unedited Nov tahoe mt news story:
By Kathryn Reed
South Tahoe High’s 4x4 schedule seems to be less of a headache for all involved compared to the inaugural year.
For teachers, it is no longer a transition year. They know what it takes to teach what had been a year-long class in one term.
However, Carla Zezula, who teaches biology at the school, told the board last month that the 4x4 is still far from perfect. She wants the board and administrators to look into why fewer electives are being offered this year and why so many teachers are teaching during their prep period.
Students receive 85 minutes of instruction each day in the same subject, with four classes a day. Teachers teach three classes and are supposed to have a prep period each day.
The idea was to allow for more elective to be offered compared to the old block schedule. It means enough time for lab work to get completed, but not too much time to lose students’ attention.
Kids are coping better. For freshman and sophomores, it’s all they’ve ever known. Juniors now have more experience on this schedule that the previous one. It’s only the seniors who will have half their high school experience on this schedule and half on the other.
What the schedule will look like next year has not been determined. Principal Ivone Larson plans to survey staff, students and parents this fall to gauge how the 4x4 is working. She hopes for more input than she received in last school year’s survey.
On March 28 she went before the school board with those results. Only 95 of the 1,150 families, or 8 percent, bothered to respond – mostly negatively. Only 85 students out of 1,400, or 6 percent, commented – most were not satisfied with the 4x4 plan.
“It is so much smoother this year. I think people kind of get it and see the benefits,” Larson said. “Any schedule has pros and cons. Initially this was not my favorite schedule, but I’ve learned there is a lot to like about it. That surprised me.”
She hopes the board will decide before the winter holidays whether to keep the 4x4 schedule for next year and then make a three-year commitment to whatever they decide so a set calendar is in place.
The board has asked Larson to provide regular updates.
“It was brought to the board by staff at the high school. It was a staff driven proposal that they had researched,” said school board President Barbara Bannar of why the change was made. “Some tweaking was done (this year) to address issues brought up by parents and teachers.”
Even though senior Candace Prescott said it is hard missing consecutive classes during soccer season or when she’s sick, she likes the 4x4 schedule best.
“I think they should keep it. If it weren’t for the 4x4, I wouldn’t be graduating,” said senior Ruby Camacho. She didn’t do so well her first two years. The schedule change allowed her to make up classes.
Advanced placement classes have been a bone of contention because the tests are in May and it could have been months since a student learned the subject matter. To help with that, this year students are limited to two AP classes a term, though they can petition to take more.
The district will be analyzing how students do on AP tests based on which semester they took the class. The only evidence to date is 11th-grade AP English. Larson said test scores are similar between those who took the class last fall and in the spring.