The High School Credit Requirement and Schedule Committee reviewed research on high school schedules, listed desirable elements of a schedule, studied nine different schedules and hybrids and listed the positives and negatives of each. They provided input to the Secondary Task Force, which made recommendations to the full board. The School Board then selected the schedules to be studied further.
Staff calculated cost differences and found the five-period schedule would save $1.2 million annually in staffing costs and the six-period schedule would save $1.9 million. However, a one-time investment of $1.2 million would be needed for additional textbooks, materials and other costs for the five-period schedule and up to $4.3 million for the six-period schedule.
The current four-period day schedule, also known as the "4 by 4," was adopted in the early 1990s in response to a desire to give students opportunity to take more elective courses and to provide time in each class period for more in-depth study. The five-period schedule does not allow students the opportunity to take as many elective courses as the four-period schedule, but it allows for more than the six-period.
"I feel the 5 by 3 is strongest. If offers a compromise between all the aspects of the 4 by 4 and the 6 by 3," said board member Kathy Tingelstad, who moved adoption of that schedule. She said her previous experience in the Minnesota Legislature taught her there will always be people who are happy with a decision and those who are unhappy. "This will be a compromise…it will be easier to implement and it has several good qualities," she said.
Board member John Hoffman said he favored the 5 by 3 schedule when he learned that changing the staffing ratio from 25.2 students per teacher to 27.2 would mean that some classes in a four-period day would be as large as 40 or more students in required course such as math, social studies or English. The increase in the student-to-teacher ratio will occur next year as the result of the need to eliminate teaching positions due to a state funding shortfall. If it is necessary to further increase the ratio by another one or two students in following years, the impact will be even greater.
Staff simulated the creation of a high school master schedule using student registration data from a current high school class and factoring in increases in the student-to-teacher ratio. They found that the four-period schedule would result in elimination of a number of courses that typically have low enrollments in order to keep class size in required courses from becoming too large. This would mean that a number of small remedial courses as well as advanced courses such as Advanced Placement Physics or levels three through five of world language courses would likely be eliminated. When this happens, juniors and seniors often can't find courses they can take that fit their schedules. As a result, they must take a study hall.
Board member Michael Sullivan expressed concern about the fact that many students would have no option but to take a study hall if the four-period schedule remained. "For me, that was a real 'aha'," he said. He was also concerned that information on the impact of the ratio increase was not available until late in the process.
Superintendent Dennis Carlson explained that when the study started, the ratio was 25.2 students to one teacher. The new staffing ratio was established in March in response to indications from the legislature that a state funding increase was unlikely and a funding cut was a distinct possibility. "Now that the legislature has completed its work, we know where we are and cost is a factor," said Carlson.
Sullivan said he hoped that "in the intervening year, something will happen to allow us to save as much as we can in terms of the quality education in this school district." He asked the board for an opportunity to vote in the future on the possibility of investing the money saved with the five-period schedule into hiring additional teachers to partially offset the effect of increasing the student to staff ratio.
Board members thanked the Secondary Task Force and the High School Credit Requirement and Schedule Committee for their work.
After the schedule was determined, staff moved ahead with considering modifications in credit requirements. The High School Credit Requirement and Schedule Committee provided input on requirements that went to the Curriculum Advisory Council.
New graduation requirements for class of 2015
Beginning with the class of 2015, students must complete:
Algebra I by the end of 8th grade,
Algebra II (or equivalent) before graduation
Chemistry or physics (in addition to biology) before graduation.