Not enough time for valued social-emotional learning programming. Limited daytime options for tiered supports. Teachers with limited collaborative planning time. School schedules influence every aspect of the student and teacher experiences. But often, we can take the power and potential of schedule design for granted.
Enter Tegy: short for “strategy”, the strategic scheduling partner has helped schools reimagine how they approach schedules for over a decade. In the process, they’ve helped schools better execute their missions, optimize student and teacher performance and find even new possibilities during the midst of a global pandemic. The Fund has invested in Tegy since 2014 as a track in our Summer Design Program.
For Tegy founder and CEO Furman Brown, the process of scheduling is not only empowering, but exciting: “Since I was in the first group of Teach for America 30 years ago, I’ve been obsessed with the hidden potential in scheduling.”
“Tegy is a school schedule design and training firm that focuses on transforming how schools leverage their resources,” Brown explained. ”By thinking differently about how to approach scheduling, every school can accomplish more with their existing resources than they imagined possible.” Tegy calls its transformative design processes “Impact Scheduling rather than Master Scheduling.”
Tegy’s Professional Learning Director Karen Derrick-Davis added, “Schools come to us looking for a new schedule, and we help them realize that it’s not just about moving boxes around in an excel spreadsheet; it’s about operationalizing their vision.”
Derrick-Davis explained that although the educators she has worked with deeply care about their school’s mission, when it comes to mapping out a school day, they don’t have time to step back and truly consider how the structure of a day can further their mission. Logistically, educators get caught up in “trying to get people in the right places while making the numbers work.”
Tegy’s process, Brown described, helps school leaders “reconnect with the fire in the belly, or why they got into the career in the first place.” By pairing a unique scheduling modeling process and software with 30 years of coaching experience, Tegy has helped schools do more with the same resources, and ultimately create better experiences for students and teachers.
Derrick-Davis recalled, “I remember in one training overhearing a school leader say, ‘Wow, it so refreshing to think about the schedule from the student’s point of view.’”
Centering students in their logistical planning has had transformational effects for educators. On Tegy’s website, Principal Efraín Martínez of Orozco Academy describes his experience with Tegy as valuable and eye-opening: “The Tegy training and software helped us to approach ‘time’ as a tool we could optimize for learning. Our decisions about learning and teaching have become much more intentional and vision-driven.”
Since March 2020, Tegy has worked with over 30 schools as they adapt their school day for remote and hybrid learning, and coached network Instructional Support Leads on how to support school scheduling. This work has been particularly challenging given uncertainties surrounding the virus, vaccines and shifting dates regarding students’ return to school.
Still, the Tegy team has unearthed some innovative and impactful new school strategies. For example, the team released scheduling strategies that any school in the district could use as inspiration for their remote learning, hybrid schedule and beyond.
One model, “Smart Start” was embraced by Belding Elementary on the city’s North Side, which noticed that students and parents were having technological difficulties and other issues at the beginning of the day, which made classes in the morning start off slowly. Utilizing the Smart Start in their fall remote schedule, all teachers had collective prep time at the beginning of the day, allowing them to plan together, while other teachers could troubleshoot any technology issues and answer any questions that families might have.
As Principal Amy Vondra of Hamilton Elementary prepared for the hybrid launch this month, her primary goal was to avoid simultaneous teaching — where teachers teach both the in-person and online students at the same time. By rethinking staff assignments and student grouping, Vondra was able to leverage the capacity of all the educators in her building. Principal Vondra said, “I used aides to extend the impact of content teachers. I added homerooms and mixed level K-4 classes, and was able to eliminate simultaneous teaching and bring back students four days a week in-person.”
Tegy also hopes that despite the challenges of remote and hybrid learning, after the pandemic is over, some of the lessons from this period will last, to the benefit of students and teachers.
“Realizing that learning can happen in more ways than at school in front of an in-person instructor is a valuable lesson that could be helpful for future scheduling decisions,” Derrick-Davis said. “Teachers and students are resourceful. There are so many ways to learn!”
For the remainder of the school year, Tegy will continue to work with individual schools to help them adjust their schedules to optimize remote and hybrid learning — and prepare for the important next chapter for school systems. Their goal is helping schools with their immediate needs, while maintaining a focus on the future: “Anything that’s done for the rest of the year will also lay the groundwork for fall scheduling and system operational goals,” Brown emphasized.
The work remains challenging, but the Tegy team is up for task. Derrick-Davis reflected on the success they’ve had: “Educators get so excited when they realize they can do things differently while celebrating and elevating what they do well.”
To participate in The Fund’s programming with partners such as Tegy, apply using the Common Application before Monday, April 5.