Middle School Schedule Changes to Remain in Place
Changes that went into effect this year for Central Bucks' middle schools will remain in effect next year, as well.
Students who will be attending Central Bucks middle schools next fall will continue to have the same six-period school days that middle schoolers have this year.
Administrators said this week that Central Bucks will stick to the new schedule at its five middle schools for the 2013-2014 school year.
"We're about to start the scheduling process at the middle school level," Dr. Rodney Green said Tuesday at a school board meeting. "So I wanted to make sure that everyone knew we were continuing with the six-period schedule."
The decision comes nearly a year after hundreds of angry parents, teachers and students packed the school board meeting room to protest a decision to cut a class period from the middle school day.
In February 2012, the school board approved a plan to change the middle school day from seven 46-minute periods to six 56-minute periods. Computer applications was dropped from the curriculum.
The alternating A/B day schedule initially was dropped, and "special" classes - art, music, tech ed, family and consumer science and physical education and health - were no longer required. Students could take only one of those electives each semester.
After the protest, administrators agreed to return to the A/B day schedule, expanding the students' opportunities to take the special classes.
After that, most parents seemingly dropped their vocal opposition to the changes, but a few formed a community group, Central Bucks Engage, to keep pressure on adminstrators and the board.
Green was hired after the middle school controversy. When he started with the district this fall, he promised to examine the schedule changes after they had been in place for awhile to see what the impact was.
The results of the changes so far have been encouraging, Green said Tuesday night.
"One of the big advantages of the new schedule is the additional teaching time in the core subjects," Green said. "We’re certainly seeing the advantage of this."
The superintendent said he has visited middle school classes and has discussed the changes with middle school principals.
Teachers are using the extra 10 minutes to teach to "a deeper level of learning," Green said. Principals have reported students saying that they feel less stressed because they have fewer classes to manage at one time.
Green said the middle schools have reported a 20 percent reduction in the number of failing grades and a 30 percent reduction in disciplinary actions this year compared to previous years.
"That's not necessarily due to the extra 10 minutes, but it could be," Green said. "Students have one less transition, and teachers have more time for positive interaction."
Board member John Gamble asked Green whether he had heard concerns about the loss of the extra time at the end of the day, which teachers had used for planning purposes or to meet with parents.
Green said administrators will continue to monitor those issues and some other aspects of the schedule change, and make adjustments as needed.
One parent urged the board and administrators not to rely on anecdotal stories to make their decisions about the schedule changes' impact.
Doug Keith, who has butted heads with the board over the issue, praised officials for a "new spirit of openness."
"The board has really been making an effort to be more transparent," Keith said, adding, "I do have some questions, and I want you to think about them."
Keith asked what data would be collected over time to quantify the impact of the changes.
He encouraged the board to survey all the teachers, and to examine any impact of the lost curriculum.
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