Longview high schools to add extra class, teachers upset with schedule change

R.A. Long High School in Longview School District - KATU image

LONGVIEW, Wash. – Starting in the fall, high school students in Longview will take seven classes a day instead of six. It is a way to help students graduate on time, but most district teachers are unhappy with the schedule change.

Longview Public Schools officials made the decision in response to new graduation requirements coming from the Washington State Legislature. Previously, the state required a high school student have 20 credits to graduate, now they require students to have 24 credits.

“We felt it necessary to make a change in the schedule to provide a greater opportunity for our kids to be sure they graduate from high school, particularly kids at risk,” said Dan Zorn, superintendent with Longview Public Schools.

Current freshmen at Longview high schools are the first class that must complete the 24-credit requirement.

The district’s decision comes down to simple math. A student earns one credit for one class period over the course of a school year. If they kept the six-period schedule, students would have little room for error. They would need to pass every class all four years to reach 24 credits.

Zorn says failing a class one semester would put them behind. Adding a seventh period gives students some wiggle room.

“We have to keep in mind these are 15, 16, 17-year-old kids. They need second chances. They need opportunities to work through failures they may have. It's important we design a system that is ready and willing to respond to the needs of those kids,” said Zorn.

Speaking with students and parents outside R.A. Long High School on Tuesday afternoon, KATU News found many of them are in favor.

“He’ll have three or four electives with a seventh period. He really likes that, hopefully he can get into something that will help him in his future,” said Peggy Ross, who was picking up her grandson. “I think it’s a good idea, I really do.”

Diona Winkle, who was picking up her daughter, said the new schedule will help her daughter graduate after having trouble freshman year.

“With that extra class, she'll be graduating,” Winkle said.

Most Longview teachers say the new schedule will reduce the amount of time students have in the classrooms and increase their workload.

Ray Clift, president of the Longview Education Association, says 77 percent of the district’s teachers are against the addition of a seventh period.

“The big thing they are worried about is the loss of instruction time for the students,” Clift said.

The district will add an extra class, but keep the school day the same length. That means all class periods will be shorter than the 55 minutes they currently are. Over the course of a school year, Clift says it adds up to more than 20 hours of lost instruction time in the classroom.

“For a student who is taking a lab science class, that's the difference between taking a lab and not being able to do a lab,” said Clift.

Teachers likely won’t see more students and class sizes will be smaller, but they will need to prepare for an extra class period. Clift says an extra class means more stress.

The teachers union would have rather seen a more robust summer school program for at-risk students to make up course credits. They would also support a before or after school program for credit recovery. Clift says they would have liked the district to explore online classes with the community college.

When asked about summer school, Zorn said it is too difficult to get at-risk kids into schools during the vacation.

“To rely on a structure that is outside the regular day puts them at more risk to graduate, and by trying to design a schedule that meets those needs within the regular school day is a much better way,” he said.

Several school districts in SW Washington have made changes to meet the new 24-credit requirements, but have chosen different methods.

Kelso School District changed to the trimester system to meet the new requirements.

Officials with Evergreen Public Schools said they stayed with six-period days because they didn’t want to disrupt everyone’s schedule. Instead, they are offering zero period classes, summer school, and online classes to make up credits. They are also experimenting with hybrid classes where a student can earn three credits in two class periods.

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