Chapter 9 of Creative Scheduling for Diverse Populations in Middle and High School: Maximizing Opportunities for Learning by Elliot Y. Merenbloom and Barbara A. Kalina presents a detailed explanation for building a high school schedule. In the book, numerous tables appear to illustrate the following steps in detail. Student course requests drive this model.
Step 1: Connect with your mission/vision statement
- Review statement.
- Use as standard in making schedule decisions.
Step 2: Choose structural frameworks
- Fixed frameworks keep entire school on same timetable.
- Variable frameworks or subsets allow teachers to make decisions about time.
Step 3: Create bell and lunch schedules
- Structural frameworks impact bell and lunch schedules.
- Lunch can vary in time.
- Teachers’ contract may determine lunch length.
Step 4: Formulate program of studies
- List courses offered by department.
- Schools with magnets need to specify courses for each pathway.
- Specific courses are possible for freshman academy.
Step 5: Develop student registration materials
- Registration materials reflect structural frameworks.
- Students may choose courses on-line.
- Course pre-requisites are identified.
Step 6: Establish student database
- Database becomes the foundation for decisions about courses to be offered, number of course sections, and number of teachers in departments.
- Database becomes a dynamic document that is consistently updated throughout remainder of school year and summer.
Step 7: Project enrollment
- Allocation of teachers is based on tentative enrollment figure for next school year.
- Projected enrollment reflects new entrants, withdrawals, and retentions.
- Available staff is equitably distributed based on course requests.
Step 8: Decide composition of houses, magnets, or academies
- Early assignment of small learning community teachers allows for scheduling of common plan time.
- Small learning community teachers share the same students.
- A specific house or SLC control number assigns students to the same teachers to maintain the integrity of SLC.
- Students receive individualized schedules.
Step 9: Create department summaries
- Student course requests become the basis for equitable distribution of available staff.
- When summaries are continually updated, they become a significant managerial tool to develop and modify the school schedule.
- Teachers’ contracts impact staff needed.
Step 10: Distribute available FTEs (full time equivalent)
- Equitable distribution of staff is determined by department summaries.
- Number of sections within a department may need modification to stay within allotted staff.
- Reductions or increases in courses impact FTE needed by a department.
Step 11: Categorize teacher assignments
- The teacher assignment list forms the basis of the master schedule.
- When FTE numbers in departments are firm, specific teacher responsibilities can be listed.
- Teachers with SLC responsibility must be placed on the schedule first.
- Every position must be justified and clearly defined.
Step 12: Develop a blueprint for small learning communities
- Preliminary plan determines when students are in SLCs or in electives.
- Requested electives should not result in freshman academy tracking.
- Certain singleton courses should be available to students in any house or academy.
Step 13: List singletons, doubletons, and tripletons.
- Review department summaries to determine number of sections for each course.
- Singleton is a course with one section; doubleton is a course with two sections.
- Larger schools may have tripletons, a course with three sections.
- The distribution of singletons, doubletons, and tripletons over the school day increases the possibility of students receiving their first requests.
- This process is crucial for all structural frameworks.
Step 14: Formulate conflict matrix for singletons, doubletons, and tripletons.
- Conflict implies that two courses requested by a student are scheduled at the same time.
- Conflict matrix analyzes patterns of student requests rather than a tally of the number of course requests.
- Creation of schedule should allow greatest number of students to receive first choices.
- As a fundamental process in creating the schedule, a matrix should be created for each singleton, doubleton, and tripleton before building the schedule.
Step 15: Place singletons, doubletons, and tripletons on master schedule by teacher and by period.
- Small learning community assignments are placed before singletons, doubletons, and tripletons.
- Conflict matrix data become the basis for placing singletons, doubletons, and tripletons.
Step 16: Enter remainder of courses.
- Teacher assignment chart determines the placement of remaining courses.
- An equal number of sections or seats should be entered each period, especially for grades 9 and 10.
Step 17: Initial and subsequent computer runs
- First computer run occurs after all courses are entered.
- Course requests are weighted to allow students’ with singletons and special course requests to be placed first.
- First run results should be analyzed in terms of incomplete student schedules and sections that did not fill to the indicated capacity.
- After schedule modifications, a second run occurs.
- Repeat the process until the greatest number of students is fully scheduled. Ideally, the percentage of students fully scheduled should approximate 90%.
- Students with incomplete schedules meet with a counselor or administrator to provide alternatives where seats are available.
- Prior to the first day of school, complete schedules should be available for 100% of the student population.
Step 18: Implement professional development
- Training in the implementation of the schedule provides teachers with ownership.
- The frameworks chosen impact the details of the professional development program.
- Professional development must be an ongoing process.
This scheduling process features a step-by-step model to create a schedule that honors student course requests and focuses on raising student achievement. When students receive guidance in making course requests, the schools are effective in providing students with career and college readiness experiences.
Schools requesting support in implementing this model may consult the authors.