As we are now well into the second half of the school year, I thought it would be a good time to check in with families, students and staff about the changes we implemented to the high school schedule this year. I recently shared this message about the high school schedule. Staff and families may take a moment to fill out this survey or feel leave a comment on my blog. I look forward to hearing from you!

29 Comments

  1. We have both a student at Bellingham High, as well as one at Columbia Elementary. So, we were prepared to witness joy on the part of our teenager, and sleepy-headedness for our eight-year-old. No doubt, our teen is perkier in the morning. And, fortunately, our third-grader is doing just fine in the morning. So, no negative impact has been felt by our family.

    • 8 classes has been very stressful on my sophomore BHS student, and our family. She is a 3 sport athlete and is often up into the wee hours with homework and studying. This is a huge issue, as we all know students at this age need as much sleep as possible. Teenagers frontal lobe isn’t fully developed, this part of the brain is responsible for executive functioning skills. It doesn’t make sense to load more materials/curriculum etc..on someone who is by nature lacking in organizational skills.
      It would be nice to see classloads more like college, with LESS classes instead of more. Escpecially if retention of knowledge, versus cramming short term information into teens brains is the goal.
      In addition, is there a way students could get credit for the extracurricular/sports etc…that they participate in as part of the 8 class requirement, or perhaps have a time block in the school day to allow for extracurricular development?

      • Hi Cora and thank you for your feedback. I agree with you that sleep is important for teenagers and this is a big reason why we moved the start time to 8:30 a.m. Regarding the idea of fewer classes like college, this is a challenge given the increased graduation requirements from the state and the desire of both staff and students to offer/take some classes year-round every year, particularly passion areas like visual and performing arts. In an ideal world it would be great to give kids choices of different schedules, similar to the differences in college if you’re on a semester or quarter system. Colleges on the semester system often have students taking 5-6 classes at a time; whereas colleges on the quarter system, students usually take just 3-4 classes at a time. Re: sports, we do offer a high school physical education waiver, which may be a helpful option for your student. Participation in three sports is great, and I hope she keeps at it! Thanks for the comment and feedback.

  2. The 4×8 schedule is shortchanging AP classes of much needed instructional time. The teachers are not able to cover material adequately- instead they are leaving out sections, and struggling to teach the material they do choose to include. I have seen a huge difference in how AP coursework has been handled this year compared to the past several years. Our students deserve the full amount of instructional classroom time so they can master the material for each subject.

    • Hi Tammy, our eight period schedule (defined in minutes per class per school year) falls into the College Board’s recommended instructional time ahead of the AP tests in May. Our school year calendar changed a few years ago, and starting school before Labor Day gives teachers and students more time with the material. We’re also continuing to work with the College Board to increase flexibility in our AP testing window. As far as instruction, our high school teachers continue to be in conversations about how to be intentional with their teaching in order to better accommodate this new schedule. I hope this helps outline the steps we are taking to address concerns with AP. I appreciate you taking the time to comment and share your feedback.

  3. That poll was frustrating, because it asked two multiple-choice questions at the end of it without allowing any written comments, forcing us to tell you whether we value study periods without giving us the opportunity to say what we value in study periods–and what we don’t.

    My sense is study periods could be very valuable, especially to students who are struggling in a subject or who have limited resources at home, but only if those periods are actually facilitated *as study time* by qualified teachers or tutors. My son’s Anchor teacher told us at open house that he used the period to give the kids time to check their cell phones. Not so helpful.

    • Hi Julie, I’m sorry you found the survey frustrating. The comment boxes in the survey are designed to allow open-ended responses, so you can include any feedback you have. This blog is also a spot for feedback (that gets beyond multiple choice questions), and I am glad you took the time to share your thoughts. And remember: staff, families and students are also welcome to email me directly at any time.

      Regarding the survey, we’ve heard from some families, staff and students that they are interested in having more time for Anchor, THOR, Raiderade, etc. We included targeted questions in an effort to get more specific feedback about the length/frequency of those support times. I do agree with you that how the time is structured is important. Thanks again for offering feedback and feel free to email me with additional thoughts.

  4. Wow great feed back, I agree with Tammy and Julie. The survey was a little frustrating especially the last couple. I really could not find an answer I wanted to the question. My son is a Junior at Squalicum and is active in sports and mentoring . He does not have enough time to do his homework (3 AP classes). This is by far his most unhappy year. Feels like they are being used as an experiment.

    • Mike, I am sorry to hear your son is having a difficult year. Have you or your son spoken to the counselors at Squalicum about balancing his class load? While we want our students to challenge themselves, it is not our intention that students load up on rigorous courses only. The purpose of the expanded schedule is to bring calm to a student’s day with fewer classes per day and more opportunity to take electives that don’t necessarily result in more homework. Our High School Schedule Implementation Advisory Group spent many hours thoughtfully processing this transition to the 4×8 schedule. This is not an experiment, as we plan to stick with this 4×8 schedule, but we are looking for ways we can improve it and reduce challenges for families. Thank you for your feedback and feel free to email me if you have more input.

    • Hi Mike:

      My 2 older sons had no problems with homework in the past years… this is my 3rd son and he is having a difficult year too with the new 4×8 schedule. He is very unhappy too 🙁 I am sorry!

  5. We have two grader school age children. I originally was excited to start our day earlier with the newer start time. After a couple months I can honestly say I do not like it at all and neither do they. They are constantly tired and even tardy a couple days when I felt they really needed the sleep. Even though they are in bed by 8-8:30 every night.

    • Hi Kim, thanks for sharing your concern. Adjusting family schedules can be a real challenge and it sounds like you’re doing your best to try and encourage your children to get the sleep they need. I appreciate the feedback and please check in with me again in a few months to share your reflections about the new bell times.

  6. I have 3 sons… 2 have graduated and the last one is a sophomore. What we like about the new 4×8 classes are the variety of choices and options. However, both semesters, my son received his 2nd and 3rd alternates and he did not get the classes he wanted. What we have found is that there is DOUBLE the homework now compared to before. Every night my son spends anywhere from 2-4 hours on homework… some nights more! The students see their classroom teachers every other day, so I think the teachers are assigning more homework so they can keep up on the curriculum that they need to teach. Teachers are seeing each student 1/2 the amount of time each semester. My son has already said that next year he will not be playing sports because he can’t keep up with the homework. School is important to him… but I want him to have a well-rounded life and play sports too. He should not have to drop out of sports because of the homework load each night.

    The survey asked if we had any suggestions… How about NO HOMEWORK at all? The students are already in school every day for 6 3/4 hours, isn’t this enough? Each class is approximately 1 hr and 20 min long. Why can’t the teachers teach their lesson for the first 40 minutes and then the last 40 minutes, the students can do their actual school work? This way if they students don’t understand or have questions, they are in class and can ask the actual teacher. If they don’t finish in class… then it becomes homework. This way students can spend their evenings playing sports, engaging in family time and actually having free time to unwind before the next school day begins.

    • Hi Cathie, I’m glad to hear your student is enjoying the increased course options. I’d encourage your son to connect with his high school counselor, perhaps they can work together to find a more balanced schedule that allows him to continue participation in sports. I appreciate your suggestion about homework, and it is certainly something that we will need to continue to improve as we adjust to the 4×8 schedule.

  7. I am pasting below one of the responses I made for the current survey. By the way (and as you know), the survey was announced Monday and is due 3:30 on Friday. You might send out a reminder…

    What about the new 4×8 high school schedule is causing challenges?

    In AP courses (and even in non-AP) teachers are covering the same breadth of material as before the schedule change, but they are outsourcing the “teaching” to the students. For example, a student may be told to read and understand the next 3 chapters in a math course but in class the teacher only is able to address the content for 1 or 2 of those chapters.

    Students are juggling too many topics at once. This is too much information to process and retain. Stress is a major issue with this approach. There is stress in the process of trying to take in this much information and also stress with the increased amount of homework (more classes, more homework), assignments (more classes, more assignments), and exams (more classes, more exams). My students have had multiple exams in a single class in a week AND multiple exams from different courses on the same day (multiple times).

  8. I am pasting below one other response I made to the current survey.

    What about the new 4×8 high school schedule is working well?

    The administration needs to really assess how “well” the transition has been.

    What are your expected outcomes (of moving to the new schedule)?
    Are you planning to conduct unbiased assessments of its effectiveness?
    Do you think you can untangle the effects of an increase in credits from the change of the schedule?What about the new 4×8 high school schedule is working well?

    From what have seen over the past 2 years, the administration has followed a process of doing what it thinks is best and then finding evidence to support its decision(s). It has not been scientific. A survey by itself is not scientific. You need to put effort into validation of the evaluative survey for it to be meaningful, and then possibly useful for what is learned from it to be applied.

    • Hi Jeff, thank you for your comments and continued interest about the high school schedule. First, our survey is not meant to be a scientific survey. It is meant to be one of many ways we collect data. Prior to this transition to the 4×8, we had focus groups and an advisory group that provided a recommendation based on their research and findings. We engaged high school staff and students and conducted surveys. We heard a strong interest from all parties that students were looking for more opportunities in high school. I’m continuing to engage with parents, staff and students in a number of forums, including PTA and staff meetings, as well as individual conversations in person and by phone. The eight period schedule adds only one more class for students who used to take zero hour or online courses in order to fit in everything they needed. We encourage students and parents to plan a balanced course load. Many students have found an academic workshop class very useful for getting additional support and reducing homework and stress. Lastly, I understand that a blog and survey around a topic like this may have a low response rate and may tip the balance toward people who are desiring change than those who are content. However, I want to offer as many ways as possible for feedback and this is just another venue for that.

  9. I would really like to see some data on the student success based on the 4×8 schedule as well as any success of the high school time change. I think that it was a mistake to implement both of these changes in the same year. I think the time change based on brain development was brilliant, but it was a hard sell to many. Any data coming out of the high schools about the success of the time change will be tainted by the 4×8 schedule. The 4×8 schedule was a difficult transition for my child. I understand all the reasoning behind it, but it’s not based on brain development and in my opinion not good for learning. Eight classes is a lot of learning for a still developing brain. Even though some of the classes were electives and supposed to be less demanding, they still required her to learn something new and manage assignments and schedules.

    • Hi Kim, thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m sorry to hear the new schedule isn’t working for your child. I hope that you are working closely with their counselor and/or teachers. I’m happy to help problem-solve if you are willing to share more info in a phone call or email.
      While I understand that eight classes is “a lot,” it’s important to remember that a student isn’t attending all eight in a day. The old six-period schedule had students attending all six multiple times per week, which we also heard was overwhelming. As I said in other comments, the academic workshop class may be a good option for your student.
      We appreciate the feedback, and acknowledge that with any system change, there will be growing pains. This “check in” with parents, staff and students will allow us to improve the 4×8 experience by listening to feedback about what has been challenging this year.

  10. Later start time to begin high school for teenagers- Makes sense.

    4×8 high school schedule change- Makes NO SENSE.

    My Comments for 4×8 Schedule Change: Stress, stress, stress for both students and parents. Increased stress. Unhappy students. More students will be leaving for Running Start next year (at least among our friends). More homework, more quizzes/tests/projects, information overload, less time to eat lunch (because of need to study/do homework due to after school sports/activities), not getting the alternate classes wanted, more challenging for student-athletes, more “busy-work” and “filler-classes” that are not necessary, our students are competing for college slots with other students who have less stress and less work-load. Students who want to take extra elective classes or pursue their passions should have the OPTION to do so at school and stay later for that as an OPTION. Other students want to work, pay for their car gas and car insurance, work unpaid internships, prepare for college in a more productive way than extra elective classes and “busy-work” at school.

    This was a BAD BAD idea. And it was probably pursued due to $/funding…because isn’t everything these days??

    It will be shown in the long-run that it will have long-lasting negative results and effects. Mark my words. You will LOSE more $/funding in the end. More kids will leave, pursue Running Start, home-school, etc.

    GOOD LUCK.

    I would be happy to discuss more in detail with you after Spring Break.

    Regards,
    Natalie

    • Hi Natalie, I’m glad to hear that you’re in support of the later start time, but I’m sorry to hear the new eight-period schedule hasn’t been working for your family. I’d like to learn more from you, so I’d ask that you give my office a call at 360-676-6501 or send me an email at greg.baker@bellinghamschools.org (now or after spring break). Thank you!

  11. Hi Greg, I think the number one thing that I find most positive about the new schedule is the later start time in the morning. This is so much better for my high school kids. I hope this never changes.

    I like that the students can get a taste of a variety of subjects with the electives, however, I think the most classes my student can handle is about 6 or 7. She has needed the academic workshop for sure and then another class like PE or art that don’t require extra homework. So, she is definitely choosing her other 2 classes to balance the other 6 heavy classes. The balance is the key. With 8 classes, she is able to handle 1 AP class, but not 2 or more at this point. I can understand why many highschoolers are experiencing alot more stress who are taking 2-3 AP classes. That is alot to handle.

    My other concern is during finals week. It would be really helpful if the tests were spread out over the entire last week of finals. My child had 4 core finals scheduled on 1 day and then the next day, the rest of her classes and it was way too stressful. She did not have enough time to study and ended up blowing by 2 finals because she just couldn’t study for all of them over the weekend. And yes, time management could have been an issue, however, she had so much work to do up until the finals that she was busy doing that instead of studying ahead of time. I feel the school should space out the finals so that a student has no more than 2 finals in one day. When I was in college, if you had more than 2 finals scheduled in 1 day, you could reschedule it. The University didn’t want students to have that kind of pressure and stress. I think this should be the same in the high school setting. If a student has 3 or more finals in 1 day, they should be able to talk to their teacher and reschedule for another day. I know if my child had more time to study, she would have done better and her grade going into finals would not have dropped, especially because in some classes, the finals are weighted at such a high percentage of your grade. I talked about my concern to the principal, Miller, and she said that they are going to try to make it better for this next semester and that they didn’t foresee this coming and how to manage the finals schedule as it came upon them.

    One more suggestion, instead of adding 8 classes, what if there was just 7 and it would be less of a jump from going to 6 to 8 and adding in more time periods for study. Just a thought. -Ali

    • Hi Ali, thank you for sharing your feedback and I’m glad to hear your student is benefiting from the later start time and additional course options. I also appreciate your suggestions regarding the testing schedule for students. Workload is an important consideration, and we want our high schools to be mindful of the timing and the frequency of tests students are taking. I’ve heard our high schools talking about spreading finals out over the course of a longer period of time; thanks for the suggestion. As far as moving to seven classes instead of eight, we are working to improve the 4×8 schedule, not to eliminate a class. One consideration is to increase the number of times students attend anchor/raiderade/THOR, etc. per week to allow time to focus on homework and connect with their advisor. Thanks again for taking the time to comment!

  12. Not sure if this blog is still going. Likes the previous ones. I did respond earlier and have discussed with my Junior son. I explained that he would have an opportunity to give some feedback back. He replied, it doesn’t matter what we say they have already indicated that the 4X8 is not going away, why bother. And besides I will be doing running start next year.
    NOT GOOD.

    • Hi Mike, thank you for taking the time to respond and comment and for asking your son to provide feedback as well. I’m sorry to hear he wasn’t interested in providing input. We could have done a better job articulating how we use this survey feedback because we do use it! Many students (more than 1,000) completed a survey at school, which asked about homework load and other issues. While our current plan does retain the 4 x 8 schedule, this “check in” with parents, staff and students will allow us to improve the 4×8 experience. We absolutely use these responses to shape and adjust our plans going forward. Once the survey data is collected, we review all responses to find out the most pressing issues for students and families. We then strategize ways to meet these challenges and how/when to best implement them. Thanks again for taking the time to respond to this survey and best wishes to your son as he moves to Running Start this fall.

  13. Hi Greg,
    Thank you for your reply. I will send a more detailed e-mail to you this week and appreciate the opportunity for more dialogue regarding this matter. Meanwhile, my teen did not have the opportunity to complete the Student Survey at school (left school early that Tues. for a sports competition with her high school team). I am wondering if students who did not have the opportunity to complete the Survey at school can still obtain access to it to provide feedback? I am also wondering if there were translated versions of the Student Survey for ESL students? And if it’s possible for the parents in this community to see the Spanish/English versions of the Student Survey? I am concerned about ESL families and low-income families who may not have access to computers or WiFi at home to complete the Survey or contribute to this Blog. I am also concerned that we will have more students this 2017-2018 school year who drop-out of high school, leave for Options, leave for part-time/full-time Running Start, leave for home-school, etc. I am hoping that the School District will be collecting data to run a comprehensive statistical analysis comparing this school year with that of 2016-2017. My teen dropped a math class the first day of school this year (that she really needed) and did not take an AP class (like she did last year) in order to be proactive to the 4×8 implemented schedule change this year. It sounds like some families were not as proactive and are now having an even more challenging and unhappy school year than we are. I am also wondering that if the School District and Principals did not foresee the challenge regarding “taking multiple Finals on the same day” then what else did they also not foresee? I am also wondering how much time, energy, and “support adjustments” (for both students and teachers) we are going to spend to try to make this Bad Idea look good? I know that this is especially challenging when $, egos, and red-tape bureaucracy are involved…however, I am hoping that common-sense will prevail in the end! There are clearly physical, psycho-social, and academic factors to contemplate more deeply on this issue, and it does not seem like all of these factors were taken into thoughtful consideration by an advisory group which included a psychologist, social worker, school nurse, etc.? Obviously, I am still shocked that such an unprogressive idea would be implemented into our progressive community, an idea that promotes Quantity/8 classes (and information overload) over Quality/6 classes. I am hoping that 1 parent or 1 teacher in this entire School District will make a Positive Comment (without any judgment or comment backlash) on this Blog about this 4×8 change. I personally have not heard one positive comment from 1 student, parent, or teacher in this community. Where are these people? Did they have to make any adjustments this year to make this a positive change? Does their teen participate in any sports or extracurricular activities? I appreciate you taking the time to conduct a Survey to gather some information, to having this Blog available for open dialogue, and for allowing people to “agree to disagree” while allowing input from different perspectives. I look forward to discussing this issue with you more in further detail.
    Regards,
    Natalie

    • Thank you Natalie!! I have also heard NOTHING positive about the 4×8 schedule from any parents or students or teachers!!

  14. Hi Natalie, You bring up some great points, and I’m glad you plan to email me because I would be interested to hear more. Any student who was not able to take the survey can also email me directly with their feedback or talk with their principal. We are working with our ELL teachers to gather feedback from students receive ELL services with a modified approach because we agree, we need to hear from all students.
    With any change, there will be unforeseen impacts, and that’s why it’s so important that we hear directly from you and others impacted by the change. We are not yet through year one of the new schedule, and I am hopeful that incorporating this feedback will help us find solutions to some of the challenges. While I am hearing concerns about the schedule from some students, staff and parents, I also receive positive emails about students’ experiences and the variety of courses they are able to take and the balance they have found in the new schedule. It’s also important to remember that the six-period schedule also had its shortcomings. I very much appreciate the time you’ve taken so far and hope you’ll follow up so we can talk more about these issues. I look forward to further discussions with you.

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