Changes to add academic rigor in high schools would begin in 2014

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Janesville high school students will have to take more classes in longer school days starting in September 2014.

That's part of a larger plan to make Craig and Parker high schools more relevant and students more ready for college in the 21st century, officials said.

"It's making sure we are ready for the future," said Kim Ehrhardt, district director of instruction.

The plan is for more rigorous academics that get students more involved in learning, Ehrhardt said.

District officials and about 90 high school teachers have been working on plans, called Project Redesign, for a year. They revealed their plans to high school staff Tuesday. Changes include:

-- Increasing the number of credits required for graduation from 22.5 to 26.5. One credit will be added in the 2014-15 school year, and one credit every year after that through 2017-18.

-- Advisory just once a week, not four times.

-- Lunch period of 35 minutes from the end of one class to the beginning of the next, not the current 40.

-- An eight-period day for three days a week, instead of the current seven periods. Classes, now 50 minutes long, would last 48 minutes.

The other two days of the week would consist of four 85-minute periods to allow for more in-depth labs, projects or activities, and a 40-minute period in which students would get remedial help or enrichment in classes they are taking.

-- Smaller classes. The current maximum of 32 students would be reduced to 28 students.

-- A school day that starts at 7:45 a.m. for four days a week and ends at 3:15 p.m. That's 10 minutes longer than the current high school day, which runs from 8 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

Classes would start at 8:05 a.m. Tuesdays. That start time would accommodate teacher training that starts at 7:30 a.m.

Ehrhardt said the time teachers will be expected to be at school has not been determined. Now, they start at 7:45 a.m., with classes beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 3:20 p.m.

Ehrhardt acknowledged studies that show teens tend to be more productive later in the day, but he said the school day could not be extended at the end of the day because too many students would have to leave school early for athletics.

"I think overall this is excellent for the students of Janesville, and I think teachers, once they fully understand what's happening here, will think this is good for students," said Dave Parr, teachers union president.

Parr said moving remedial work to "intervention" times for those who need it will give teachers more freedom to work on course content during their regular classes.

Parr also hailed the effort as being done in consultation with staff, with more staff input to come.

"This has been done in collaboration with staff rather than been done to them," Ehrhardt agreed.

Teachers will be teaching more classes, but they'll have fewer minutes in front of students overall, said Parker Principal Chris Laue.

They now teach five periods each day, get two periods a day for preparation and supervise hallways, study halls or lunch once every third semester. Under the new system, teachers will teach six classes one year, and the next year they'll have five classes plus one remedial or enhancement class, or be assigned to supervisory duties.

Teachers would lose a small amount of preparation time each week.

Officials said there's still time to tweak the plans. They will be taking input during sessions scheduled for parents and teachers this week.

They also will be visiting Lake Geneva Badger High School, which has a similar class schedule, to see firsthand how it works.


Last updated: 10:38 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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