Two-thirds of Chicago’s 74 public high schools have broken out of the standard school day of seven 50-minute periods to add a full advisory period for freshmen and sophomores or create longer teaching periods in what is known as block scheduling.
Under its high school restructuring program, the Reform Board is mandating some sort of advisory for freshmen and sophomores as a way to help them with academic planning, career exploration and personal and social issues. In general, the aim is “to have a better relationship between adults and students at the school,” says project manager Gerod Walker.
The board is encouraging block scheduling to allow for more innovative teaching, integration of subjects such as science and math and closer relationships between teachers and students.
While state law allows the Reform Board to impose schedule changes, the board has abided by the Chicago Teachers Union contract, which requires a faculty vote to change the class schedule; a simple majority is required. Schedule changes were rejected at some schools in part because teachers believed they should receive extra compensation for a taking on a full-length advisory period. (See Catalyst/Chronicles, September, 1997.)
In a survey of high schools, Catalyst found a wide variety of schedules. Many schools adopted so-called A/B schedules, where three courses have double periods on one day and three other courses have double periods the next. Others adopted a 4-by-4 format, where several subjects meet for double periods every day, thus compressing yearlong courses into a single semester; at semester break, students switch courses.
Advisory variations included: Working advisory into new or expanded reading and language arts classes. Adding 10 or more minutes to the daily 10-minute division, or homeroom. Adding an extra period several days a week.
Here is a sample:
BOGAN Freshmen and sophomores have 4-by-4 schedules that combine English, social students and math one semester and science, computer science and foreign language the other. Classes meet for 104 minutes. A 24-minute advisory period is held every Monday.
DuSABLE Advisory is part of a daily 40-minute reading period. Other courses are on an A/B schedule with 90-minute periods.
FENGER The school maintained 50-minute periods but scheduled English and social studies back to back and science and math back to back to allow time-sharing between teachers. Freshmen and sophomores meet an extra period four days a week for advisory.
MANLEY has had A/B scheduling for years, with four 82-minute classes each day. It has daily 25-minute advisories. On Fridays, classes are dismissed two hours early so teachers can meet for planning and staff development.
NEAR NORTH The school had 100-minute classes but found them “too taxing for the students,” says Principal Faye Grays. Now, 92-minute periods form the basis for A/B scheduling for core courses four days a week. Other courses meet for 44 minutes. A 22-minute advisory period is held daily.