Master schedules are key to achieving the true potential of the middle level concept. Schedules are a means to an end – enhancing achievement for early adolescent students. This quick guide will provide middle level leadership teams with key points to create a state-of-the-art master schedule.
Step 1: Connect with the mission/vision statement of the school or district
- Review statement; update if necessary.
- Use when making scheduling decisions.
Step 2: Provide the three tiers of RtI or MTSS
- Tier I is the responsibility of every classroom teacher and enhanced when the schedule contains extended time periods.
- Tier II occurs in the Flex/Advisory/Intervention period (FAI) coordinated by the teaching team with the assistance of available resource personnel.
- Tier III provides intensive support and may occur during the exploratory/elective portion of the schedule or during the FAI period.
Step 3: Select a primary framework
- Typically, middle level schools are organized as a traditional 7, 8 or 9-period day (including lunch).
- Some schools are organized on a day1/day2 basis which is built as an 8-period schedule excluding lunch. Students have four 80-90-minute classes daily.
- Recently, schools desiring to offer a double mathematics period select a 5 x 5 variation of day 1/day 2. Each period is 70-72 minutes daily.
Step 4: Select inserts for the primary framework
- Inserts include interdisciplinary, single subject, combination and exploratory teams.
- Inserts set the stage for flexibility.
- Any insert can occur in any of the primary frameworks.
Step 5: Create bell/lunch schedule
- Primary framework impacts bell/lunch schedule.
- Lunch and passing time can vary in length.
- Length of FAI can vary.
- Teachers’ contract may determine length of the lunch period.
- Modular lunch should be considered.
Step 6: Formulate program of studies
- Core portion typically includes reading/language arts, social studies, mathematics and science. In some cases, world language and STEM are included.
- Exploratory/elective section of the schedule may include physical education, art, world language, music, technology and family & consumer sciences. Often student support for special education and ELL is provided as needed during this portion of the schedule.
Step 7: Project enrollment
- Core team structures are dependent upon the projected enrollment and number of teaching sections to be created at each grade level.
- Special/diverse populations should be figured into the equation.
Step 8: Decide team composition
- Options range from 2-6 teacher teams.
- Exploratory/elective teachers can be organized as teams as well.
- Schedule should provide the least restrictive environment for special needs students.
Step 9: Design course selection/registration worksheet
- Selections could be made online or hard copy.
- Where appropriate, indicate levels of reading/language arts, mathematics and world language; electives desired; levels of special education; and placement for ELL.
- Data base is needed as prerequisite to construct actual schedule.
Step 10: Develop a blueprint
- Blueprint guides actual schedule construction.
- Specific sections are identified: core, exploratory/elective, FAI and lunch.
- Consecutive core periods set the stage for flexibility including extended time instruction.
- Opportunities for common planning time are created when students are assigned to exploratory/elective courses.
- FAI periods should be spread to maximize utilization of resource personnel.
Step 11: Assemble grid of teachers’ assignments
- Grid contains columns for team, teacher name, subject(s) and the number of periods in the school day. Traditional schedule typically has 8-11 columns; 4 x 4 version of day 1/day2 has 8-11 columns; 5 x 5 version of day 1/day2 has 13 columns.
- Middle level teachers are listed by team (including special education and ELL teachers assigned to that team) followed by exploratory/elective teachers listed by department.
- Core teachers receive team planning and personal planning periods when students are scheduled for exploratory/elective classes.
- Actual master schedule is developed with course number and section number for each assignment of that teacher.
Step 12: Utilize school/district software package to assign a schedule for each student
- Data base contains course requests for each student.
- Teacher assignments are encoded (course number and section number).
- Software program produces an individualized student schedule.
- As necessary, several iterations or runs of the master schedule may be needed to balance class size and honor all course requests.
Step 13: Orchestrate professional development
- Teacher ownership of the schedule arises from focused training.
- Chosen frameworks impact details of the professional development program.
- Training should include role and function of a team, appropriate teaching strategies for early adolescent students, teaching in extended time modules, and implementing/sustaining FAI.
- Professional development must be on-going.
In this step-by-step approach, school administrators, classroom teachers, counselors and district-level personnel can collaborate to set the stage for a creative teaching/learning environment geared to best meet the needs of early adolescent students. Each step is critical in creating a state-of-the-art middle level schedule.