 5 week modules.

Every school we’re looking at has some sort of block schedule—classes are not the same every day.

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Yes, I think then Madeira (and CSW) have a modular schedule. My sense is that this is gaining in popularity, especially after some of the schedule changes schools tried during covid.

Our LPS had a true block schedule. It was one of the things that drove us to BS.

That might just be something they’re working through at the moment while teachers adapt. Here at Lawrenceville, we’ve had a similar type of schedule both before and during covid (pre-COVID each class 4x in six days, during covid 3x in six days), and the solution that they came up for was basing homework assignments on class periods rather than nights. So, for example, a 500 level class can only assign 55 minutes of homework after each class period, even if there are three nights between one meeting and the next.

@confusedaboutFA , George had a schedule like that when DS was there. It is a twist on the conventional schedule. There was a lot about it that made sense. One of the weekly classes for each subject was for an extended period. DS would say that there wasn’t enough coordination between teachers on assignments and/or their estimates of how long things took was seriously off! What are you finding?

The modular one is really completely different, and it’s interesting hearing how it has worked. I can see how missing a few days for illness could be really tough!

I thinks CSW and Madiera were the only 2 doing it that way with real commitment and intention. I suspect that teachers need to learn how to deliver content effectively this way. It’s different enough from what most are used to.

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7 modules not 5 at Madeira. Here’s a link from the school.

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There’s a few things teachers do to facilitate our experiences:

  1. All teachers encourage you to stop working if you hit the time limit, especially if completing the homework means sacrificing sleep. You will never get penalized for writing “time.”
  2. There is a system called “assignment relief” wherein if you have 3 or more major assignments (tests, papers, presentations, labs) due on the same day, you can request to push them to a following date so that you have no more than 2.
  3. Teachers are very nice with granting extensions. If it’s too late to get an extension, then there is also the “24-hour-pass,” which allows you to submit an assignment 24 hours after its due date, no questions asked (teachers are required to accept it).
  4. On the course experience surveys that you fill out at the end of each term, one of the required questions is “How frequently are you able to finish the homework within the allotted time.” This feedback is given directly to the teacher, their department chair, and the Dean of Academics, so it does get followed up on.

Overall, I haven’t had too many problems with homework; it usually takes me as long as they expect or slightly less. This is consistent whether it’s with a veteran teacher or someone who’s only been teaching at Lawrenceville for a year or two.