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Block scheduling agrees with staff, students

The results are in. And halfway through Red Wing High School's first year using block scheduling, the new format seems to be working for both staff and students.

Matt Schultz, Red Wing High School's activities director, helped conduct a survey to gather students' and educators' thoughts on the new system.

Overall, the results are positive. Under block scheduling, students attend four 80-minute classes a day. Not every class therefore meets daily.

Also new is the implementation of a daily advisory period. For this, students were divided into groups based on their career interests and assigned to a staff member who has similar interests. The groups meet each day for a half hour. Integrated into this period are weekly grade checks, time for silent sustained reading and career exploration.

Both teachers and students reported that they felt the advisory time strengthened teacher-student relationships. Students also found the weekly grade checks to be useful.

"It shows kids that someone other than their parents are interested [in how they're doing]," Supt. Stan Slessor said.

Another thing staff and students seem to agree on is an improved school atmosphere. Students reported that the new schedule isn't as stressful and that they enjoy school more. Teachers said the building and classrooms feel more relaxed.

But not everything is positive.

Students said the new schedule leaves less class time to work, which means more homework. Teachers reported that not seeing the same students every day was a challenge.

And there were notable differences in the responses of students in different grades. Eighth-graders were much more likely to respond positively to the survey, while seniors were more likely to respond negatively.

Slessor credited this to the oldest students being used to a certain routine and possibly feeling that they don't need advisory time set aside for career exploration.

Slessor said the project is a work in progress, and the students' opinions will help strengthen the program in the future.

"We are going to see more positive results by older students if we keep up efforts to evaluate what we're doing ... and respond to student needs," he said.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.