Student success is dependent on many variables, such as motivation, engagement, and support systems. In high school, educators have noted that organization and structure support student success compared to unorganized and unprepared students. As schools evolve with the times, changes have been implemented in scheduling, course offerings, and educational support services. This is where flex periods come into pay.

Many high schools have noted the benefit of providing a flex period for students; however, not every school has implemented an effective model. This article will explore the findings of Michael Ongie and his 2021 research on the effects of flex periods on student failure rates in high school.

What is a Flex Period?

First, to understand the importance of a flex period, it should be explained compared to a study hall. Schools with study hall options provide an assigned space to students at a designated time in their schedule. Students do not have access to teachers or other support staff during their time in the study hall, as these professionals are engaged in teaching or supporting other students.

On the other hand, flex periods provide students and staff with a designated time in the schedule where students can access different teachers or support staff as needed. Flex periods are typically a 20 to 45-minute block of time, depending on the school. In high schools, students can drift from one teacher or support staff to another as they have questions or need extra guidance.

Flex periods offer struggling students an opportunity to seek help and guidance from any of their teachers. Teachers benefit from the flex time as well because they can provide additional support to students they feel need more attention. Schools that implement flex periods support students through exposure to more instructional time during the class periods and increase personalized learning among the student population.

While study halls provide a space for students to work on their assignments, flex periods provide students with choices on where they can go to seek support based on their assignments or learning needs. Each school may differ in what options are available during the flex period. For example, some schools offer support in academics, counseling, wellness, and social activities. However, some schools only focus on academic support during flex time.

Why Add a Flex Period to a High School Schedule?

Flex periods focus on supporting the learning needs of students by offering additional time to seek support. Scheduling is essential to students and staff, and time directly correlates to increased student learning. Unfortunately, high school students are locked into a schedule that offers little flexibility throughout the day, and teachers use the majority of their classes for instruction.

Many teachers have noted that they do not have the time to work with students individually, even when they are aware of a need for more support and guidance. Rigid schedules that lack flexibility do not provide time for interventions and additional educational support services. Even if only a few periods a week, some flexibility offers students a chance to get extra support without missing classroom instruction.

While many high schools now offer students a variety of courses, each state is looking at the core courses to determine if the student is career and/or college ready. Students who have access to additional support have a higher chance of success than those who lack extra support. Dedicated time, such as a flex period, can support the success of students and help prevent class failures. With proper planning and guidance, an effective flex schedule can increase student achievement and reduce the likelihood of students failing a core class.

New Research on the Benefits of Flex Periods in High Schools

How the Study Was Conducted

In 2021, Ongie presented his thesis research on how implementing a flex period twice a week decreased the number of students failing semester courses. In his study, Ongie examined five years of data (450 students) from one school that implemented a flex period twice a week. When implemented, the flex period was scheduled in the mornings, before the day’s first period. Also, only academic interventions and support were available during the flex period.

Using data from a span of five years, Ongie was able to compare the data of students before the implementation of the flex period to student data after the implementation of a flex period. To understand the impact of a flex schedule, Ongie examined 47 courses to determine changes in failure rates.

The Results

Of the 47 courses examined, 27 courses showed a decrease in failure rate post-implementation of the flex schedule. In addition, eight courses showed a significant decrease in failure rates, including courses in algebra, history, biology, English, geometry, and Spanish.

Flex periods are beneficial to students in subjects that require critical thinking and require building on prior knowledge. For example, math and learning a foreign language are both dependent on accessing knowledge that was previously learned. Ongie noted that Spanish and math saw the most significant decline in failure rates after implementing a flex period.

Ongie emphasized that the student failure rate would decrease when students have access to educational support outside of the dedicated classroom time. Students benefit from having access to their teachers and educational support staff during a flex period.

Flex Periods Support Student Success

This research, along with other studies, presents the benefits of providing high school students with flexibility and additional time to access their teachers. To support our students’ college and career readiness, educators and administrators must be innovative in identifying ways to support the learning needs of all students. Traditional schedules of the past were often rigid, leaving students with little time to ask for the help they needed.

An increase in educational support and student success are some of the benefits of offering a flex period. Schools interested in implementing a flex period into their schedules should consider the student needs of their population and how to address those needs through flexible scheduling.

There are a variety of ways flexible periods can support student success. Some schools that offer flexible periods use the time for additional support on topics or lessons that have just been taught. For example, a math teacher may announce to the class that they will be providing extra support for new concepts during that week’s flex period. Other schools may allow educators to determine what support is offered during a flexible period as determined by student needs.

Overall, schools that implement flex time support student success through providing time for intervention and support outside of instructional time, decreasing the failure rates among students as they have more access to their instructors.