2011-12 High School Schedule Q&A

Updated May 23, 2011 (Print-friendly)

This fall, high schools in Portland Public Schools move from a seven-period day to an eight-period block schedule. The change stems from a new teachers contract agreement that states: “All district high schools will implement a schedule based on a 6 of 8 funding level for the 2011-12 school year.”

How does the new schedule compare with those in neighboring districts?

School districts such as Beaverton, North Clackamas and Tigard-Tualatin offer a high school block schedule with four 86- to 90-minute periods each day. In these districts, the student day spans seven hours, like PPS. Most area high schools have a class day of 6.75 hours to 7.25 hours. This schedule change will bring consistency across PPS high schools at seven hours a day.

Why is PPS making this change?

Leaders of Portland Public Schools have worked diligently — within the challenge of budget cuts — to find ways to maintain course offerings, keep class sizes manageable and increase opportunities for in-depth instruction. We can accomplish this with the eight-period block schedule, and save $4 million out of a $20 million budget gap that will result from state cuts. If additional resources were available, PPS would likely retain more teachers, but in our current economic state this is not possible.

PPS created a computer model to estimate the impact of budget cuts on both the current seven-period schedule and the eight-period block schedule. If PPS continued to offer a seven-period day, class sizes would increase by five or six students.

That said, high schools are now working on their staffing plans for next year, so these are only estimates. Also, averages conceal the wide variations in class sizes within a school.

 

 

AFTER BUDGET CUTS FOR 2011-12

 

2010-11 Actuals

7-period school schedule, teachers teach 5

8-period school schedule, teachers teach 6

Community School

Average class size

Class sections

Average class size

Class sections

Average class size

Cleveland

27.9

306

33.0

367

27.5

Franklin

24.8

308

30.1

369

25.1

Grant

29.2

315

33.5

378

27.9

Lincoln

27.9

287

32.2

345

26.9

Madison

24.8

295

27.8

354

23.2

Wilson

27.8

279

32.7

335

27.2


Note:
This model uses actual numbers of staff (FTE) assigned to schools, but uses a standard assumption for how many staff will be in non-classroom roles. Also assumed: Schools will have the same number of foundation/grant-paid staff, and students will average 6.5 classes at each school (the district average is 6.4). The purpose is to illustrate the difference between the two possible schedules, not to anticipate exact class sizes. Class sections are not shown for 2010-11 because three of the schools will grow with the addition of Marshall Cluster students.


What will the high school schedule look like in 2011-12?


With the eight-period block schedule, high schools will have four alternating 90-minute periods each day. While individual high school schedules are still being developed, some may have a late arrival day once a week, in order to create time for site-based professional development and advisory sessions, where teachers are available to meet with individual students.

Here is a sample schedule from Beaverton High School. Although the hours are different from those in PPS, it gives an idea what the eight-period block schedule can look like.

 

Monday – A

Tuesday – B

Wednesday – A

Thursday – B

Friday – A

Monday – B

Period 1

7:45 – 9:15

Junior English

Study Hall

Junior English

Study Hall

Junior English

Study Hall

Period 2

9:20 – 10:50

Algebra II

A Capella Choir

Algebra II

A Capella Choir

Algebra II

A Capella Choir

Period 3

10:55 – 12:25

Band

US History

Band

US History

Band

US History

LUNCH

12:25 – 12:55

 

 

 

 

 

 

Period 4

1:00 – 2:30pm

Spanish III

Chemistry

Spanish III

Chemistry

Spanish III

Chemistry


Times based on Beaverton High School (Lunch 2) Bell Schedule


How many classes will students be able to take?


All students will have an opportunity to take eight classes within the courses offered and available at each school. Students who have already forecasted for 2011-12 will be able to identify additional alternatives. These choices may include credit-bearing courses; however, there are no guarantees that their preferred course choices will be available. Choices also may include credit-bearing teaching assistantships and internships, supervised study hall and other non-credit bearing options. 

Most students are likely to take fewer than eight classes. There are other high schools in the area that offer eight class periods, but limit students to seven credit-bearing courses (for example, Gresham and Westview high schools).

How many classes do students take now?

Currently, 59 percent of high school students in Portland Public Schools take a full load of seven classes per day. Far fewer seniors take full loads than freshmen.

Student course load

Students with at least 7 courses

Average student course load

By school

 

 

Cleveland

64%

6.4

Franklin

79%

6.7

Grant

57%

6.4

Jefferson

66%

6.3

Lincoln

52%

6.4

Madison

65%

6.6

Wilson

43%

6.2

PPS overall

59%

6.4

By grade

 

 

9

74%

6.7

10

72%

6.7

11

56%

6.5

12

27%

5.7


Does the new schedule meet state requirements?

PPS high schools will continue to offer more than the required 990 hours of instruction. The Oregon Department of Education has indicated that the proposed schedule meets instructional time requirements.
 
How many credits can a student earn in a year?

In general, students will have the same ability to earn credits as they do with a seven-period schedule. Students needing to catch up on credits or those needing support classes have additional opportunities with an eight-period block schedule.

What are the pros and cons of a block schedule?

Schools with block scheduling report the following advantages:
  • Provides for applications of learning with in-depth discussion, analysis, and debate.
  • Promotes a format that encourages the use of a variety of instructional methods.
  • Increases personalization because of extended learning time.
  • Fosters interdisciplinary planning and coordination since one-fourth of the faculty shares a common planning time.
  • Decreases transition time in class, allowing more in-depth learning time for each class session.
  • Reduces the amount of non-productive time for students and teachers (attendance taking, getting settled, packing up).
  • Provides extended periods of time for community service and field experience programs like internships.
Schools that have adopted block scheduling report the following disadvantages:
  • Can be problematic for some students with highly sequential courses like math and languages.
  • If teachers fail to adjust their instructional style, classes can be more tedious and boring.
  • Because students alternate classes each day, absences can be difficult to make up without proper attention.
  • Because classes are in 90-minute blocks, extended absenteeism can create excessive makeup.
  • The willingness of students to participate in field trips may be diminished for fear of losing too much class time.
  • Given the short instructional year in Oregon, it can be difficult to provide the recommended hours for International Baccalaureate Higher Level and Standard Level courses.
How will instruction change with a block schedule?

In an extended class period, a strict lecture format is not successful. To ensure interesting and engaging lessons, teachers need to provide students with a variety of instructional approaches.  For example, a science experiment, art project or theater rehearsal could use the longer time effectively. An English or social studies class could have a discussion and then make substantial progress on a written assignment all within the same class period. 

Research shows that how teachers use instructional time is as important as or more important than the actual time they spend. While all current high school staff have experience teaching in the block format at least once a week, it is our intent to provide intense training in effective instructional strategies, particularly through site-based professional development on late arrival days.

Why would high schools move to a weekly late arrival?

Weekly late arrivals provide PPS high schools with the opportunity to assure regular site-based professional development. This can focus on teaching effectively in a block structure, training and teamwork focused on equity and collaborative planning. Additionally, we plan to offer some of this time as a student “advisory” for more personalized student-teacher contact time. The number and frequency of the advisories will be tailored to each individual high school. Students and parents should refer to their school staff and calendar for more information on specific times.

Other area districts (for example, Tigard-Tualatin and David Douglas) offer a weekly late start day, affording time to staff to plan together and work together in site-based professional development. A portion of this time is also used as a student advisory for students.

How will students meet International Baccalaureate requirements at Cleveland and Lincoln high schools?

Some concern has been expressed about whether schools that offer the full IB Diploma Program will be able to meet minimum requirements for instructional time. The International Baccalaureate Organization, the national certifying agency, recommends that Higher Level courses (two years) offer 240 hours of instruction and that Standard Level courses (one year) offer 150 hours of instruction before examination.  Cleveland and Lincoln will work out a schedule for accommodating these needs, as do other area IB World schools that now operate using block scheduling (for example, Beaverton, Rex Putnam and South Salem high schools).

Will math and world language courses suffer because of the 90-minute alternating blocks?

While some teachers have expressed concern with the ability to provide consistent instruction necessary for math and world language courses without daily interaction, this issue has been addressed in schools around the state and country.  Many teachers feel the 90 minute alternating block provides the ability to go deeper and use different instructional strategies to address the needs of a variety of learners.
What will students do in study halls?

The study hall period provides an opportunity for students to work together and to complete work outside the class. Additionally, providing students with study halls keeps the class sizes for core content classes lower, which also means the teacher loads will be lower.

Will attendance be taken in study halls?

Study halls will be supervised, and attendance will be taken. If a student is absent, parents will be notified of this absence, as with other classes.

Who should parents talk to if they have concerns about their student’s schedule?


These questions will best be resolved at the school level. Parents should work first with their student’s counselor and principal.

For more information, contact the PPS Community Involvement & Public Affairs Department, by email or phone, 503-916-3304. Portland Public Schools is an equal opportunity educator and employer.