Don’t Give Up on Advisory Period

Our reaction to the announcement late last week from San Benito
High School administrators that the school will be changing its
class schedule
– yet again – midway through the current academic year is
something of a mixed bag
Our reaction to the announcement late last week from San Benito High School administrators that the school will be changing its class schedule – yet again – midway through the current academic year is something of a mixed bag

We’re pleased, of course, that the latest schedule change will effectively resolve two unfair labor practice cases brought against the district by the teachers union. But we’re concerned that something of real value to students is being lost, at least for now.

The class schedule in use this semester at the high school is an alternating “block” schedule. On Mondays, students spend an hour in each of their six classes. The rest of the week, they have three two-hour blocks of class time, with courses alternating daily, plus a 40-minute “Baler Connections” advisory period.

Studies have shown that the longer classes are an especially good fit for science labs and other courses where setup and cleanup can eat into learning time.

The advisory period serves many purposes – it’s a time, for example, when students can see counselors, study or get extra tutoring without missing other classes – but it’s especially intended as an opportunity for students and teachers to build stronger individual relationships over the course of the year.

At a school as big as 2,800-student San Benito High, this extra bit of individual attention can help keep kids from getting lost in the crowd.

The problem with this year’s schedule is that the district didn’t get the teachers union’s formal OK before implementing it.

That led to the filing of a second unfair labor practice charge against the school district by the union, which a year earlier had filed a similar charge when the district switched from a six-period school day to a seven-period day. (The new schedules changed teacher working conditions, which are spelled out in their contract with the district. This year, for example, the class schedule effectively required teachers to work longer days without any additional compensation.)

For all the legal squabbling between the union and the district, there does seem to be a general agreement that the schedule now in use at the school – especially the advisory period component – is a good one. Students, teachers and administrators all say the advisory period is working as intended, especially for younger students just beginning to build connections with teachers.

“I know a lot of my advisory period students have said they’re sorry they won’t see me all the time,” said teachers union president Chuck Schallhorn.

Principal Debbie Padilla noted that the overall student grade point average has improved this year. “So we want to work on incorporating some of the ideas or parts of the advisory that work into the new schedule,” Padilla said.

That’s an excellent idea.

While San Benito High will return next semester to the six-period schedule last used two years ago, we have a hunch some tweaking might occur before next school year.

If that happens, every effort should be made to bring an advisory period into the school schedule. And let’s be sure that the contract between the school district and its teachers is likewise changed to allow the high school to use a schedule that’s built for the benefit for students.

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