Final decision on scheduling planned after public meeting


By Lynn R. Parks


A final decision on next year's schedule at Seaford High School will be made this week. According to principal Ken Madden Jr., the school's Building Leadership Team, made up of teachers, parents, students and other staff members, will meet in the high school library tonight, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. Based on the team's recommendations, he will decide whether to keep the school's current block schedule or modify it so that English, social studies and math classes meet year-round in 60-minute periods. The current schedule features four 90-minute classes a day that meet for one semester only. If Madden's proposal is accepted, only science and elective classes will continue on the block schedule. Madden said that the state's requirement that schools meet certain standards is part of the reason that he is suggesting the schedule be modified. "I've got a different report card now," he said. "If my English and math scores don't improve significantly, this high school could be in trouble." The state is threatening that schools that don't meet its standards will not be accredited. According to most recent tests, between 30 and 40 percent of Seaford High School students met the standards, Madden said. "That is not where we should be. We should have 100 percent of the students meeting standards." If the schedule is modified as Madden hopes, students will have three 60-minute classes and two 90-minute classes each day. Because all science classes as well as all electives - including language, band, chorus, physical education and technical courses - will have to fit in those 90-minute classes, the number of electives students can take will drop. "Students will lose one elective option each year," Madden said. Total credits possible under the current system is 32. Under the system as proposed, total credits possible is 28. Twenty-two credits are required to graduate. "Students will have to decide on a focus," Madden added. "They will have to devise a four-year plan." Madden added that the proposed schedule could force students to delay taking electives. But, he said, that is not necessarily a bad thing. "What happens now is that a lot of students, in their first three years of school, get their 21 credits. When they are seniors, all they need to graduate is English and they don't want to take anything else."

"Students will have to decide on a focus," Madden added. "They will have to devise a four-year plan." Madden added that the proposed schedule could force students to delay taking electives. But, he said, that is not necessarily a bad thing. "What happens now is that a lot of students, in their first three years of school, get their 21 credits. When they are seniors, all they need to graduate is English and they don't want to take anything else." To demonstrate how block scheduling sometimes does not work, Madden described the course schedule of an incoming freshman. "Say we get a student coming in from the eighth grade who is just barely meeting the standards," he said. "He will take ninth-grade English in the fall and then will not have any English until the spring semester of the next year." State tests are administered in March. In the case of the above student, he would take the test just one month into his sophomore English, and nearly a year after completing freshman English, Madden said. That would put him at an unfair advantage. A return to traditional scheduling means that students will stay in most core classes during the entire school year. Madden's original proposal allowed honors students, about 30 percent of the school's population, to continue on block scheduling for all classes. This would have allowed them to take more electives and to fit in all of the science courses the school offers. Honors students "do a lot of reading," Madden said at the time. "They do a lot of academic-like activities outside of school. If we could get all our kids doing that, we would have better test scores." But after receiving input from faculty members and parents, the separate honors schedule had to be abandoned, Madden said. "We have some kids who are not exclusively honors, but who take honors and college prep courses," he said. "Under that schedule, they could have missed out on 30 minutes of instruction in a class." Madden said that block scheduling was originally instituted to give teachers the opportunity to provide instruction in greater depth. "There was to be a skill focus, to help kids learn to develop arguments and novel solutions," he said. "It hasn't really accomplished that."

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