District closer to critical High School Schedule change: 7-periods, alternating blocks, trimesters all on table

In the near future the delivery system for education at Mount Si High School will undergo a big change. Gone will be the traditional six-period school day – replaced by a daily schedule that will allow students flexibility to meet new state-mandated graduation requirements that includes increased credits.

The new [core] 24-credit graduation requirement started with the class of 2019, and puts more pressure on students in traditional six-period schedules, decreasing flexibility and essentially leaving no room for error because that traditional schedule only allows 24 credits to be earned over a student’s 4-year high school career.

To meet increased graduation requirements, most high schools in Washington have transitioned to new bell schedules that allow students to take more courses and earn 28 – 32 credits over four years.  In addition to allowing ‘room for error’ if a course is not passed, these schedules also provide more flexibility for students to explore different courses. And for band and choir students, the struggle to fit in required world languages and PE courses – a long-standing struggle at Mount Si – will be alleviated. The need to make tough schedule choices or depend on course waivers would disappear.

High School Schedule Advisory Committee Formed

SVSD’s High School Schedule Advisory Committee (HSSAC)  has been working since last spring, exploring schedule options that might work. This fall the committee has narrowed the choices down to three – and by spring 2017 it should have a final recommendation to the superintendent and school board.

Superintendent Aune commented at the December 8th school board meeting, “Great teachers and great teaching will cause any of those models to work for kids.”  He added, “It’s about quality implementation.”

After recent meetings and focus groups with MSHS teachers, students and parents, the committee landed on its top three schedule change options. Each model maintains the current length of the school day, but reduces the number of hours of instruction per credit, as more courses per year will be offered to students.  [Currently each one-credit course has approximately 165 hours of instruction.]

Assistant Superintendent Jeff Hogan said at the December meeting that even with the reduced instruction hours per course, professional development experts say it can be done by revising the scope and sequence of courses. He said instruction becomes more about “depth than breadth.”

December MSHS staff meeting were different schedule model options were discussed. PHOTO: SVSD
Top Three Schedule Model Options:

7 Period Modified Block

Students would take seven, 48-minute classes three times per week (i.e. Monday – Wednesday). Then twice per week (i.e. Thursday and Friday) they would take three or four 85 minutes classes. Friday would have 3 periods to accommodate early release day.

Students could earn seven credits per year or 28 credits before graduation. Each credit would have 140 hours of instruction. As teachers traditionally have one prep period per day, this schedule model would provide them with more prep time than currently available to them.

4 x 8 Block Alternating Days

Students would take eight 80-minute classes per year that meet on alternating days throughout the school year, taking four classes each day. For example, on Monday students would be in periods 1-4, then the following day in classes 5-8. The alternating block would continue into the following week – so if they ended the week with periods 1-4, the next Monday would start with periods 5-8.  Classes would be shortened on Fridays for early release day.

Students could earn eight credits per year or a possible 32 credits before graduation. Each credit would have 130 hours of instruction.  Teachers would also have more prep time than they currently have with a 6-period schedule.

5 Period Trimester

Students would take five 70-minute classes day in a one trimester course. The school year would be composed of three semesters. Some courses would be three trimesters long or 1.5 credits. Classes would be shortened on Fridays for early release.

A total of 30 credits could be earned over four years. Each credit would have 140 hours of instruction. Teachers would again have more prep time with this model, but not as much as with the 7 period block or 4 x 8 block schedule models.

What’s Next?

The HSSAC will continue its work this winter, diving deeper into the three above schedule models. Asst. Superintendent Hogan said in future meetings the committee will examine prototypical 4-year student schedules in each option; budgetary, class size, course scope and sequence and professional development implications; impact of student absences; schedule flexibility for students.

Before a final schedule change recommendation is made in March, there will also be another MSHS staff work session, student focus group and parent information night. Hogan said having the input of staff, parents and students will help ensure they arrive at the best schedule model.

It is expected the high school schedule change would be implemented at the start of the 2018-19 school year, as a significant amount of professional development will be needed before that implementation occurs.


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