Advancing Access through Scheduling at Belen High School

As athletic director at Belen High School I often had conversations with our student athletes about their classes. These conversations always started the same way, “so, what’s your favorite subject and why?” Favorites ranged from math to science, art to drama, and of course, our CTE programs. I learned about the exciting work being done in Woods, Welding, and Culinary Arts. However, I often heard about the lack of time students had in their CTE courses to complete work or at least be proficient in their daily activities. At the time, we were on a seven period day with fifty-five minute class periods. There simply was not enough time for quality work to be completed on a daily basis. I heard this same concern from students in their science and physical education classes.

When I became principal six years ago at the same school, we made initial changes to our schedule to accommodate quality time in the classrooms, especially those with shop or lab components. We transitioned to an eight period day with eighty-eight minute class periods divided between two days, an “A” and “B” day. Even though our CTE, Science, and Physical Education instructors welcomed the new change, there was considerable push-back from other academic instructors, especially in the area of Math. This modification in our schedule, in addition to the district’s decision to move away from weighted grades prior to my appointment as principal, created opportunity for greater access to and success in our CTE courses, students now had time to work.

Two years ago we modified our “A” and “B” day schedule a little further. When we initially changed to the A/B scheduling, we simply followed the pattern of A-B-A-B-A-B throughout the year, which meant that we constantly had to remind students what each Monday’s schedule would be. This created confusion for our students and staff. The decision was made that Monday and Wednesday would always be “A” days and Tuesday and Thursday would always be “B” days. Fridays would rotate between “A” and “B” days based on holidays and balancing of days throughout the year. By making this change, we were able to match the scheduling format of our local community college which led to advancements in access to dual credit, concurrent enrollment, internships, and industry certification opportunities.

The lengthening and alignment of CTE classes through our scheduling format has benefited students by increasing the quality of learning, hands-on opportunities, and proficiencies in outcomes of student work. We are continuing to explore further modifications that will continue to advance access. One area in particular is reviewing our criteria for Valedictorian and Salutatorian to include, not only AP and Honors courses, but our fourth year CTE courses as well. This would create a stronger academic value for our students to advance within their programs of study and solidify the relationships between the “career” and “academic” components of our campus.