While the actual building at Revere High School (RHS) might not have changed much over the summer, everything going on inside will be considerably different once the new school term starts later this month.
RHS Principal Lourenço Garcia and Guidance Director Maureen Lenihan told the Journal that they are putting the final touches on the high school restructuring and the changes would revolutionize student scheduling and bring about educational opportunities that have previously not been available.
“There are so many possibilities here that the old schedule didn’t even come close to allowing,” said Garcia. “Students will be better able to handle whatever comes their way in the future. Whether it’s college, the workforce or as citizens of the country or society.”
Added Lenihan, “They are able to take more electives now and that’s an important thing. Down the road, we’ll be able to offer them the ability to take internships in the community or the schools. This schedule is so flexible. The old rotating schedule didn’t allow you to do anything. There’s lots of opportunities for kids now.”
Garcia noted that in the final two years of schooling, the new block scheduling could allow students unbelievable flexibility.
“They could go out into the community and intern in the medical field or anywhere else, or they could go take college classes for credit,” he said. “That’s very important today, college readiness.”
However, the changes have already brought about some controversy in parent meetings that occurred in May and June concerning the schedule.
Garcia said it will be important for parents to keep an open mind because the new system will enhance their children’s’ education.
“When parents really see the fruits of this change, they will buy into it, teachers too,” he said. “The goal is to be open minded and not relying on pre-existing beliefs that it won’t work. It is going to work and it is here to stay. We are here to provide kids with a meaningful education with access and opportunity. Every child deserves the same thing and that’s what we’re doing here.”
The crux of the plan is introducing a block schedule to the system, which will keep the same school hours but will also increase class times.
Each class period would be a block of 80 minutes, with four classes per day and an advisory period.
The structure would be based on four quarters and two semesters.
This allows students to take more courses over the four-year period, thus giving them more flexibility to take electives in their last year.
By 2015, students will need at least 30 credits to graduate, as opposed to the Class of 2012, which will only have 22.6 credits required. In four years, students under the new schedule will have the opportunity to teak 32 different classes.
The schedule would be different depending upon the day also. On Monday and Tuesday, teachers will have common planning time and students will have the choice of coming to school at 8:14 a.m. instead of 7:50 a.m. The common planning time for teachers will allow them to share ideas and get advice from one another.
On Wednesday through Friday, students and teachers will participate in a new mentoring/advisory program from 7:50 a.m. to 8:14 a.m.
In addition, lunch periods will be shortened slightly.
An alternative schedule will be available for students that wish to take full-year Advanced Placement courses – which have been an issue with some parents.
On a positive note, the new schedule will allow students to take credit recovery courses (which are $200 per class) within the regular day. That will eliminate costly expenses for students who need to repeat courses. Many students in that situation have run into significant barriers for graduation due to the cost of credit recovery, Lenihan said.
Garcia said that he presented the plan to teachers as a courtesy late last school year. He did not have to get his or her approval, but wanted everyone on board. It was a close vote, but the teachers did approve the plan.
One of the major new parts of the schedule will be an innovative mentoring/advisory program that will pair a group of students with a teacher.
That group of students and their advisor will remain together for the entire four years of high school. Advisory meeting times will occur three times per week for 24 minutes – the first period of the day.
Known as the Revere Advisory Program (RAP), the program will help students talk about issues at school as well as their academic progress.
“All staff will be in an advisory assignment and students will be assigned randomly to a staff member,” said Garcia. “They will form bonds over the years and it will help break down the size of the school so that no one falls through the cracks.”
Added Lenihan, “There was a concern that big issues might be handled in the group, but we want to be clear that serious issues will go to a social worker and not an advisor.”
The program will be overseen by an Advisory Council that will help train teachers and develop guidelines for the program.
The other part of that program is the common planning time for teachers, which will occur two times a week in the morning for 40 minutes each session.
As it is now, Garcia said teachers do not have the time to share ideas and best practices, which means that communication breaks down and good ideas get lost.
“We need teachers to sit down and discuss best strategies and talk about the classroom so we’re on the same page,” he said.
An innovative idea within the program is the Freshman Academy.
High schools like RHS have often had a problem with transition for incoming freshman.
Many fall behind.
Others cannot get over the size of the new school.
Still others simply get lost in the shuffle.
With that in mind, one of the newest ideas in education is separating freshmen students into a somewhat separate school. RHS will do just that starting this year, assigning all first-year students to the second floor of the high school.
There, they will be separated from the rest of the school and will be known as the Blue House under a separate vice principal.
“Research is quite clear kids come to high schools with more than 1,000 students and the high school is compartmentalized and large,” said Garcia. “Many freshman students get here and get lost. As a result, they don’t have proper services to meet their needs. They end up failing and don’t transition to the 10th grade.”
The academy will also be assigned two dedicated guidance counselors, one of which will be multi-lingual.
Houses in High School
As mentioned above, the high school will now be divided into four separate houses.
The freshman academy will be the Blue House and will be on the second floor.
The rest of the school will be divided into three separate houses based on alphabetical order.
The assignments will be as follows:
•Those with a last name starting with A-F will be in the Green House on the 3rd Floor with Vice Principal O’Connor.
•Those whose last name starts with G-N will be in the Brown House in the East Wing of the 1st Floor with Vice Principal Pechinsky.
•Those whose last name starts with O-Z will be in the Red House on the 1st Floor with Vice Principal Gerrior and Goodwin.
Teacher issues and discipline issues will be handled by the vice principal of each house and students in 10th to 12th grades will not be confined to their “house,” but it will be their home area.
Each student’s ID Card will be color coded as to which house they belong to.
“What we’re basically doing is breaking the high school down into small learning communities,” said Garcia. “The reason we did this is to increase personalization and to get more interactions between students, teachers and administrators. It will also give vice principals more leadership and autonomy. They will no longer have just one grade. They will have kids from grade 10 through 12.”
The longer class periods will also lead to changes in the absence policy.
The new system will be based upon points, and missing one 80-minute class will lead to a student getting two points.
Students will be allowed six points per quarter and a student will fail the class on the seventh point.
Being 20 minutes late to a class will get a student one point, and 40 minutes late will get them two points.
The policy is comparable to what exists currently, but is being changed due to the longer class periods and the new quarter system.
Bringing it All in Line
Garcia said that these changes are overwhelming and will take some time to be absorbed.
Last week, to soften the blow, he sent a three-page letter to all parents in the district outlining the changes in detail.
He indicated that while the high school has exceeded expectations for years and has won numerous awards and citations, the new schedule would only take it higher and make the program more consistent.
“Superintendent Paul Dakin has stressed relationships, (academic) rigor and relevance for years,” said Garcia. “I think the standard wasn’t aligned with these words. It was missing. Now, we can see that standard clearly aligned with those words.”
The new schedule will begin when school commences on Tuesday, August 30.
For more detailed information on the changes, log on to www.revererps.mec.edu and click on Revere High School Restructuring. Parents can also call the school at (781) 286-8222 for more information.