By Beth Christian Broschart
The Parsons Advocate
HAMBLETON – A panel of Tucker County High School teachers spoke about their desire to have block scheduling for the 2016 to 2017 school year during a BOE public hearing held at the school Tuesday. The idea for the meeting was to learn about block scheduling and field questions and concerns from parents and community members.
A handout given to those attending the meeting explained that currently, TCHS has students taking seven classes a day, each lasting for the entire year. It said each class period currently is approximately 48 minutes long.
The handout explains that block scheduling would have students take eight classes over the course of the year with four classes being taken in the fall semester and four classes being taken in the spring semester. It points out that students would be earning one more credit than they do currently and that each class would last for approximately 90 minutes.
The handout says there has been lots of studies of block scheduling and said block scheduling has been shown to produce significantly improved educational outcomes in some schools, though it has been problematic for others. It says there are both proponents and detractors of block scheduling and said the success depends primarily on the faculty and administration’s careful consideration of the school’s unique needs along with a thoughtful and thorough implementation of the schedule to best serve those needs.
TCHS Principal Jay Hamric said the meeting was an important one.
“We met with the students last week and we talked about some of the initiatives we wanted to do,” Hamric said. “We have an amazing school here at TCHS. It is a special place, in fact, one of the top in the state. We take a lot of pride in that. It is because we have a caring staff that is highly dedicated to education. Also, the students we have are amazing kids.”
Hamric said the school has a great climate, allowing for good things to happen.
“I get asked, if it’s not broken, why are you trying to fix it,” he said. “When we really take a look at ourselves, I would not say it is broken, but I think everyone agrees we can do better. Our school can perform better. We hear from employers and secondary educators that many kids are not prepared for life after high school.”
Hamric said they have the responsibility to not be stagnant and rest on their laurels.
“We need to look at innovation – we need to look at creative ideas to take us to the next level,” he said. “We don’t just want to be a top school in the state, but be the best school in the state.”
Hamric said they are looking to evolve their programs of study to meet the ever changing needs of the world.
“They are vastly different from last year and from 10 to 20 years ago,” Hamric said. “Industry is looking for students that are critical thinkers, who are problem solvers, innovators, creators that are multi-skilled.”
Each of the panel of instructors spoke about the merits of block scheduling and how it would enhance their classroom and subject. Many teachers advocated for the longer periods giving students the opportunity to spend more time delving deeper into learning. They said the block scheduling gives student more time to be organized because they only concentrate on four subjects a day for each semester. It was also discussed that the CTE classes would benefit from the longer time period enabling students to complete projects.
Concerns voiced by parents include the fact that TCHS tried a trimester a few years ago and that it was not successful. Another parent asked about absences and how, with the blocks being longer, absences would affect students. Others were concerned about scheduling and their children not being able to take the classes they needed and wanted – while others voiced concerns about AP classes and testing that includes subject matter students completed in the fall semester.