Central High proposes schedule change to Phenix City board

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 18, 2014 

Tommy Vickers, Central High School principal, talks Monday about the challenges of his recent deployments to the Middle East. 01/06/14

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While the Muscogee County School District mulls the superintendent's proposal to save money and add more time for remediation and enrichment by changing high school schedules from a modified block to a seven-period day, across the Chattahoochee River in Phenix City, the Central High School administration has requested to do the opposite: change its seven-period schedule to a modified block.

Central assistant principal Rachael Fowler and career technology director Josh Laney presented the proposal from the school's leadership team during the Phenix City Board of Education's work session Tuesday night.

Although the board doesn't have to vote on the proposal, interim superintendent Rod Hinton said, he wants the members to be informed. Hinton said he favors changing from the seven-period schedule to the modified block because it will increase students' time on task. Yet to be determined, he said, is whether the school system can afford the estimated $250,000 cost of adding five more teachers.

And it would be even more expensive to add seven teachers to Central's 74-member faculty, as requested in the proposal. Officials hope the trend of increased enrollment will enable the system to earn more state funding next school year to help pay for those additional teachers. Hinton said he expects to make a decision by April.

Central had been on a traditional block schedule until going to a seven-period day for the past three years. The theory was that the students' achievement would improve because they would have every class the whole year. But the school's graduation rate and test scores didn't meet that expectation, Fowler said.

A traditional block schedule has four 90-minute classes each semester for a total of eight classes per year for students. A modified block schedule also has eight classes per year but divides them throughout the week between alternating A and B days.

So a seven-period schedule requires fewer teachers. But it requires more transition time - a total of 30 minutes changing classes - and Central's leadership team wants to spend more of that time on instruction.

A modified block schedule allows for more elective courses. Some of the electives Central could offer, Laney said, are: ACT prep, hospitality and tourism, baking and pastry, industrial/electrical program, reading instructor, math teacher, networking infrastructure, and social sciences.

Central also would require students to take math all four years of high school instead of only three, so they are better-prepared for college and have more time to take advanced math classes such as calculus, Fowler and Laney said.

Board member Barbara Mitchell expressed concern about not giving any schedule enough time to work before changing it. Board member Florence Bellamy emphasized any decision must be made based on what's best for student achievement.

Hinton agreed, but he also emphasized the system must figure out a way to pay for it.

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