Spring...a time in the realm of public school education that is better known as the roller coaster ride. It's a wild ride after spring break! In the midst of year-end assessments, award assemblies, and IEP meetings looms something that keeps many school administrators up at night...the master schedule!
For some, it is a spreadsheet. For others, it's a series of sticky notes on a white board. For me, it's a board filled with magnets of different colors. I'm kind of crazy that way. I sincerely enjoy working to solve the very intricate puzzle/house of cards that makes up the schedule in our building. Someday, I'm going to teach a class on master schedule construction. Regardless of what your method of master schedule instruction looks like, here are a few points to consider as you construct the schedule for your own building.
Does your schedule line up with your school improvement plan?
- What are your building's goals? Does the current structure of the schedule support those goals, or does it hinder them? For example: If you want to promote the effective use of the PLC framework, do your teachers have opportunities to plan together during the school day? Do your exceptional education teachers get to plan with teachers they collaborate with?
- When thinking about exceptional students, don't forget to take into consideration those students who are in gifted or honors-level classes. Is a student enrolled in Algebra 1 also able to take Earth Science if they want to? On the flip side, is a student able to take self-contained english and collaborative social studies while being able to get their first-choice elective? I'm not saying you should be able to honor every student's course request, but you should construct a schedule which would enable you to accommodate most of them.
- When I first started creating a master schedule for this school year, I was pretty proud of myself that things were coming together so easily. Then I started to take a closer look. While the schedule looked like it was going to work, things were going to be difficult for the teachers; especially for those teaching more than one subject/level. The way the schedule was originally set up would have required teachers to teach multiple sections on any given day. By moving around some sections, I was able to construct schedules which more or less had teachers teaching the same course back-to-back, or one section on one day, and another section on another day.
- On another note, don't leave your teachers in the dark about the scheduling process. Talk with them about the process. Answer their questions. Get their opinion on possible scheduling scenarios. It's likely in this day and age the teachers in your building have been there longer than you have, and have seen things done several different ways.
In the end, make sure your master schedule is what's best for kids. If it doesn't work for your students, it won't matter how pretty it looks. It's simply not going to work in the long run. That being said, don't be afraid to get creative as you construct your schedule. Just remember to be transparent about your process.