How much change is right for the block schedule?

What does Liberty stand to lose as of November? We can tell you it will not be the Patriot Pride so unique to this high school. We will stand by our school during the construction mess and in the adversity of a schedule change. We have been criticized for being loud, for fighting for our block schedule, and we have been largely written off as dramatic teenagers. We have to prove that our passion has a rational base and that we are actually concerned about how the potential change to a six period day will affect students.

The superintendent is concerned that Patriots receive less time in front of teachers per year as a result of the block schedule. But he ignores the fact that 90 minute class periods provided by the block schedule allow teachers to have an in-depth lesson, while six period Issaquah and Skyline only brush the material’s surface. Teachers can conduct a full lab and reflect on the results, host Socratic seminars, and delve deeper into literature or critical points in history. And while math and foreign language may need repetition more than extensive study, block scheduling allows students who need more time to take math lab classes or a guided study/waiver course, providing 90 minutes of instruction per day in a given subject. Yes, we receive less instructional time total and something should be done to improve that. But is the six-period schedule really the way to do it? The superintendent should know that it’s not the amount of time in class that benefits the students most; it’s how we make use of the time we have, and block scheduling is better equipped to provide a more intensive class period: a class period with more total instructional hours of real use.

The superintendent thinks the block schedule hurts Patriots when applying to colleges. How can that be? Colleges look for well-rounded applicants to contribute to their universities, and at Liberty we are responsible for selecting our course load and the direction of our studies much more so than in a six period schedule. A Patriot can choose an intensive, focused schedule, a diverse schedule with many electives, or any schedule in between just like it will be in college. A Spartan or an Eagle is stuck on a fixed course that shows very little of his or her personality: a single mass of 3,500 plus students, all deserving of recognition for their talents, yet with very little to set each other apart beyond their test scores. Yes, they outperform us in EOC test scores, Issaquah by less than one percent in four out of five categories, but at what cost? Do we really want test scores to define us? We should see students for more than the number that pops up on the Scantron. A schedule with more electives offers a wide venue for students to broadcast their experiences to prospective colleges.

The superintendent thinks that we would be better off without so many electives. At Liberty, we are lucky. The opportunities offered are unlike any other school in the district, unlike most schools in the state. We are able to take a variety of elective courses representative of the variety of student interests. Craftsmen take metal fabrication, woods, and construction tech. Artists take studio art, graphic design, digital photography, and ceramics. Performers take band, orchestra, theatre production, and drama. At Liberty we are not defined by a single aspect of our personality, and we are better off for it.

The superintendent is adamant that the block schedule be changed, but he’s open to considering different schedule plans that provide 150 hours of instruction. This excludes the eight period block schedule, and if we can’t keep that then a compromise is necessary for the benefit of Liberty’s students.

Enter the seven period schedule. It is the best of both worlds: the product of Patriot ingenuity on the part of the scheduling committee. The committee is reviewing a schedule that provides equitable face time, more course opportunities per year, a cost neutral change, and the support of the student body.

It may seem too good to be true, but there are many variables to consider: the cost, the impact it will have on test scores, the burden it will have on educators and students alike. There are sacrifices that will have to be made on all sides to make it work. Teachers will receive less planning time; school will start a whole three minutes earlier and end three minutes later; administration will have to manage a schedule different from the rest of the schools in the district.

The seven period proposal will be presented to the superintendent on November 1. Dr. Rasmussen’s final word will decide the fate of Liberty’s schedule. We have made our case; let’s hope he hears us.