Board considers moving to six-period dayThe District 833 School Board will meet at 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 18, to hear comments from the public about a proposal to change high schools next year from four-period days with semesters to six-period days with trimesters
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
The District 833 School Board will meet at 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 18, to hear comments from the public about a proposal to change high schools next year from four-period days with semesters to six-period days with trimesters.
Members of the High School Redesign Task Force, including Randy Zipf, assistant superintendent for secondary instruction, and Rick Spicuzza, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, will present the proposal to the public.
Board members listened to the proposal at a workshop meeting held Sept. 11. Support for the proposal was overshadowed by a concern that the public would not have enough time to hear details about the change before the board makes a final decision on Sept. 25.
Administrators, school department heads and teachers would work out the details of how classes would be structured in the new format if the board approves the change. A new schedule would need board approval before registration for the 2009-2010 school year starts in January.
The change is partly driven by an effort to improve state test scores. Juniors have not done well on Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment II math tests for the past two years. In 2010, students must pass the test to graduate.
Since state law now requires all students to take algebra II, students can expect that material to be in tests that are also required to meet federal No Child Left Behind regulations.
With the four-period day, students can complete math requirements by 10th grade. The “high stakes” test to graduate is given in the spring of 11th grade when many of them are not in math classes.
Woodbury High School principal Linda Plante likes the four-period day but was persuaded to support the six-period day so students would be taking math classes at the time tests are taken.
The gap between math classes and taking the state test can be as long as a year, said Efe Agbamu, Park High School principal.
Zipf is recommending language arts and math be taken by students all four years when ninth-graders move from junior high to high school next year. He is recommending students take science for two years.
In a four-period day, teachers have classes for three of them with 84 minutes of preparation time. In a six-period day, teachers have 55 minutes of prep time because they are teaching five classes.
Mark Porter, assistant superintendent for human resources and legal services, said no changes would be needed in the teachers’ contract because it contains language allowing most changes affecting instruction time.
Four-period days use teachers 75 percent of the time, and six-period days use them 83 percent of the time, Zipf said.
There would be at least a 10-percent savings.
But the new middle-school proposal allows teachers preparation time and time to meet with other teachers. Two preparation periods are expensive, Porter said.
Without a change in the high school day, the middle-school plan can’t be implemented, said Dave Bernhardson, facilitator for high school redesign and middle-school plans.
“We’re not in this to save money,” said Superintendent Tom Nelson. “But we shouldn’t put things in front of the board we can’t afford.”
All high schools would be on six-period days if the proposal is approved. Within that format, however, there might be differences in each school.
One of the reasons to change now instead of delaying it until 2010-2011 is that East Ridge would open with four-period days and change to six the following year, Zipf said.
According to University of Minnesota research, there is no difference in student achievement between students in four-period days and six-period days, Nelson said.
“Three years ago we looked at eliminating the four-period day,” said board member Jim Gelbmann. “My two children benefited from it. I’m convinced it benefits high-performing students. What’s changed?”
“The world has changed,” Plante said. “I think they’ll love the six-period day.”
The task force and its many subcommittees were charged with coming up with plans for students in grades six to 12 that would best educate students, not budget concerns, Zipf said.
Needs of high-achieving students can be met within a six-period format, he said.
Judy Spooner can be reached at email@example.com.