Hello SJHS Families,
I’d like to take this opportunity to let you know about a change in the distance learning bell schedule that will go into effect beginning on November 2, 2020. This schedule does not change the start or end times for students in the school day, only the structure within the school days Monday through Friday. Our hope is that the changes within the bell schedule will help with the concerns that we have heard parents, students, and teachers express in regards to work load, attendance, and support on instruction. In addition, we feel that the changes will help with the concerns that our data is telling us in regards to student learning and stress.
29% of our students are failing three or more classes - that is nearly 800 students struggling in our current system. That is a 230% increase from this time last school year. As principal, I don’t like having to report such a huge increase, but I feel that complete transparency is crucial in helping all stakeholders understand why a change is urgently necessary. As parents, I’m sure you are seeing first hand the struggles that this new environment brings to so many of our students academically.
The increase in failure rates is not an accusation that students are not doing what they need to be doing - there are many reasons that this could be happening, including having to do most of their work after school hours without the support of their teacher, or having a workload that is simply overwhelming for students after school. In addition to an increase in our failure rates, there continues to be frustration for students and parents around asynchronous attendance and increased student stress and anxiety. Through our various parent advisory committees and other arenas in which parents have the ability to share, I have heard you mention your students working late into the evening and struggling with stress.
This new schedule will incorporate what is called a block schedule, with only three periods each day. While these periods are technically a 90 minute block, the teacher will have the flexibility to provide synchronous and asynchronous instruction within that block based on student needs. Also within that block, teachers will be able to provide real time guidance on the work that students need to do in order to demonstrate their learning, allowing students to complete most work during the school day rather than in the evening independently. This will not be a 90 minute session of your student sitting in front of the screen listening to a lecture - it will allow flexibility for the teacher to dismiss students as appropriate to complete work prior to their next period, to work collaboratively with other students, or to assess learning in whichever way appropriate. In addition, the only work your child will receive for a particular day on the block schedule is for the three classes they go to for that day. This should significantly decrease the stress that students are experiencing in regards to completing work for all six classes in the evening. The block schedule Monday - Thursday instructional time ends at 2:05 for students to complete work independently.
Fridays are now synchronous rather than asynchronous - Friday is still a school day and this will allow for students to get a third day of support from teachers to close out the week and lay a good foundation for the next week. These are shorter periods of time, 35 minutes each, and students are still done with their instructional day at 12:45 in order to complete any work for the week independently.
As mentioned, one of the concerns we have heard from students and parents is in regards to students’ mental health. As such, we have built a 40 minute synchronous Tiger Time block in the day Monday through Thursday. This will allow students to touch base with their teachers informally and to complete social-emotional lessons through Everfi. In addition, this will also allow time in the day for students to complete the ExactPath learning paths, a necessary diagnostic and learning tool designed to support students in closing any academic gaps without pulling them from their grade level academic classes. This has typically been something that students have been expected to do outside of school.
It is my sincere hope that by pulling back many of the obligations that students have after the instructional day in regards to work completion, providing the support for that work during the school day with their teacher, we will be able to address the various concerns I have outlined for you today.
While I know that a change in the bell schedule is not convenient in the middle of a semester, I am not one to wait for change to happen when we have data and information that tells us our current system is not working for our students. I know that as parents, if something isn’t working at home, you change it until it does, so I know you understand the urgency when it comes to your student’s academic progress and mental health.
The email you received outlines the new schedule for students that will begin November 2. You can also find the information on our school website. We appreciate your understanding and willingness to work through these changes with us while we work to improve our systems for our students.
Sincerely your proud Principal,