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High School Schedule: Superintendent’s Message

To support student learning in our high schools and increase operational efficiency, 4J is working to align schedules at all high schools.

The following article by Superintendent Shelley Berman ran in the Register-Guard’s op-ed pages on March 18, 2012. View it on the Register-Guard website.

Common Schedule Will Better Prepare Students

by Dr. Sheldon Berman

Today’s high school students face many challenges as they prepare for college and careers. In our rapidly evolving and global society, students are expected to demonstrate their proficiency in an ever-expanding set of skills.

Eugene School District 4J is responsible for using its resources wisely to help students succeed. A key resource that is often overlooked—and one over which we have a significant measure of control—is the element of time. The more adept we are at using classroom time for quality teaching and learning, the more swiftly and successfully students will progress toward their academic goals.

For many years, 4J’s four high schools have set their schedules independently of each other. At some schools students take four classes at a time, while at others they take seven or eight. Some classes last 50 minutes, while others last 83 to 85. Some classes are offered every day, while others are presented on alternate days. Schools may operate on a yearlong schedule, on semesters or on quarters.

The amount of instruction time students receive and the number of courses and students teachers teach vary markedly across the district. Some schools provide significant opportunities for acceleration and intervention, while others provide fewer opportunities. This extreme variability is hindering students as well as staff.

We are one district, one staff, one community, united in the goal of ensuring every child’s success. We are much more likely to reach that goal if we use the tools at our disposal to reflect and strengthen that unity.

By selecting a common schedule for all our high schools, we create the opportunity for 4J to become more unified, to take advantage of the strengths of all our schools, and to build on the power of collaboration. It is a shift from each school being an isolated island to a collegial framework in which all our schools and staff work together for the benefit of all our high school students.

A common schedule better aligns courses within and between schools, enables students to take classes at other 4J high schools and at local colleges either virtually or in person, streamlines operations and creates efficiencies, and increases opportunities for teachers to collaborate in designing lessons and assessments.

Our high school principals began discussing the possibility of aligning high school schedules more than a year ago. This year, we took on the challenge of finding a solution.

Over the past months, a work group of teachers, counselors and administrators from the four schools has worked to collaboratively study an array of schedules and recommend the schedule option they believe would best promote student success in our district. To assist their work, the members have studied the input provided by teachers, students, parents and community members at public forums and through an online survey. This has been a very important task. I salute the group members for setting aside their personal preferences and comfort levels in order to consider the good of the whole.

The work group has recommended a trimester schedule that has a proven track record in other schools. It is also the schedule that the work group believes best fits our district’s criteria for depth and rigor, student engagement in learning, scheduling flexibility and sustainability.

As the school board prepares to vote on the recommended schedule, there are a few points to keep in mind.

First, each of the schedules the work group considered has been highly successful in supporting improved student performance at various schools across the country.  These schedules have the flexibility to work well for our core academic and elective programs. That fact should give us confidence as we move forward.

Second, in implementing any schedule, we will need to be concerned about scheduling each student to the best advantage—for example, to provide continuity between two levels in a subject such as math or world language—as well as scheduling each student as fully as possible. That will require careful planning. We are committed to doing that planning to ensure that the schedule we adopt will work best for our students, individually as well as collectively.

Change is always challenging, because we are moving away from what is familiar and comfortable. Yet change also presents opportunities to take a fresh look and to renew our instructional approaches and programs. Change, if we have the courage to embrace it, offers a pathway to creativity and professional growth.

No matter which schedule is ultimately adopted by the school board, I have complete confidence that 4J’s talented and dedicated teachers will apply the instructional potential of that schedule to maximize the learning experience for our community’s students and to prepare them for successful transition to college and careers.

—Dr. Sheldon Berman, Superintendent of Eugene School District 4J.