Feedback from Ft Dodge and Grinnell

We asked questions to both Fort Dodge and Grinnell on their schedule changes and the observed results.

What do you see as the advantages?  What do you like about the schedule?

Fort Dodge: 

The students had more room for electives and the number of options was varied.  Electives were based on what students wanted. Students in electives are there to deepen their understanding of content rather than attending for graduation requirements.  Freshman year was focused on preparing students for academic success and having time for that built into the schedule.  


Grinnell:

It allows for more flexibility in scheduling.  Works well with the junior college.  It also allows more time for science labs, building relationships with students, and band/choir.


What do you see as the disadvantages?  What did you not like about it?


Fort Dodge: 

Not a lot of comments about disadvantages.  For PE the rotation could prevent a student from being in PE for up to four trimesters.  With more electives comes a potential for additional preps. Decrease in contact time for students in traditionally year long (2 semester) courses. 


Grinnell:

Modified the schedule to meet the needs of the students and curriculum, if necessary.  PE could possibly meet with a student 1st trimester of the freshmen year and not see them again until the 3rd trimester of the sophomore year.  There are some teachers that teach 5 periods and they could all be different preps.



How does the trimester impact academic eligibility?  


Grinnell:

Grinnell runs the report after each trimester.  They didn’t make it sound like it had caused a major concern from students, staff or parents.


How difficult was it to make the adjustment to shorter terms?  


Fort Dodge: 

Special Education saw no difference.  It was an adjustment to look at the curriculum and determine what is necessary for all students.  Electives allow for students to gain a deeper understanding of areas of strength.  


Grinnell:

Grinnell has been on a trimester schedule for 15 years.  The few that were teaching at the time indicated it is a shift in the approach to what they taught.  They had to come up with the essential learnings, but then the time allowed them to build relationships with students to extend the learning.


How long are the terms?  


Fort Dodge: 

60 days 


Grinnell:

same


How long are the periods?


Fort Dodge: 

60 days 


Grinnell:

same


How have you structured the core classes to fit with the 120 day time period? 


Fort Dodge: 

Freshman and sophomores Humanities (9) and American Studies (10) classes are all year.  Students receive a ½ credit per trimester for English and Social Studies. Integrated science (9)—Earth and Sky, Physics, and Chemistry, is a year-long course for all freshman.  Other teachers evaluated the content to insure the core standards were taught to students.  


Grinnell:

We have freshmen ELA and Math all year.  We offer AP all year.  When we made the shift, we really focused on what we were teaching and it works.


What about AP classes knowing the assessment is in the third trimester but not after it?  


Fort Dodge: 

All AP classes are online and students are scheduled for the class all year.  


Grinnell:

We offer AP courses in all the core areas.  These are the only weighted classes.


How are college classes handled?  In the building?  On the college campus?   


Fort Dodge: 

Most classes are onsite.  Fort Dodge offers 39 college classes between on site and on campus.  They have several teachers that offer college classes.  (A few retired teachers come back and teach one class.)  


Grinnell:

We have students that attend at the high school in the morning and then the junior college in the afternoon.  We offer some courses online, and on our campus.  We also have an advanced scholars program that we offer with Grinnell College.


What types of electives does your school offer?  


Fort Dodge: 

There are several copies of the course guide available in the office.  Some of the  electives include forensic science, genre specific literature electives, film literature, astronomy, anatomy, anthropology, meteorology, botany, advanced music theory, understanding social systems, several levels of US History, issues in American affairs, ethnic studies.  


Grinnell:

The course guide book is in the office.


How many students take more than the required number of core classes?  


Fort Dodge: 

Most students graduate with more than 52 credits.  


Grinnell:

Students graduate with 53 credits.  Several take 60-70 credits.  They also offer a core diploma—the required plus 11 electives.


What are your graduation requirements and how does that work in your scheduling system?  


Fort Dodge: 

52 credits.  They do not have problem scheduling the courses.  Students have more leeway in what courses they can take to meet the required courses.  


Grinnell:

Students graduate with 53 credits.  Several take 60-70 credits.  They also offer a core diploma—the required plus 11 electives.


How strong are your fine arts programs? 


Fort Dodge: 

Fort Dodge offers more choirs and more music electives.  Fort Dodge has three art teachers. They don’t hear students saying I can’t take your class because I need “_____” class.  


Grinnell:

Very strong fine arts program.  Band and choir meet with their students all year.


How strong are your career and technical programs? 


Fort Dodge: 

“Our vocational programs are very strong.”


How strong are your academic programs?  What are the enrollments in core courses which are not required?  How many students are taking more than are required in core areas?   


Fort Dodge: 

Social studies and science each had 6 different electives in one trimester.  In math there were 4 different courses.  


Grinnell:

Strong academics, several students graduating with 60+ credits.


How is physical education addressed?  


Fort Dodge: 

Lots of different electives—see the course guide.  


Grinnell:

Variety of PE options, see course guide.


How are parent teacher conferences addressed?  


Grinnell:

Tried a variety of options, since grades went online, not many parents attend.


How much “content” are you “covering” as compared to another school on a more traditional schedule?  


Fort Dodge: 

It is not that they are covering the same content, they have a new curriculum (humanities). 


Grinnell:

Many have not taught in a traditional schedule for years.  Students are performing well on assessments.


Do you feel you are adequately preparing students in the core areas under your current system?  


Fort Dodge: 

They are going above and beyond for making sure students are leaving with adequate skills and knowledge of the core.  The motto they have is “You can’t just come to school.  You are here to learn and we will help you.”  In addition, Fort Dodge also has a number of career programs and college programs that students can take advantage of on the campus and in the community.  


Grinnell:

Yes, if we need to make changes to the schedule in what we offer and how we offer it to help students be successful, we can change things.

Additional Information

One other thing that I thought was very powerful for Fort Dodge was their social programs. This was apparent in many ways but especially in their mental health counselor they had coming on a regular basis, their counseling set up (an at risk coordinator would be very helpful for the RTI process) and in their system to recover credits.


It is not just being placed into the same class again and hoping for more success the second (or third or fourth) time but they had teachers performing guided instruction to reinforce or fix gaps in the initial learning.


Their system:


Alg1 S1 Student gets: 

65% or better -----> to Alg1 S2

60%-65% -------> Alg1 S2 and refresher course on material from S1

50%-59% -------> Alg1 S2 and component recovery for failed units

49% or lower ------> Alg1 S1 rehashed with a math teacher, special education teacher and a teacher's aide to help cover the content in a new way.


This could be great for all of our core classes to have this set up.



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