March Schedule Pilot
In 1998 the high school changed its bell schedule from a seven-period day to an eight-period day. This change did not increase the number of classes students could take, but it did increase the length of the lunch period from 22 minutes to a full 47 minute period. The reason for the change had most to do with maximizing room use as the increase in student enrollment was surpassing building capacity; the eight-period schedule with four full lunch periods freed up more rooms for scheduling purposes. In addition, the day was lengthened in order to comply with DESE Time and Learning regulations. This change in schedule was preceded in 1997 by a two-week trial run of two selected pilot schedules.
During the 2015-2016 school year, the high school began a self-study of the current bell schedule. This study was prompted by school and community members wanting to look at the connection between student wellness and the bell schedule. Much of this work coincided with the School District's partnership with Challenge Success. The essential question was, "Does the eight-period schedule create too many transitions, too many classes, and too large of a workload each day?"
During the first year of the self-study, we asked faculty to think about what they valued in a schedule. We asked this information on a narrative response form and received qualitative feedback such as: start and end times; length of periods; number of instructional periods per day; number of courses that can be taken; order of periods; length of lunch period; common planning time for staff; and academic support time for students. Student feedback at this time was gathered from the Challenge Success Survey.
In the spring of 2016, we developed a survey to quantify what students and staff valued in a bell schedule. We received 1,170 student responses, 687 parent/guardian community responses, and 108 faculty responses. It was at this time we began to research dozens of high school bell schedules that matched what people reported they valued from the surveys.
At the start of the 2016-2017 school year, we recruited a second scheduling committee to discuss next steps for the self-study. We narrowed down a selection of bell schedules thought to fit the criteria and presented them to the school's Leadership Team for consideration. The Leadership Team overwhelmingly selected one schedule model that was adopted, and this became the pilot we conducted this year.
Initially, we intended the 2017-2018 school year to be the end of our self-study leading to a decision to change, modify or keep our current schedule. Over the summer we met as a Leadership Team and it was apparent we needed to push the process back to the 2019-2020 school year. The implication of this decision simply meant we would follow our current eight-period schedule in the 2018-2019 school year.
In preparation of this year's pilot, our professional planning was designed in the following manner:
- colleague-led assessment and instruction workshops
- departmentally based work related to goals, assessment, and schedule
- debriefing of schedule pilot including next steps and department specific curriculum enhancement and updates
The schedule pilot was conducted during the weeks of March 12th and 19th. A survey for faculty and students was recently developed and will be administered in the coming weeks. As a school community, we will begin to analyze the data and form focus groups to consider all options for the 2019-2020 school year.
Having built school schedules for many years, I am aware of how important the process is to the successful operation of a school. The academic and social ramifications of an effective bell schedule can't be underestimated. It's imperative the schedule closely meets the needs of the school community.
The schedule not only determines when students have classes but in some cases if they can take certain classes at all. It determines when students have lunch and how much time they can have for lunch. The schedule determines how many classes a student can take in a day and how much downtime they can enjoy; students' much needed social interactions are heavily dependent on the schedule.
For teachers, the schedule can determine when and what they teach. It dictates the students they teach. The schedule determines how often and for how long their classes will meet. Scheduling considerations around the start and end of the school day have implications on the personal lives of teachers. It will also impact when a teacher can be available to students outside the school day.
The decision when and if to change our bell schedule is not on a timeline. Next year's change in start time will mean an adjustment of 44 minutes to our first-period class, which will now start at 8:07 a.m. This is a true accomplishment for the school district and took several years to bring to fruition. I believe it's an improvement that will positively impact our students, and I look forward to seeing its effect on our day.
The High School Administrative Team is committed to hearing feedback from all who participated in the pilot. As stated, we will be surveying faculty and students over the next few weeks regarding their experience with the pilot. This survey is not a referendum. It is a piece of data we will look at closely as we move forward. The Leadership Team and focus groups will also continue to seek feedback from the School District and the parent/guardian community.
We are indebted to the faculty and staff who have sat on the scheduling committees and subcommittees over the past three years. Our thanks go out to every member of the school community (including the students) for their patience, flexibility, and cooperation in the execution of the pilot. We now look forward to hearing the feedback from both students and staff as we begin our next phase of the self-study.
Larry Dorey & The Admin Team