High School Schedule

For the first time in recent years, all four of high schools are on the same schedule. Here’s a sampling of the initial feedback I’ve been receiving regarding the new 4×8 high school schedule:

  • It feels calmer for our daughter and family. There’s more time to prepare before the next class meets.
  • My son is able to take AP physics now at another district high school that offers it.
  • Homework brings some stress and anxiety for my child. It did last year and is again this year, now with 8 classes instead of 7. I’m learning that finding the right balance of courses, between electives and AP, for example, is important for my child. And, it’s helpful to have an extra day to prepare before the next set of classes meets again.
  • The new classes are awesome!

 

What’s been your experience so far with the 4×8 schedule?

I look forward to your comments!

 

 

Comments (62)

  1. Kim Harri

    3 months ago

    I have two hihg school age sons and the later schedule seems good. They use the time they used to sleep in to make breakfast for themselves and now they are well rested and fed for the school day. I think the schedule change is great.

  2. Kim Harris

    3 months ago

    I think the schedule change is great for high school kids. I have two boys who use the extra morning time to make breakfast so now they are well rested and fed for the school day. Thank you!

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Thanks, Kim! Great to hear.

  3. Leah Tag

    3 months ago

    I have a freshman, and the extra time to plan with the AB schedule, combined with the fact that she can take more classes, is genius. She’s also doing a sport for the first time, and it allows her to do her sport with confidence without falling behind in school work.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Thanks, Leah. That’s great feedback!

  4. Mary Hooker

    3 months ago

    The mornings are more relaxed and my son is going to bed at the same time, so getting more sleep. It is a little hard to remember which “day” it is A/B and get used to the start / end of class times during the day. The classes seem long, but if it is broken up into different segments, it is easier to handle. We like the electives and also the Academic workshop. One potential issue might be forgetting new concepts with less frequent practice (i.e. math, world language, music).

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Thanks for the comment and for raising the issue. I’m interested to hear from students, parents and staff after the semester and year if it’s something we need to address or if our teaching/learning can adapt to the every other day model. Thanks again, Mary!

  5. Carol Trower

    3 months ago

    It has made our mornings so much more pleasant and easier. It is fantastic catching the bus at 7:40 instead of 6:50 in the morning.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Thanks, Carol!

  6. Holly Gangle

    3 months ago

    My son is definitely having an easier time getting out of bed. He also seems generally more positive about school but that could just be because he doesn’t have to take Spanish this year and he’s much happier with his English teacher. Or, maybe it’s the new schedule? Hard to say for sure.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Thanks, Holly. Great feedback.

  7. Maureen Hodge

    3 months ago

    I appreciate that my daughter can get time to do homework, take AP classes and participate fully in her varsity sport. When she is rested, well prepared for the next day, has “down time” and time to play a sport she is at her best as a human being. The additional sleep and time for homework has been a game changer for her sophomore year at BHS.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      So glad to hear it, Maureen. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  8. Brad Jones

    3 months ago

    This blog should also focus on how the new HS schedule in impacting the younger kids, and in particular, after school sports and activities. Because the HS students get all the facilities for their sports and activities right after their school ends, which is now 45 min. later, all the younger kids are being pushed back even later into the night for sports and activities. We now have 8-13 year old practicing different sports until 9PM and sometimes later, because the facilities are now available until the HS kids are done.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Thanks Brad for your email. Lack of space for after-school activities has been a challenge before these changes, and continue now, although the challenges may have shifted. We had 8-13 year olds practicing last year until 9 PM and we continue to have that now. We are making a strong effort though to minimizes and eliminate these challenges as best we can, through our current and future bond. Examples include building new and expanded turf athletic fields at all our high schools, adding lights, increasing gym space at our elementary schools and at one of our middle schools, as well as continuing to work with our community partners for unique spaces for activities such as swimming and gymnastics.

  9. Kathy Hennessy

    3 months ago

    It is harder to get my elementary child organized for school, especially with a bus that picks up at 7:10. That is simply too early so, for now, I am driving her. Gives her a full half hour of more sleep a day. I still think it is a shame all Bellingham kids cannot start after 8:30 am.

    The high schooler is doing fine. She’d prefer to have school start at 10am but, you know, “you can’t always get what we want.”

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Kathy, I wish all kids could start at 8:30 a.m., too. I do understand. Given the size of our district (100 square miles with 22 different schools) and transportation complexities, it’s just not doable. And I’ll be doing a start and end times blog soon – so I’m sure others will weigh in. The elementary start time is an adjustment for some families. I know it’ll take time for some to figure out what works best – like driving instead of busing to get that extra sleep.

  10. Wendy Brice

    3 months ago

    I do appreciate the time change as it allows my daughter to sleep a little more. However I find the traffic in getting to school a bit heavy. There is middle school and elementary all out about the same time in the morning. Takes a little adjusting to but can be managed. My only concern with the adding of classes is more homework. I see the benefit to four classes a day (depending on the classes) but, the homework level is still excessive and seems to be more with the addition of two classes.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Thanks, Wendy. You are not alone with your concerns about homework and stress in high school. While the intention of the added classes wasn’t to add more homework (rather to add more electives and balance), we knew it could happen with some students. Be sure to encourage your child to talk with their counselor and teachers, especially if you think she may benefit from taking a non-homework inducing course.

  11. Conne Pursley

    3 months ago

    My sons love their electives. My junior has a “stacked” day full of the academics (2 AP classes, math and English) and then the next day is electives. He LOVES that. He also loves to explore the different electives from aricheture to drama. He is really going to have a sense of what he loves by the end of next year.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Great to hear, Connie! Thanks!

  12. Caroline Kinsman

    3 months ago

    Getting our elementary students off earlier has been a challenge. We’re trying earlier bedtimes but is was already a push to fit in the homework, reading, and dinner before this schedule adjustment. On the current schedule, our 6- and 9-year-olds are not getting enough sleep, which is a 10-hr appropriate minimum for their ages.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Caroline, thanks for sharing your concern. I know this new schedule has taken some adjustment for our families. Sleep is so important for all kids (and adults) – not just teenagers! And I understand the evening stresses of homework, family time, eating and activities can be a juggling act. Feel free to give me a call if you want to talk more specifically about your situation.

  13. Amy Alexander

    3 months ago

    The elementary start time is tricky – we are driving her instead of the bus- just too early to get out the door for us. Otherwise no issues.

    The later start for the HS boy has been much better. Yay! It’s unfortunate the day is longer as a result, just because it makes for an even later evening time after we pick up from school sports. Pros probably outweight the cons on it though.

    In concept, I like that they have more opportunity to take other things. However, I am hearing/seeing some frustrations… ours has an A day full of the more intensive courses and a B day full of electives. Not sure if that could be tweaked but it would be great if those were balanced out more. The heavy academic day means a night of alot of homework prior and also he is finding the 90 (100?) mins a bit draining when he has one intensive class after another. Especially with a shorter lunch period. I think with the longer classes they could really use the extra bit of time at lunch to decompress before sitting for long stretches again after lunch.

    I personally feel like 8 courses is alot to keep track of…that’s 8 different teachers with different assignments and different expectations/grading systems etc. And feels like a lot more homework. Even though they don’t have each course each day, that’s alot for a 15 yr old to keep organized, and we haven’t even added in the AP courses yet. 😉 Glad it is being thought out – I think we are on the right track, just not sure we’re all the way there yet. Keep it up! Thanks Dr. Baker!

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Amy, thanks for sharing the complexities – I know our schools and staff will be learning a lot this first year of implementation, and we’ll be looking for feedback from our students and families about what works and what needs to be tweaked. I know there can be schedule challenges, depending on the offerings! And with regards to the length of the classes, they are generally 85 minutes and lunch times should be about the same as previous years. With regards to the four heavy academic classes on one day, ideally this would be spread out a bit more, but it’s good to remember that in our previous schedule, our kids often had four heavy academic classes in one day along with a couple electives. Thanks again for taking the time to comment. I appreciate your feedback and support.

  14. Karen Payne

    3 months ago

    I have a senior in high school. Our initial impression is that it has been a difficult adjustment to the later start time, as evenings seem to disappear faster than ever. With after school sports running until after 6PM and other extracurricular activities several nights a week, homework may not start until 8 or 9 PM, leaving child exhausted. Teachers are trying to cover same amount of material in 20% less class time, especially AP classes. Extra sleep time in the morning has not materialized as much as hoped. We live near an elementary school, so traffic is very heavy at 8AM when trying to get out of neighborhood to get to high school.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Thanks for the feedback, Karen. Even though we’re pretty lucky in Bellingham to have limited traffic, there are certainly areas of congestion, especially in the 8 a.m. hour! And I understand your concern about time, and it’s important to note that our high school teachers are (and have been) receiving professional development and new strategies to be intentional about teaching and learning strategies to better accommodate this new schedule. I hope the extra sleep time DOES materialize soon!

  15. Tami B Slack

    3 months ago

    My daughter is in the Life Skills class at Sehome. She is almost 16 and has Down Syndrome. Mornings as a freshman last year were horrible! Going from a 9:15 start in middle school to a 7:45 was NOT FUN. She is not a morning person to start with. We live by the airport so the bus came at 6:50am. First to get picked up. Last to be dropped off. Now she gets the bus at 8:00 am. She is not nearly as difficult to get moving with the extra sleep. Yay and THANKS to all who worked on this 😊.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Tami, thanks for sharing!

  16. Winnie Rosbach

    3 months ago

    Our family likes the additional sleep time in the morning for our 10th grader. We are glad that we do not have to wake him up so early! The mornings seem less stressful. Our son has commented that the classes seem “really long” with the new schedule. Perhaps just still getting used to it.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Thanks, Winnie. It’s an adjustment for all of us – students and staff. Our hope and intention is that our teachers use different strategies during the block schedule to break up the classes, whether that’s getting students up and moving, breaking into groups, etc. We appreciate the feedback on the morning sleep and stress level, too – that’s good news!

  17. Jen Curlett

    3 months ago

    The earlier start time of 8 am for elementary school has been much better for our family this year! We are too close to have our 2nd grader ride the bus, so he has to be dropped off at school on my way to work. I start work at 7:50, so being able to drop him off as early as 7:30 has been a blessing! The last few years we’ve relied on friends and neighbors to take both boys, or during the nicer weather, they would walk the trail to school together. I know it’s quite early for some of the bus riding kids…but for the families without that option, it has been a positive change!

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Jen, great to hear. You’re definitely not alone. I just had a conversation with someone who said, “I’m not late to every 8 a.m. meeting I have now that I can drop my kids off before 8!” Thanks for the comment.

  18. Meredith Mitchell

    3 months ago

    The 8am elementary start time has been tough for our 4th grader and getting out at 2:30 seems very early. The Squalicum morning traffic has also been troublesome for parents after dropping off at Northern Heights. I’ve heard of 9 yr kids practicing non-school sports until 8:30pm and that is definitely too late, not sure if this is because of the new HS schedule or not. MS schedule seems ok but starting 30 minutes earlier would be much better.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Meredith, thanks for the feedback on Northern Heights and Squalicum. It’s interesting to hear from some folks that they wish elementary and high school were separated by more time because of congestion, yet many wish our start and end times were more aligned across the board (which isn’t really feasible given transportation needs and the size of our district). That’s interesting feedback about elementary students and practice times – you can see a response I gave to Brad up above re: facilities. It’s not necessarily a new issue, but one that we hope to address with bigger, enhanced gym space and lighted turf fields. Thanks for the comments!

  19. Kristine Weller

    3 months ago

    This is our 7th year having a high school student in the district so the new schedule is taking some time to get used too. On the positive side I am very happy for the high school music students to be able to have extra sleep. My kids have not been involved in music, but I see having music classes included in the schedule as a real bonus. Another positive take away is the academic workshop class, my high schooler has already used this time to finish calculus homework and help other math students. My main concern is that the students are missing over 12 hours of lecture time before May 1st when AP lectures end. For an AP class these lectures are not replaceable with just reading the text, students are missing valuable material. I am very concerned that the quality of the AP classes will not be what it was in past years. Teachers have already told students that their lectures have been modified. This also affects regular classes with science labs, math, english, and history. Please continue to get feedback from teachers and students. The late release time for high schooler’s is hard on sports participation especially tennis, basketball, and soccer, since it is not just on Friday Nights like Football. I realize that sports are an extracurricular activity, but now students have to miss extra class time since the tennis kids still have to get out by 1:30 to get to places like Anacortes and Sedro Wolley on a weekday. Thanks again for this discussion forum, I always enjoy seeing the community input. Dr. Baker can you please comment on why a 7th period day for the high schoolers was not tried before having 8 classes?

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Kristine, thanks for your feedback. We worked closely last year with the College Board (they develop the AP tests and curriculum) and based on their recommendations, our instructional time is in alignment with their recommendation for teaching content and preparing for the AP exams. They have also told us that they are making an intentional shift from memorizing content and that AP courses are more about students’ deeper understanding of concepts. We’re also continuing to work with the College Board to increase flexibility in our AP testing window to try to shift some AP test dates back by a week or two.
      Re: seven-period day: we did look into it. And after many months of research and processing, we decided that moving to an eight period schedule for our students was the best option. It allows 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. Six and seven period schedules generally necessitate that some days, students attend all classes, which many say is chaotic, stressful, fractured, etc.

  20. Laura Cabrera

    3 months ago

    Thanks to the nice, warm weather, it’s made elementary transition to early starts a bit easier, but I foresee the struggle when the weather is dreary and mornings are dark. We also do drop offs, which mean we can leave between 7:45-7:50am and my kids will make it on time. If they had to catch the bus, it would not work so well.
    My kids (2nd and 4th grader) are not getting enough sleep. My 4th grader is not able to fall asleep early enough to get the rest she needs, when she has to be up so early in the morning.
    Time will tell if this will adjust.
    My kids are also very frustrated that there is no time for free play before school. I am concerned that as the weeks wear on, we will be met with more resistance to go to school. Free, unstructured (we don’t do electronics or TV) playtime has always been part of their morning. Now there is none, and they voiced some complaints this morning when they couldn’t play farm animals before they had to pack up for a day in the classroom.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Laura, I’m sorry to hear about your children not getting enough sleep, and I realize it’s a tricky adjustment for some families – both with bed time and morning routines. Thanks for sharing your concerns and I hope you’ll let me know how the year progresses for you and your children.

  21. Kara Bezanson

    3 months ago

    I love the 8:30 High School start! It makes our family mornings so much more enjoyable! As a teacher, I am seeing students who are FAR more awake 1st and 5th periods! Thank you!!

    One concern: I had two students tell me this morning that they logged 20+ hours of homework over the long weekend. That is WAY too much, especially since it can’t be a problem with procrastination this early in the school year. I’m glad we, as a district, are focusing on making sure only meaningful homework is given, but these numbers suggest we need to keep working on that 🙁

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Kara, yikes! I agree 20+ is way too much, and I appreciate your comment. We do have some more work to do. I would certainly advocate for you to share this story with your colleagues and administrators so they can continue to be part of the solution, as will I. Thanks again Kara.

    • Jacki Rasmussen

      3 months ago

      Agree…the extra classes have just made for more homework. On the old schedule the kids had time in class to complete homework. And now they cannot, then getting out later means sports/work/activities are later so homework is done later and they stay up later…so there is no extra sleep. I have yet to see any advantage to the new schedule.

      • Greg

        3 months ago

        Hi Jacki, I appreciate your comment. I’m sorry you’re not experiencing any advantages to the new schedule. Is your student(s) taking any academic workshop classes at all? That may help with homework completion. In the meantime, feel free to encourage your student to talk with teachers and counselors about their concerns. The intention with eight classes is to find more balance – not create more workload or stress. Feel free to give my office a call sometime if you’d like to talk more.

  22. Misha Thompson

    3 months ago

    I have two high schoolers and it is remarkable what a difference the later start time has meant for them. They are definitely better rested and more alert and far less harried each morning. As to the shift in academic scheduling, I second Kristine Weller and Kara Bezanson above and their comments (although I do not know either of them.) My kids are logging easily 20 hrs of homework on weekends, and multiple hours every evening. My son will be missing last period for tennis matches. Both are very self-motivated students taking AP classes and my daughter told me at the end of the first full school week that she had more homework in that week in some classes than she had had up until Christmas of last year. That is not tenable. Later start time, however, has been way better and I’d love to see collected data at the end of the year on teen car accidents/grades/health absences, etc. to see the overall impact on our community.

    Thank you as always for your open communication. It’s a gift and I am grateful to you for your leadership style and non-defensiveness about what is truly best for all of our students.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Misha, thanks for your comments. Beyond making me (and our community, staff, etc.) aware of this issue, I would also encourage you and your children to talk with teachers and counselors about their class load and balance of courses, rigor, stress, etc. Thanks for adding your voice to this discussion!

  23. Rachel Kingsley

    3 months ago

    My 17 year old daughter is so grateful that the classes are longer allowing her to go more in depth with her studies. She finds it far less stressful than it was last year when she felt she was just hurtling from one classroom to another often with not enough time for packing up and transitioning. The later start is nice too, because teenagers seem to need more sleep and younger kids seem to wake up earlier anyway.
    My daughter is on the cross country team this year and her practice gets out at 5:30, which is not too late.
    All in all, we love it! Thank you for making this change!

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Thanks, Rachel!

  24. Theresa Trahan Halme

    3 months ago

    So far it’s been great..
    Our Sophomore is really liking the A/B schedule and enjoying the his electives. (And the start time) The only possible downside, is that he gets home from his sport late, which can make dinner, homework, and a little downtime a bit challenging to fit in. The teachers at the open house last night were open and honest about doing most work during class time and trying to keep homework time to a minimum.
    Our elementary school kiddo is struggling to wake up, but as fall and winter set in, hopefully, with more routine, bedtime will be earlier.. 🤞🏼
    Thank you for your thoughtfulness, keep up the dialogue!

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Theresa, great point that the shift in seasons may actually help us get our youngest kids to bed a little earlier! I’m so glad to hear that our schools are being proactive, intentional and open about *trying* to keep homework to a minimum. : ) Thanks for the comment.

  25. Karva L. Coward

    3 months ago

    My daughter is in her last year at Shuksan MIddle school, so her schedule has been the same these past couple of years. Next year in high school is going to be the test when she will start earlier than she is used too. But, we will press on and make it work. My son is in 1st grade and he is an early riser, so the 800 start is just fine for him. We just had to adjust our morning routine. He is in bed by 830 since he needs to 10 hours of sleep.
    Thank you for having our students best interest

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Karva, Thanks for sharing and for working to adjust your routine. I know it’s not always easy!

  26. Christina Drake

    3 months ago

    As a mom of younger kids I think the schedule change stinks! We went from making a hot breakfast everyday to rushing to eat cold cereal on our way out the door. The kids are struggling with a earlier bed time (which is necessary with an earlier start time) let’s not talk about finding after school care after losing our high school sitter because of the time change.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Christina, Thanks for your comment, and I’m sorry to hear that the new schedule isn’t working for you. I hope things improve as you and your family adjust, but please keep me posted via this blog, email or by phone as the year progresses. Have you been able to find alternative care? Thanks for voicing your concerns and I do hope things get better!

  27. Maggie McCracken

    3 months ago

    As a high school student, having 8 classes is providing too much homework at once, especially with only meeting with some classes twice a week. Over this past weekend, I had 8+ hours of homework for just one of my AP classes because we didn’t meet for 5 days. I was very disappointed to have the Anchor class cut down so much, as that provided a time to get individual help with teachers and mentors. With Anchor only twice a week, it seems sort of useless at this point because the shorter time doesn’t allow me to utilize the time wisely. Also, going from 6 to 8 classes has added pressure to take more AP classes in order to make my senior year schedule look more productive to colleges. The later end time will push sports and extra curriculars back later. All the WIAA sports games aren’t changing times, so when the winter sports season comes, I will be missing an increased amount of school, and again without Anchor, I don’t have time during the school day to make up missed work and tests. I see the appeal to changing to the 8×4 schedule, but currently, it is making my last year of high unnecessarily stressful.

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      hi Maggie, I really appreciate having student input on this blog. Thanks for taking the time to share your first hand experiences. I’m sorry to hear about the added stress this year. As you may have seen or read (on this blog or other places), the intention of the new schedule is not for students to load up on rigorous courses, like AP. While those courses are important and valuable, being balanced and managing your stress level, health, sanity, family life and extra-curricular activities are just as vital for a successful, well-rounded high school experience. We encourage all students to explore passion areas and balance schedules — especially with non-homework producing courses. From our experience with universities and colleges, yes, they look for students to take rigorous courses, but they are also seeking for students with unique experiences and/or interests. One of our core beliefs is that the “whole child is important,” meaning If it was all about AP courses (and I know some folks may think that it is), we’d structure the high school day differently. With regards to Anchor, we established an academic workshop for students who need and want that extra time. You may want to talk with your counselor to see if you are able to add that into your load either this semester or next.

      Regarding the time our teams play games, we have been working to adjust our schedules in order to decrease time students miss class. We have adjusted games this fall for example for some tennis matches to start later in the day. We are working to put lights on more of our courts and fields which help in the future. We have worked with community partners, such as the city, to adjust times in pools. I am meeting with other superintendents in the region as well, asking for their support on adjusting game times to accommodate our new schedule. And I believe other districts at some point may follow what we have done, given the strong research behind this change with regards to student health and wellness. But the reality I know is students missed instructional time with the old schedule for sports and continue to do so now. Our staff though is working hard to minimize that loss of time in class as much as possible. It’s really important to hear from our students, so again thank you for helping continue to see where we need to adjust and improve.

  28. Tim Reinholtz

    3 months ago

    I find students are mentally full and exhausted by the last period of the day.

    I do not like the significant decrease in contact time with the students in regards to building relationships and getting through required content. Very difficult to navigate the homework component.

    I appreciate the increase in electives but am very concerned with the decrease in options for ALL our kids with the elimination of Quantitative Chemistry. Eliminating options for All kids is NOT what the promise is about is it?

    • Greg

      3 months ago

      Hi Tim, thanks for the feedback. It’s great to get teacher voice on this blog. Going through change as we know takes time and patience, so thanks for all your hard work to make the many adjustments that will be needed.
      Re: the decrease in contact time, I appreciate that perspective from those teachers who had students in their courses in years past, often because it was a required course. For other teachers, it’s a huge increase in contact time, given students could never take their courses in the past, due to the limited schedule. We also know many teachers may have students less time during a particular semester course, but if the student’s passion is in that content area, a teacher may see some students for many more hours over the course of the four years, as students may choose to take for example many more science classes than they ever could before.

      Re: homework, our staff will continue to need to learn how to balance the assigning of homework. The High School Implementation Advisory Group last year recommended the following:
      Given that students will be enrolled in eight courses and a longer school day, mixed experiences with the value of homework, together with parent and student requests to provide time for work completion during the school day, we offer the following: Homework Guidelines for Teachers
      A. Consider purpose of homework. Is it for practice, to check for understanding on which to base instruction or an opportunity for students to apply new skills? Match homework to learning targets and make it efficient.
      B. Ensure that assignments are critical to student learning and meaningful for all learners.
      C. Ensure that all students can access and accomplish the assigned work; differentiating homework is effective practice (not all students need the same tasks, deadlines, support, etc.).
      D. Adjust/prioritize curriculum and instructional practices to new time frame; don’t increase homework to make up for reduced instructional minutes.
      E. Collaborate around big projects and assessments to consider the effect on shared students.

      And with regards to what Chemistry courses are taught, we haven’t eliminated any of them this year. But given the new Next Generation Science Standards, which encourage us to provide equitable science course to all students, and what we know about the dangers of tracking students and lowering expectations for many, we have some work to do in examining what courses we offer to whom. Our educational system, although with good intentions, often pushes students with disabilities, or students with English as a Second Language, or students from poverty, into courses that do not have as high of expectations. The book I mentioned at the All Staff Event, “Despite the Best Intentions” by Diamond and Lewis, and a book we read a number of years ago, “Detracking for Excellence and and Equity” are both ones I’d recommend to anyone interested in this subject.

      More discussions to come. If you’d like to meet and discuss further, I’d be happy to do so.

      Thanks again Tim for your comments and all your hard work on behalf of our students.
      Greg

      • Jen Lois

        3 months ago

        Thanks for responding to this, Dr. Baker. I would like to ask for two points of clarification regarding that last issue with chemistry: First, are you saying that eliminating the more rigorous chemistry course will prevent this best-of-intentions problem by placing all students in the only available, and less rigorous, chemistry course? I’m confused because if the problem is that students with disabilities, from poverty, and whose first language is not English get unintentionally pushed into lower-achieving courses (“tracked”), is the solution to make it so that they–along with all other students–get put there by default because more rigorous courses (e.g., quantitative chemistry) are eliminated? It seems to me that’s ensuring the exact result you are saying you’d like to avoid. Second, “provid[ing] equitable science course[s] to all students” doesn’t mean providing just one chemistry course, right? Doesn’t it mean that all students have equal opportunity to take the many courses that are offered? By the logic in your statement here, it seems that the District should not be expanding any opportunities for students, but rather forcing all students in a particular grade to take the same 8 courses–everyone takes the same (equitable) English, everyone takes the same science, math, etc…. That seems diametrically opposed to your mission with increasing to 8 periods. Am I misunderstanding what you’re saying?

        • Greg

          3 months ago

          Hi Jen, Thanks for your questions and for helping me clarify my response to Tim. I believe we need to offer rigorous courses for every student. Sometimes we find that, with good intentions, we have created the same course, yet separated kids out into higher and lower tracks. When this occurs, and we combine back into one course, the goal is to keep the standards and rigor at the highest level, not lower them, which certainly can be a fear of those in the higher track. But with good intentionality, strong instruction and a belief that all kids can learn at high levels, which is a key belief of The Bellingham Promise, it can be a win-win for all involved – increasing diversity and ensuring all students are prepared for the future.

          Within the coming days/week, we will be putting out a call for applications for a secondary science adoption committee. This group of educators, administrators and parents will participate in a middle and high school program review and adoption process for grades 6-12 science materials, which align to the state learning standards in science (also known as the Next Generation Science Standards). Part of this group’s recommendation in the spring will be to establish a new program of instruction, which includes course offerings and recommended pathways (among other things). Currently, each of our comprehensive high schools offer both quantitative chemistry and conceptual chemistry. Between the three high schools, we have 13 sections of conceptual chemistry and 14 quantitative chemistry classes. While the science committee’s recommendations may be to change this model (again, among other things), I wanted to clarify that students are currently taking quantitative chemistry.

          And yes, providing more courses, more choices and new opportunities for students is, I believe, a big benefit to the 8-period schedule. That said, there are courses that are fundamental and recommended (even prerequisites) for all students in order to progress into higher level courses and/or more specific pathways (I realize there will be exceptions for students with extenuating circumstances). This doesn’t mean all students need to take the same eight courses. The new schedule allows students to have greater choice in electives but not necessarily more choice within what some call the “core” subjects (math, science, English), especially in their first two years of high school, while greater choice in areas like world language, art, music, physical education, CTE and more. Then as students progress, more and more choices within “core” subjects begin to emerge as students identify their areas of passion and interest.

          I hope this helps and feel free to give me a call or set up a time to meet. I’m always happy to talk further and hear more of your questions or concerns. Thanks!

  29. Adam Resnick

    3 months ago

    Greg, Compared to current options, will the range of core courses in the first two years of high school be narrowed? If so, how will you guarantee that all students will be able to “learn at high levels” per the Promise?

    My concern is that eliminating challenging options in core subjects you will be tracking a greater number of students into courses where they are not learning at high levels.

  30. Thomas Cassella

    2 months ago

    As a student of the new schedule myself, I feel changing it to an alternating schedule is completely ineffective on several levels. First off, there are some classes that require meeting more than 2-3 days a week. Take language classes for example. Learning a new language is already hard enough, but increasing the amount of time we have in between our classes makes information fade away much quicker. Another example is PE classes, where exercising just 2-3 times a week doesn’t even meet the F.I.T.T. principles that they preach in their curriculum. They have always taught that one should exercise 3-5 times a week for 20-60 minutes, not 2-3 times a week for 70. It makes the curriculum much more difficult to learn and improve from if we only meet a maximum of 3 times a week, more often than not only meeting 2 times a week. Second off, it’s become very apparent to me that the teachers were very unprepared to take on this new schedule, as their lesson plans had always been chunked as 60 minutes or 100 minutes, so they’ve had to split some, assign some as homework, or space it out awkwardly. Clearly they haven’t rewritten or changed the way they’ve had to teach in order to adapt to the new schedule, nor have the students been able to change the way they learn to fit it. There are plenty of other, better solutions that could replace the 4×8 schedule. We could have kept Sehome’s schedule that had classes meet 4 times a week, if not that many than at least 3, and implemented that to other schools so they could all be on the same schedule. Class times could be moved slightly and study periods could be taken out in order to offer 8 classes. I’m sure there’s something that could be structured if given more thought, but the 4×8 system has not been proving effective thus far.
    Sincerely,
    -Thomas Cassella, Sophomore

  31. Thomas Cassella

    1 month ago

    The new schedule plain and simple isn’t effective for learning. It’s not reasonable to assume that people can hang on to 8 different new concepts a week if each one is given to them only twice a week. I’m all for people learning new things, and continuing to broaden the amount of classes people take is something I support, but you can’t expect every student to learn every concept as well when there’s 8 classes that are being taught in a much less effective way with less frequency. If you want there to be 8 classes, you can’t keep all the curriculums this expansive, and then reduce the productivity in student learning. You’d have to encourage students to take easier classes and risk their college chances, or change the curriculums to a shorter version so students can learn at a rate that the schedule allows them to. Either way, the schedule deters advanced learning, and having the schedule implemented before it was ready is just going to cost lower classmen years of education, that will now be spent trying to adapt to this system. I urge you to reconsider this implementation, as it just cannot reasonably work for students to learn advanced content effectively, nor can it come without having at least 2 costly years of adaptation.
    -Thomas Cassella,
    Sophomore

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