19 Benefits of Flex Periods in Schools
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
Flex Periods are becoming commonplace in middle and high schools across the country to help them provide more opportunities for their students. While they go by many names, like Intervention Blocks, Enrichment Periods, Tutorials Periods, Activity Period, Mascot Time, or even Advisory, schools find many reasons to implement them based on their own unique culture and goals. As more schools consider whether or not to start one or their own school, it’s important to be aware of the benefits they provide. While there has been limited research on their impact on their own, we’ve created a list of benefits based on research by Stephen A. Pottage & Sheila M. Sillery from the Gordon Albright School of Education in Seattle and our firsthand experience in schools, including a survey of school leaders, teachers, and students.
For more information on what a Flex Period is, why they’re important, and some examples from different schools, check out this post.
Why is it Important to Know the Benefits of Flex Periods?
Knowing the benefits of Flex Periods can be helpful for many reasons. First, if you’re looking to start a Flex Period in your building, it’s helpful to know them so you can decide if they’re right for your school and influence how you decide to set them up, assuming they are a good fit. Knowing the benefits can also help invest other people, like your staff, students, family, central office, or community at-large, in why they’re worth implementing in your school. If you have a Flex Period in your building and have seen benefits we don’t list below, feel free to reach out and tell us (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’d be happy to update this list (and even cite you)!
19 Benefits of Flex Periods
1. Easily Group Students Across Class Periods by Needs
This is one of the most common, if not obvious, benefits of Flex Periods. In most cases, teachers teach the same content to multiple groups of students throughout the day (for instance I taught 7th grade math to four different periods). Without a Flex Period, those groups of students are always grouped the same each day but receive the same lesson. But as any teacher can tell you, it’s almost certain that you’ll have some kids in each class struggle on the same topic, standard, and objective, while others don’t, even when students are tracked by prior test scores. This makes giving struggling students the additional support they need tough, as doing so in regular class means that other students who didn’t struggle are ready to move on. It’s a constant dance of differentiation that every teacher tries on a daily basis. And while there are certainly things that can be done within regular class time, with a Flex Period a teacher is now able to get a group of students across all their classes that need the same type of support without taking up time from the rest of the class that was ready to keep moving. Not only does class continue moving on schedule, but teachers and struggling students aren’t forced to find time before or after school to get the time they need. This is a win-win for the teacher and all students, whether they were struggling or not on any given topic.
2. Minimize Stigmas Against Struggling Students
Related to getting more time with kids that need it the most, incorporating a Flex Period into your schedule allows a flexible time each day where students all go somewhere different, which helps eliminate the stigma that can come with needing additional support. Now kids don’t have to worry about their peers seeing them hold class up or need something different because all kids across the building go somewhere different each day based on their own needs, reasons, and choice. While some students will likely spend more time in classrooms providing interventions than others, students won’t know where another student is on a daily basis and have no way of knowing a student needs extra help like they do when it frequently happens during their regular class they share together.
3. Easily Pre-Teach Topics to Boost Student Knowledge + Confidence
Another way to help students who tend to struggle during Flex Periods is by pre-teaching challenging topics to groups of students that frequently struggle. As one high school teacher shared: “I honestly can not say enough about the benefits to students. I have begun taking students from my academic chemistry class who struggle the most and bringing them in for scholastic [flex] days to pre-teach the most challenging concepts. The impact has been incredible. Students who typically struggle are now answering questions correctly in class and demonstrating depth of understanding in the lab and on assessments. More importantly, those students feel empowered and ASK to do the same thing in future [flex] periods!”
4. More Enrichment Opportunities
While Flex Periods are usually implemented to focus on providing interventions for struggling students, they also open up the opportunity to provide enrichment opportunities to students who are ready for something new. Many teachers will also provide sessions that extend beyond the curriculum for students that are interested in a topic when class time cut it short. These could be more traditional extension lessons, additional lab opportunities, films that go deeper into subtopics, or really any other project that gets students excited and pushes their thinking.
5. Increased Personalized Learning
No matter what group of students you’re looking at, Flex Periods give more opportunities for personalized learning to take place. Not only can you personalize it by offering the types of additional intervention and enrichment opportunities mentioned above with teachers, some schools also incorporate it into their schedule during Flex Periods by leveraging technology. In some schools they create chaperoned spaces for students to engage in learning platforms on devices at their own pace and tailored to their own needs. These can be on subjects from their regular classes, like math or English, or on other topics that might not be covered in schools, like personal finance or college preparation. Because each is working at their own speed, it doesn’t matter if they get only one or all of their Flex Periods in a given week depending on what other priorities they have on their plate.
6. Increased Involvement in Clubs + Activities
In addition to enrichment time focused on academic topics from class, Flex Periods also open up opportunities for students to be involved in more extracurriculars as well, which are usually forced after school hours. These could be clubs, sports, or anything else that interests students and doesn’t fall neatly into a subject or class that’s offered, like anime or video games. Building this into the school day when they don’t have a more pressing academic need also makes these opportunities more equitable across the building, as students aren’t forced to find a solution to allow them to participate after school. In fact, on our survey of school, 76% of students reported that they “had more opportunities to participate in clubs or activities because of flex time.”
7. Less Time Required After-school
While students have more equitable opportunities with Flex Periods not forcing those “nice-to-haves” outside of regular school hours, this also means teachers are less likely to be forced into using their time after school for providing tutoring, interventions, enrichment, or extracurriculars after school. While a Flex Period might not eliminate the need for after school activities altogether, especially for activities like competitive sports, it definitely helps. One teacher from a Pennsylvania high school shared that they “find [their flex period] to be invaluable time” and “appreciate not having to try and schedule after school time with the kids who are struggling because they often "forget" to come.”
8. Increased Student Achievement
With more opportunities during the school day for intervention, enrichment, and extracurriculars, it’s likely no surprise that student achievement is among the most cited, and most important, benefits of Flex Periods. On our survey of schools, 83% of staff (teachers and administrators) said that their Flex Period contributed to an increase in student achievement. One high school teacher in Nebraska shared their thoughts on the impact, citing student grades: “I have had an opportunity to help students improve their grades and get better understanding (especially in the area of writing) than I ever have. The students are much more willing to ask for help because of the environment it naturally sets up. I especially like how I can target specific students.”
9. Less Class Interruptions
Having a Flex Period in the schedule allows schools to bring groups of students together when they need to for all the things we know happen in schools but don’t take place in regular classes, like preparing for graduation, getting ready for a field trip, or having a meeting with a counselor. This means they no longer have to pull students from their classes for all of these events and give more time back for instruction to the students that need to participate in these other activities, but also means less interruptions for teachers and their entire class.
10. Increased Student Attendance
Additionally, schools frequently see an increase in student attendance because of their Flex Periods. On our survey to schools, 59% of administrators stated they believed their Flex Period contributed to an increase in student attendance. While this might be in part because students are happier and more excited to be at school and on time, Flex Periods also allow students a common time to take care of loose ends instead of cramming them into short passing periods throughout the day. Additionally, less interruptions happening in classes help students stay in class when they are in the building and prohibit them from getting behind, making them more invested in being there and on track with everyone else.
11. Increased Student Engagement
Schools also cite an increase in student engagement during the day after implementing Flex Periods, with 77% of administrators claiming their Flex Period contributed to an increase in student engagement. This is likely a result of many other benefits on this list, as students are likely more engaged when they have the support needed to understand the daily objective in class or get excited about an enrichment activity they can take on a topic of interest or even just some time to decompress or talk to their friends.
12. Better Relationships Between Students + Teachers
While it may not seem intuitive at first, especially if you haven’t experienced a Flex Period firsthand, schools also claim seeing better relationships between students and teachers after implementing a Flex Period, and the research backs it up. In Pottage and Sillery’s research, they saw an increase in students agreeing that “adults in this school care about me” after a year of Flex Periods, which included the percent strongly agreeing with that increasing from 10% to 19.2%. They also found that 63% of teachers agree with the statement “I Believe That Flex Has Given Me the Opportunity to Build More Connections With Students.” This is likely because instead of more traditional models where students go to a “homeroom” or “advisory” on a regular basis to discuss topics, in a Flex Period students and teachers see each other when they have a need and/or chose to. This allows both parties to have more intentional actions and build relationships more organically than during their scheduled time each day.
13. Students Feel More Balanced
Pottage and Sillery’s research also found that students felt more balanced after having a Flex Period in their building for a year. To measure this, they asked students the degree to which they agreed with the statement “I (Student) Find Balancing My School Workload and Personal Interests Manageable.” At the beginning of the year, 46.8% of students agreed with this statement, whereas 77.8% did at the end of the year (an increase in 31%). While there certainly could be some other factors at play, students having more time built into their schedule to get help or work on assignments when they need to, or even spending time with friends or in a quiet study hall for a break, has to be helpful for students balancing their work and personal interests.
14. Increased Student Choice
As more schools try to empower their students and give them choice, it’s often hard to do this in meaningful ways in a traditional schedule where so much is chosen for them. Flex Periods offer a significant part of the day where students can choose where they want to go. This doesn’t mean that teachers or administrators don’t get to have a say depending on how a school sets up their Flex Period, but it does allow students to own their learning and school experience in a way that’s hard to accomplish otherwise. This is why Edficiency is designed to give students (and teachers) different priority levels when they make requests and why we weren’t surprised by student choice being a strong theme in the responses we got from students in our survey to schools that use Edficiency. When asked what they liked about their Flex Period, one 9th grader in Wisconsin stated that they provided “networking with other students throughout the day and a good change of environment when needed,” while another in Nebraska stated that they “can choose where [they] want to be for a short period of [their] day… [which] allows [them] to make up work, relax in an area [they’re] comfortable in, and attend club meetings without interfering with [their] regular classes.” A teacher in Pennsylvania even noted that “[s]tudents love to be able to pick where they want to go... [which] makes it easier to help some students who are reluctant to ask for help... [and] opens the dialog to ask students if they need help.”
15. Less Student Anxiety
At this point, it might not be surprising that Pottage and Sillery’s research also saw a decrease in anxiety among students after implementing a Flex Period, with a 6.4% drop in students feeling anxious about school after one year of implementing flex periods. Again, this benefit is likely closely linked to some of the other benefits on our list, like feeling more balanced, having more choice or control over their day, and getting the support they need to do better in school, but with all the focus on supporting the whole child, it’s worth noting on its own.
16. Increased Social-Emotional Learning + Support
Schools have been focusing more and more on social-emotional learning (SEL) and support for students over the past years, but it rarely has a place in a traditional schedule and course load. Flex Periods can offer a space to give students this type of support and learning. Some schools choose to have lessons that they weave into their Flex Periods using a curriculum, but even when schools don’t, there is still space to support students during Flex Periods around these ideas, whether through more personalized conferences, setting/following up on goals, or building relationships more broadly. Even giving students the ability to choose and take more ownership over part of their day supports SEL. It’s no surprise then that Pottage and Sillery’s research also found that 81.9% of the students agreed that flex blocks benefitted/supported them (with an increase of 20% over 5 months of participating in them).
17. Students Enjoy School More
After all the benefits discussed so far, it’s not a leap to believe that students enjoy school more when they have Flex Periods. In our survey of schools, 83% of students agreed that they enjoy their school day more because of their school's Flex Period. And while students enjoying school might not always be something that’s top of the list of priorities, it likely doesn’t hurt no matter what your goals and priorities are. Happy students are more likely to do well in school, pay attention, and show up (on time). They contribute to a stronger and more positive school culture. They help improve teacher satisfaction. They even serve as ambassadors for your school in the community, improving the broader perception of the school and relationships with the community. It’s actually hard to find a downside here...
18. Students Appreciate + Want Them
Given everything mentioned thus far, there is a lot of evidence showing that students appreciate and want Flex Periods, by and large. On our survey, 89% of students agreed their Flex Period is important to them and 93% said they’d like their school to continue using their Flex Period next year, while 83.5% of students at a large high school in Pennsylvania felt their Flex Period was beneficial to them. Pottage and Sillery’s research also found that 81.8% of students agreed their school should continue with their Flex Period after just their first year with it. It’s clear students find value in Flex Periods and want them in their daily schedule.
19. Teachers Believe They Benefit Students
And last, but not least, teachers also believe they benefit students, Pottage and Sillery’s research finding that 78.2% of the teachers believed that Flex Periods benefited and supported students after just one year of implementing the schedule. It seems Flex Periods are one place students and teachers largely agree on the benefits.
As you can see, there are many benefits of Flex Periods. If you don’t have one yet, hopefully you’re convinced of why they’re a best practice and that they could be a good fit for your school. If you already have one, hopefully this list has given you some additional ideas for benefits to look for or leverage in achieving your goals. In either case, if you’ve decided Flex Periods are worth making happen in your building and you’d like a way to make them easier on your team so you can focus on your students, click here to schedule a demo and learn how Edficiency helps schools automate the process to save schools time.