Learning lessons from student opinions on schedules

As the BOE liaison to the Student Advisory Group (SAG), an official committee of the Board, I love to hear what students think.  Students underwent a significant change this year at most high schools, switching to an eight-period day with more time spent in block scheduling.  At Chaparral High School, students were surveyed in December to determine their experiences and opinions on the schedule.  Principal Ron Peterson commissioned the survey to help inform Chaparral staff of possible tweaks and changes that could be made for next year.  The BOE was not involved in the survey timing or design; however, we are interested in its results as we look forward to next year.

Results Overview

The survey was conducted in a student’s English class to try to get maximum participation; 1548 students responded, roughly evenly split across all four grades.  The majority, 78%, is taking six (23%) or seven (55%) classes; first semester, 58% had one off period and 23% had two.  A large majority, 68%, said that they like the schedule this year.  Another 17% was undecided.  Finally, 15% say that they do not like it.

 These were some of the positive responses
students shared from the 1548 surveys returned.
Students were given an array of choices as to what they like about the new schedule.  They could choose multiple options, leading to a sum of over 100%.  The largest majority, 79%, indicated that it was because they don’t have the same classes every day.  Other popular answers included “I get a lot done with longer periods” (67%), “Less homework each night” (61%), and “Time to finish what we start” (58%).  Many said that the schedule is “not as bad as I thought it would be” (63%).

Opinions were also sought on things that students don’t like about the schedule.  The largest group (66%) said that they found it “hard to pay attention for that long.”  Another 53% said that they had too many quizzes or tests on the 8 period days.  None of the other answers garnered a majority, although numerous students (44%) opined that they felt “overwhelmed missing a block class because 1 period = 2 periods of work missed” and an additional 39% stated that they felt more homework was given in each class.

Students use their free periods for many different activities.  Again, given a list from which to choose, most students (75%) said that they used the free time for homework and to see teachers.  Studying was a choice of 68%.  Going to the testing make-up center is an option (38%), as is going to the library (43%). Some of these same students also seek balance by socializing with friends (57%) and leaving campus (50%).

What should we keep with the schedule?  An overwhelming 92% want Chaparral to keep its off periods.  Another 60% want to keep blocks at 4 periods per day.  Additional answers included “the current bell schedule" (40%), and "homeroom 2 times a week" (41%).

As for what we should change, students would like a longer lunch (56%) and longer homeroom time (48%).  Only 7% want to allow everyone to take 8 classes. 


Obviously, the data set is only partially represented by the summary above.  However, overall, students like the new schedule for many reasons.  There are opportunities for improvement as Chaparral moves into next year.  The survey is a great learning experience for DCSD as a whole. 

Our administrators have indicated that the expanded schedule, with increased opportunities for students, is better for our high schools overall.  Next year, the administration projects that increased funding will allow all students to take as many classes as they want.  Our teachers have stepped up to teach more classes and help students achieve their academic goals.  Our principals and building staff have taken on increased workloads to give kids these choices.  We are truly fortunate to have such professionals in our district.

Since this is the first year that our high schools have changed to this schedule en masse, we can benefit from lessons learned.  Our students have given us many ideas for what we can do better.  Students tell me that they would like increased access to their teachers during homeroom or advisement and their off periods.  They also generally dislike the rushed feel of eight period days, due to the large increase in passing periods over the block days.  On the positive side, they have told me that they learn to manage their time well and feel prepared for the adjustment that they will face as they go to college.  They also believe they have a chance to sink their teeth into a subject on any given block day thanks to the additional time, and that now classes on eight-period days seem like they are just getting started when it is time to move on to the next class.

I am extremely proud of our district and our students for the way they have approached this new schedule.  I believe our administrators at the high school level can work with their respective student, teacher, and parent populations to come up with solutions and refinements that meet the needs of each individual school.