Somerset High School switches to new scheduleAfter nearly two decades of utilizing a four-period day, Somerset High School administration has elected to change its scheduling system.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
After nearly two decades of utilizing a four-period day, Somerset High School administration has elected to change its scheduling system.
The high school will begin using a hybrid schedule based on an eight-period day, with two days of block classes and some classes always offered in a block structure.
The changes were driven by the goal of improving the test scores of SHS students on statewide tests.
The schedule change at the high school was approved at a special meeting of the Somerset Board of Education on April 23.
Thirteen members of the high school staff and administration formed the committee that decided on the schedule change. They began meeting in November, holding 13 sessions. They also had seven meetings involving the entire high school faculty.
The main reason for the change is the performance of high school students on the ACT national tests. Somerset had the lowest composite score at 21.3 among the eight Middle Border Conference schools in 2010-11.
Somerset’s scores on the WKCE testing were mixed. Somerset ranked at the top of the conference schools in math, but ranked sixth in language and science and eighth in reading.
“The reality is, we are where we are. With the understanding it’s not OK to stay there,” said high school guidance counselor Jeremy Kerg. “We need to provide opportunities to increase our test scores.”
One of the positives in going to the hybrid schedule is that it offers more continuity in education. Under the block schedule, a student could take his first math class in the opening quarter of his freshman year and not take his second class until the last quarter of his sophomore year. Kerg said the goal is to have students taking the core subjects (math, English, science) from their first day of high school until they’ve taken their ACT tests and beyond.
High school principal Shawn Madden said the changes are important because it gives the student the chance to get the absolute maximum amount of learning in from the beginning to the end of the school year.
While it isn’t mandatory, Kerg said it is highly recommended that each student take four years of each of the core subjects.
The classes that will be offered in 90-minute blocks are some of the more time-intensive classes. Kerg said upper level math classes, Project Lead The Way classes, traditional tech ed classes, FCE, junior and senior gym classes and some business classes could all qualify for these parts of the schedule.
Most of the core classes will be offered in 45-minute sections so they can be offered to the student throughout the year.
Credit values for the class will remain the same. The students will have the opportunity to take 32 credits, with 28 credits required to graduate.
Kerg and music instructor Andrew Emerson presented the committee’s ideas to the board. They said that nine schedule options were considered, ranging from the four-period block schedule to days with six, seven or eight periods, plus other modifications. The committee settled on the hybrid schedule, which is based upon an eight-period day.
Under this schedule, Monday, Tuesday and Friday will operate as traditional eight-period days, except for the blocked classes. On Wednesday and Thursday, the 45-minute classes will be extended to 90-minutes to provide the teachers with opportunities to hold labs, work on larger projects, etc. Wednesdays will be set aside for classes in odd-numbered hours and Thursday’s will be set aside for classes in even-numbered hours.
With the 45-minute classes, this schedule offers more flexibility.
“This should be a huge benefit for music students,” said Bill Roll, director of programs. “Now students won’t be forced to pick between band and choir and academics, they can have both.”
Streamlining schedules to meet students’ individual needs will be easier under this semester scheduling system, according to Kerg. He used an example of students taking accelerated math classes by taking two block classes in one year, can slow the pace in another year, or vice versa.
School Board President Tim Witzmann sized up the board’s opinions.
“There’s no sugar coating, we are lagging behind (on test scores). The hybrid system seems to make a lot of sense,” he said.
Kerg said the schedule change is a major first step, but other efforts to improve the test scores are also moving forward. Somerset will now be a test site for ACT testing, offering its first test in June.
Somerset is also offering EXPLORE and PLAN testing. These are ACT tests adapted to freshman and sophomore levels. These are being given to every SHS student. They give younger students early exposure to the expectations on the ACT tests, so they are better prepared to take the ACT test when they get older.
The high school is also exploring other options to help students enroll in more classes they want. The school is considering offering classes before or after the traditional school day. Summer school classes worth high school credit are another option. Kerg said a summer session of gym class might be available so music students won’t have to cut into their band and choir time during the school year.
A parent overview night will soon be scheduled so parents can learn more about the schedule change. Students will also have the schedule changes explained to them in grade level breakout meetings.