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Teachers will have to make some adjustments to their curriculum, and the school will have to send out more report cards, but Shelby County High School Principal Michael Rowe said the school's recently adopted trimester schedule will be a plus to students who are behind in math and reading.
“Any student who is behind grade level in math will be able to take an elective in the third semester that will be a math lab,” Rowe said. “It will be more one-on-one and more hands-on learning.”
Rowe said one of the main reasons the school's site-based decision making (SBDM) council adopted the trimester schedule starting in 2010 is to help students who have fallen behind in math or reading. Rowe estimated 400-500 students in the freshmen and sophomore classes, about half, are behind grade level in math, and about 200 are behind in reading.
The new schedule will divide the school year into three semesters of 12 weeks each. The second semester would be split by the Christmas break.
The school day will be divided into five classes of 72 minutes each instead of the 90-minute classes students now have. Only Shelby County High School is making a schedule change; the county's middle and elementary schools will not change schedules.
The school board will look over the high school's plan in March. The board will have to decide how many credits under the new schedule students will need to graduate. Currently, they need 27.
The new schedule will allow students who need to catch up, in math or reading, for example, to take a third hands-on class in the last 12 weeks of the school year. At the same time, Rowe said, students who are gifted can use the extra semester to take enriched classes.
“So the schedule will work for the top-end students also,” Rowe said.
Rowe said the trimester schedule is popular is several northern states, and it appears to be successful. He said the school has also monitored the progress of the trimester schedule at Dixie Heights in northern Kentucky. That school has used the system for several years, and it is working well, he said.
Science teacher Diane Cantrill, who sits on the SBDM, said the trimester schedule will still allow time for teachers to set up labs and projects.
“We can work with that,” she said. “I think it will be terrific.”
She said teachers are in the process of “curriculum mapping” to make sure the same amount of material will be covered under the trimester schedule.
Cantrill said while some teachers will have to adjust their curriculum to accommodate shorter class times, the school's advanced placement (AP) classes will not be affected. They will be taught over the entire school year.
“That curriculum is set and can't be changed,” she said.
Several teachers and principals from the high school will attend a symposium on the trimester schedule later this month in Jefferson County, where several schools use the schedule, Rowe said.
Parent Deborah Albrecht, who has a freshman and junior at the school, said she does not know much about the new schedule, but she will support it as long as students can go over the same material they cover with the current schedule.
“I'm always willing to try what they think is best for the kids, and it's good to help the kids who are behind,” Albrecht said. “If they can just cover the same material in the time they have, that's the main thing.”