March 9, 1998 in Nation/World

Cda Schools Scheduled For Controversy Board To Decide On Block Scheduling, Graduation Requirements Tonight

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Simone Kincaid says she will pull her son out of Lake City High School if it starts block scheduling, a controversial program she says is geared more toward time management than academics.

Dave Gerber, the father of a Lake City junior, supports block scheduling and says it’s a smart way to prepare students for college.

It’s that kind of division the Coeur d’Alene School Board will wrestle with tonight when it tackles two heated issues: block scheduling and graduation requirements.

Lake City teachers overwhelmingly support block scheduling, a system moving into schools around the country that lengthens each class period and decreases the number of classes students take each day.

Under the Coeur d’Alene proposal, known as an AB Rollover Block Schedule, students take four, 88-minute classes each day and switch to their four other classes the following day.

The block schedule shortens the lunch break five minutes and decreases instruction time per academic subject 15 hours over the semester, from 82.5 hours to 67.5 hours.

And that has some parents worried that administrators are “dumbing down” curriculum with block scheduling and the elimination of some graduation requirements.

“We have a certain amount of curriculum that needs to be taught each year,” said Kincaid, whose ninth-grade son participated in block scheduling last year at Lakes Middle School. “If you are cutting 20 percent of the class instruction time, who’s to say what they’re teaching and what they’re not teaching?”

Students will be in school about the same amount of time with the new system, but their attentions will be divided among eight classes instead of the traditional six - thus accounting for the 20 percent drop in teaching time.

Block scheduling is being used in high schools in Missoula, Spokane and around the country as a way to fight crowding, meet graduation requirements and feed students’ appetites for electives.

Steve Hansen-Barber, a teacher at the New Vision Alternative School in Post Falls, has taught under a modified block system for more than three years and said it has been a success.

The modified block blends the schedule proposed in Coeur d’Alene with a more traditional schedule. Teachers teach four classes and students take five each semester.

“They would be better to go with the AB Rollover than not to go with anything,” Hansen-Barber said of the school board. “It will start the process. Even if they say this is not exactly what we want, it gets teachers moving into a block. It provides an opportunity for teachers to change their methodology. It acts as a catalyst.”

Some Lake City students say they’re ready for the change - although it will cut into their lunch periods.

“It’s really a good idea, and most students think that, too,” said Gerber’s daughter Libby, a 17-year-old junior who’s on the student council. “It allows for more electives. It forces teachers to use more variety.”

Fellow student council member Katie Roberge, a 16-year-old junior, said block scheduling would bring “more of the fun stuff” into the curriculum but also would make room for more Advanced Placement and honors courses.

School officials are considering adding a host of electives, including Advanced Placement courses in art, American government, biology and psychology, and other courses on mastering the Internet, science fiction, anatomy and music theory.

“Change is the biggest thing,” Roberge said. “Some people are scared of that.”

The Graduation Requirements Committee also is scheduled to present its latest proposal to the Board tonight.

The committee came under fire last month for a proposal to drop world history, world geography, reading and computers from the list of required high school courses.

Committee members since have decided to return world history to the required list, along with the one-semester technology class, Lake City Principal John Brumley said.

Non-required classes are divided into two elective banks: an academic bank, which includes math, science and social studies; and a practical-performing-technical bank that includes more creative courses, said Rosie Astorquia, assistant principal at Coeur d’Alene High School and chairwoman of the Graduation Requirements Committee.

Under the committee’s proposal, students must take a total of 16 electives, including at least six from the academic bank and four from the practical bank.

For example, students would not have to take world geography if they chose other courses from the academic bank to fulfill their requirements.

“We are certainly not reducing our graduation requirements,” Astorquia said. “There’s been a real confusion that we’re suggesting that you not take world history and take parenting. They’re not even in the same bank.

“We’ve never gotten rid of or dropped any of our courses. Some of them have been put into elective banks.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

TONIGHT’S MEETING

Tonight’s Coeur d’Alene School Board meeting will be held in the Borah Elementary School gymnasium, not the district office as planned.

District officials decided they needed a larger meeting space because the board is expected to decide on the controversial issues of block scheduling and graduation requirements.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Borah Elementary, 623 Borah Ave.

This sidebar appeared with the story: TONIGHT’S MEETING Tonight’s Coeur d’Alene School Board meeting will be held in the Borah Elementary School gymnasium, not the district office as planned. District officials decided they needed a larger meeting space because the board is expected to decide on the controversial issues of block scheduling and graduation requirements. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Borah Elementary, 623 Borah Ave.


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