A Principal Asks… Master Schedule Options

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A LYS Principal asks the following:

SC,

So if eight and nine period days are so awful, what does a good schedule look like?

Seven periods?

I am loaded with electives, what do I do with those folks?

My E/LA department believes and have shown through scores that if they are not blocked that they cannot cover state mandated material in just 46 minutes a day. This forces other classes to be larger and just creates more issues to deal with on a daily basis?

I can see having fewer periods, more time on task, and moving from 46 minutes to more than 50 minutes a period. Is this what you are getting at?

I am at a loss and want to assist my campus in being at the top by doing whatever is required. As they say “everything is on the table”.

SC Response Excellent questions that warrant expertise beyond my pay grade. So I referred your post to the best scheduling person I have every met, former “Principal of the World,” E. Don Brown.

EDB Response You mentioned “block” in your question. Most have a single view of “extended time learning” and many administrators see the “block” as an increase in staffing cost so it is rarely used any more.

In Texas, where I understand your campus is located, due to state course requirements (4X4 and the distinguished diploma) and testing requirements (was TAKS, now STAAR) most principals see either the block, eight period, or nine period schedule as their only options. There are other options and my favorite is the “Trimester”. Some may remember it from their college experience.

The Trimester is just as one would predict. Students are scheduled into three, twelve-week sessions, each session consisting of five courses. This allows students to earn 2½ credits each trimester, 7½ credits each year, and 30 credits for the four years of high school. But most importantly, the Trimester gives teachers time to teach and students the opportunity to focus on mastering a manageable course load.

The kicker is that STAAR does not fit perfectly into the Trimester system. But TAKS didn’t fit perfectly into the traditional semester system, as is still the case with the STAAR. This requires individualized accommodations that can and should be made for students, regardless of the schedule you are running. But sadly, most school leaders are not willing to do this extra work for two semesters, so doing it three times a year is out of question. Yet another example of adult convenience trumping student benefit.

Here are some basic facts about the TRIMESTER.

  • Students are enrolled in 5 classes each trimester (3 trimesters x 5 classes = 15 classes or 7½ credits per year.
  • Teachers teach 4 classes each trimester (3 trimesters x 4 classes = 12 classes or six sections per year.
  • Classes are 70 – 80 minutes long (extended learning time periods).

As with any good foundation, there are also several hybrid schedules that can be created from this basic format.

E. Don Brown

Think. Work. Achieve. 

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