Hey, Issaquah School District, don’t change what works

October 16, 2012

By Zach Bunch

Hall Monitor
Zach Bunch
Liberty High School

When I graduate from Liberty High School in June, I will have earned 30.5 credits since my freshman year. Of those credits, five are from Honors courses and seven from Advanced Placement. Add to that total the three credits I earned in middle school, and I am well above the required 28 to graduate. This is because I have made full use of Liberty’s unique eight-period block schedule.

At Liberty, each student has eight periods split into two alternating days. On an “A” day, we take periods one through four, and on a “B” day, we take periods five through eight. This allows for more electives, but also for things like senior waivers, which are just blank spots in a student’s schedule.

This is one of the reasons that the Issaquah School District wants to take away Liberty’s block schedule, instead of forcing us into a standard six-period schedule.

However, I believe that I have used this schedule to my advantage.

As a freshman, I was able to take all four core classes while fulfilling three college requirements, as well as taking a class I was interested in.

Sophomore year, I actually took two science classes to jump ahead a year. I also started taking journalism, and I continued my foreign language.

Junior year, I took more challenging classes while continuing journalism and earning college credit in culinary arts.

This year, I’m in four AP classes, college writing and journalism again. I also have a part-time job and participate in extracurricular activities.

So, is it so wrong that I have a senior waiver?

The district claims that only 12 percent of Liberty graduates fully utilize the block schedule. It rations that those who have made “full use” of the schedule have never been a teacher’s assistant, taken a guided study class, which is a period of proctored work time, or a taken a senior waiver. I would argue the opposite: by taking those classes, I’m able to balance my schedule with more challenging courses, and therefore I’m fully utilizing the schedule.

The problem is, there are those at Liberty that misuse the schedule, using it to get free periods when their load is already light. The district is concerned with the number of senior waivers taken, as well as the fact that classes like math are not daily.

So, rather than let the students who actually benefit from this schedule continue benefiting, the district wants everyone to suffer.

Why not put restraints on these “free” periods? Require students to meet certain criteria before they can sign up for a waiver, such as taking at least two AP classes, or having a part-time job, or having certain other extenuating circumstances. Rather than complain about it, fix it.

In the case of daily math, you can take math every day. Liberty offers supplementary math study courses. Struggling students can take math on one day and have a proctored math help lab on the next. Both classes would be an hour and a half long, meaning the student would receive almost double the instruction time in math than those on a six-period schedule would receive.

Rather than jump to conclusions and change our block schedule, the district needs to explore its options more thoroughly. Instead of making the students who benefit from the schedule suffer, make changes so that everyone benefits. It’s not rocket science; it’s common sense.

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One Response to “Hey, Issaquah School District, don’t change what works”

  1. Susan Bunch on October 18th, 2012 8:23 am

    Parents are behind the students who want to keep the current schedule. No valid evidence to support changing has been provided, but we do know that because of our smaller student population (than Issaquah or Skyline), we will lose many of our current electives.

    My understanding is that our dedicated committee has even offered a compromise- a 7 period schedule landing students with 141 hours of instruction time, as the Superintendent has been firm about 150 hours. I hardly think a 9 hour difference is crucial when you consider some of the non-academic activities our Issaquah Schools participate in throughout the year- including watching non-academic movies in the classroom, etc.

    Our test scores at Liberty are not only comparable to the other ISD schools they surpass that of schools who actually match our demographics (when comparing our students based on socioeconomic and other factors instead of just matching to our district).

    Let our district know how you feel, email the entire school board at once at schoolboard@issaquah.wednet.edu and post comments here.

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