Thursday, January 24, 2013

GLHS Schedulng for Next School Year

One of the most important components of second semester is the scheduling process. We want to ensure students, parents, teachers, and guidance counselors have as much time as possible to create the best possible schedule for each student.
We offer over 200 courses because we want our students to have choice in what they want to take over the years. However, this creates some challenges for us as well. In addition to our rich course offerings, we’ve had two different schedules the last two years: a 4 block A/B schedule at Clark Hall and a traditional 8-period schedule on main campus with some block classes sprinkled in. As you can imagine, or as some of you have experienced, this created a number of conflicts, such as double study halls or students being closed out of courses. In order to reduce the number of conflicts, we have come to the realization we cannot continue operating with two different schedules.
A/B Block Schedule
To help alleviate some of the conflicts we faced, next school all English, Math, Science, and Social Studies classes will be taught in an A/B Block format, grades 9-12. Blocking courses allow for:
·        Deeper exploration in content and meaning
·        Hands on time with teachers and students
·        Assessment and work completion within the classroom (including labs)
·        Creative lesson planning
·        Time to provide feedback to students while they are in class
·        Time for teachers who teach the same courses to work more together more closely and consistently
·        More time for students to complete out of class assignments
·        Less classes a day for students
We’ve had a great deal of success with the A/B schedule at Clark Hall because of the reasons listed above. Additionally, students have adapted to the time and have learned to manage their time outside of class to ensure they complete assignments in a quality manner.
If you are not familiar with the A/B block schedule, an A/B Block schedule is a schedule in which a student has two different classes scheduled during the same block of time, but they alternate which day and which class they take. For example, a student who has Math and Science during first block will go to the math class on “A” day (Tuesday and Thursday) and science class on “B” day (Wednesday and Friday). Monday will be a normal 8 period day with 47 minutes per period. The blocked class periods are 94 minutes long, so the amount of time in each class is evenly distributed during the year. This schedule will not conflict with our performing arts classes, International Languages classes, DECA, or other specialty classes; however it will help tremendously in alleviating conflicts.
Course Changes
With such a strong emphasis on Literacy through the Common Core State Standards and a majority of our seniors already taking two English courses, beginning next school year, seniors will have to take a semester of literature and a semester of composition. This will provide the opportunity for our students to continue to hone these skills as they transition from high school. Also, this will make it a little easier to offer dual enrollment classes that are yearlong. Our goal is to add five dual credit classes a year for the next five years. I have discussed this with several parent groups, including my Lions Advisory Board and members of the PTO. It’s also been a topic of discussion at the “Coffee with Mr. Carter” conversations.
The US Government class will be a year-long course as opposed to a semester of State and Local Government or Economics and a semester of Federal Government. This year’s juniors (Class of 2014) who have already taken Economics as the alternative for the State and Local Government credit will still be able to take a semester only of Federal Government next year.
Financial Literacy has been a graduation requirement the last two years and we currently have the standards embedded in State/Local Government and Personal Finance classes. However, in order to be more intentional with teaching the students Financial Literacy, students will have the choice of taking Economics or Personal Finance to fulfill their Financial Literacy requirement. The Economics course will not only have the Financial Literacy standards embedded throughout the course, but for students who are interested in pursuing a career in business, it will provide a broader perspective of micro and macroeconomics. The Personal Finance class will provide an in-depth study of the Financial Literacy standards where students will be able to apply the principles learned to their lives today. Both options allow us to be intentional and purposeful in fulfilling this important requirement, while providing student choice at the same time. 
Students who took Economics as a junior will only have to take a semester course of Federal Government to fulfill their government graduation requirement because prior to the 2013-14 school year, the Economics course has been an alternative to State and Local Government. Junior students who did NOT take Economics will be scheduled to take a full year of US Government their senior year and will have to take a semester of Personal Finance or Economics to fulfill the Financial Literacy requirement. Either way, students will leave high school with a thorough background of financial literacy.
Scheduling Process
Our Guidance Counselors will begin meeting with students to discuss scheduling on January 24th. Following is the schedule:
·        Juniors to be Seniors Thursday, January 24, 2013
·        Sophomores to be Juniors Monday, January 28, 2013
·        Freshmen to Sophomores Tuesday, January 29, 2013
They will meet with three groups per day by alphabet. This will ensure a smaller group size and for greater opportunities for students to ask questions, share concerns, and for the guidance counselors to answer the questions in greater detail. January 30th through February 12th, teachers will explain to students their departmental course offerings, course sequence, and course requirements. It is during this time that students will need to get your signature of support for selected courses. Students will then need to submit the selective course applications by Friday, February 8th. The actual registration form is due to your student’s English teacher by Thursday, February 14th. These deadlines are important because it helps us get the students scheduled sooner so we can reduce or eliminate conflicts much quicker. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated!
As you can imagine, this is a long process, but we have an amazing team of teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators who work together as a team to make it all happen! Please feel free to contact you student’s Guidance Counselor if you have any questions. Thanks! Until next time…
Be Great,

Dwight

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for all you do to make GLHS great. My heart-felt appreciation goes to the entire team.

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    1. Erin,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I think these changes will add to our rich curricular offerings and further prepare students for today's world. Enjoy your weekend!

      Be Great,

      Dwight

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  2. I can understand the need for operating on a single schedule; however, I am very concerned about the effect this will have on repetition based classes (especially Math). The nightly homework is a powerful reinforcement device. While my son is a senior, he has not had a lot of A/B classes. One he did have though was AP Government. My recollection of the feedback after the class concluded was that grades and AP scores we were lower than usual. Has any study been done at GLHS to see how AB class students perform on objective measures like AP exams? I would hate to see scheduling difficulties (which are very real) affect our students long term academic outcomes.

    One final comment/question. How will this affect 8th grade students how go to the high school for 1st period classes that are above grade level but necessary for their development.

    Thanks for your insight on these concerns.

    Chad Aldis

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    1. Hello Mr. Aldis,

      Thank you for sharing your concerns. Nightly homework can still take place for subjects like math. Students, parents, and teachers will have to work together to help students understand time management and learning outside of school. By that I mean not having class one day doesn't necessarily mean there is no homework. Talking with two teachers who teach Math classes in an A/B format, we have found they have much longer periods of time to actually work with students to help them through problems they face so their learning is enhanced. The challenge is helping students understand the concept that they still need to review the concepts even if they do not have class.

      The AP Government scores dipped slightly, but the percentage of students who earned a 3 or more was still in the 90s. The AP Psych scores dipped as well, but the teacher surveyed the students last year and used the data from the surveys to make necessary changes for this year. Both the AP Government and the AP Psych teacher enjoy the longer periods of time with students because of the time on task.

      Since the upper level math classes you referred to will be taught in the middle school now due to increased numbers, those students will no longer have to travel to the high school.

      I did talk with several math teachers, including the upper level math teachers, and they are not concerned about teaching math in an A/B format because of the extended block of time they will have with their students at one time. Again, the key to any schedule is to help students understand the importance of doing homework, whether assigned or not, even on the days they don't have a particular class. This will help them prepare for the work force and college since there are looming deadlines that require us to use our time wisely to complete the tasks in a timely manner.

      Thanks again for sharing your concerns.

      Be Great,

      Dwight

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    2. Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Mr. Carter. I certainly understand the points being made regarding longer blocks of time and some of the associated instructional benefits. I continue to be bothered with the thought of a student (esp. in math) covering two sections in a double block period on a Tuesday and getting home and realizing he/she didn't understand it as well as he/she thought. When they return to class on Thursday they'll be tasked with catching up on those sections and learning the next two. The alternative is that less material and fewer sections will be covered.

      Finally, my observation of the double blocks my son has had so far had way too much "homework" being done in class. There was instruction but also a lot of time spent reading and working on assignments in school. This is fine if its a flipped classroom or something innovative, but that hasn't been the case. It's just been less instructional time and more work time in class.

      I'll try to be optimistic, but these practical examples combined with the fall in AP test scores has me concerned.

      Thanks again for all you do.

      Chad

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