School Board studies 5-period trimester schedule

The class of 2018 was the last graduating class before the 24-credit graduation requirement takes effect.

The Class of 2019 will be the first to graduate under our new 24 credit requirement, or “Core 24.” Many high schools in the state, like ours, operate under a six period day. But that can make graduating on time difficult for some students.

The math is simple: Four years of high school times six credits per year equals 24 credits. Under this schedule there is no room for failure, no room for exploration, and extra stress placed on students throughout each year of their high school careers.

In 2014 the Legislature passed a bill increasing the graduation requirements for the class of 2019 to 24 credits. Since then, administrators in Bethel have been planning for potential issues that could arise and exploring options to help students.

One big problem with the six period day is that there is no room in a high school student’s schedule to fail a class. As students run into this problem, we have been trying different things to make sure they all can get to the graduation stage on time next year, without lowering our expectations as a district.

“We do a lot of work with our students to support them when they struggle academically,” said Jennifer Bethman, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools. “We have to hold kids accountable to these new standards, but we need to provide supports along the way.”

So far, schools have tried blended learning models, flex classes, and after-school or “7th period” classes. They have all had some degree of success, but haven’t been as successful as we need them to be. For example, the 7th period classes conflict with athletics, family obligations and other things that create conflicts for our students when they are presented with the 7th period, after-school option.

To come up with some new ideas, a study group was formed that included all the high school principals,certificated staff members from each building, and staff from the central office. The group held informational meetings at each high school and did a survey of staff to get input about new schedule options.

After looking at many different options, a five-period trimester schedule is currently leading the pack because of the opportunities it will offer students and staff.

A trimester schedule would allow students to earn 7.5 credits per year instead of six. This gives them the opportunity to repeat a class if necessary, and offers students more opportunities to explore their interests.

The study group is also looking at potential pitfalls with the new schedule, especially as it comes to funding any changes.

“We really need to make sure we are making choices that we can sustain financially,” said Bethman.

The committee reviewed the schedules looking at components such as the equity of the programs for students, the impact changes may have on teachers, as well as researching how it would impact students’ grades, course completion, and test scores.

Bethel is not the only district in Washington looking at moving to a five-period trimester schedule. Renton, Highline, and Marysville are other districts in our area that are also looking to make the change in the near future.

We will not be making the change for this coming school year. If adopted, the earliest a change would be made would be the 2019/20 school year. This will allow sufficient time for planning.

“If we make a schedule change, we need to do it correctly, and not rush into anything,” said Bethman.

Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.

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