GUSTINE - The school day at Gustine High has changed significantly from years past.
After experimenting with a modified block schedule during the second semester of last year in an effort to boost achievement, the school this year has adopted a traditional block schedule - meaning classes meet less frequently but for longer periods of time - and have added more elective offerings for students.
The longer class periods allow teachers greater opportunity to provide intervention in the classroom and cut down on instructional time lost to tasks such as taking attendance at the start of every period, said Manuel Bettencourt, the school’s assistant principal.
“They now have the time to do more with students,” Bettencourt said.
In last year’s modified block schedule, students saw each of their teachers daily. Each day included six periods - three brief and three extended.
This year, all eight periods meet on Mondays for about 40 minutes. For the remainder of the week, four periods meet Tuesday and Thursday and four meet Wednesday and Friday for 92-minute sessions.
The new structure, with two additional periods, increases the opportunity for students to take electives or to work on credit recovery within the school day. The school is adding on-site electives and has a small number that are taken online.
Gustine High is also offering dual enrollment in Modesto Junior College courses, allowing students to begin accumulating college credits while completing their
high school studies.
Principal Adam Cano said the new structure and programs have been well-received by students and staff alike.
Attendance has improved, he noted, as staff members emphasize to students that an absence carries the weight of missing a class two days in a row under the previous structure.
And, Cano said, teachers are able to more thoroughly and effectively use technology in the classroom with the longer class periods periods.
The new schedule also creates two periods during which teachers are not instructing students. One is a prep period, Bettencourt said, and the other is dedicated to collaboration with fellow teachers.
“The collaborative period is untouchable from administration’s point of view,” said Bettencourt. “You can’t pull a teacher out of a collaborative period if you need classroom coverage. We want them to collaborate and talk.”
“The conversations that go on in the collaborative period are great,” said Cano, noting that teachers are sharing data and strategies.
A team sport period has also been implemented, and academic counseling programs have also been restructured. The school’s two counselors are working in new quarters, which afford greater opportunity for them to meet privately with students and families.
Previously, each of the counselors served assigned grade levels.
Now, said counselors Melissa Estacio and Alexa Nunes, each student will be assigned a counselor who works with them throughout high school.
“We will follow the students all four years,” Nunes said. “We can build relationships with families and (better) understand their plans.”
The changes at Gustine High have been driven by consensus, noted Cano.
“Our decisions come about through conversations with each other on campus. All teachers have a voice in how to make things better,” he commented. “We look at our needs. We discuss how we can change things to move the needle and how we can maintain it as well. We looked at what the needs were this year and it was ‘time’. That is what drove the block schedule.”
The school’s commitment, Cano added, is to be forward-thinking in its efforts to boost academic performance and provide greater opportunities for students.
That process will be ongoing, he said, and will not be without the occasional bump in the road.
“Change is good,” Cano reflected. “Failing at a few things is part of the process.”