Highline Public Schools decides not to change high school schedules next year


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High school students work on a assignment together in class.

High schools in Highline will stay on the current six-period semester schedule for the time being, Highline Public Schools announced Wednesday, April 26.

Superintendent Susan Enfield said she has concluded that “district staff needs more time to adapt lesson plans and curricula to a schedule that could have longer periods and shorter terms.”

Like many others districts, Highline was considering a new schedule starting in September 2018 to accommodate new state graduation requirements. A trimester system had been recommended by a staff committee that studied a variety of schedule options.

“The reasons for considering a schedule change are still very real for our students,” said Superintendent Enfield. “Our students will have far fewer elective choices and no leeway for failing credits. We must find ways to address these issues, and we will.”

For now, Highline will focus on increasing credit-earning opportunities in middle school, expanding the use of World Language credit by proficiency, and other solutions that work within the current semester schedule.

Highline is not alone. The majority of neighboring districts have also postponed plans for high school schedule changes.

Dr. Enfield said the district will likely consider a schedule change at some point in the future in order to expand credit-earning opportunities for students.

“I am grateful for the families, staff and students who invested time in reviewing schedule options and giving input,” said Dr. Enfield. “I especially want to thank the members of the College & Career Readiness Committee for their willingness to innovate and think outside the box. Their work will guide us as we develop strategies to ensure that all students meet new graduation requirements.”

Here’s a letter sent out to parents on Wednesday:

Dear Families,

After thoroughly considering what it will take to move to a new high school schedule by 2018-19, I have decided to stay with the current six-period semester schedule for now. We simply need more time and resources for all teachers to adapt lesson plans and curricula to a schedule that could have longer periods and shorter terms.

We are not alone. The majority of neighboring districts have also postponed plans for high school schedule changes.

The reasons for considering a schedule change are still very real for our students. Our students will have far fewer elective choices and no leeway for failing credits. We must find ways to address these issues, and we will.

For now, we will focus on increasing credit-earning opportunities in middle school, expanding the use of World Language credit by proficiency, and other solutions that can work within our current semester schedule.

We will likely consider a schedule change at some point in the future in order to expand credit-earning opportunities for students; however, we want to be fully ready to implement the change well before we make a change.

I want to thank families, staff, and students who invested time in reviewing the options and giving input.

I am especially grateful to the members of the College & Career Readiness Committee for their work in researching schedule options. Their willingness to innovate and think outside the box will guide us as we develop strategies to ensure that all students meet new graduation requirements.

Sincerely,
Susan Enfield, Ed.D.
Superintendent

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Comments

8 Responses to “Highline Public Schools decides not to change high school schedules next year”
  1. Jennifer says:

    So, even after an extension the district can’t get it together to do what is right for our kids. There is no margin for error for students. This is every disappointing!

  2. hs parent says:

    I am interested in hearing the arguments for changing to a trimester schedule. From what I understand, trimesters would make subjects like math and foreign language much more difficult because you would have large gaps between classes. Other than giving students who are failing more opportunity for credits, how would trimesters be a good thing?

    • Jennifer says:

      A trimester schedule will allow for more opportunity to take electives. It also mirrors the college system in our state (I understand not all kids attend college). And as for foreign language as you acquire language you do not loose what you learn. Will there be issues certainly but, our students are required to earn 24 credits and a six period schedule allows for no margine of error. I would hate for a student who is struggling in a class or other issues arise in their personal life not be able to get back on track and graduate! What is your suggestion? I am disappointed that this superintendent once again can’t do right by our kids!

      • hs parent says:

        I respectfully disagree with you about foreign language. They will absolutely risk losing what they have learned if they take 2 of 3 trimesters per year (or 6 months on, six months off). The same goes for math. We cannot expect students to master higher level math and retain it with the possibility of a 6 month on, 6 month off schedule. Summer school seems like a reasonable option for a student who fails a class and needs to make it up.

      • Janet says:

        Actually, I am not sure a trimester schedule works all that well for college-bound kids either. If they are taking language classes or band it is very tough to keep continuity in study areas. I am happy to hear that the change has been postponed.

      • Betsy A says:

        The answer is not a new schedule with more credit availability or “failure cushion”. The answer is decreasing chronic absenteeism. The Dept. of Education just released a study that lists WA State as having the second highest chronic absenteeism rate in the nation. OSPI puts it at about 16.5% and the HSD is 20.8%. That, plus our 48%-55% Mobility rate (provided by HSD) are the root causes of our low graduation rates and class failures. If a kid is not coming to school on a regular basis; he/she will not pass classes.

        If we need to have a “failure cushion” do what other schools and districts are doing:
        start accumulating high school credits earlier-in middle school
        start high school later and provide before school remediation or tutoring and add after school tutoring
        and remediation
        provide dual credit: 2 credits for 1 class
        use PPR-Personal Pathways
        job/work credit
        And if all else fails, Summer School(pun intended)

        Most districts in our state have been looking for ways to make sure their students will be ready and able to meet the new 24-credit criteria. However, since the state has not provided enough money to cover current costs, most have not implemented new schedules to meet the new, unfunded mandate. I am glad our district decided to wait.

        Michigan adopted a higher graduation credit requirement beginning 2011. Starting with the 2008-2009 school year, most high schools in the state adopted trimester scheduling; thinking more credit and remediation opportunity-more credits acquired and fewer classes failed and few kids not graduating. Most Michigan high school have dropped it in favor of 6 or 7 period days-because it did not work.

        Here is one example: Traverse City Area Schools adopted the trimester system in the 2008-9 school year, with the goal of maximizing total possible student credit load to accommodate changing statewide graduation requirements.

        5 years after switching to the trimester high school schedule, the TCAPS School Board unanimously voted to get rid of it. They switched to 6-period day, year-long core/semester-long elective schedule, and have 0-hour and 7th hour remediation and enrichment classes.

        Their district is about ½ the size of ours and has about 40% of its students free and reduced lunch. I spoke with principal of Traverse City West Senior High School, Joe Esper, in March. He told me that they expected to save $500,000.00 with their switch to Trimesters, but found out that they had to hire more teachers, so instead of saving money, it cost them money to switch to Trimesters. Furthermore, Joe said that the expected ability for remediation during the year was more difficult to implement than originally expected, because it meant teaching ABC levels of classes each trimester. And if a student failed one class each year, he/she would wind up with a net loss of 4 trimesters of core classes, because of remediation. He said trimesters and more electives tended to benefit higher level kids more: eg: AP 11 LA needs to run all 3 trimesters for the year and 11th grade LA runs 2 trimesters, so the kid who took the higher level class got 30% more core education.

        During the 5 year trimester scheduling, both of their high schools saw an increase in students failing courses across disciplines.

        “There appear to be two issues with the trimester schedule that may have a negative impact on student achievement,” said Traverse City Central High School Principal Rick Vandermolen.

        “The first is that students may have had schedules that created gaps in instruction.” Taking a class Trimester 1 and not until Trimester 3 or later ”… may have contributed to some students struggling to pass courses.”

        The second reason for an increase in course failures, is that students didn’t always have the same teacher for a course from one trimester to the next, leading to consistency issues. “Students connecting with teachers and teachers knowing their students is very important. Some of those connections may have been lost under the trimester system.”

        “(Those) options will create greater flexibility for students, some of whom may choose to take a morning class to allow them to work in the evening or participate in extracurricular activities, while others may opt to take a 7th hour course to further enrich their learning.” The new model-6-period day- “…will provide a more consistent educational approach.”
        >> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/tcaps-ponders-schedule-switch

        The 2017 Washington high school rankings by Niche.com list Bellevue School District as having the 1st, 2nd, and 4th highest ranked high schools in the state; Lake W has the 3rd; Seattle’s Garfield and Roosevelt high schools are 5th and 6th; Highline’s Raisbeck Aviation is 7th, and Issaquah is 10th.
        These top schools and top districts in our state share the following:
        1. Their students start accumulating between 1-3 high school credits in middle school.
        2. Most, if not all are now late-start; which allows for 0-hour or before school remediation and/or tutorial classes.
        3. All have tutorial classes before, after school, or both.

        BELLEVUE SCHOOL DISTRICT: Average Bellevue student starts 9th grade with a minimum of 2 credits:World language , Algebra 1, 2 or both, World History, Foundations in World History or AP Human Geography (normally a semester classes, taught full year to make it easier for 8thgraders to digest), 9th grade Biology- so if they fail the EOC, another year and chance to pass.
        LAKE WASHINGTON Middle School: All 8th grade students take WA State History and American History for high school credit. They also have HS math credit opportunities. Every LW student starts high school with at least 1 high school credit, possibly up to 3.
        ISSAQUAH: Average student earns1-2 credits before entering 9th grade. World Languages: French, Spanish Mandarin 1 credit; Biology in 8th grade,1 credit. You can opt out of Health and PE and do them online, and take 2 other electives.
        https://k12.niche.com/rankings/public-high-schools/best-overall/s/washington/

        If you need further proof that trimester scheduling is not the answer, look at Sunnyside WA.
        They have been on trimesters since around 2010 and were still having problems with kids failing the Biology EOC as recently as 2013. Then they figured out how to teach to the test and remanufacture the biology classes so they qualify as different biology classes but still cover the same standards. Focused remediation classes have raised their Biology EOC passing rate from 23% to 55%. Trimesters work against them for their remediation classes, because the first trimester ends around Thanksgiving and the Biology EOC retake test is in January, so they have to have after school retainment classes from Thanksgiving until the test at the end of January-to fill the retention gap to make sure the kids pass the test. Semesters flow perfectly for remediation learning and credit, ending a week or two after the EOC test. Sunnyside does have a great idea in re-manufacturing the biology course to provide another class credit toward graduation, instead of taking the same class over and not getting credit for it; however trimesters are not the key to any success; attending school is the answer.

  3. stuart says:

    I am very relieved we are not moving to a trimester system. Have you heard of the “summer slump”? It is when a student has three months off from a class. Well, in a trimester system the only way a student has more slots is if they can somehow learn a year’s worth of content in 24 weeks, either 24 in a row , or 12 , then a break of 12 (3 months), then 12 more, then summer break follows in either event.

    So 3 on, 3 off, 3 on, summer off, or, 6 on, and then 6 off (third tri, then summer). Try remembering math or foreign language after six months of no class. It would be impossible for many kids.

    But in a trimester system, you only have five classes at a time, so a student taking three trimesters (9 months) of English, Math, Social Studies, World Language and Science would have no space for anything else. The choice for more electives only exists if a child can somehow learn a year of content in 24 weeks.

    I think we’ve avoided a situation where trying to help kids would actually result in more failure, because in 12 weeks, there’s very little margin to recover if something goes wrong in one’s studies or personal life.

    So, I think Dr Enfield made the right call here. We do need to look at middle school options for high school credit, at summer school, at some of the programs Highline HS has after school, and at other ways of supporting our kids.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Highline school district already offers high school credit in middle school. Middle school is not meant to be where students earn credit
    It was meant for them explore and learn the structure of high school.
    As for loosing language, you do not loose language you acquire! I have my ELL endorsement and that is one of the first things you learn. If you don’t use the language you may be rusty but, the language is there.
    Honestly, many of you are being short sided about this. You are not considering all students. No option is going to be perfect but, sticking with 6 periods is the worst possibility for our kids. Kids should be able to make mistakes, struggle, have life happen and still be able to graduate on time.

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