First, thank you to those of you who have reached out to me via email or attended my recent Zoom Office Hours to share your perspectives, questions, and concerns regarding the 4x4 schedule change.
My job as a School Board member is to listen to and represent our community, and I take this role very seriously. It is particularly important now, when our community is torn and the temperature of our conversations is not conducive to the kind of collaborative grit necessary to support our students through the rest of what has been an unpredictable school year and a future that looms the same.
In an effort to build a foundation for collaboration, I want to outline what I have heard from teachers and community members about what we know and what we still do not know about the proposed 4x4 schedule. Check out the end of this post for more resources. As always, please feel free to contact me with any corrections or clarifications: I want to make sure my site is an up-to-date, transparent, facts-based community resource.
What is the 4x4 schedule?
The "4x4" schedule refers to a bell schedule that offers 4 classes per semester to each student, with a different offering in the second semester, thereby offering each student the ability to take up to 8 classes in one academic year. The promises are great: the opportunity to accelerate, to remediate, and to customize one's own schedule to tailor to unique interests and goals of an individual student. Where implemented successfully, schools have seen great results. The San Diego County Office of Education put together this 4x4 research write-up that provides background information, along with pros and cons, and mistakes to avoid when implementing--mistakes that our district has seemed to make and (to my mind) should rectify before forging ahead with the schedule change:
Mistakes to Avoid
1. Flawed decision-making process. Schools should convene a broad set of school and
community stakeholders, examine the advantages and disadvantages of block versus
traditional scheduling, and come to consensus on which schedule is the best for the
2. Teacher preparation for block scheduling. Course pacing for 90 minute blocks is much
different from 45-55 minute blocks. Teachers should have adequate staff development to
ensure a seamless transition.
3. Overpromising. While benefits of block schedules are typically better than 7-period day
schedules, these effects are only apparent in places where implementation is successful
(which may take 2-3 years). Overpromising quick results could derail that process.
4. Budget. Many block schedule changes are either budget neutral or positive. Schools
should run multiple budget scenarios to determine the ultimate cost of the schedule
Change. (SDCOE Block 4x4 Scheduling Research Document)
How did the 4x4 schedule change come about?
At a meeting on May 14, 2020, the Board voted 5-0 to switch the CHS bell schedule to a 4x4 block schedule for the 2021-2022 school year. The idea stemmed from a legal need to add more minutes to the previous schedule and the district’s and school’s desire to better meet students needs, including more class variety, more chances for remediation, and increased opportunities for students to become more college-ready, and more competitive applicants at that. A committee was formed to dig into how to address these issues. How the district arrived at a 4x4 schedule remains debated.
The district and previous board posits that they gave teachers and the community notice prior to voting. The school administration also stated that they have provided professional development to prepare teachers for the transition to semester-based courses, taught in block format.
Teachers and community members, however, have highlighted that the School Board agendas have not been clear about when the schedule change would be discussed or voted upon. Most teachers seemed to have been under the impression that the schedule the committee created, which was not a 4x4, would be pursued, yet it was never brought to the table. Thus, amidst trying to plan curriculum and teach, assess, and support students through the mix of online and in-person learning, the approval to move forward with the 4x4 schedule in the 2021-2022 school year came as a shock.
Was the schedule change process valid?
Many teachers and community members, myself included, have gone back through previous School Board meeting agendas to better understand when and how the 4x4 decision came about; however, the agenda items linked to the 4x4 (and where it was voted on) simply stated "Amended/Added: Approval Coronado High School 2020-2021 Bell Schedule," with often unclear language around what actions would be taken. Subsequent events appear to confirm the lack of understanding that the vote would in reality be instituting a permanent sea change at CHS beginning 2021-2022 school year.
According to the Brown Act, a “state policy that the people must be informed so they can keep control over their government,” the public needs to be made both aware of meeting content and be given a chance to voice their perspectives. Whether this happened throughout the course of the 4x4 decision process also remains debatable. In fact, the district received a legal opinion that seems to suggest it did not meet its obligations under the Act (see May 4, 2021 agenda packet).
The confusion surrounding the process and the upcoming implementation of the change suggests that much remains uncertain about the new schedule’s infrastructure, how it will be rolled out, and the potential positive and negative impacts. CHS teachers have come out in full force against the plan.
**The following is a list of frequent questions from teachers, parents, and students, culled from meetings, emails, and my recent Office Hours:
CHS is down a history teacher, 3/5 of an english teacher, and a special ed teacher. Do we have staffing in place to support this change?
Why are we keeping a mid-management positions and cutting a teacher in spec ed department in the midst of this conversation?
What professional development, tools, and support has been provided and will be provided to support teachers, not only to switch to the block format, but also to condense a year-long curriculum into a semester, with approximately 20-hours of less instructional time?
What supports have been offered to other departments?
Does this change build trust and create a positive school environment as recommended by WASC reports on school accreditation?
Is now the right time, considering the added stress, change, and uncertainty teachers and students have endured during the pandemic?
How will yet another change impact students’ and staff’s mental health? Does the school have enough resources to support the increases in stress and anxiety?
How has the 4x4 impacted suicide rates at other schools? (And, if we need to ask this question, why isn’t this a big enough red flag?)
How will the 4x4 schedule impact students with special needs? How will it impact our ability as a district to meet our legal obligations to those most vulnerable students?
Can students enroll mid-year? If so, and if courses must be completed online, is this format legal for students with IEPs? What about general ed students?
How will military students who transfer in and out be ensured they have a consistent, equitable educational experience at CHS and elsewhere, if they move?
Remediation for students on D&F list:
How many are there? Historically? This semester?
What data has been gathered to identify the root of this problem?
Could it be related to attendance?
What has admin done to address truancy/attendance?
What other methods of intervention have been attempted to lower the number?
How will a more rigorous schedule help D&F list without additional supports?
Will students be appropriately and equitably prepared for AP exams?
Are AP classes going to be offered spread over two semesters?
Instructional minutes state requirements: Does offering 1,080 minutes alone meet the CA instructional requirements, even if students decide to take less than 8 classes?
Will taking 6/8 courses make students less competitive in the eyes of college admission departments?
Does taking 6/8 courses limit the major perk of being able to take a wider variety of courses?
How can we ensure students remain safe, when they finish and leave school around noon?
Can CHS actually provide the enticing benefits they are proposing?
Can CHS afford to provide the benefits promised?
How does CHS compare to other schools who have switched to a 4x4? Are there any successful models similar to CHS? (in terms of community vs opt-in school, size, demographics, budget, per pupil spending)
How will the 4x4 impact the COSA program, a unique draw to the school?
Is it feasible to pause the process to re-evaluate?
Why aren't we focusing on getting our kids back in school full time before worrying about this divisive issue?
Why do administrators and members of the District Office get unlimited time to present information to the board, but teachers and students are limited to 3 minutes each, without any opportunity to question or to refute the information presented?
I will be seeking these answers and more at the special meeting on Tuesday, May 4, at 5PM. You can find that meeting agenda along with more updated district information, and many letters from community members regarding the 4x4 plan here.
For more information, check out the following resources:
2017 Visiting Committee report findings
**WASC Self-Study currently underway (Thank you WASC team!)
SDCOE 4x4 Research Document, referenced in CUSD board meeting
Brown Act cheat sheet (i.e. - Laws that govern what the school board can and cannot do)
Student comments to Social media survey
Student-initiated Change.org petition , with 463 signatures.
FAQ's re Canyon Crest Academy school selection process.