New A/B Schedule & Marking Period Information

Hunterdon Central will begin operating under a new A/B schedule in September 2014.  The following information will be useful in understanding the new schedule and other changes affecting marking periods and exams.

 A/B Schedule:

In the new schedule, students will continue to meet in an 80-minute class.  Four classes will meet on "A" days, and four different classes on "B" days, for a total of eight classes throughout the school year.  

The amount of instructional time, passing time and lunch time each day will not change from our current schedule.  However, instead of completing a current semester class in 90 consecutive days, students will now have that class every other day for 180 days - or for the entire school year.  Instead of completing a current quarter class in 45 consecutive days, students will now have that class every other day for 90 days - or for half of the school year.

Exam Days and marking periods:

Because of this new A/B schedule, Hunterdon Central will be making changes to the current system of marking periods and exams. 

Our current system provides half days for mid-term and final exams, with two exams given on each exam day.  This resulted in a loss of 8 half-days or 4 full instructional days each school year. 

Beginning in September 2014, there will no longer be half days for mid-term or final exams. Instead, teachers will have the option of giving exams as in-class assessments during the regular class period, or extending the assessments over multiple class days.  Exam reflection will also be built into the instructional schedule, so that students benefit from reviewing their assessment results with their teacher while in that class.  We feel that this testing schedule will be the most beneficial to our students, and will make the best use of instructional time.

Please note:  teachers will have the option of choosing whether or not to give mid-term and final exams, but there will be consistency across each course. For example, if there are several teachers teaching Biology next year, all classes of Biology will have the same exam policy.


Additional Resources:

Hunterdon Central has created resources with additional  information on the A/B Block Schedule:

Please click to view the video: Central File: A/B Scheduling
This video features a discussion with Superintendent Christina Steffner and Interim Director of Curriculum John Fenimore.

Please click to view: A/B Schedule Presentation: Implications & Plans
This presentation was given at a Prinipal's Forum on June 11, 2014.

Please click to view: A/B Scheduling Student Power Point Presentation
This presentation was given at a meeting with students on October 3, 2013.

Please click to view:  A/B Scheduling Parent Power Point Presentation
This presentation was given at a meeting with parents on November 12, 2013.

Please click to view:  A/B Survey, Teacher-Student Summary, October 2014
This presentation was given at a Principal's Forum on October 21, 2014.

Email your questions:

 If you have any questions or concerns about the A/B Block Schedule, please email:

ABschedule@hcrhs.org

You will receive a reply to your email, and we will also post the information on this webpage, to share the question and answer with other parents. 

The FAQ, below, provides answers to commonly asked questions about the A/B Block Schedule.  Please click on each question to view the answer.

 

FAQ

Q

Why is Hunterdon Central considering changing from its current schedule to an A/B block schedule?

A

The current semester block schedule has offered numerous benefits since it was adopted in 1996. However, the evolution of public school instruction continues, and the district has discovered that what worked a generation ago is no longer as effective today. For example, our current schedule contains instructional gaps, such as when a student takes a course in the fall of one school year, and takes the next sequence of study in the spring of the next school year. Also, students and teachers have reported that the rapid pace required to cover course material in 45 days (for a quarter course) and 90 days (for a semester course) has resulted in increased stress and an increased volume of daily and overnight work. The majority of course offerings in our current semester block are not semester courses at all. In fact, 55% of courses are NOT semester courses, and fully 38% of courses are nine-week courses. Finally, the current schedule makes it more difficult for students to be scheduled into their requests and creates a high number of conflicts for some students.

Q

If students find it stressful to take four classes each semester, won’t taking seven or eight classes be more stressful?

A

Because of the large number of quarter courses in the current schedule, many students actually have more than four courses per semester. Students have reported that the stress they feel is due to the compression of time in a course and the teachers’ pressure to keep moving forward due to time constraints, regardless of whether students fully grasp the material. With longer time spent with the same teacher in the same course, the stress level will decrease.

Q

Were students asked what they thought about changing the schedule?

A

Students were consulted and involved at every step of the multi-year process. Students were represented on the School Schedule Task Force, a committee that was put in place several years ago to examine the scheduling issue. Students were also invited to principal luncheon meetings, superintendent meetings, and served on various other committees. Teachers, supervisors, and students themselves have all reported on issues regarding our current schedule, such as pace, stress, amount of overnight work, and lack of timely and constructive feedback from teachers.

Q

Since the current semester block permits doubling up classes, how will the A/B block allow students to take all desired course work in a particular subject?

A

Data indicates that doubling up occurs most often in Math, World Languages and, to a lesser degree, Science. Doubling up rarely occurs in the other areas of study. The District recognizes that students already enrolled have made plans based on their ability to double up. Therefore, a plan is being devised to address this concern, so that students may still reach the highest level of study in a particular subject. Future students will still be able to reach the highest levels of study in every content area and, at the same time, will have more opportunities to experience the many different courses that Hunterdon Central offers.

Q

Won’t the A/B schedule decrease the variety of classes that a student can take?

A

No. The new schedule is expected to increase the options and variety of courses that a student can take. The District has run sample schedules that showed greater opportunities for students to take more types of classes under the A/B scheduling.

Q

By teaching twice as many classes with twice the number of students, how will teachers give the time and attention students need to be successful?

A

In the current schedule, many of our teachers see large numbers of students over the course of the year; some see over 300. Teachers have reported that the current schedule does not provide an optimal opportunity to get to know their students and determine the growth of student learning. In the new schedule, the number of students each teacher sees will be more equally distributed. Also, research has shown that students are able to achieve more the longer they stay with the same teacher.

Q

What will happen to quarter courses?

A

Quarter courses will become semester-long courses, or will be combined with other quarter courses and become year-long courses. Student preferences for quarter courses will determine what courses will run, which is what occurs in our current schedule.

Q

Colleges teach courses in semesters, so doesn’t the current semester block better prepare students for college?

A

Some colleges teach in trimesters, and while it is true that college courses often last for a semester, no college has students attending the same classes every day for a semester.

Q

Will a new schedule cause grades to drop?

A

According to our discussions with school districts that have moved to an A/B schedule, no drop in student grades has occurred. Student achievement on standardized tests has either stayed the same or improved.

Q

Is having an A/B day confusing to students, in terms of knowing which classes occur on what days?

A

Based on our site visits and on discussions with current staff members who have worked in other districts, confusion about what day is not an issue. Announcements and signs will be available to assist students during the transition, and the "A" or "B" day designation is made each morning on daily announcements, which are televised in every classroom.

Q

Will having a class every other day negatively affect a student's ability to retain what he/she has learned?

A

Teachers have reported and research has shown that retention of knowledge is not negatively impacted by having a class every other day for the entire year. On the other hand, a greater instructional and achievement gap occurs when students have a long gap between instruction, such as when taking a course during the spring of one year, and not studying that subject until spring of the following school year, as frequently occurs with our current schedule.

Q

Will a change in schedule impact tutorial in any way?

A

No. Tutorial will remain three times each week, just as it is now. Based on the tutorial data the district has collected, there will be no impact.

Q

Will a change in schedule impact unit lunch in any way?

A

No. Students and staff are very pleased with unit lunch and there will be no change.

Q

Will a change in schedule impact student activities in any way?

A

No change is anticipated. A wide variety of activities will continue to be offered, as they are now.

Q

Isn’t going to an A/B schedule a huge step backward for Hunterdon Central?

A

While the District was ahead of the curve eighteen years ago, when the semester block schedule was first adopted, recent investigation has established that within our District Factor Group and current Peer Group, Hunterdon Central is now the only school still using a semester block. In recent years, none of the schools who visited Hunterdon Central to investigate a semester block chose to adopt our version of the block. Instead, they selected a form of rotating block schedule, which provided year-long exposure to a course while retaining an 80 minute class period. In discussion with these districts, the determining factor in their decision was the ability to provide both a longer instructional period each day and a long duration of exposure to the course. After extensive research, site visits and discussions with other school districts, staff, students and parents, we believe that moving to an A/B rotating block schedule is in the best interests of our students.

Q

How will the A/B schedule impact homework- if a student is taking twice as many classes, won’t there be twice as much homework?

A

No, because the amount of homework in each semester class will be stretched out over the entire year, rather than just over a semester. Quarter classes, instead of completing assignments in just nine weeks, will now have eighteen weeks of time to complete the same amount of work. Beyond this, however, the district has been taking a very close look at homework practice. For example, we have had teachers give students a set amount of time during class to work on a homework assignment so that teachers can calibrate how long it actually takes a student to complete the work in a non-distracted setting. In addition, we have set goals that feedback to students on all class assignments be timely, correct and constructive. Supervisors are looking closely at work assigned out of class; if work is being assigned that is not effective or formative, in other words “busy work,” that practice stops.

Q

How will the change to the A/B Block Schedule impact a student already enrolled at Hunterdon Central who has made course selections based on the current semester block schedule?

A

It should not have a major impact. The district has looked at the areas where students traditionally “double up” and is creating hybrid schedules for those students already enrolled, so they can continue to take the courses they were planning on taking. In some cases, courses will be merged , so that students can get to the course level they planned on achieving. We will continue to look at course subscriptions as registration for next year begins, and track where those hybrid courses might be needed. We expect many fewer gaps to occur in the transition to the A/B Block Schedule than we experienced when we moved from a traditional schedule to the semester block 18 years ago.