The organizer of the 21st Century High School Review Team presented a recommendation to the Grosse Pointe Public School Board Monday to change high school scheduling from the current seven-period day to block scheduling.
In a block schedule, the students receive 90-minutes of instruction per class and attend a maximum of four classes per day. The classes are alternated by day and under the design presented Monday, students would have one period that would allow for advisory time with teachers.
The review team, which is being headed up by Jon Dean, the district's assistant superintendent in instruction and human resources, was created to analyze how the districts high schools are performing in comparison to other like high schools. The objective is to ensure the district remains competitive in what opportunities students are offered.
Monday's recommendation was the latest of several made by the group and the only one that did not gain the group's agreed upon consensus. Dean addressed the difference in his presentation. They agreed to only bring forth those recommendations that 70 percent of the members voted in favor of, Dean said, but block scheduling gained only 63 percent approval from the group.
Among the reasons Dean presented about why the district should make the change are:
- students receive 65 more hours of instruction in a school year
- it would provide an additional hour so students could add a seventh class and maintain an advisory/tutorial hour
School board members had a litany of questions about the recommendation, many noting concerns they have in addition to the fact that it is not something parents, students or staff have embraced.
Board member Lois Valente also asked for hard data to support such a change saying she wouldn't support such a recommendation without it. She said there is a need for evidence-based best practice in making such decisions and she questioned why none was presented.
Valente said she needs hard data to show that making such a change will improve student performance and if such data exists, then she could see supporting it even if the community was resistant to change.
Board member Judy Gafa shared concerns with making the change to allow for students to add another class to their schedule, noting the documentary Race to Nowhere, and concerns that she already has concerns about her own daughter's busy schedule. Her daughter takes advantage of the tutorial hour and uses it to get much of her homework finished and pushing students to add in that extra class might be too much.
Other members asked Dean to bring back information about specific aspects of block scheduling and had questions about the presentation.
The other recommendations from the review team include:
- infusing consistent classroom technology across the district/curriculum
- infusing consistent and more experiential learning into the curriculum
- piloting hybrid course options in the 2013/14 school year with seat time
- create dual enrollment opportunities where students may earn college credits during high school
- increase the minimum credits required for graduation from 21 to 23 for the graduating class of 2016/17
- implement an additional option for seniors who need to recover credits through offering make up courses online within the district versus the external resources currently available
Those recommendations were presented to the board in January.