The leadership team, which includes Principal Tripp Burton, assistant principals, and department heads, is considering proposed changes to the schedule for next year that may result in a daily A+ period. The A+ period was devised to provide time for teachers to remediate students who need support to pass SOLs or tutoring in their classes. However, the inconsistencies of the A+ schedule has caused frustration and confusion for teachers and students.
“People like a regular schedule,” Burton said. “The top reaction I hear from students [about A+ days] is that ‘I don’t like the days being flipped all over the place; I’m confused and it bothers me.’ I think an A+ period everyday gives more flexibility for students. It can give students extra help. AP students who took a class in the fall could use the time to review in the spring.”
One plan under consideration is the Academic Enhancement Period (AEP). The period would be created by taking away five minutes from each period. Each day would have a different subject focus so that students will have more coverage in all areas, instead of just one or two.
“[The AEP] would build a consistent block into the day for students to get help or give them creative options,” English teacher Cynthia Pryor said.
Students would report to a teacher for the AEP period for attendance-taking purposes, much like advisory, and then would report to other teachers for remediation or to work on projects.
“Some people really like advisory,” Burton said. “It’s not so much about homeroom; it’s about having a group of kids to be with every day. You can still do that through A+ if we schedule that time through the day. It doesn’t matter when that is. It just matters that you get to see a group of people and form relationships.”
The purpose of the AEP is to take a preventative approach to helping students with passing their classes and standardized tests. Teachers with A+ responsibilities could help students analyze sample test questions, or students could use the period as a study hall.
“A+ days are a response to a high failure rate on SOLs,” Pryor said. “It would be nice if we could be more proactive and less reactive. Tailoring the AEP to student needs is a great way to differentiate and eliminate the problems before they occur.”
A key element in implementing a daily A+ period is the timing. There are advantages and disadvantages to scheduling the period at the end of the day. Another proposal places the period in the middle of the day, changing around lunch schedules.
Science teacher Mark Ott proposed scheduling the A+ block as a one-hour free period in the middle of the day. There would be two 30 minute lunch periods; after reporting to a class for attendance, students would have the choice of when to take a lunch break during the period.
“It would be limited to certain areas of the school if we could do this,” Ott said. “There has to be accountability to make it all work. Students would be able to figure out on their own when to go eat or not. The idea behind it is to do away with staff and students walking throughout the building not knowing where to go. The whole goal is to create a better solution to [the A+ period].
For the implementation of a one hour free block plan, teachers would need to patrol the hallways to keep order. Also, students who were sent passes for a certain class would be required to go for remediation. If a student did not report to the class, it would count as a cut. However, arranging the teachers to monitor the halls presents challenges.
“We don’t have a traditional facility,” Burton said. “To try to come up with a system of keeping the building supervised during [the free block], it takes away more teachers and more staff than would be available to help people.”
Although final decisions about the schedule have not been made, many are in favor of changing the current once-or-twice-a-week system.
“In my opinion, we need to do something [like A+] everyday,” Burton said. “We need to have something in place that allows us to help students with what they need every day.”