TAUNTON — Superintendent John Cabral and Principal Scott Holcomb are pleased to share that Taunton High School will implement a pilot class schedule at the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
The work to begin the process of adjusting the high school’s schedule began in 2018 following recommendations from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the school’s instructional leadership team. To assist with creating a revised schedule that aligned with the vision set forth by the THS mission statement, the school created a Schedule Committee, put out stakeholder engagement surveys and contracted the ABL Consulting Group to help with its development. The process also included input from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, expert consultants, curriculum supervisors, teaching faculty and administrators to assist with identifying key areas of improvement and key goals.
Prior to implementing the pilot schedule, the high school operated on a four-by-four block schedule for over 20 years. During those years, student enrollment increased from approximately 1,700 to 2,700 students, course selections increased from approximately 13,500 to over 21,500, Chapter 74 programs (vocational-technical education programs) and Advanced Placement programs offerings increased, and demographics largely changed.
Key academic concerns with the four-by-four block schedule included:
- Lack of continuity in core courses, including world languages, as there were large gaps between learning when classes were taken on a semester basis (i.e. English 1 during fall of freshmen year then English 2 in the spring of sophomore year) which in some cases resulted in a lack of preparedness for state testing.
- Only certain Advanced Placement courses were full-year (math and science) which raised concerns by teachers that semester-based courses could potentially be a factor in inadequately preparing students for exams.
- With the abundance of robust programs offered at the school, it became difficult to create schedules that allowed for students to be in the classes they wanted with class sizes that were small enough to offer personalized learning experiences. Limited physical space inside the school to house classes was also an issue.
- Students in eighth and ninth grade struggled with the transition from 50-minute blocks to 84-minute blocks.
- Not enough hours of instructions for Chapter 74 programs based on state requirements for funding.
With all of these factors in mind, it was determined that the four-by-four block no longer best suited the needs of the district and its students.
“After reviewing our old schedule, we identified the need to create a pilot schedule that would best facilitate teaching and learning in alignment with the district’s commitment to providing academic excellence to every student,” said Assistant Principal Kristen Keenan. “Our pilot schedule is the culmination of years of research and stakeholder engagement that we believe will better serve our students through addressing key areas of concern that existed in our previous schedule iteration.”
The pilot schedule will include six class periods a day, consisting of 57-minute courses, with math, English, science and social studies as year-long courses (with some exceptions at the high school level).
Students in ninth through twelfth grade will have the option to take AP, honors and college prep courses along with year-long and semester-based elective courses. This will coincide with Mass Core’s graduation requirements. Students will also be offered full-year CTE programs; performing, visual arts, business, industrial technology, JROTC classes and more. Class sizes will consist of approximately 24 students.
With the introduction of this pilot schedule, the school has also created eighth-grade academies which will assist in transitioning students into high school. All eighth-grade students will participate in the academies, which will feature common math, English, science and social studies teams with honors and college prep courses. In addition to these core courses, students will also experience several year-long or semester-based elective courses, which will help familiarize them with the high school learning experience. Class sizes will consist of approximately 20 students.
A key aspect of the eighth-grade academies is that students will be grouped into cohorts and these cohorts will travel together to their four core courses in the middle of the day between periods two through five. This will allow for core course teachers to work with one another during common planning time; provide structure for the students; and provide better communications between teachers and families regarding the progress of students.
With the introduction of this pilot schedule, Taunton High School will be able to:
- Build a stronger, more supported foundation for its youngest students through the creation of an eighth-grade academy.
- Provide deeper learning opportunities in core subjects with students taking math, English and science as year-long courses which will enhance long-term retention of knowledge and addresses the lack of continuity in learning.
- Increase focus on in-class supports, building on newly introduced evidenced-based curricular materials.
- Expand opportunities for students to pursue their interests through more time dedicated to their chosen pathways, time for dual enrollment coursework with local colleges and universities, and more time for work-based learning opportunities such as internships.
“I would like to recognize Assistant Principal Keenan for being a strong driving force and advocate of this schedule change all while keeping the best interests of our students at the forefront of this endeavor,” Principal Holcomb said. “I’d also like to acknowledge everyone else on the team who helped shepherd this pilot schedule as it was truly a team effort with support from the School Committee and Central Administration.”
The high school would like to thank the Superintendent of Schools, the School Committee and all the people on the central administration team and everyone else who contributed to this process.
“Our high school has completed its comprehensive process of revamping its schedule which included input from all stakeholders and the analysis of many different factors that would affect or be affected as a result of a schedule change,” Superintendent Cabral said. “Thanks to their diligent work, our high school will introduce a pilot schedule at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year that is in line with recognized best practices and that further supports our students’ pursuit of knowledge. I greatly look forward to witnessing all the great benefits this change will have on our students’ success.”