THS to delay switch to block scheduling

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo High School will delay its switch to block scheduling until the 2012-13 school year.
Interim Superintendent David Meadows said the school will remain on its current schedule next year with eight 48-minute periods, including lunch, and will prepare to make the switch during the following year.
Meadows made the announcement to the school’s teachers during a staff meeting at THS on Tuesday. He said he believed the school needed time to adjust to other new initiatives before undergoing another significant change.
He said next year’s focus needed to be on three areas:
• A reconnection with safe and effective schools and on classroom management and discipline.
• A reflection upon the implementation of the laptop program, its successes and challenges. Said Meadows: “We need to mentally take a step back and look at where we are successful and where we can improve and work together.”
• A look at the lesson-planning process, changing teaching strategies and approaches to focus more on project-based learning.
In addition to those three areas, the high school also will need to adapt to two other new programs, the Advanced Placement academy and board-examination system.
The AP academy will require students who score well on the Preliminary SAT to take more AP classes. The board-examination system will be a two-year program for freshmen, who will then take board examinations in English, history, math and science. If they pass those exams, they will be able to graduate early or enroll in upper level courses for college credit. Tupelo is one of a handful of districts in the state that will pilot that program during next school year.
Meadows said that with all of that going on, he believed it was best to take an additional year to plan for the change to block scheduling.
“We discussed if we were to delay block scheduling, would that give us an opportunity to approach those three initiatives and the two new ones, and would that give us a better opportunity to help our students achieve, learn and be successful?” Meadows said.
“As soon as teachers and others can catch their collective breaths, we will want to return to the planning of the block schedule.”
Under the block schedule, students would take four 90-minute classes each semester. Each class would be completed in one semester, instead of the current model where classes span both semesters. It would allow students to complete eight courses in a year, while most are limited to seven classes by the current schedule.
Advocates say the longer class periods will allow teachers to increase the depth of instruction in their lessons and that the schedule would provide more time to give special assistance to struggling students.
But the switch to block scheduling also will require extensive teacher training, as educators will have to use different strategies to most effectively master the longer class periods.
The block schedule would have also allowed some seniors to graduate in December. Meadows said the district will honor its commitment to students who had planned to do so. Those seniors, who lack only a few credits to graduate, will be allowed to bundle some courses and still graduate early. For example, two English classes will be bundled together so the student can complete it in one semester.
The district also will work closely with all of the school’s students to help them reschedule their courses, Meadows said.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.