Improving Literacy Scores by Rethinking the Master Schedule
A school turned around flagging reading scores by setting aside dedicated time for students to read—and for teachers to plan.
The school’s reading rates have been significantly improved by providing students with time to read and teachers time to plan. The leadership team realized that students who missed the campus’s enrichment period due to scheduling conflicts had no room in their class schedule to be “enriched.” This irony was because students who desperately needed time to read and work on literacy skills didn’t have the opportunity to do so. Instead, students who were enrolled in AP courses and read on a college level benefited from an entire class period to read, work on skills, and meet with teachers.
The lack of time for educators to identify struggling students and develop effective, individualized intervention strategies was another concern. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many students were already testing two years behind in core subjects. Math teachers reported spending the majority of class time reviewing basic skills, while English teachers noted that students constantly struggled to organize their thoughts. Reading nonfiction texts was a necessary skill across the entire secondary curriculum, and in-class remediation simply added the complication of time lost to acquire new skills.
The existing schedule was a hodgepodge of planning periods and a divided lunch schedule ensured that several days might pass before teachers with shared subjects would cross paths. If teachers wanted to collaborate, their only option was before or after school. Many faculty members also were club sponsors or coached teams, which negated even that option.
Over shared meals and emails, the school’s teacher leaders began imagining effective revision of a master schedule. They knew that struggling students deserved time to read self-selected books, receive direct instruction from highly effective teachers, and recoup skills lost during the pandemic. The implementation of the enrichment period means that after a schoolwide 20 minutes of reading, teachers have the remaining 25 minutes of third period to work with each other or struggling students.
The revised master schedule now allows every teacher in the building to work with individual students while the rest of the class reads. This mutually shared enrichment period also puts a heavy emphasis on the importance of reading, offering an opportunity to talk about books, characters, conflicts, and resolutions. Collaboration between invested parties can result in “small changes that can make huge differences” in students’ academic participation.