Tuesday, December 29, 2009
APS Pushes Common Schedule
By Hailey Heinz
Journal Staff Writer
Albuquerque's high schools have been on a common schedule for a semester, and the district is planning a similar move for middle schools.
Each of Albuquerque's 28 public middle schools now chooses its own schedule. Starting next year, they will all be on either a block or a traditional schedule, said Ruby Ethridge, associate superintendent for middle schools.
The push comes from Superintendent Winston Brooks, who said he wants consistency for the benefit of students who transfer between schools, and so middle school students can all be similarly prepared for the transition to a high school schedule.
"I really don't care what the schedule is, but I do think it ought to be common," Brooks said.
Ethridge said another benefit of a standard schedule is that it allows for more consistent professional development so teachers districtwide can learn how best to teach material in a certain block of time. She also emphasized the importance of having time in the day for teachers to meet and for intervention programs for students who are lagging behind.
"Collaboration time is huge," Ethridge said.
Kennedy Middle School uses a block schedule that includes an enrichment period. Principal Barbara Williamson swears by the system, and said she hopes the district adopts something similar.
"Students do things like Math Navigator or some of the reading programs if they're lagging in reading or math," she said. "Kids that aren't lagging have enrichment, like Science Olympiad or American History Day. We feel like we can really address the needs of the students."
Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said some middle school teachers are resistant to changing the schedule, especially if they like the one at their current school.
"They question, if it's working well for us, why do we have to change?" she said. She added, though, that the district and union have collaborated in good faith on finding a common schedule for teachers.
The committee working on the schedule will make a presentation to teachers and the public at forums in January.
The block option would be similar to Kennedy's current schedule, with longer periods, a shorter enrichment period and some subjects that alternate days.
Williamson said the schedule has been well-received.
"We used to have a seven-period day, now it's five so there are fewer passing periods and the kids aren't getting into so much trouble," she said. "The teachers really like the five-period day, and I think most of us do."