Open Forum FAQ

Trimester Schedule Open Forum

Unanswered questions:

·          How would change affect the teachers?

o   Some have indicated that it would really help their program while other have concerns about covering all of the curriculum.

·         What are teachers feelings on the subject?

·         What’s the general consensus of your staff – yes or no

o   When polled, over 70% indicated that they are in favor of the move. More than half of those were ready to implement next year (2016-2017). We decided to postpone implementation a year to allow time for curriculum reviews and professional development around the changes.

·         Will taking a study hall greatly impact the credit opportunities?

o   Taking a study hall would reduce the credit opportunities by three per year reducing them from 18 to 15 per year

·         How easy will it be for BHS trimester credits to transfer to other school districts if necessary?

·         What if you transfer to another school that does not have the same system.

o   Since this is actually a three semester system(which is different than how it is arranged in a 3x7 trimester), students will earn a credit each term for each class. This means that in the first 12 weeks of school they will have their transcript updated. If they leave after first term is over, they will be able to make a smooth transition into the new schedule system since they have already completed 5-6 classes. They would already be prepared to begin the second semester of a traditional schedule.  If they transfer prior to the end of first term, they are still in good shape because they will move to the next school being slightly ahead of students under a traditional schedule for first semester.

·         Is there a new curriculum being looked at or just intensifying the current curriculum?

o   It is our intent to continually improve our curriculum. There would be new courses developed to approach the concepts and skills in a different manner over the course of the next several years. We would also modify existing courses to account for the shift of instructional time by selecting the essential skills and concepts and what is good but non-essential content.

·         What/who/how is it determined if a trimester of core (math, science) classes are taken?

o   Any class that is currently two semesters would be two semesters under the 3x6 schedule. That being said, a recommendation has been made to have students take two semesters of either geometry or algebra their freshman year and also take an additional semester of math concepts that are in the Common Core but not currently addressed in a typical student’s program of study.  One such concept would be statistics which only a few of our students are currently exposed to in their required coursework.

o   In Science the same would be true.  A semester of basic chemistry, a semester of basic physics which are currently in place as well as a semester that would cover earth, space, ecology etc. that are currently only being addressed in electives.

o   There is also a recommendation that due to the emphasis on Biology Concepts in the Next Generation Science Standards, a third semester of biology might need to be required of students.

·         What are the failure rates with a trimester schedule?

o"That depends entirely on the school. One of the advantages to the 3x6 is students who failed the first trimester of a course have the opportunity to retake the 1st trimester right away, instead of being put in the second semester of the course without the foundation with which to build. It also allows the flexibility to target intense instruction to build the foundation in the first trimester and initiate the student in the core learning the second and third trimester if the data warrants."·         

What percentage of freshman are already failing before they come in to BHS?

o   There are also a high number of students failing classes at the middle school as this is a systemic problem, but we have very few students who drop from school at that level. High School is an opportunity to start fresh and an opportunity to sharpen existing skills and not just focus on remediating the others.

·         Is the trimester district wide (elementary, middle school, high school)

o   Moving to a trimester system district-wide has been discussed and is proposed for the 2017-2018 school year.

·         What is being done to ensure the kids in lower levels (elementary, middle school) are being successful before they come to the high school?

o   There are a number of initiatives at both the elementary and the middle school. At the elementary, data is being used to identify struggling students, the skills they are struggling with and provide individual or small group interventions for the students that need them.  We have also begun the data decision making process in the middle schools through the MTSS/RTI process, similar to that of the elementary buildings.

·         SCC “may be” offered... does this mean there is a chance that co-curricular will go away. We want to see more co-curricular not less.  How would SCC classes fit into the schedule? (Ability to earn college and high school credit)

o   This appears to be in reference of concurrent enrollment offerings which are college level classes that are free to the student and offered either here at BHS or out at SCC’s campus. This schedule provides students even more opportunities to complete these courses as each 3 semester hour course can be completed in the 60 days of a term. This means that hypothetically a student could take a course each of the three semesters where on our current system they would be taking only two. These courses are currently available to students but due to a lack of understanding of the program by many students and parents, it is not being highly utilized. Schools are required to offer students advanced course work with either AP or access to actual college courses or some combination of both.

·         How will the co-curricular options be affected if we have a different schedule than SCC?

o   Our goals is to work with SCC to insure that the classes like Comp I, Comp II, Public Speaking, etc.. are offered as a blocked group allowing the student to take the two semesters at the college across the three semesters we have here. We are also looking at offering more of these types of courses here on our campus. In the event that a student only took a semester class at SCC they would end that class halfway through the second high school semester and then take a six week study hall (Until the third high school term begins) or enroll in another SCC class for the second half of the year.

·         How would this schedule look for a senior who wants to dual enroll and receive your college credit?

o   It would be a mixture of concurrent enrollment (dual enrolled college and high school classes) offered here on our campus for a term, via the internet for a semester the college is on or out on campus which again would be for the college semester.  Several of the schools  on this sort of schedule have numerous students taking a large number of college level classes while they are still in high school.

·         Music program, is that full credit and a year long class? Does that eliminate an elective?

o   Both statements would be accurate. The department has indicated that they would be willing to share a student during the same period as is the case currently.

The student would spend half their days in one ensemble and the other half in another.

·         Would there be changes or additional cost to district due to a schedule change?

o   Due to the opportunity to take additional college level courses there may be an increase in expenditures in this area, however, the state provides supplementary funds to offset the cost of this program so net overall cost increases would be minimal if any

·         How are other schools using trimester rank?

o   In Iowa we do not have a good ranking system in place. Most rankings will be based on attendance, graduation rates, Standardized test scores, or number of discipline referrals.

o   Currently the 4 and 5 year graduation rates in schools we have explored under this schedule model are better than what we have seen in our graduation rates.  Some schools  like Western Dubuque, Clinton, and Fort Dodge all have begun to encourage students who have a large number of failed classes their freshman year to alter their academic plan to include a 5th year.

·         What are classes that might possibly be added?

o   A variety of art classes have been discussed. Additional electives in social sciences, language arts, math and sciences.  Support classes for core classes may also be added.

·         What’s your take on summer school?

o   We are looking to expand our current summer school program but make it much more student centered with engaging activities rather than the online format used this past summer. This would include both remedial courses and enrichment classes for those students wanting to extend their learning.

·         Are AP classes the only ones that will be year long?

o   Under the proposed structure, the AP courses could be offered in only two trimesters but it would not be ideal due to the expectations of the course and the date of the AP exam. We plan on offering our AP courses as three trimester courses (year long)

·         Will elective classes be more than a semester long?

o   There will be some elective classes that are two or three trimesters in length. Particularly if a capstone class is part of the program. Capstone classes may also be more than one period a day.

·         What would be the minimum amount of credits to graduate?

o   Initially graduation requirements would not change but there may be a move to increase the overall number of credits since we are significantly increasing the credit earning opportunities.   Schools under this model are requiring between 48 and 53 semester credits.

 ·         Why aren’t we looking at a 7 period trimester? Like IC or Cedar Rapids schools? (Possible 7 periods instead 6 within trimesters)

o   A seven period trimester is typically set up as three grading periods rather than 2.   Yearlong classes under a semester system remain yearlong classes under that system as well. It really only offers some students (the ones that already have access to electives) more choices.  The retake cycle is not common in such a system as a whole year of a class can still not be completed even if the student restarts the first term during term 2. Although a 3x7 appears to offer more chances to take electives, with most classes being year long classes, it does not provide the same number as the 3x6.  An 8 period day is not as desirable due to the fact that each class period generally is around 40-45 minutes in length.

·         Why are we rushing into this?

o    This is a process that Mr. Keane has already facilitated in another school and due to the need to address the dropout problem as soon as possible and due to the desire of many in the community to revitalize our Career and Technical Education Classes, Ind. Tech, Family Consumer Science, Business and Marketing as well as add a Health Occupations program an investigation of the model began early in the year.

·         How will this help the school?

o   Our hope is that it will help increase the number of students in career and technical education and fine arts programs, allow for multi-period blocks of time for students to engage in real world activities when they are a junior and senior and by providing students who struggle in the core classes an opportunity to take electives decrease the number of dropouts each year.  It also allows for more flexibility in scheduling to address our current freshman failure rates,

·         When will new curriculum be written?

We are currently working with teachers on the curriculum for a change in the schedule.  The curriculum work is based on the new NGSS standards and the content based standards, as well as the essential learnings for the various content areas.

·         How are standardized test scores impacted in this system?

o   That is yet to be seen but it allows for improvement since we will immediately begin the remediation of a struggling student rather than wait an entire year to do so which is often the case under the current system.  It also allows for students to take multiple electives, which creates more opportunities to transfer skills.

·         Honors by contract?

o   This is an idea that is popping up at colleges across the nation. It is not intended to replace an honors, AP or concurrent enrollment college class but rather allow students to earn honors designation in curricular areas which currently do not offer honors sections.

·         How will this affect the PLTW program?

Project Lead The Way will run all three semesters with additional project-based learning activities added to the curriculum.

·         Will my student have to choose band or art?

o   Due to the possibility of they’re only being offered one section of any course and the need to place courses within the periods in the day, there will always be choices that will have to be made, but in the proposed system, students are less likely to have to choose between courses since there are more periods in the schedule which reduces possible conflicts between single section classes.

·         Did the schools you visited have dropout issues prior to trimester, and if so, has this decreased the dropout ratio?  

Grinnell has not has significant dropout issues and transitioned to the three semester schedule sometime ago. Fort Dodge had dropout/low graduation rate issues  and the schedule change did help but additionally, students were encouraged to make a plan that included a fifth year of high school if they were unsuccessful their freshman year. This allowed them to continue to spend part of their day in Career and Technical Education classes rather than fill their schedule with retakes of failed core classes. The focus was to make sure students left high school with skills needed for employability as well as an academic diploma.


·         Will all existing AP classes remain offline, in person, and unaltered?

The AP course offerings will be determined by enrollment.  We currently have AP course with 45 students in two sections and we have AP courses with one section of 4.  Our goal is to offer as many options for students as possible, while still being cost effective and fiscally responsible.  This could be through in person options or online options.  The number of students enrolled will largely determine the delivery of the course.

·         What is the number of students needed to offer a class? AP? Honors? How will these students receive accelerated instruction when those classes aren’t offered? Only online?

o   Course offerings will be based on availability of staff resources. Department chairs and the rest of the staff will be involved in that discussion and the number may change from year to year and even from one department to another. Again this is entirely based on student requests and maintaining reasonable class sizes in all content areas and courses as well as availability of staff.

·         For students who want to take both band and orchestra, the existing schedule allows for them to be alternate. However, without combination classes these students would be forced to drop either band or orchestra. Could combinations be kept to accommodate these students?

o   The current plan is to continue to offer combination classes in the area of music.

·         Will AP Biology be eliminated?

o   That is not part or even connected to this proposal. AP Chem and AP Bio have always done an excellent job of preparing students for post-secondary science programs.  As with all our programs, the offerings are dependent on the number of students who sign up for a class.

·         Why so many rumors before any info? Was this “leaking” or do we need to be sure future discussions involve clearer communication. Clearer communication could prevent the “panic” and confusion.

o   Information about the desire to alter the schedule was presented to staff when the school year began. Conversations were held with individuals and groups when questions were asked. There was a communication plan but some information was misinterpreted and miscommunicated by those who had limited knowledge of the schedule model, the conversations around rigor, and the process being used to share the information.

·         How do the demographics of Ft. Dodge compare to Burlington?

o   Their demographics are almost identical.

·         What report is being referenced saying we’re in the bottom 3% of Iowa schools, and what criterias were used for this designation?

·         The state of Iowa released a report card for every school building in the state. Information regarding the criteria used can be found at

A second amended report card was released which stated we were in the bottom 12% rather than the bottom 3%

·         We’ve been given multiple existing school schedules, but what are their test scores and retention rates, and percentages that go on for post-secondary training/education?

College enrollments within 16 months following high school graduation


Graduates Enrollments in PS w/in 16 months Percent

217 147 67.74% Burlington

226 162 71.68% Fort Dodge

122                              52                                                                              42.62% Grinnell


209 140 66.99% Burlington

225 167 74.22% Fort Dodge

119 61                                                                               51.26% Grinnell


222 159 71.62% BHS

24 12 50.00% BAHS

246 171 69.51% BCSD

247 188 76.11% FD

124                              70                                                                              56.45% Grinnell


198 132 66.67% BHS

21 13 61.90% BAHS

219 145 66.21% BCSD

228 179 78.51% Fort Dodge

133                         103                                                                70.21% Grinnell

Assessment Scores



District #

District Name

Not Proficient


Total Tested

% Proficient








Fort Dodge












District Name

Not Proficient


Total Tested

% Proficient






Fort Dodge










        Were the freshmen who are failing successful as elementary and middle school students?

Many if not most of the students who failed as freshmen had failed a previous course. There were some who had never failed a course but they were a very small percentage of the overall failures.

·         How often will students that fail the 1st of 2 semesters be given an opportunity to restart?

o   Students under the current system are required to retake any required course until they pass it. So there are many who currently take a required course 2-3 times and some require a fourth time. We have attempted to move away from that practice and if a student was successful in a significant portion of the class they are being remediated for the content they failed rather than forced to retake the entire class. If they were unsuccessful with a significant portion, they are asked to retake the class. Students would be afforded the same opportunities under the proposed system.

·         How will elective opportunities be expanded?

Department chairs, faculty, administration make recommendations to our course offerings every year.  This process would continue.  The number of electives offered will increase overtime, typically based on student interest/request.

·         Are students who are dropping out asked what their reason or reasons are for leaving school and is this being documented?


·         Why not wait one more year to plan better?

o    This was always a consideration and has now been recommended.

·         Did the school district receive additional funding

o   There are no direct financial incentives for changing our schedule but if we are able to retain students, it greatly impacts our overall budget.

·         What specific actions have been reviewed this year to address the students failing or nearly failing

o   Students are welcome to attend Saturday Morning Breakfast Club most Saturday mornings. Academic assistance is provided along with donuts, juice, milk etc… There are also a number of teachers that are here before and after school to provide assistance. We are putting a process in place to help identify struggling students, identify any skill deficits and create a specific intervention plan to help them. ­­­

·         Incoming Freshmen Analysis (Freshman prep classes)

·         Tutoring Program (after school and Saturday)

·         What actions are taken place when a teacher has a 30%, 40% 50% of the class with “F”

o   Anytime we have an excessive failure rate in a class or a section, a review of the assessments, the assignments, the past success of the students in that class or section, student achievement data from standardized assessments and teaching strategies being used in that classroom are all evaluated.   

·         When will go into effect

The current recommendation is that we implement in the 2017-2018 school year.

·         How are other schools on this proposed schedule ranked

·         Will students be able to graduate early?

o   We will require Government to be taken during the senior year so unless there are extraordinary circumstances, a student will be able to graduate after the first term of their senior year. This allows them the opportunity to enroll in spring classes at a post-secondary institution.

·         Can they come for ½ days if they choose? ( Can they take full load credits 2 semester and 3rd semesters ½ days?)

o   Students will be required to take five courses each term until their graduation requirements are met after which they may take a shortened day if they choose.

·         Effect on math retention if less than year long and less instruction if 2 of 3 trimesters?

·         How involved have teachers been in this process?

o   Teachers were introduced to the idea at the beginning of the school year. Some departments have requested to meet with Mr. Keane and so they have been very involved while others have not been as receptive and thus have had less involvement in discussions.

·         Research to show there is improvement in the graduation rate and dropout rate and test scores.

·         Why are these kids failing – earlier on – recognized earlier

o   This is a complex issue and there are a number of factors. We know who many of our struggling students are earlier in their academic career and put interventions in place to assist them. In many cases these interventions are effective. Some students begin to become disengaged due to a lower level of success than their peers.

·         Are we adding more trades schools for students?

o   We are planning to expand current career and technical courses as well as add additional opportunities in other areas such as Building Trades and Health Occupations that align with current career/job availability projections.  This is one of the reasons the schedule model being suggested was selected.

·         Dual enrolled classes on BHS campus, would they be 2 trimesters? Does that count as one year at a college?

o   A dual enrolled college class or often referred to as a concurrent enrollment class will be one trimester long under the proposed format. College courses are based on contact hours and a three or four credit hour course can generally fit in one term unless there is a lab component which would require us to extend that class to a full semester. This means that they would take the class for 1.5 trimesters leaving a 6 week period open unless another semester class is scheduled. Most classes, however, will be completed in one term. An advantage to this is that three college level courses can be completed in a period a day for a year while in our current system only two classes could be attempted.

·         Foreign language – 2 trimesters equal one year?

o   Under the proposed model, most year-long classes are completed in two of the three terms. This would include Foreign Language courses.

·       Where does Burlington fall compared to other IA cities in graduation rate or “School Score”?

·         The state of Iowa released a report card for every school building in the state. Information regarding the criteria used can be found at

·         How does a student who has been through 2 trimesters of a course (e.g. Chemistry) compare to a student with 2 sememsters of that course, as far as readiness for college course.

College readiness, as reported by the state, is measured using the ACT assessment and thus only measuring a small percentage of the school. In many cases, there are only a small percentage of students taking the ACT which means a comparison between schools or even  between years within a school is difficult because one or two students’ performance will greatly impact the score. Generally the more students a school has take the ACT score, the lower the mean and the percentage meeting the college readiness scores in each portion of the test. This is due to the fact that generally only the top performing students in each school take the exam. The more students a school has taking the exam, the more likely that the larger group will include students with lower skill levels.

College entrance data was included earlier in the questions and would be something to look at along-side college readiness data.

·         What is the current number of dropouts?

This is always reported a year after the graduation date due to students being re-enrolled the following year are not counted in this formula. Unofficially, we had 130 students who dropped and were not enrolled in another school but some of these students re-enrolled this year and were here when student enrollment was calculated. If they withdrew again this year, they will show up as dropouts on the following year’s report.

·         How will comp. be determined to award credits?

Competency is determined through a series of assessments given by the teacher. Ultimately it is always the teacher who evaluates a student’s level of performance and assigns a grade or determines if competency levels are met. In some cases there may be an assessment that is used to determine competency allowing a student to be exempt from a entire course or a portion of a course.

·         What happens when a student can’t get into an elective they wanted?

Within every schedule model, there will be instances where a student is unable to fit a desired class into their schedule. This occurs in college as well. The student will be given options from which they can choose which will include taking another class, working with the instructor to take the class on an independent basis or possibly looking at taking the class in another format.

How will students be evaluated to not take the transition class? What taken in its place?

Ultimately this will be a decision made with parental input. An assessment of skills will be completed by the student’s 8th grade teachers and counselor which will be used by the student’s parents to help make that decision.

·         What will “Hound Room” look like? Has already changed this year.

Houndroom will be a mixture of Personal and Career Development curriculum through the new Naviance Guidance Software Package adopted by the district and remediation and enrichment opportunities for students.  It will be more structured with a curriculum.