Mount Pleasant school officials are in the process of switching to a block schedule next year for Westlake High School and have also proposed an optional diploma program for the future.
Principal Keith Schenker told the Mount Pleasant Board of Education on Oct. 10 that the new scheduling format is needed to better prepare students for college and the 21st century workforce.
Preparations have begun for the new schedule, which will start next September, Schenker said. Class periods are longer but subjects are taken by students on alternating days.
“It’s not going to be 80 minutes of lecture,” said Schenker, who added that it would help students “to be college and career ready.” Among the advantages of the longer periods is that it affords students the chance to work together in small groups for certain portions of the class or on certain projects.
Schenker said the school will experiment with the block schedule for four days in February. He conceded there will be an adjustment period.
Board of Education President James Grieco said he liked the new schedule, but that parents should be more actively involved with school officials, especially if they have concerns or questions. Several forums have already been held to discuss the new schedule but few parents have attended, he said. There will be more informational sessions held in the months ahead.
“This place should be packed,” he said.
Schenker also proposed that officials consider introducing International Baccalaureate, a Swiss-based program that would offer an optional diploma for students. Requirements for students to obtain the diploma are writing a 4,000-word research-based essay; “expanded learning” opportunities, including participation in school clubs, sports and community service; and completion of the IB Theory of Knowledge class. It takes two years to complete the program and many colleges accept an IB diploma, Schenker said.
Schenker helped bring the program to the Glen Cove School District, where he worked previously. School officials would need to complete a lengthy formal application process before it can be launched in a school, he said. In Glen Cove, it cost $70,000 over four years to begin the program, Schenker said.
Superintendent Dr. Susan Guiney said if International Baccalaureate was brought to Westlake all of the school’s students would have an opportunity to participate.
Schenker also reported last week that there has been considerable progress made at the high school in standardized test scores, including Advanced Placement exam results. In 2009-10, 149 Westlake High School students sat for 248 AP exams, with a school average of 2.95. In 2010-11, 156 students took 260 AP exams, compiling a 3.02 average. Last year, 159 students took 293 AP exams, with the school average coming in at 3.10. The scores are based on a 1 to 5 system.
“(The) trend is scores continue to go up,” Schenker said.
Trustee Laurie Donato, who has two children attending the high school, said she appreciated that students are being encouraged to take more challenging courses in recent years.
“I see the difference,’ Donato said.
Filed Under: The Examiner