Mountain View adapts to new schedule — Discussions on changes to the restructuring plan schedule for 2012-2013 will continue

Zachary Clark, left, takes notes during Luke Grunberg
Zachary Clark, left, takes notes during Luke Grunberg's algebra class Dec. 15. Because of the implementation of Mountain View Middle School restructuring plan, there is more class time for math and language arts this school year.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka

Last school year Luke Grunberg, a math teacher at Mountain View Middle School, had 50 minutes of class time a day to teach his students. This school year — due to the school’s restructuring — he has 98 minutes.

“I love it. It’s allowed us additional time to teach the curriculum, which was not designed for 50 minutes,” said Grunberg last Wednesday.

Because students at Bremerton School District’s only middle school — which is a Title I school meaning it has a large low-income population — failed to meet state minimums for reading and math multiple years in a row, was required to submit a school restructuring plan to the state for approval and implement it during the 2011-2012 school year.

The plan includes a new schedule at the middle school, which creates longer class times for all students in math and language arts. It’s done by blocking two periods together while the other classes remain at one period. The schedule also allows a period of time for students to take an elective class such as orchestra or band, but if a student is struggling in math or reading, the student will take a remedial class rather than an elective.

Administrators and parents note that the new schedule helps provide more lessons in the areas — math and reading — that students’ state scores showed they were struggling in, but the fact that not all students can now take an elective class is a concern for some.

“It’s a work in progress. There’s opportunity to improve,” said Ivaly Alexander. Her daughter is in eighth grade at Mountain View.

Alexander said the new schedule is “good” in the sense that there is now time to deliver the curriculum and explore additional activities but that she and some other parents think it is also important for all students to be able to take an elective class.

“My advocacy is for every child to have an elective. It’s part of a well-rounded education,” she said. “Often times a reason to stay in school is because of the elective. It’s exploratory time.”

Last school year, every student at Mountain View was able to take an elective class. But, because class time in math and language arts were shorter than they are this year, an extra period was inserted into the schedule for struggling students to get additional help. For students who were testing to grade level and didn’t need extra help, they were in an enrichment class, said principal Michaeleen Gelhaus.

“Nothing’s perfect but we always have the children and parents first in our mind,” said Gelhaus.

There are 927 students at the middle school and 230 of them are not taking an elective. Instead they are in the extra support class. Gelhaus said parents have the option to opt their child out of the extra reading and math help so an elective can be taken.

Fewer than 30 students’ parents have signed waivers allowing them to opt out of the support class. At the school, about 61 percent of students are on free or reduced lunch.

The district was notified by the state at the start of last school year that Mountain View had failed Adequate Yearly Progress, a rating of the Bush era No Child Left Behind Act, for the seventh consecutive year. Adequate Yearly Progress is the state’s system to measure schools and districts’ achievement in math and reading as required by no Child Left Behind.

Many Bremerton School Board meetings discussed the restructuring plan as well as public meetings with parents, faculty and staff last year. Another scheduling option then considered included meshing language arts and social studies together in one period, which would free up a period for all students to be able to take an elective, but some teachers were concerned that the social studies portion would get lost in the mix.

Alexander and another parent, Carrie Bassett, expressed at a recent school board meeting that they thought the schedule that was agreed upon was one where all students would be given an opportunity to take an elective. They added that they feel a disconnect in communication from the district level.

School board member Scott Rahm said it was his understanding that not all students would have an elective class this school year. Not speaking for the entire board, he said the primary focus of restructuring is to bring students below or not at the state requirements, to be given additional time in math and language arts.

“It’s always an ongoing process to communicate better,” Rahm said. “If you’re making a major shift, there are going to be issues.”

Although having more time for math and language arts is being received positively by many teachers and parents, there are still some issues with the scheduling, according to some — and it’s not merely the fact that all students are not enrolled in an elective.  It’s the effects of not all students taking an elective class.

Gelhaus said there are some elective classes with fewer students enrolled in them than last school year. It isn’t to the point where she has had to combine any elective classes together or eliminate them, but it is something that will have to be looked at. Another factor that some of the electives, like choir, may have fewer students is because a leadership class and a world drums class were new electives added to the list this school year.

No major changes will be made to Mountain View this school year.

Any tweaks that would be made for the second semester would be minor, said district spokeswoman Patty Glaser.

Linda Sullivan-Dudzic, the district’s special programs director, said the district will be discussing with the middle school where changes in the schedule need to be made next school year.

Having an elective for all won’t be put on the back-burner.

“That would be the goal,” Sullivan-Dudzic said. “In order to do that, we have some work to do.”

Around February or March, the district will have meetings for the community to discuss any changes and possible new sample schedules, Sullivan-Dudzic said. Bremerton High School is also in the process of creating a restructuring plan to implement next school year for failing AYP multiple years.

Everyone is in support to get all students achieving, but sometimes how to go about it is difficult to agree upon. And, no one’s ready to give up.

“The school and teachers are exceptional,” said Tucker. “I wouldn’t consider going somewhere else for an education.”

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