Submitted by Denair Unified School District
Denair Middle School Principal Travis Manley said he and his teachers looked to Silicon Valley and beyond when brainstorming how to create a new class schedule for 2016-17. What they agreed upon draws inspiration from “Google time” and “Fed Ex time,” he told the Denair Unified School District board Thursday night.
The concept, he explained, is that 20% of each day is devoted to the kind of creativity “that leads to great things.” In the case of the middle school, nearly an hour dedicated to intervention or innovation will be mandatory for every sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grader on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
In addition, the new schedule builds in time for instructors to teach a second elective. An extra period of band also will be added for students who want to stay after regular classes are over.
“Intervention” refers to additional time spent with those students who have struggled to learn key concepts in their regular classes. Students will be identified and assigned intervention based on “learning targets” for each subject established by teachers, Manley said. The idea is to quickly catch them up, then move them back into their chosen “innovation” project.
“You analyze that data to see where the (learning) gaps are,” he told trustees. “You use that extra period to reteach, whether it’s reading comprehension or math or whatever. … It’s not a life sentence. It’s fluid. Each week, that target will change and you’ll have new kids coming in.”
As important as “intervention” is, it’s the “innovation” piece that most excites Manley and his teachers. Essentially, students will be able to pursue interests beyond what currently is offered in class. That could take many forms, he said. Students must choose a specific learning area four times a year. Though they will not be graded on it, they will be expected to present a report to their teachers at the end of each quarter that highlights what they’ve learned.
“If students want to learn to code a computer, they can do that. If they want to learn more about music or another subject, they can do that, too,” Manley said. “It’s a creative way to give our students what they need.”
The new schedule follows a “modified block” format, Manley said. School will begin at 8 a.m. and let out at 2:45 p.m. Classes will stretch from 50 minutes today to as long as 1 hour, 8 minutes, depending upon the day. The lunch period will be 40 minutes, 10 minutes longer than this year.
“Teachers will have more time to focus on their material,” Manley said. “They can use that extra time to monitor, assess and reteach as necessary.”
New electives will be sprinkled into the schedule Monday through Thursday. Band will be available as a voluntary seventh period.
Trustees were quick to express support for the new schedule Thursday night.
Ray Prock Jr. was happy that the format is similar to the flexible model once used by the Denair Academic Avenues elementary charter school. Kathi Dunham-Filson was excited about the chance for students to take different electives.
The board voted 4-0 in favor of the schedule, with Trustee Sandi Dirkse absent. Because the plan requires changes in work conditions, the Denair Unified Teachers Association also must approve it before it can be implemented.