Confusing County School Schedule Causing Ruckus

County schools are operating on a confusing new class schedule, Brandon Shulleeta writes in the Daily Progress, and it’s not universally beloved. After read the article a couple of times, I still don’t understand it—apparently some classes meet every day, some a few times a week, and some run for half of the year, while others run for the entire school year. It replaces a system that was only slightly less confusing, one in which students took the same classes all year, but classes only met “about once every two days.” The idea behind the switch was to save money, by having fewer teachers teaching more classes. A small group of angry parents will be meeting with school officials to air their grievances.

When I went to WAHS, in the mid-nineties, we had classes that met every day. AHS moved to block scheduling right about then, which I recall gave those kids a certain mystique of urban modernity, at least from our Crozet perspective. This new system would have confused the heck out of me.

7 thoughts on “Confusing County School Schedule Causing Ruckus”

  1. not only is the scheduling very hard and confusing for the students, but the “semesterization” of many classes has been hard, frustrating and difficult for both students and teachers. Imagine cramming one year’s worth of learning into one semester–with no time in between to juggle your homework schedule, sports, or other extra curricular activity. If you are out sick 2 days you will have missed the equivalanet of 4 class days. And the teachers have more students with half the time to grade and evaluate and, most importantly, “teach” the kids…..

  2. There is so much wrong with this new schedule that I hardly know where to begin.

    The semester classes not only cram in material that used to be taught in a year long class, they still have to allow for the same amount of testing. In the next couple of weeks, semester classes will have the required mid-term exam and in January they will be taking SOL tests (where applicable) and the final exam. This is lost instruction time that becomes more critical with semester classes.

    The previous schedule had a dedicated 8th period which was a school wide 90 minute study hall either two or three days a week, used for making up missed tests, getting extra help, club meetings, assemblies and homework. Now, there are 10-15 minutes taken off of classes 3 days a week to have a 45 minute period with the same purpose. This is more time taken away from instruction (I haven’t done the math, but have heard it is 4.5 days per semester). Again, the teachers and the students are expected to teach and learn the same amount of material with less instruction time.

    There can be large gaps between taking classes that are continuations of previous classes. For example, if your child takes a language, which is typically a semester class, there is the potential to go a year between the previous class level and the next. If she is taking Spanish II in the first semester of this school year and wants to take Spanish III next year, it could happen that Spanish III will be given to her second semester next year, meaning a year long gap between the end of Spanish II and the beginning of Spanish III. Imagine this scenario with core courses, especially math, a lot can be lost during that time, resulting in the teachers and students playing catch up in the limited amount of time they have to teach/learn the material.

    When comparing this to college, you need to remember that in college you do not spend 6.5 continuous hours in class every day. You have breaks in which to study or you may stay up later studying because you don’t have to be in class at 9 am. A college student has a lot more free time than the typical high school student.

    The bottom line is that this schedule was pushed through for monetary reasons without thoughtful consideration of its effect on the teaching and learning of high school level material. It is disheartening that our teachers and students are suffering through this failed experiment.

  3. When this change was announced last year, I kept an open mind. I was worried though about the instruction gaps, in math and foreign language especially, so I had my 10th grade daughter sign up for two semesters of math. However, the only courses available were two different precalculus classes, honors trig and math analysis; taking both will require her to cover some of the same material twice. Having her sign up also for two semesters of Spanish as well would have denied her any chance at all to take an art or music elective. So she is taking Spanish III this year, but won’t have Spanish IV until fall 2011 or possibly spring 2012.

    The worst problems, though, are so far turning out to be in reading-intensive classes like Honors World History. Kids who do varsity sports or, in fact, any significant extracurricular activity are having to cram a huge amount of reading into way too little time. (AHS sports teams have to travel to Northern VA to compete, so they often have to leave school early, and get home in the wee hours of the AM–a problem in its own right, but one that is exacerbated by the new system.) The teachers have started giving assignments early so kids can get a head start on them, but this doesn’t help if they need instruction to comprehend the assignment. My very disciplined, A student is staying up some evenings until 1 or 2 AM to finish her homework. There’s no time to pause and think, much less enjoy learning–she just has to complete the material as fast as possible. I am terrified that this will make her sick, because if she misses any significant amount of school, her goose will really be cooked.

    When I attended parent conferences at AHS, I talked to a number of teachers. They seem very stressed but afraid to complain.

  4. On a related issue, I have learned that the county school board (or at least its calendar committee) is considering the possibility of starting the academic year ten days earlier than usual (a move from around Aug. 24-ish to around Aug. 10-ish), to accommodate those SOL-based semester-long classes. This year, I guess, they won’t be able to take their SOLs until after the holiday break, but if school were to begin in August ten days earlier than usual, then they’d be able to take their finals and SOLs before the holiday break (and presumably therefore perform better on the SOLs since it’s fresher in their minds).

    I think a lot of county parents would NOT be happy to have every single child from K-12 go back to school on 8/10 just so that HS kids taking SOL-based semester-long classes perform better on those SOLs. I know I wouldn’t be happy.

  5. I too had an open mind about the new scheduling and have tried to continue to be positive and flexible about what is going on. Now that we are much further into the first semester, I am beginning to see many of the negatives that others were freaking out about before school even started.

    My tenth grader will finish Spanish III in December and her current teacher recommends that she continue with Spanish IV since she is at the top of the class and she really loves it. The fact that she can’t take Spanish IV until the Fall of 2011 or, possibly, the Spring of 2012 has made her decide that she will end her Spanish education after this semester. She is also taking Honors World History which is taking up an enormous amount of her time. She will try out for a winter sport and I honestly don’t know how she will manage her workload if she does make it onto the team. It is a fabulous course but the homework assignments are not really conducive to being done while riding a bus or sitting in the bleachers.

    Despite all this semi-panic, she seems to be doing fine and has not been complaining about the new schedule. In fact, she told me that everyone needs to calm down and see what they think when the year is complete. She may be right but I do think it makes sense to have a plan for the 2011-2012 school year.

    A friend of mine started a website that is for those that are hoping to change the current schedule. No matter which side you are on, it is a forum for discussion and there have already been some interesting comments posted on the site.

    Thanks Waldo!!

  6. Since the hasty decision to implement the 4 x 4 block schedule – with little or no input from parents and teachers – Albemarle County school officials have tried to highlight its “opportunities” for students. And they pretend that there are few pitfalls. Not so.

    The simple fact is that there’s a lack of any solid research base to show achievement gains due to the 4 x 4. Worse, even 4 x 4 advocates admit that there’s a decrease in the content that is covered, and since classes meet every day there is an accelerated pace of instruction. While ”high achievers” may still do well, “low achievers” can fare worse, falling behind and never catching up.

    Under a 4 x 4 schedule, content is diminished and instructional pace accelerated. Thus the 4 x 4 is not conducive to deep, meaningful, authentic learning. Learning for understanding requires students to read and to think, to ponder, to inquire, to argue and discuss and debate in class, and to write thoughtful papers, frequently. The county went to the 4 x 4 because they could get more classes out of each teacher per year, and with more classes and more students, teachers cannot provide the kind of learning assignments that facilitate authentic learning. As The Hook reported, some teachers have left the system. See:×4-class-plan/

    In a 4 x 4, instructional time is at a premium. Teacher and student absences due to illnesses (flu) or bad weather (a winter like last year’s) can cause serious disruptions to teaching and to learning, and to test scores. Perhaps that’s why the county wants to begin school two weeks earlier next year (the rumors on this move are rampant; and once central office people decide something, they find ways to justify it and do it).

    The educational changes implemented by the county over the past several years run in stark contrast to what’s been done in Finland, a nation that now leads the world in international test scores. According to Finn researcher Parsi Sahlberg, the Finns see education as a long-term effort and investment. They’ve moved away from standardized curricula and testing programs with their built-in high-stakes “accountability” systems. They believe that teachers are the foundational sources for innovation and problem-solving. As Sahlberg puts it, education in Finland has been built on “equal opportunities for all, equitable distribution of resources rather than competition, intensive early interventions for prevention, and building gradual trust among education practitioners, especially teachers.”

    It’s paid off there……and headed in quite the reverse here.

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