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Martin moves forward with schedule changes

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By Jennifer Caldwell

By JENNIFER CALDWELL

stories@lafollettepress.com

After months of laying out his case for the necessity of changing both local high schools from block scheduling to a period class schedule, Dr. Michael Martin, director of schools, was prepared to take action on the matter at Tuesday’s Campbell County Board of Education meeting.

Before Martin addressed the board audience member and teacher Bob Holder took his five minutes at the microphone to argue the value of block scheduling.

Holder told board members his three children were Campbell County High School graduates and had been successful in their post secondary educations due in part to the opportunities block scheduling afforded.

The educator asserted the 32 credits block scheduling allows for a course path that gives students the opportunity to add a number of electives to their schedules.

“It (choosing electives) would not have been possible if they had not had block scheduling,” Holder said of the elective studies his children participated in.

Holder also stated changing to a period schedule would invite “more fights, more drug sales and more students laying out of class.”

On the heels of Holder’s remarks, Martin restated his claims for the value of changing the scheduling format at Campbell County High School and Jellico High School, two schools on the state’s target list for failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

While Martin told the group he appreciated, Holder’s remarks, he stood firm in his belief the move away from block scheduling was necessary.

“If we were going from a period schedule to a block schedule we would have heard some of these same issues because it involves change, and that is unsettling,” Martin said of the resistance by some to the proposed changes.

Although Martin said he believes in the value of elective courses, performance in those courses is not what put the two high schools on the target list.

“They (the state) are not going to take over our schools because of electives.  Instead it will be because of performance in core curriculum classes,” Martin explained.

According to Martin the real issue with block scheduling boils down to instruction time.  

The director pointed to the fact timely research shows while block scheduling allows for 90 minute classes, students are receiving less instruction than they would in a period format.

To help make his point, Martin told board members a group of students had been asked to keep a journal of their classes for a two week period.

“In most classes they were lucky if they got 22 minutes of instruction,” Martin said of the journals.  The student journals also reported approximately 33 minutes were spent doing homework and the remainder of the block was devoted to “free” time.

As Martin was making his presentation, board member Mark A. Wells took a moment to interject.

Wells told Martin and fellow board members he felt board approval was not necessary for Martin to implement the change from block to period scheduling.

“When you are failing you don’t tweak it (the system), you take bold, substantive moves to change it,” Wells said of the need for improvement in the county’s secondary schools. “I think with the stroke of your pen you can do it (change to period scheduling.)

Agreeing with Wells, Martin said because a change in scheduling fell under instructional matters, it would be within his authority to make the change on his own.

“I am not going to ask the board to vote on it,” Martin said.

According to Martin the change to period scheduling will be implemented for the 2009-10 school year.