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Watch Video, High School Schedule Update: What’s up Doc?

You may remember we announced in April that our high schools would be moving forward with an eight-period schedule for the 2017-18 school year at the same time our new start and end times go into effect. The eight period schedule is also known as a 4 x 8 schedule, which consists of an eight-class schedule with four block classes alternating every other day.

Our High School Schedule Implementation Advisory Group has been meeting all fall to plan for a successful transition and implementation. I expect to see more details from them in the coming weeks, and I will keep you all posted on implications of their work, including graduation requirements, guidelines for waivers and more.

In the meantime, there are some questions we can help answer, which can be seen in our latest edition of “What’s Up Doc?” (two parts: Part I and Part II) featuring two of our high school students interviewing our assistant superintendent Steve Clarke and me.

In Part I (above), you can learn more about the following:

  • General rationale for changing from six to eight periods
  • How students will benefit from the new schedule
  • How the new schedule will impact homework expectations
  • How teachers will prepare students for Advanced Placement (AP) tests

 

 

In Part II (above), you can learn more about the following:

  • Student support time (like Anchor, THOR, RtI/SSR)
  • The future of “zero hour” (before school) course offerings
  • How elementary and middle schools are impacted by new start times
  • Physical education waivers

To jump directly to any of those topics/questions listed above, go to the video link and click on the menu icon on the bottom right or you can simply hover over the white dots at the bottom of the screen and click on the topics that are of interest to you.

If you have questions or comments on about the new high school schedule, comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I look forward to hearing from you!

Comments (27)

  1. Kathy Hasenjaeger

    2 years ago

    Where is there a description of how the 4×8 schedule works? Is that one week period 1 is M, W, F and then the next week T, Th? Or do are the classes set for either M, W or T, Th with alternating Fridays? How will that work for those students who are in Running Start and my have those M,W or T,Th classes? Could you put a link to an explanation of the 4×8 schedule on your blog as well?

    • Greg

      2 years ago

      Thanks for the question, Kathy.
      A high school 4X8 schedule means that four classes are scheduled each day and run every other day on a consistent basis. In a two week sequence with five school days both weeks, a given course will meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; the following week the same course will meet on Tuesday and Thursday. Basically, we will offer periods 1, 3, 5, and 7 on one day and periods 2, 4, 6, and 8 the next day all year.

      We are expanding our course offerings in Bellingham Public Schools and anticipate that more students will be excited to stay in our schools to take advantage of our programs. Like now where Running Start students from four varied high school schedules create individualized schedules with their counselors and the schools’ Running Start coordinators, next year’s students will need to look at the course offerings and master schedules at both their high schools and the given community college to determine their final personal schedules. Hope this information helps!

  2. Miriam Schwartz

    2 years ago

    Thanks for the videos on the upcoming schedule changes. I hope you don’t abandon the PE waivers entirely. My daughter is currently dancing 2 – 3 hours a day, 6 days a week and I think that is plenty! I’m not sure what the other offerings will be, but it doesn’t seem healthy for her to do something vigorous during the school day and then go to ballet and do some more. Will there be some health education options or something more restorative like yoga?

    • Greg

      2 years ago

      Hi Miriam, Thanks for the question. Your question about more health and fitness offerings is exactly the direction we’re going. The 4 x 8 schedule allows us to expand our offerings in all of our subjects, including physical education. Yoga is a perfect example of an important and sought after elective for students. While we are not abandoning PE waivers entirely, we anticipate that students will be excited about some of our new courses and will now be able to take advantage of more educational opportunities.
      Thanks for taking the time to use this forum!

  3. Stephanie D. Grimm

    2 years ago

    Thank you for this work. Please be specific when speaking about state graduation requirements. As you know, BSD graduation credit requirements are 23 credits for those students graduating up to class 2020 and the BSD received the 2 year state waiver so the 24 credit requirement applies only to class 2021. Also, 2 credits may be waived due to hardship or other unusual circumstances.
    http://www.k12.wa.us/graduationrequirements/Requirement-Credits.aspx.
    Also, high school students, and graduation rates, will improve with daily, required student support in the form of study hall, Anchor, THOR, Rtl/SSR. Additionally it raises GPA, increases the number of honor students, and improves student and teacher morale. It provides opportunities for students to finish homework, study for upcoming tests, consult with teachers for extra help, finish lab work, review notes, listen to music, relax, daydream, de stress, and catch up on missed assignments and tests. Increasing course load by 125% while removing or reducing this support time to two half hour periods is simply not supportive of students.
    Furthermore, eighty-six percent of the Sehome students reported wanting Anchor daily. Sadly, and importantly, I am hearing from Sehome students that they are perceiving their well-motivated interests and needs as dismissed by administrators. It is important for us adults to listen to our students and our youth and continue to encourage them to express their needs and that such expression will be respected and honored where reasonable. I have a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from WSU, achieved in 1993, teach at WWU about mental health, including about the mental health of children and adolescents, and I will firmly state that adolescents, graduation rates, well-being, and overall learning are all supported by required, daily support periods. This can be constructed as one of the eight periods offered next year and beyond.
    Again, thank you for your work. I do ask that you and the other administrators to seriously consider what I am sharing. It is important that we care for our students.

  4. Stephanie D. Grimm

    2 years ago

    Thank you for this work. Please be specific when speaking about state graduation requirements. As you know, BSD graduation credit requirements are 23 credits for those students graduating up to class 2020 and the BSD received the 2 year state waiver so the 24 credit requirement applies only to class 2021. Also, 2 credits may be waived due to hardship or other unusual circumstances.
    http://www.k12.wa.us/graduationrequirements/Requirement-Credits.aspx.

    Also, high school students, and graduation rates, will improve with daily, required student support in the form of study hall, Anchor, THOR, Rtl/SSR. Additionally, it raises GPA, increases the number of honor students, and improves student and teacher morale. It provides opportunities for students to finish homework, study for upcoming tests, consult with teachers for extra help, finish lab work, review notes, listen to music, relax, daydream, de stress, and catch up on missed assignments and tests. All of that helps consolidate learning. Increasing course load by 125% while removing or reducing this current support time to two half hour periods per week is not supportive of students.

    Furthermore, eighty-six percent of the Sehome students reported wanting Anchor daily. Sadly, and importantly, I am hearing from Sehome students that they are perceiving their well-motivated interests and needs as dismissed by school administrators. It is important for us adults to listen to our students, and our youth in general, and continue to encourage them to express their needs and that such expression will be respected and honored where reasonable. I have a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, teach at WWU about mental health, including the mental health of children and adolescents, and I will firmly state that adolescents, graduation rates, well-being, and overall learning are all supported by required, daily, in school study periods. In my opinion, daily and required study hall should be included as one of the eight periods offered next year and beyond.

    • Greg

      2 years ago

      Hi Stephanie, Thanks for your questions and comments. When we asked high school students across our district for their feedback about Anchor, THOR, SSR/RtI (student support time), like you mentioned, they clearly expressed strong interest in having it embedded in the schedule, either daily or twice a week. We also surveyed staff who offer a very important perspective about how students actually use the time and keenly understand the advantages and disadvantages of embedding such time into the schedule. We are not only considering students’ perspectives, but also instructional time for courses and alternative ways to offer student support in an expanded schedule. We are still processing the details of the schedule, including what the expectations are for both students and staff during any given support time. The High School Schedule Implementation Advisory Group is looking at having the support time twice per week. My team and I absolutely consider what our students want and need. One of the many reasons we are shifting to a 4 x 8 schedule is to allow greater flexibility for our students and more time for students to pursue “passion” areas beyond graduation requirements and core classes. And our hope is that students will find balance and take classes that don’t require significant homework, such as restorative yoga, music classes and art.

      And it’s true we have a waiver from the state regarding graduation requirements. We were granted that waiver under the six-period schedule. Our expectations for graduation will change for graduating classes of 2018 and beyond, based on the new schedule. Feel free to give me a call if you still have more questions! It’s complex and exciting work. Thanks again for the comments!

      • Stephanie D. Grimm

        2 years ago

        Thank you, Dr. Baker, for your comments. I understand that the majority of the BSD students want to retain Anchor, THOR, SSR/Rtl. As mentioned earlier, 86% of the Sehome students report wanting to retain Anchor daily. They are passionate about it, and even went so far as to petition for its retention! I have spoken with staff, students, and parents who support retaining and requiring it daily. I hear this from some of the most informed, involved, and academically motivated students, staff, and parents.

        Students generally reported that they use the time to complete school work, study for exams, consult with teachers, and decompress. All of these facilitate student learning. Teachers’ reports were mixed. I agree that staff perspective is important. I appreciate that the Advisory Group is considering recommending the retention of the support. However, I believe two half hours per week is insufficient. The benefits of consistent daily support in the form the district already has in place include improved graduation rates, improved GPA, improved student morale, improved student mental health, and improved honor roll achievement. I also believe the benefits of requiring it daily outweigh difficulties in scheduling or other inconveniences. It is also all the more needed when students are expected to take more classes.

        Moving from a six- to an eight-course schedule retains the core classes and graduation requirements, while offering more opportunities for students to pursue other interests and “passion” areas. It will be 125% of what the students are currently doing. I agree that some or many of the electives will require less homework. However, the plan is sort of a “current plus” model, where the students will have greater course loads (moving from six- to eight- periods) and arguably will need all the more support. Not less. They just will, in the same way adults would need more support moving from managing six projects to eight projects, even if additional projects are “passions” or require less work.

        A compromise could be permitting an eight- course schedule, as planned, while having one of the courses be a required daily support class in the form of Anchor, THOR, SSR/Rtl. That way, there are more choices as well as daily continued support. This arrangement would help ease the transition, as well as support graduation rates and other academic success indicators.

        The six-, seven-, and eight- period schedules all can work to support or meet the state’s graduation requirements up to the year 2021. I understand that the expectations, but not the requirements, will change for classes of 2018 to 2020. It is an important distinction, especially considering the changes proposed and the sense of time pressure.

        It is complex and exciting work! I appreciate the work of administrators, teachers, other staff, and students. It is not easy to meet everyone’s needs. There may be some planned areas that could benefit from additional review and compromise. As educators, as you know, our work is all for the larger goal of providing educational service to students. We may have different views of best service, but it is our common goal.

        Thank you in advance for considering these concerns and ideas.

        Best,

        Stephanie

        • Greg

          2 years ago

          Thanks, Stephanie. I appreciate the follow up, and I have passed along your comments to the advisory group, which meets this week. Thank you again for your engagement, support and feedback!

  5. Greg

    2 years ago

    I received the following comment from a staff member:

    Dear Dr Baker, We moved here from a 4×8 school 14 years ago. People told me it would take a miracle to get Bellingham to go back to that sort of schedule. It makes me happy to see that it is going to happen, even though it is too late for my younger children. I liked your video and feel like this is a really positive move for high school students. I appreciate that you are taking the time necessary to make sure most of the questions are answered before you jump in.

  6. Monique Kosmider

    2 years ago

    Dear Dr. Baker,
    My question has to do with credits for kids planning on taking some of the modules through the NW Tech program. Right now, the kids usually attend for 2.5 hours/day for five days a week, and end up with 3.0 credits for the year, but with the change in scheduling, these kids will now miss approx. 2 of the 4 class blocks which is the equivalent of 4.0 credits for the year, or four classes, as they have to attend every day.
    Is there any thought to increasing the credits for participating in these modules to equal out the credit potential/time?

    • Greg

      2 years ago

      hi Monique, Great question. We are still working out the details of credits with the Northwest Technical program. One idea we are considering is to reduce graduation requirements by .5 credit per semester (or 1 full credit per year) for any student enrolled in NWCTA. Here’s an example: for the class of 2021, students will need 30 credits to graduate. If a student completed a year of NWCTA, then we would hold them to 29 credits. We’re still figuring this out, but we want the new schedule to be a benefit to all students. Thanks again.

  7. An Actual HS Student

    2 years ago

    Hi Dr. Baker,

    Just wanted to let you know that if 86% of students are in favor of Anchor, like Ms. Grimm stated, then only 14% of students are being completely honest about how useless Anchor actually is. It is true that some students sometimes use Anchor to do homework, but most of the time most students use Anchor to text their friends or do other random things on their iPhones. If every single day is going to be a block day with longer classes, then shouldn’t extra support and time to complete class work be built into class time? Also, why would anyone need to “decompress” after just one class? Wouldn’t “decompression” time be more useful in the middle of the day? Oh wait, that’s when we have lunch.

    All kidding aside, one thing I do agree with Ms. Grimm is that two 30 minute Anchors are going to be so useless that you might as well not have them at all. What might work better is Ms. Grimm’s idea of having a study hall for one of the eight periods. But, instead of forcing all students to have a study hall, just the students that truly love Anchor can sign up for the study hall. Then we can see if 86% of students truly value Anchor enough to actually sign up for it. That seems to be the most fair and democractic solution, don’t you think?

    • Greg

      2 years ago

      Dear Student, Thanks for your candid feedback. I understand that some students use the student support time (Anchor, THOR, SSR/RtI) more effectively than others.
      The recommendation to consider 30 minute support time twice per week is not only based on student and staff feedback, but also the importance of providing all students with an equitable opportunity to seek support from teachers during the school day.
      And yes, in addition to the student support time, we are considering offering an option to embed an optional academic support class into the schedule.
      Thanks again for commenting on the blog!

  8. Sue Duggal

    2 years ago

    Dear Dr. Baker,

    I agree with the parent who commented above that having to manage eight periods worth of classes would stretch our students too thin, especially without adequate support mechanisms in place. The proposed schedules have two 30-minute Anchor classes per week with announcements embedded at the beginning of those periods, thereby effectively reducing Anchor classes to approximately 20-25 minutes each.

    I also realize that adding more Anchor classes and making them longer would require a corresponding reduction in class time per period. Under the proposed 80/85 minute periods, Sehome students will have a reduction of 15% in instructional time per period, or the equivalent of 6.5 full weeks of school. Squalicum students will be the most affected with a 20% reduction in instructional time per period, or the equivalent of 9 full weeks of school. Clearly, further reducing instructional time would not be a very good idea. The viable solution would be, as the other parent suggested, to have seven class periods plus Anchor as the eighth period. All class periods could then be increased to 85 minutes (or possibly more).

    I understand that students could have the option of signing up for a study hall period, but this would not be the equivalent of an Anchor class as students would not have the opportunity to meet with their classroom teachers for extra support during a randomly assigned study hall period. Since instructional time per period will be reduced compared to the current six-period schedule, students will be more likely to need extra support with their core classes, not less.

    Anchor classes are sometimes used for school assemblies at Sehome. Anchor classes could also be used for other school events or projects, specialized tutorials, seminars, etc. With a longer Anchor class, the possibilities could be endless, not to mention the overall positive impact this could have on school culture, student body cohesiveness, and student morale.

    Thank you for taking the time to consider these comments.

    • Greg

      2 years ago

      hi Sue, thanks for your comment. We are working hard to balance many needs within the high school schedule, including time for instruction, student support, and studying/homework completion. As you mention, we also have announcements and assemblies (which are for important school culture), so any given day or week may be a little different.
      As I said to the student commenter above, we are also planning to add a study hall-like class (or academic support class) as an option (not a requirement) for students. There are a variety of reasons for shifting from six to eight periods, including greater flexibility for students. What one student may need or want is likely different from another.
      I’ll also add that we’re on an exciting journey together to solve concerns regarding the new schedule. I believe many will be addressed thanks to the advisory group’s thoughtful work, but some issues are unknown. I’m grateful we have amazing, responsive and resourceful staff, students and families to help us address any issue that may arise.
      Thanks again for your input!

  9. Sehome High School Student

    2 years ago

    Yes, Anchor, Thor, and SSR/RTI is a time where students study.
    But it is more than that.

    I am at Sehome and without Anchor we could also lose:

    1. peer mentoring
    2. project unified (we can work with special ed students on block days)
    3. ability to take make up tests in other classes
    4. ability to meet with other teachers on block days to ask questions (can’t do this before or after school if you ride the bus)
    5. a place to make friends that you see regularly (this is really important to me)
    6. having a teacher that checks up on how you are doing

    I need Anchor everyday. I am really busy with 6 classes and need that time.

    • Greg

      2 years ago

      hi Sehome student, thanks for your comment. These blog comments are a great example of the varying needs of our students. I’m glad you find so much utility with Anchor, and I believe you will still accomplish many of your tasks listed above during that time. The new schedule will be a shift for all of us (staff AND students) and I’m confident we will together adapt and problem-solve together. Like I said in the above comment, we are going to learn a lot upon implementation next year, and we can modify if/when necessary to meet our needs. Thanks again for taking the time to offer feedback.

  10. Martin Bui

    2 years ago

    I am in favor in anchor for Sehome High School because I get to see Yaude every day. She makes my day awesome and really makes the high school experience great!

    • Greg

      2 years ago

      Great to hear from you, Martin. I’m sure Ms. Yaude appreciates the shout out. Thanks!

  11. Gavin Fujiwara

    2 years ago

    I am in favor of keeping anchor for Sehome High School. Mrs. Styer’s anchor is amazing and I love the opportunity to extend my learning as a high school student.

    • Greg

      2 years ago

      Hi Gavin, we are planning to keep Anchor and other support classes in the new schedule. Thanks for recognizing Mrs. Styer, too. We have amazing staff! Thanks for the input.

  12. Alison Hoagland

    2 years ago

    I feel the anchor period is very important for retaking quizes and making up tests if a school day is missed. I just don’t see how offering only 2 anchor periods a week will meet the needs of all the students who need this time for quiz retakes or make up exams. For example, my daughter missed an exam in one of her classes because the was home sick and it has been over 2 weeks now where she hasn’t had the proper time on either the teacher’s schedule or her schedule to make up this exam in RTI or SSR. Other things come up that take priority, such as assemblies or scheduled projects from other classes during this time. She is now going on the 3rd week of not taking the exam and she is concerned that she might have to take it after winter break since there is an assembly scheduled today at BHS during the RTI time when she could have taken the test.
    I strongly propose that an Anchor time be part of the 8 periods and that 7 main classes is ideal, rather than 8 main classes with out a sufficient anchor time. (30 minutes twice a week doesn’t seem enough). I think just adding 1 extra class along with providing the anchor as the 8th will be an easier transition for the students. Thanks for your consideration on this subject.

    • Greg

      2 years ago

      Thanks, Alison, for your feedback. As you probably know by reading some of my other comments, we are not planning to get rid of Anchor/RtI/THOR, etc. In addition to the twice weekly student support, we are planning to offer a class (one of the eight block classes) that is “study hall-like” for academic support. We feel strongly that this class be optional for students. I understand many of our students find great value in Anchor, and that 30 minutes twice a week might not be enough. For those students, I would recommend registering for the additional support class. One of the most compelling reasons we are making the shift to a new schedule is to offer more flexibility for students. Thanks again for taking the time to comment!

  13. Ben Smith

    2 years ago

    I had heard that seven courses were going to be offered. Why is eight the current interest?

    How will two short SSR/RTIs be helpful?

    • Greg

      2 years ago

      Hi Ben. Thanks for your questions.

      After many months of research and processing, we announced in April 2016 that we will be moving to an eight period schedule for our students. We will believe this schedule will allow students opportunities to take more courses and, given only four classes meet each day, have a balanced schedule that minimizes some anxieties and stresses that can come from having 6, 7 or 8 classes all in one day.

      Currently, student support time (SSR/Anchor/THOR) varies greatly between the three comprehensive high schools and the feedback about the level of effectiveness varies greatly. We conducted a survey with students and staff this fall, inquiring about how they use and value the student support time, and results were mixed. When we asked high school students across our district for their feedback about Anchor, THOR, SSR/RtI (student support time), they expressed strong interest in having it embedded in the schedule, either daily or twice a week. We also surveyed staff who offered a very important perspective about how students actually used the time (not all students want or use this time as intended) and keenly understand the advantages and disadvantages of embedding such time into the schedule. We are not only considering students’ perspectives, but also instructional time for courses and alternative ways to offer student support in an expanded schedule. For example, we are currently working to develop optional academic workshop classes for students as part of our course offerings as well as expanding AVID, a class that supports students in graduating and preparing for college.

      I hope this helps answer your questions and thank you!

  14. A Parent

    2 years ago

    I’m wondering if you could address the fact that we are basically maintaining the same length school day (I think there will be about a 15 minute addition to the school day) yet suddenly there are 33% more “credits” students will be able to take (moving from a 6-period day to an 8-period day). I don’t feel like you have discussed this issue very transparently. Why don’t we just make the 6 periods “worth” 1.33 credits to meet the new state requirements of increased credits to graduate? You seem to be doing the exact same thing but in reverse: Suddenly the instructional time is “worth” more because you’re dividing it by 8 instead of 6. The whole thing feels like creative accounting, rather than providing more education. It feels distinctly like cheating to me, to say that the same instructional time will now earn students more credits. I’d love to hear how this is justified.

    Relatedly, given that the instructional time for 6 periods (now) will become instructional time for 8 periods, students will actually have less instructional time for each course. That’s just basic math. Some other commenters have raised the concern that 8 periods-worth of homework and other obligations will be too much to manage; I agree, but now let’s add to that the fact that each course will have LESS TIME to teach what it used to teach. So now we have a) less instructional time, b) increased homework to cover the content that could not be discussed in the reduced class time, and c) 33% more courses to juggle. This math does not make sense to me. Why will we continue to give the same amount of credit–1 credit–for a course that is teaching less content? Let’s take AP classes as an example. The content is fixed–the test has that content whether the teacher covers it or not (because it is developed by an outside authority). The instruction of that fixed content has to happen and takes a set amount of time. How are AP teachers supposed to deliver that content to adequately prepare their students for AP exams if they have less time? Is the message that AP isn’t important? Because if I recall, AP classes and their utmost importance was held up as a reason for the school year starting in August–the most recent change you asked us to endorse. Your rationale for that schedule change was so AP-heavy–you touted AP as being so important and “saving” parents so much money when students could transfer those credits into college. There was like a numerical calculation about that amount of money that was even part of your campaign for this. The whole reason for starting school in August was to give AP teachers time to cover the needed material. So where is the concern for these super-important AP classes now? What about all the money parents were going to “save” by having their students in AP classes? Why are they being totally disregarded in this switch to an 8-period day? I guess you could argue that parents are now going to “lose” money because fewer students will be prepared for the AP exams because you’re cutting the instructional time by a very significant margin.

    I recognize that it’s a complex problem, but I would like to hear why you think this credit-load change is actually a pedagogical advancement and not just a case of creative accounting.

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