Thursday, October 8th, 2009

High school principal addresses parents on changing to trimester

Celina High School

By William Kincaid
Maumee High School Principal Larry Caffro said switching to a trimester system at his district has led to better ACT scores, attendance rates and discipline.
Caffro was invited to speak before parents of students at Celina High School, where administrators have proposed switching from quarters to trimesters.
"I've done just about any schedule you can imagine," Caffro told around 20 parents on Wednesday night, pointing out the trimester system has worked better than anything else. It has been in effect for six years.
If approved by Celina school board members, the trimester system would start next school year, reducing nine periods of 42-minute classes to five periods of 65-minute classes. There would be three trimesters, each lasting 12 weeks, instead of four quarters lasting nine weeks.
Caffro said he is a proponent of trimesters, which his teachers overwhelmingly support.
According to a five-year study conducted by a non-biased panel at Bowling Green State University, trimesters are conductive to many positive outcomes, Caffro said.
Trimesters encourage labs, activity generated work, cooperative learning and teacher facilitation of learning - all promoting the formation of an active student, he said.
"They love the schedule, they just love it," Caffro said about teachers who use labs.
As more elective classes are available through trimesters, average performing students do better, he said.
If a student fails a class, he or she can immediately retake it the next 12-week trimester instead of waiting an entire year.
"It really gives us a great opportunity to remediate students who aren't doing well," he said.
Trimesters - which are more similar to college class schedules - also allow for what Caffro calls fast-track course completion. For example, a student can take two trimesters of Spanish 1 and the first trimester of Spanish 2 all in the same year.
Many Maumee High School students enter their first year of college with enough dual enrollment AP credits to be considered sophomores, he said.
Caffro added that discipline referrals decreased 30 percent, while class failures dropped 11 percent in the six years of trimesters at Maumee High School.
But the trimester does present challenges too, he admitted.
Scheduling can be difficult as students are asked to choose several alternatives each trimester; difficulty arises when outside students not on a trimester system transfer to Maumee; and students who miss classes have much more work to make up.
Some Celina parents on Wednesday night had concerns.
One woman questioned how the same amount of content could be taught in 120 days (two trimesters) instead of 180 days (the full year).
Celina High School Principal Jason Luebke said there would be more time to teach in each class period.
"I know that it's a point of concern," Luebke said, pointing out that teachers would have more time to spend on lessons than simply going over homework from the night before.
Another woman said she was concerned that students who take both band and choir would not be able to earn an honors diploma because of time restrictions. Luebke answered that it is tough to take both music courses in the current system.
Another attendant asked about teacher preparation time. Luebke said there may be common planning time, staff meetings and times before and after school for teachers to collaborate and prepare for classes.
"It's definitely something we need to do," he said.
Also, another parent was uneasy about the elimination of study hall, as her child already spends much of the evening studying.
Luebke replied that students will not have as many classes under the trimester system.
"You're not always going to have four core classes at a time," Luebke said, adding that the biggest advantage of trimesters is the reduction of heavy work loads.
Luebke said Wednesday night's presentation will be aired on the local cable channel six soon. It also can be obtained on DVD by calling the high school office at the end of the week.
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