Our Curriculum

Frequently Asked Questions

St. Mary’s is so excited about our mod system and what it brings to our students. We are aware that our mod system may represent a big change from what families are used to in their current schools. Below are several frequently asked questions regarding the mod system. Hopefully, these answers will help you understand the phenonmenal benefits of the module system and see what opportunities it offers to ignite passion in your student's learning.  

List of 15 items.

  • What to Expect

    • Engaging hands-on learning
    • Interesting courses
    • Freedom to choose
    • In-depth learning
    • Six inter-mod breaks allowing more time to recharge
    • Ability to focus on their desired subjects
    • Enriched project-based learning
    • More travel opportunities
    • Guest teachers for specific courses
    • Dynamic interdisciplinary courses
    • Diverse modes of assessment, that allow students to shine
  • Do other independent schools use a modular schedule?

    Yes. Two highly regarded high schools in the United States use a very similar module system. The module approach to curriculum has been used by independent schools for many years to high degree of success.
  • Can I take two science classes or two math classes in the same academic year?

    Yes, this is a possibility and represents one of the great aspects of the mod system.
  • How do colleges look at St. Mary’s mod system? Will my student’s transcript look normal?

    College admission officers look at end results: courses taken and grades on the transcript to assess a student’s performance, not at the school's schedule structure. Transcripts will look much like they look now and every transcript is sent with a St. Mary’s School profile that gives an overview of the academic and extracurricular programs at St. Mary’s. 

    The college counselor updates the school profile annually to ensure that colleges have an accurate picture of the high standards to which St. Mary’s holds itself. Indeed, the feedback we’ve received about our mod system from colleges has been very positive.
  • How does the St. Mary’s mod system impact the students’ homework load?

    In the St. Mary’s mod system, a student takes only three homework-producing courses per mod. The X-bin classes are non-homework classes. In contrast, students can take up to 8 homework-producing courses per semester in our current schedule. Just as in our current schedule, Academic Labs can also be taken.
  • How often do students take exams in a mod system?

    Students will be assessed at the end of each module, depending on the class. Each department will determine the appropriate assessment method for its courses. This could take the form of an exam, but may also be an assigned research paper or other appropriate demonstration that the student has learned the course work.
    ISM research recommends that independent schools "maintain conditions that facilitate high levels of student performance throughout the year," noting that exam periods "interrupt and interfere with those conditions." This is based on ISM's "The 21st Century School: Exam Periods, I&P vol.37 no.14."
    "Although most colleges still have exam periods, most do not require exams be given during the scheduled time, and more than 60% of professors opt for alternative assessments." This is based on ISM's "College Student Assessment Study 2009."
    "There is no evidence that exam periods advance learning or retention. […] It is clear that students cram for the test and that long-term memory is rarely involved." This is based on "Optimizing Distributed Practice: Theoretical Analysis and Practical Implications," Experimental Psychology, 56(4), 2009, 236-246.
  • How does the Advanced Southern Credit (ASC) through Southern Oregon University work?

    St. Mary’s is offering multiple classes which garner ASC credit and we continue to strive to offer even more ASC credit opportunities.
  • How does grade reporting work?

    Every seven days teachers will notify parents by giving a snapshot of what is going on in class and what assignments have been given. This will culminate with a final grade at the end of each module in each class. MyStMarys, our grading platform, allows teachers to keep parents and students informed of assignments and show grades in progress.
  • Does the mod system impact athletics and other extracurriculars?

    We feel the mod system makes school better for our student-athletes, as they are now focusing on three or four classes at the most during the course of a seaon. In fact, some games and practices will fall during intermod breaks - meaning students won’t miss class time.
  • How does the St. Mary’s mod system improve school for St. Mary’s students?

    The new schedule will create benefits for our entire community, including the following:
    • Students will have greater flexibility, which will encourage them to explore their passions and try new things.
    • Faculty members will work with far fewer students during each module; as a result, they will be able to devote more time to each of them.
    • A more diverse array of classes
    • Mixed grade-level opportunities
    • Six inter-mod breaks allowing more time for students to recharge
  • How will the new schedule impact St. Mary’s curriculum? For Middle School? For High School?

    St. Mary’s 2.0 brings several important enhancements to our academic curriculum and the overall well being of the students.
    • It brings us in line with reseach showing that adolencents learn best with fewer classes which focus on material for longer periods of time. Three bins which are 90 minutes in length allow both instructors and students to balance mastery of topic and interdisciplnary learning. 
    • Students are able to put more emphasis on both problem solving and creativity when given the time to do in-depth study that the 90 minute classes provide.  
    • It allows for better integration of our academic subjects with diverse modes of assessment, that allow students to shine.
    • The 2.0 schedule for middle and high school students is different as 2.0 keeps the age appropriate qualities needed for both divisions. For middle school students, 2.0 creates a schedule which creates consistency and allows time for adviser group each day and also allows structured time for students to receive extra help. For high school students, 2.0 creates more class options and more choice for students.
  • What if my student has trouble with a 90-minute period?

    Our teachers work closely with students, regularly monitoring their progress. As is the case now, if a student has an academic problem, he or she will be supported by the teacher, adviser, and the division head. The longer class periods are ideal for students to engage actively in the learning process. Having more time allows teachers increased opportunity for differentiated approaches toward student mastery of concepts as well as increased opportunity to provide a variety of learning activities. Teacher attention to differentiation and variety will support student focus, we believe. Moreover, teachers will have a smaller student load each mod, therefore they’ll be able to devote more time to individual students.
  • What is the August Mod?

    The Aug Mod is an optional fourteen-day mod with a wide range of academic classes. There is not an extra cost associated with taking an Aug Mod course - unless specifically noted in the course description and necessary for materials (i.e. a Materials Science course fee, Oregon Shakespeare Festival tickets, etc.)
  • What will be the impact on foreign language? What if my son or daughter takes Spanish II in mod one and then again in mod four? What is the impact on his or her retention?

    One of the goals for St. Mary’s is to create a schedule that provides deep learning. Independent School Management (ISM), a leading educational consulting firm, completed an extensive examination of research on class time, and its observations in many schools supports the following findings:
    From ISM's article "How Much Time is Enough?” Ideas & Perspectives, vol. 32 no. 5:
    • When teaching in-depth (rather than breadth) takes place in classrooms, students suffer less short-term memory loss and little long-term memory loss.
    • In-depth teaching is typically associated with more intense experiences and varied teaching approaches carried out in longer class periods.
    From CAL Digest, "Scheduling Foreign Languages on the Block" October 1998:
    "Anecdotal accounts of students' language retention seem to point out that the loss of language is no greater after a one or two semester break than it would be after the summer recess.” Canady and Rettig quote research dealing with retention rates at the college level: "Students retain 85% of what they had originally learned after 4 months and 80% of what they had originally learned after 11 months." Students tend to forget factual information quickly but have significantly higher retention rate with information they learned through critical thinking because the information is not just memorized but internalized.
    Canady, R.L. & Rettig, M.D. (1995). Block scheduling: A catalyst for change in high school. Princeton, NJ: Eye on Education.
  • Are Advanced Placement classes offered? Will students be prepared for the exam?

    Yes and yes! You will see a robust offering of AP courses in the St. Mary’s mod system. We believe the module schedule supports the deep learning required in upper-level courses such as AP courses. The entire curriculum supports the growth of a student’s critical thinking skills and have seen scores improve since we moved to our mod system.