We tried something new in our high school this year. The plan was to give students more time and support to get INCOMPLETE work done. In addition to all the time that teachers give up at lunch, before and after school, we introduced an “I-Week”. During “I-Week” our bell times were changed slightly, so that we could add an “X-Block”. Each day, this “X-Block” became an extended period where students with incomplete work were required to stay in that class and work on incomplete assignments, labs, tests, etc. Teachers were available in class to help these students during these extended periods.
School start and end times stayed the same, so the school day was the same length of time. Regular classes (4 blocks per day) were shortened by 10 minutes each so that we could create a 40-minute “extended X-Block” for Intervention. We rotated this extended block so that each of our four regular blocks got one X-block that week.
This time was MANDATORY for students with incomplete work. During “I-Week”, those students who were all caught up had a choice. They could stay in school to work on other things, go to another class where they needed to catch up, use it as a study block, or they could choose to have an extended lunch hour (only with teacher permission). This was seen as an earned reward for being all caught up. There was some trepidation that this extra free time could cause new problems in terms of behavior, but that did not happen. Students took this opportunity seriously and rose to the occasion.
As a follow-up, a few weeks after the I-Week, we also added an “I-Day” into our calendar. Again, this time was mandatory for students with incomplete work. We ran our 4 regular blocks with regular bell times. It was optional for students who were all caught up. The intent was to help students get caught up before teachers had to submit their end-of-term grades.
By all accounts, this experiment has been both popular and successful. Students have commented that they appreciated the structured time to get caught up. This was true for both struggling students and for many more academically-minded high-achievers. Students also liked the small group settings where they could get more teacher time and attention. Teachers liked it for similar reasons. It gave them more structured time, within the school day, to help students get caught up on missed work, or to provide additional instruction for students who needed more one-on-one time. Many parents praised us for trying something different, and thanked us for providing extra time and support for kids who needed it. It was a win-win-win.
The results are not in. All of this anecdotal feedback is positive, and we already have reports that there are fewer students who will receive an “I-Report” (Incomplete). We anticipate that this will result in fewer students getting failing grades, and more students getting better grades. We will be monitoring the results at the first report card, and make adjustments to this pilot project based on that data.
Time, support and intervention are only part of the solution. One thing that became clear in our planning and reflection during this experiment, is that we need to have more conversation about instruction and assessment. We need to discuss Learning Outcomes vs. Task Completion, Feedback vs. Grades, Upgrading and Re-Tests, and the Great Zero Debate. It's a great start!