7 ways to overcome the high school master schedule.
The function of a high school master schedule is to arrange the allotted time, staff, students and physical resources together so that optimum learning will take place. Since the schedule usually remains fixed for the year, a poorly planned schedule will have a detrimental effect on the school program.
#1 – Leadership is essential.
The principal has the responsibility of conceptualizing, organizing and doing the detailed planning to support the curricula and instructional objectives of the school. The high school master schedule is the most important tool to make maximum use of available resources, and is especially important these days in a time of depleted budgets and reduced resources.
#2 – The schedule is a reflection of the philosophy of a school.
An internet search reveals many opportunities to invest in software, purporting to do the job with a click of the mouse. But a schedule is not just a time table of classes; it is an opportunity for the administration to work with teachers on building an overlying philosophy for the school based on students needs. The process brings colleagues together, problems are solved and information is shared.
#3 – Determine what is special, different and the top priority of the school.
Part of the process can be a review of curricula and courses, an appraisal of course codes and descriptions and the course catalog. Current and past master schedules can be examined and changes discussed. Scheduling issues facing all schools are based on the need to provide quality teaching and learning time, recognizing that fragmented instructional times can inhibit learning. A major issue is how to schedule pullout programs for ESL and Special Ed and how to incorporate special classes such as Music, Art, PE etc. Exploratory programs, elective course and extracurricular activities all need to be scheduled along with down time as students change rooms.
Discipline problems can develop when hundreds of students are changing classes so the fewer changes the better. Another objective is to address the need for smaller classes to prevent depersonalization, anonymity and isolation felt by students whose teachers find it impossible to develop personal relationships with them. Providing varying learning time is also an issue as some students need more time to learn than others.
#4 – Create a program based on the needs of the students.
A high school master schedule is good if students are scheduled in classes they need to take and have the time to achieve the objectives for each grade or subject; if students can take the electives they choose; if an appropriately equipped classroom is available for each scheduled class or teacher; if there is no wasted time between classes and if supervision can be provided for field trips, assemblies and lunch time. From the teacher’s point of view, the master schedule is good if teachers are assigned according to their certification and expertise; if they have their preferred classes or grade levels; if they have adequate preparation time and if their preferences and course loads receive consideration.
#5 – Stop looking for a quick fix.
First and foremost in the high school master schedule building process is the curriculum, then the size of the student body and the number of regular, special and itinerant teachers available and teachers’ aides. The number of classrooms or teaching stations is factored in along with school start and end times, length of lunch periods and transportation schedules. It is tempting to think that a computer program can resolve these complexities, but no software can determine the apportionment of engaged learning at the appropriate level which is key to academic success.
#6 – It takes time, commitment and professional development.
Guidance in the form of an ebook, Building a Master Schedule, by Dr Patricia Fioriello, is available to educators who appreciate expert advice on this complex subject. Dr Fioriello spells out the steps required in logical order and keeps the process on message, asking for example, What issues will you need to consider during this stage? What are the rules that will guide and support you through this stage? and What steps will you need to take to complete this stage? She warns of the need for modifications and adjustments if there are end of year surprises, if summer grades create changes and new students are to be accommodated.
#7 – Understand the relationship between the master schedule and student success.
Providing a high quality high school master schedule where the needs of students are met and preparing them for success in the world beyond the high school is paramount in developing a high school’s master schedule. Throughout the past, there have periodic movements to extend the school day and year in order to better meet these goals. Research has found that there is little to no relationship between time and student achievement; there is some relationship between engaged and academic learning time and achievement. More time is not the answer, quality time is the key.
Research has also found that more time than imagined is spent on non-instructional tasks such as making announcements, taking attendance, managing the classroom, and/or disciplining students, etc. Time is an essential component of the learning process, and the critical element is how much quality time is spent on appropriate work. This is where the master schedule plays its vital role.
Powerpoint presentation – Building A Secondary School Master Schedule Program
Articles – Linking Attendance To The Master Schedule, Scheduling Tips, Facts About Extending the School Year, Are You Ready to Implement the School Program?