Saturday, July 9, 2016

Summer Reflections part 4- Scheduling

When I was feeling bad initially about my AP Chemistry scores this year, my assistant principal in charge of our really weird wonky schedule said to me "don't jump right to the schedule".  I didn't, in fact, I didn't think about it for first few hours of my thinking about it.  I'll say at the outset too, that I don't think the schedule is the sole or main reason for my failings this year.

Let me outline the schedule.  We are an alternate day block schedule Tuesday through Friday that means that:

  • On T/R we have "L" day classes
  • On W/F we have N day classes
That means 8 classes in that time frame of those 4 days of the week, meeting twice in that time for about 82 minutes each class session.

What about Mondays?

On Mondays, which we call Mastery Mondays, students might have one of those eight classes at some point, there are a few classes in our school where that is the case, my APES class next year is one of those, which means it will meet 3 days a week instead of 2.  Most of their schedule though is in "Lab" classes which can best be described as supervised study halls.  They might be in a "Science Lab" which means in a classroom with a science teacher, working on their own on whatever projects, HW, studying, etc that they need to do.  For a teacher like me that prefers they don't have a ton of HW, that would be great, since they could get a lot of it done each week on Mondays.

Most students have 2-3 of these "labs" (yes, quotes, because that isn't what labs should be in my science brain!) on a typical Monday, which means they should have 3-4 hours of studying/working time at school, with access to their teachers.

I'll say right now that even though it seems I'd like this, I have disliked it since it was initially discussed and am still not a big fan.  I will again put out the disclaimer that I don't think this is the big gest problem for me this year. It didn't hurt the other teachers at our school, they all rocked out the AP tests, and according to administration, most everyone outside of my department really likes the Monday schedule.  I can respect that and don't expect things to fit my expectations and wishes.  But here are the rough stats/facts for me:

  • I have 20% less class time with my AP students than I had the year before, each and every week. That was my choice as department chair, because that was what I traded to get our CP (non-honors) Chemistry and Biology I classes 3 days a week.  To make that happen we agreed to do Honors 2 days a week and AP Chem and Bio 4 instead of 5 days.  There have to be tradeoffs... (I don't know the impact on honors yet, we don't have the data back).
  • The class average on AP Chemistry from 2015 to 2016 dropped 12.4% . Again, strict passing was the same, but 4s and 5s were basically wiped out.  (I'll also note that perhaps my strongest student did not take the exam this year, but that student didn't take any of the AP exams)
Again, this is not the sole reason if it is one at all, and I know that even under this 20% drop in time, I still have more time than a lot of teachers across the country.  But I feel it might be a part of the issue, or at least needs to be mentioned as a possibility.

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