Parent and Family Feedback on the High School Schedule

December 10th, 2013 by Diane Lauer Leave a reply »

Gathering Parent/Family Feedback on the Master High School Schedule

Thank you for taking some time to visit this blog and share your parent/family thoughts about the Thompson School District high school schedule and in the future, the revised graduation guidelines that will affect students in who are presently in middle school.

Who is working on the changes to the High School schedule?

dlMy name is Diane Lauer, and I am the executive director of instruction. I was a teacher and then principal at Conrad Ball Middle School for a number of years before I started working at the district office to support teachers and the subjects they teach.
mcWorking with me is Margaret Crespo, the executive director of secondary education. She is a former high school teacher, counselor and principal.  She works to support our secondary schools be the very best they can be.
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Together, we have been working with a task force of about 30 teachers, parents and principals to better understand the new state graduation guidelines that were approved in May of 2013.  We are calling the group that is working on all of this the Thompson to Life task force.  
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P.S. – We could use more students or parents on the task forceemail me if you want to be on the task force that meets after school once a month.

Why change the high school schedule?

Our district understands that there is a lot of misinformation about the possible high school schedule change.  It’s been hard to get information to everyone about what is going on.  So, we are trying out an idea of putting information in this blog to see if this helps…

That main reason we are discussing a change to the current high school schedule is because Colorado developed some new state graduation requirements and we need to look at ways to prepare for these new state regulations that will affect the students who are now in middle school.  Click here to learn more about the changes.

The high school schedule is like the foundation of a house, we need to make certain that this structure will be able to hold up the revisions to the graduation requirements when we get ready to make them.

What is working and what isn’t working with the current schedule?

It’s important to consider the benefits and issues we have with the current schedule before we make any change. We’ve heard over the years a number of issues with the current schedule, like:
  • thumbs-up-and-downwe don’t have enough sections of the classes students want to take
  • we have too many conflicts with classes and students have to choose between classes that are only offered once
  • some students have to take study hall when they don’t want to because there isn’t any other class available, or
  • students have to take other classes they don’t care about very much, or have an open block when they don’t really want one.
  • parents are concerned about student who have too much unsupervised time during the day because of 90-long open blocks, especially when these blocks are next to lunch!
  • Too many of our students start the year with one teacher in the fall and finish the year with a different teacher in the spring. Our new Colorado teacher evaluations make this really difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers, so we need to figure out a way we can stop this.  Changing the schedule can be a way we get some of these issues resolved.

Survey-mouseYour thoughts are needed!

You have important concerns about moving away from a 4 block schedule.  We are very interested in your perspective and hope that you can provide us with more information.
Follow this link to a Survey and share your thoughts with us.  You can also leave comments on this blog!

Here are the questions we will ask in the survey…

  1. ​What is your opinion of the current 90 minute block schedule?
  2. What is your opinion of schedule that had 8 period (about 50 minutes long) 3 days a week, and 4 blocks (about 95 minutes) two days a week?
  3. What is your opinion of a schedule that compacts certain classes during the day (in an 8 period schedule) that really need more time?
  4. From your perspective, are classes that should be 90 minutes? Please provide a list.
  5. From your perspective, are there classes that could be offered in shorter periods of time? Give examples.
  6. What are your biggest concerns related to changing the schedule?
  7. What other thoughts about time use and scheduling do you have that you would like to share with us?
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18 comments

  1. Melissa says:

    I do like the idea of the 8 periods on 3 days and 90 min blocks the other two days. I think that core classes such as math, science, civics, etc should be held on the 90 min block days. So classes like electives, languages, P.E., CFS, should be on the 8 period days. I know that my daughter struggles more with her core classes and likes to have plenty of time in class to talk to her teacher and make sure she understands her work before she is sent home to do it. I think this schedule might be hard for some of the students to adjust to initially, but with a little bit of time they will get used to it and it won’t be such a big deal. I believe my daughter would benefit from open blocks to help get homework done and I know that she is resposible enough to do that. But I also realize that most students today don’t use that open time wisely and get into alot of trouble instead, so I would be ok if a plan was devised to make study halls and open blocks no longer available.

    • Profile photo of Diane Lauer Diane Lauer says:

      Thank you Melissa for your thoughts. Many students and families have expressed their value for the extended time periods of learning. We are attempting to create a system with fewer unwanted open blocks while we incorporate extended time for learning and more strategic periods of time that meet student needs.

  2. Julie Herrington says:

    Back when most of us parents were in school, we had the same classes in 50 – 60 minute blocks every day and I think in some respects some children learn better by doing it that way and I do not think it harmed any of us parents in any way. However, I think if you lower the class times of some of the elective classes that give the students a mental break from Math, History, Science, Language and English then there will start to be some issues due to the fact that their minds do need those breaks. I always wondered why it was changed here to only four classes a day alternating, versus doing it 8 classes a day. With the classes required now, some children have a hard time allowing for any extra curricular activities with the homework that is given to students these days. I really believe that all children need those activities in order to thrive.

    • Profile photo of Diane Lauer Diane Lauer says:

      The trend 10-15 years ago was to move from the traditional 50 minute period to a 90 minute block. There is the belief that providing students with more time to engage in learning provides benefits, however there is limited research that demonstrates positive effects on student learning using a block schedule like we have now. You also mention a critical component, which is homework load. We have heard from both students and families about homework overload during this feedback process. We will be creating a homework subcommittee to study the best practices with assigning homework so that students can stay active in extra curricular activities and teachers know the best types of homework to assign for practice and extension at home.

  3. Lisa Eiden-Dillow says:

    I appreciate the background information you have provided regarding the challenges you are currently facing with a 90-block, however what are the benefits to going to a new schedule format and what is that format. Unless I am missing a link, I do not see information on this site regarding the positives of a 90-block schedule and your newly proposed schedule. I have not had an opportunity to be involved in this decision making process, but would like to see all sides of the coin.

    I look forward to reading this information.

    • Profile photo of Diane Lauer Diane Lauer says:

      The benefits we hope to gain from a schedule revision would be to meet the learning needs of our students through the use of both extended and targeted blocks of time, a reduction of unwanted open blocks, a reduction of teacher swapping at the semester in year long courses, better use of time during the class, and fewer scheduling conflicts allowing more choice and access for students to “get” the classes they desire.

  4. denise zimmerle says:

    Thank you for providing links to the Colorado Department of Education links regarding new graduation requirements. Will you please articulate how that drives need for different schedule at TSD?
    IS it the primary driver for schedule change? The list of justifications is long and doesn’t describe how schedule change solves all these problems. Bulleted lists, outlines, graphics help convey information.

    Option 1 will always be confusing. Don’t do it.

    So is Wednesday still a short day?

    45-50 minute periods can work IF some classes are scheduled for 2 back-to-back periods. You need more than 40 minutes to effectively accomplish any kind of lab, whether science, art or vocational.

    Can this really be implemented effectively from one school year to the next? Perhaps you should plan for and communicate need to fine tune over a couple years. Set appropriate expectations…

    Be certain to pace homework if every class meets every day. With the block schedule my students have been able to focus on half their subjects most nights when balancing life with school. They still need extracurricular activities; and remember not all of those activities are school based: community service, religious, club sports, etc.

    What is the health impact of students wearing 7 classes worth of books on their backs every day? I know some students don’t use lockers.

    • Profile photo of Diane Lauer Diane Lauer says:

      We have been gathering reasons to revise our current schedule for several years. There are flaws in the system that have detrimental effects. We have been hesitant to make changes knowing that the state would be coming forward with high school graduation requirements. We decided to wait to change until we fully understood the requirements of the state, as we did not want to have to make changes to the system twice.

      If we make the move to a different schedule next year, we will commit ourselves to preparing effectively for this change. We have already begun to learn from schools that use a hybrid of extended and targeted blocks like Fairview High and Monarch High in Boulder and Fort Collins High in Poudre. These high achieving schools will be places we can connect with and learn from.

  5. denise zimmerle says:

    To elaborate on concerns about the 3 days with 50 minute periods/2 days with 95 minute blocks:
    This could work if it is a MWF/TTh split like colleges & universities use. If the blocks are on two consecutive days there will be 5 days “weekends” … that’s too long

    • Profile photo of Diane Lauer Diane Lauer says:

      Thanks for your question Denise. It would not work like that. It would be three days a week for a 50 minute period where you see your teacher each time. And then two days of alternating blocks of 90 minutes. These would be like the schedule we have now. This would ensure that students saw their teachers 4 times each week.

  6. Julie Lindsay says:

    My son will attend high school next year and plans to take several AP courses throughout high school. Currently, he attends CBMS which is not on a block schedule and has homework in most of his classes every night. It is overwhelming at times, and I think he was looking forward to the block schedule next year so that he would not have homework in 6 classes every day, especially those AP classes. I also feel that 90 minutes is important for those higher level courses, especially in math and science. When my daughter attended high school, she used her open period to study or get extra help from teachers. However, I do understand that there are new graduation requirements that need to be addressed and that it is frustrating dilemma for everyone involved. Thank you for keeping parents in the loop.

    • Profile photo of Diane Lauer Diane Lauer says:

      Thank you Julie for your feedback. It is great to know that we are getting the word out to our middle school families as well. Please notes that homework is a big concern expressed by our students and families. We are organizing a homework subcommittee to provide further, targeted study to this important construct of extended learning. Best wishes for a fantastic transition to high school!

  7. Kristal says:

    Thank you for the background.
    I do like the school year starting late August and out before June because it works well with colleges that my oldest will attend and sports.
    The 90 minute classes are fine but if it is not working for the teachers because they need to break up course material in smaller and more lectures I understand. But do keep some time during that period for the students to list or grasp the major topics, outlines or run through a few exercises to ensure they got it before leaving that classroom.
    One other thing, I was so glad to see that new incoming students could register a week before school started instead of the day before classes start. My child got the worst schedule with latter.

    • Profile photo of Diane Lauer Diane Lauer says:

      Thank you for your feedback Kristal, we are hopeful that our plans to create a more efficient registration process will be realized in the coming year. The Thompson to Life task force is committed to working with teachers to maximize the time they have to teach!

  8. Gail says:

    I have to say that since it seems obvious that we will have to change the schedule (not just high school but middle school too), it seems that the option with 3 days of 8 periods and 2 days of 4 blocks would be the easiest and most beneficial transition.
    My son is a STEM student and is quite opposed to the change of schedule. Below are his and my reasons:
    1) The amount of homework that he could have in one day/week if all his teachers decide that something is due and/or test in the same week. He spends a fair amount of time doing homework and studying for tests for just 4 subjects at once, much less 8. Yes, I am sure that “that will never happen.” We all know how finals weeks go, don’t we? Most tests will fall in ONE week.
    2) If we are preparing students in high school for college, having less classes per day is more in line with how college works. Even with a full course load, I never had more than 4 or 5 classes in a semester.
    3) Have you ever carried a high school student’s backpack when they have ALL of their books in it? It is not light and is something to consider for the benefits of their backs.

    As someone else mentioned, there are many classes that do require the extended (90 minute) class periods. Any science class with labs, art, English, civics is better served for students in a longer period of time.

    • Profile photo of Diane Lauer Diane Lauer says:

      We have found on our survey that the majority of students self report that they have on average 2-3 hours of homework per night. This data was surprising to our Thompson to Life task force. In January we will be creating a subcommittee on homework to understand what is developmentally appropriate for our young adults and how we can coordinate with all of our teachers to provide a robust yet manageable approach to at home practice and continued learning. Ensuring that any revision we make to our existing schedule continues to prepare students for the college experience is at the foremost of our consideration, while we look for ways to mitigate other concerns and flaws in the system.

  9. Melanie says:

    This biggest problem that I have with the current schedule is the fact that my son starts the year with one teacher and ends with another, especially for a student on an IEP, that already struggles to keep up, his teacher is just getting to know his learning style and then the teacher changes. It is very frustrating for him to have to start over in January with every class. I think block schedules are effective for many core classes, but I think you could do a 45 minutes schedule and have core classes take 2 back to back classes. I have always wondered about the “off block” . Sometimes it is too much free time, but I also think we need to be getting these kids ready for college, so this is the time they need to learn how to manage their time – better to do it in high school and figure it out then in college, when they do not have as much parental support.

    • Profile photo of Diane Lauer Diane Lauer says:

      The teacher/student switch at semester break is a critical flaw in our current schedule that we are attempting to address. Your son’s experiences mirror many other students. Please know that we are working to address this concern for him and others. We agree that preparing students to better manage their time is a important role of our high school organization as well.

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