High School Board talks class schedule

By Nancy Gutierrez

At a special work,/study session of the Exeter Union High School District on March 9 the board had a lengthy discussion regarding the effects of a change to the current daily schedule to a six-period day.

Currently the school schedule is on a four-by-four block schedule. Students take four 88 minute classes during the fall semester and four different classes during the spring semester.

"They take 8 classes and finish a course in half a year," Superintendent Renee Whitson said.

The initial change to a four-by-four was made to address three main areas: reducing disciplinary referrals; create a community of learners and a learning environment with help from the Pathways program and smaller class sizes; and improve student learning.

Whitson said the first two goals had been accomplished but she said she did not see true evidence of improved student learning. She said the district is not getting the test scores that had been expected

Board member Mike White said there was no true evidence proving otherwise.

"I'm reluctant to blame a four period schedule," he said.

Though the high school district population is not advancing as quickly as some similar schools Whitson said there are marked gains with low socioeconomic students in the district.

A six period schedule would have a slight impact on the budget. It would allow the school to eliminate four teaching positions, which Whitson said would be accomplished through natural attrition, meaning staff that retire or resign would not be replaced.

The schedule would also decrease the availability of Tulare County Organization for Vocational Education (TCOVE) classes, which typically utilize longer class periods to provide adequate instruction. As an example, Principal Don Brinkman said an ag science class could be eliminated and replaced by a regular science course.

However ag teachers are credentialed to teach ag courses and not science courses. There are several possibilities to solve that, including a new program which gives teachers points towards certification in a subject if they attend workshops and after teaching a subject for a certain number of years.

The six-period schedule will increase student exposure to core classes and increase instructional minutes throughout the year, which Whitson hopes would increase district scores.

"Is this system conducive to poor testing?" member Bob Todd asked.

Brinkman said academically the API scores have increased in the past three or four years but in comparison to other schools EUHS does not rank as high.

"School rank is a concern," he said.

"Are there other ways to increase core involvement?" White asked.

Whitson said there are but that they involved other dynamics.

This subject had been brought before the board previously. Todd addressed that issue and said previously the argument was that the six-period day was more fiscally responsible.

"Eight months ago it was about the budget and now its test scores," he said.

White said he would like to see how core class instruction could be increased in the four-by-four schedule. Other members agreed and per board direction administration is looking into developing strategies to increase the amount of instruction time students have in core classes, especially those students who do not demonstrate a proficiency in core classes.

For the complete story pick up a copy of The Exeter Sun.

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