High schoolers will return to new schedule | VailDaily.com

High schoolers will return to new schedule

Scott N. Miller

The buildings look the same, but students will walk into vastly changed high schools in August.The Eagle County School District’s three high schools – Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley and Red Canyon – will next year adopt a host of changes. The biggest one students will notice is a change in the number of class periods per day and the number of terms per year.Next year’s students will take fewer, but longer classes over the course of a shorter term. Instead of seven 50-minute periods, students will take classes over five, 70-minute periods. Students will also have three terms instead of two.The goal is to make kids more successful, meet new state standards, and, of course, perform better on state-mandated tests, Director of Secondary Education Gary Rito said. “Research tells us kids have more success with fewer subjects and more time to take them,” Rito said.

The longer periods will probably be a big help for science, music and art teachers, Rito said. Under the old system, getting ready for and cleaning up after class cut actual instructional time down to 40 minutes or so. Under the new system, “They’ll get close to an hour of instruction time,” Rito said. Teachers in traditional “lecture” subjects have been less receptive, Rito said. “If you try to fill up that time with a lecture, it’s not going to work,” he said. Instead, those classes will have to change activities, or provide reading and study time. “Those teachers will have to change their approach,” Rito said.Time to work during the school day may mean less homework for some students. “If kids are tracking through school, they’ll do less homework,” Rito said. “We need to do more work in school, and this will let us do that.”The trimester system will also allow kids the opportunity to take more credits over a four-year high school career. That will allow students to meet new language and math credit mandates from the state.

A year with three terms will also allow kids who need more time to take three sessions of algebra, Rito said. It will also allow kids who move quickly through the course work to jump straight into geometry.Battle Mountain Principal Mark Bullock said he’s looking forward to the new schedule, especially the 40-minute mandatory study sessions for all freshmen and sophomores. Juniors and seniors whose grades are lagging will also be required to take the study sessions.That period will allow students keep up with class projects, Bullock said. It will also allow teachers a chance to “intervene” with students who are starting to lag. The new schedule isn’t the only change at the high schools next year. Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley will also jump into the district’s Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, a program designed to reward teachers for improved student achievement.Fewer class periods will allow teachers to attend collaborative sessions with their peers and “mentor teachers.” The system has been greeted with skepticism when introduced at schools, but teachers seem to settle into the program with experience.

The new schedules and planning for TAP will keep Bullock and his Eagle Valley counterpart Mark Strakbein busy over most of the summer.”I’m excited about the direction we’re going, though,” Bullock said. “It’s all part of developing a professional learning community here.”Out with the old…The old system: Seven, 50-minute class periods per day, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. Classes were split into two, 18-week semesters over the school year.The new system: “Bell times” remain 8:30 a.m. and 3:50 p.m. Students will attend five, 70-minute classes per day, with a 40-minute mandatory study period for freshmen and sophomores. The school year will be broken into three, 12-week terms.

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