Superintendent's Recommendation to School Board

Superintendent’s High School Schedule Recommendation to ISD Board - December 12, 2018

Acknowledgments:

First, I want to thank everyone who took time to provide input to the ISD School Board, the HS Scheduling Committee and me. I want everyone who communicated with us to know that all messages were read, and along with input from our community input sessions and personal conversations the School Board, HS Schedule Committee and I have had a lot of valuable input to consider. I also want to commend and offer my appreciation to the High School Schedule Committee for their excellent and transparent work on this important matter. Finally, I wish to acknowledge and thank Washington State Legislators for the increasing public school funding and the voters in our community who approved our most recent levies,  providing the ISD with this opportunity.

With increased state funding and passage of our most recent levies, we now have the resources to explore high school schedules that address CORE 24 graduation requirements as well as increase opportunities for acceleration, exploration, and remediation for our students.

Background:

The traditional six period schedule that offers 24 credit opportunities over four years leaves little room for acceleration, exploration, or remediation. As a result of these conditions, I felt compelled to enlist a High School Scheduling Committee, comprised of teachers, administrators, parents from all three comprehensive high schools, and representatives of the Issaquah Education Association to participate. I directed the High School Scheduling Committee to investigate and research high school schedule options and to make a recommendation to me for a high school schedule that met the goals of the charter.

At the completion of its process, the committee submitted its recommended to me favoring a Modified Block 7 Period Schedule with a “flex time” component for all comprehensive high schools in the District. I have been considering this recommendation along with all of the public input received related to this matter.

Since 1997, Liberty High School has been on an 8 period block schedule that does not have the same issues of lacking opportunities for acceleration, exploration, and remediation that the 6 period schedule has. Having said that, the 8 period block schedule does have shortcomings, as do all high school schedules, which is why it was important to include the LHS community in this conversation. (It should be noted that in 2012, when an LHS-only schedule committee was chartered, that committee also recommended a 7 period schedule for LHS, but could not do so within the requirement at that time of being revenue neutral.)  

ISD Policy Governance Processes: (Superintendent and Board Roles)

The Issaquah School District is a Policy Governance district. With a policy governance structure, the Board of Directors focuses on the “Ends” or outcomes for our students while assigning the “means” of how we reach these Ends to the Superintendent and the District Leadership Team.

In our Policy Governance system the School Board must approve any significant changes to a school’s daily schedule, but the School Board does not create schedules. It is my responsibility to make a recommendation for any significant changes in a school’s daily schedule to the School Board for their consideration.

As Superintendent, I chartered the High School Scheduling Committee in order to investigate and research high school schedule options and to make a recommendation to me for a high school schedule that meets the goals of the charter. As stated above, once the committee completed their work I received the recommendation. I have been considering this recommendation along with all of the public input received related to this matter.

 Superintendent’s Recommendation:

  • I recommend moving Issaquah and Skyline High Schools away from the current 6 period schedule to the 7 period Modified Block Schedule with Flex time options commencing in the 2019-20 school year.

     

  • I recommend the 7 period Modified Block schedule with Flex time option for the District’s fourth comprehensive high school, currently scheduled to open a fall of 2022.

     

  • I recommend the District plan to move Liberty High School to the 7 period Modified Block 7 schedule no later than the fall of 2022 and the opening of the new high school. This recommendation assumes the new 7 period Modified Block schedule serves students well and the resources are available.

Rationale - The 7 Period Modified Block Schedule with Flex Time Option:

  • Meets the pre-established criteria of providing students with additional opportunities for exploration, enrichment and remediation in era of Core 24 Graduation Requirements.

  • Strikes a balance between contact time per course with opportunities for students.

     

  • Provides for four teacher/student contacts per week while still offering an extended class period once per week.

     

  • Support the good work and recommendation of the High School Scheduling Committee

Rationale to delay the implementation of new schedule at LHS:

  • Provides time for the ISD to work with the LHS staff and the community on a transition plan for moving from the current 8 period schedule to the 7 period modified block.

  • Honors and recognizes the uniqueness of moving current students from the LHS schedule which allows for 32 credit opportunities to a schedule that has 28 credit opportunities (as an example IHS and SHS students will be adding opportunities from 24 to 28).

  • Allows time for ISD to evaluate the effectiveness of the 7 period Modified Block schedule through student surveys, parent surveys, social/emotional health data analysis and student achievement data analysis.

  • Allows current LHS students who built their high school plan around 32 credit opportunities to complete their plan.
  • Allows time for incoming LHS students to plan their high school four year plan based on the new schedule.

  • Provides an opportunity for building level administrators and teachers at all high schools to analyze impacts on program offerings such as electives (important as our new high school will be close to the size of LHS).

  • Provides an opportunity for administrators and teachers to consider and pilot strategies for program/course offerings under Modified Block 7 schedule

The current Liberty High School 8 period schedule meets most of the criteria desired from a high school schedule in the era of CORE 24. Further, there is strong student and community support for this schedule and our current LHS students built their four year high school plans around 32 credit opportunities. For these reasons, I am comfortable delaying the implementation of the 7 period Modified Block schedule. This will also allow the School system time to develop and implement a thoughtful transition plan for LHS. We can learn from the experiences at IHS and SHS while examining and modeling strategies to address program/course offering impacts such as those on elective programs.

Why change LHS at all?

The support for the current Liberty High School 8 period schedule has had an impact on my thinking regarding the importance of extended periods as an option in any schedule considered for ISD students. However, I still have some concerns about the LHS block schedule’s fewer weekly contact opportunities, less overall contact time, and students carrying an eight class case load. A majority of current LHS teachers have also shared similar concerns about the current schedule.

I also believe there are some overall benefits to all ISD students if our high schools are on a common schedule. These benefits include greater ease aligning professional development and curriculum implementation and greater potential for sharing of itinerant staff. This could become even more important in a future with two smaller high schools of approximately 1200 to 1400 students.

In my experience over the last many years, any schedule conversation with the LHS community becomes somewhat difficult. I believe the school district is responsible for much of this difficulty because of past mistakes made when engaging with this community about the current schedule. As a result, I don’t believe the LHS community is receptive to or would embrace a schedule change for the next school year. In short, there is still work the ISD has to do with the LHS community to create a better environment to implement change.

Lastly, and most importantly for me, through my experiences and learning related to high school schedules, I have come to the conclusion that the Modified Block 7 period schedule as recommended is the best option for all students in our current Core 24 system. Given this belief extends to all students and future students of the ISD I am compelled to include LHS in my recommendation. However, I am comfortable delaying the implementation of the schedule at LHS until a transition plan has been worked out, but no later than the opening of the fourth comprehensive high school.