Committee notes pros, cons of high school class schedules

A committee formed last fall has been looking at the current high school class schedule as well as a number of alternate schedules to make sure the school corporation is providing its students the best possible opportunities for being successful.

The Huntington North High School Schedule Committee gave an update on its findings to the Huntington County Community School Corporation's Board of Trustees Monday night, Jan. 26. What members of the group determined is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to education, and that the current schedule at the high school is not hitting the mark.

"We were asked by the board to investigate various options," said HNHS Principal Jeremy Gulley.

The group looked at eight different class schedules and, while each had merit, each also had shortcomings, he noted.

"What works at one school doesn't at another."

During their research, members of the committee did reach one conclusion.

"The current schedule is not meeting the needs of students," Gulley stated.

The committee examined schedules from schools throughout Indiana as well as a couple from neighboring states, he noted. The schedules included the traditional seven-period day, Block 4, Trimester, Block 8 and four hybrids offering a variety of options like a mix of shorter and longer classes or classes that meet on alternate days.

Many of the pros and cons have been heard before, as the school board implemented a Block 4 schedule at the beginning of the 1996-97 school year, then scrapped it for the more traditional seven-period schedule at the start of the 2005-06 year.

Pros for the Block 4 and Trimester schedules include extended learning time for in-depth study, the opportunity for students to focus better because they have fewer classes, an increased opportunity to support relationships between teachers and students and increased elective opportunities, Gulley said. Cons are that class sizes would increase if no staff is added, there is little time for enrichment and gaps of time could occur between like-content courses because classes may only be nine to 24 weeks in length.

Block 8 provides for extended learning time, increased elective opportunities and no gaps because classes are year-around. On the other hand, the schedule is confusing to some students, it is difficult to develop relationships between teachers and students, and it's difficult to make up missed days, he noted.

The traditional seven-period schedule allows class sizes to be maintained, there would be no gaps in time because classes are year-around, and the schedule allows for seminars. Cons are reduced flexibility, difficulty in fostering teacher-student relationships, and a limiting of some in-depth teaching and learning, Gulley said.

Pros of the Hybrid A schedule are that it balances longer and shorter class periods, there are no gaps in instruction and class sizes are maintained. Cons are that elective opportunities are limited, scheduling conflicts occur for some labs and it is difficult to create positive relationships with students.

Hybrid B provides a traditional year-long period and extended periods that end at the semester, increased elective opportunities and increased scheduling flexibility. Class size would be a concern, gaps would exist for some classes, and time for block-type classes would be reduced, it was noted.

Hybrid C maximizes instructional time and extends learning times, maintains current class sizes and would provide no gaps in curriculum. On the down side, the schedule is confusing as some classes meet every day while others meet two of every three days and it is difficult to make up missed days.

Hybrid D balances longer and shorter class periods, allows students to easily make up missed days and allows for two seminar classes per week for enrichment. The schedule does not allow for increased electives, it is difficult to create positive relationships with students, and there are teacher preparation issues.

The number of credit hours students can earn during their high school years also varies according to the type of schedule, ranging from 56 to 72.

"As you pull on one string, it pushes on another," Gulley said of the variables.

The committee included a number of teachers, a guidance counselor, local business representatives and parents. Gulley appreciates their efforts.

"I'm very pleased with the work of the committee," he said. "I'm grateful for their work."

School board members took in the information and had the opportunity to ask questions.

"I would suggest you continue to examine the models, continue to look at the quality of our kids' education," Board President Kevin Patrick said.