Janesville54.9°

Milton High moving to eight-period days

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
February 2, 2012
— One student wants to be in FFA and show choir at the same time.

Another needs extra time with teachers to tackle algebra.


Down the hall, a teacher is searching for a better way to drive home a tricky biology concept.


They'll all have an easier time under a new eight-period schedule next year at Milton High School, school officials say.


For years, Milton High School has operated under a seven-period model for the school day. School officials have spent months developing a model for an eight-period day they say will give students more access to the curriculum and extra help with course work.


The change means students will have an extra period each day to take an elective course, add an extra study hall or get individualized help. It would give teachers and staff dedicated time a few times a week to meet in groups for professional development and to improve instruction and services.


A panel of high school administrators and staff presented the planned change to the school board this week.


The change is allowed to go in effect without school board authorization, Superintendent Mike Garrow said, because the district has no policy that requires board approval for schedule changes in its schools.


Milton High School Principal Jeremy Bilhorn says the change would:


-- Give students more access to the curriculum. Students in some grade levels have part of their schedule eaten up by mandatory coursework in core areas of science, math, social studies, English, and physical education.


In the current seven-period day, the demand leaves those students little room to take elective classes in areas such as art or business.


"We have some students who might be interested in trades or business prep or engineering, and they just haven't had time to take the specialized classes," Bilhorn said. "Or say they really want to be in FFA and show choir, but right now they may not have enough time in the day."


Under the new schedule, students would have the option to schedule up to two study hall periods during the day. Graduation requirements would stay the same.


-- Create assigned class periods for individual student learning "interventions." It's part of the high school's plan to implement Response to Intervention, a learning improvement model that focuses on individual instruction for students who are struggling academically.


The district plans to focus learning interventions in areas of reading and math.


-- Create dedicated time for teachers to meet in groups twice a week to study student learning data and work on ways to improve instruction and curriculum.


Bilhorn said it's more than time for teachers to grade papers or do lesson plans. It would allow them to share ideas and collaborate on school goals for learning.


"For such a long time, teachers have been in silos. You're teaching what you teach, you teach your content, and you're not collaborating with other staff," Bilhorn said. "We have teachers who teach the same class, and they never have time to meet together. We really do need ongoing time for teachers to talk with each other and improve."


Under the model, teachers would go from having five teaching assignments a day to six. Some of those assignments could be guided study halls or learning intervention periods, Bilhorn indicated.


The new schedule would trim the length of classes from 53 minutes to 47 minutes but would add about 5 minutes to the length of the school day. On days with scheduled staff professional development, class lengths will be 42 minutes.


The district is studying how the change would impact transportation.



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