This document is designed to be a guide to completing the master schedule cycle for a school site. While the document is intended to guide you through the steps to schedule inside Illuminate, this section is intended to frame the master schedule process within the larger picture of serving students. Master scheduling is the act placing students in a way that meets student needs and improves student outcomes.
A cornerstone of impactful scheduling is the smart use of data in program placement. The use of accurate, timely and appropriate data can get the right students into the right class. Accurate program placement empowers teachers to do their best work in the classroom, and allows students to experience the right types of educational challenges.
The Big Three in Placement Data
Most secondary sites use three types of data when determining program placement: Grades, Teacher Input, and Standardized Assessments. These commonly used data points are convenient and easily accessed in Illuminate. It falls to the instructional leadership to ensure that these data points are valid, timely and appropriate. Grading practices should be consistent and precise. Teacher input should focus on the specific skills needed to move into the next program. Standardized assessments should be timely and have a clear correlation to to the student skill level. Illuminate is prepared to support instructional leaders as you explore and refine your own use of student data in program placement.
Looking Beyond the Big Three
Secondary sites are less adept at using other types of data, including demographic, social-emotional, and learning style data. Integrating additional student data points can assist an instructional leader in targeting instruction to meet student needs. To illustrate:
Use data beyond the big three to inform program placement. More data empowers the instructional leader to make smart decisions about student placement and better meet student need.
The master schedule is the managing document of most comprehensive secondary sites. The master schedule also represents the vast share of money spent at a school site: Teacher salaries and facilities costs are the #1 and #2 costs for any school site, and the master schedule is the document that organizes how those resources are used. Is your school site maximizing those dollars?
Making Every Dollar Count
Salaries and site costs represent the lion’s share of education costs. A good leader is focused on making every dollar count. One of the ways to make every site dollar count includes making sure the right teacher is teaching the right course to the right students in the right classroom every time.
Make sure the right teacher is paired with the right course(s). Often, our highly skilled teachers are teaching advanced courses. Instructional leaders should be mindful of every student; High achieving teachers should be assigned to the course(s) that result in meaningful student progress. This could mean that high impact teachers are assigned a blend of the high-end and entry level courses.
Evaluate the courses offered and their alignment with the site’s educational goals. Are the classes being taught the best path toward student success? If a site is focused on college and career readiness, all classes should be part of a college or career readiness path. Offering a course that doesn’t help the students achieve their goals is not a good use of site resources.
When the right teacher is teaching the right course, instructional leaders need to ensure the right students are scheduled into the section. Inaccurate program placement has far reaching impacts. Student engagement, teacher satisfaction, grades, attendance rates, classroom behavior and program completion are all directly tied to getting the right student into the right class. Engage in a data-informed cycle of inquiry around your program placement criteria. Develop internal metrics, and make adjustments as necessary.
Any teacher will affirm that classroom environment matters. Evaluate your use of facilities to ensure that all students are getting the best possible learning environment. So many secondary schools have exceeded their original site plan. Sites have adjusted by bringing in additional buildings and converting non-classroom space. Be intentional when placing teachers, courses, and students in these reclaimed spaces. Students understand the differences between classroom spaces. Placing fragile or at-risk learners in portable classrooms in back of the building or down in the basement sends a clear message. The way that a school site assigns classrooms is a clear message about the school’s values. Make sure classroom assignments are communicating the right message and honoring all fragile learners.
Master Schedule as Evidence of Progress
Almost every secondary site has instructional goals documented in some type of plan. It may be part of local, state, or federal compliance. Annual reporting often requires providing evidence of progress toward the plan. So often, instructional leaders look to summative measures for evidence; standardized assessments, graduation rates, attendance rates, etc. Start using your master schedule as evidence of progress. If the the goal is to improve math scores on state assessments, then use the presence of math support classes in the master schedule as evidence of progress.
Now that you have reviewed the WHY behind how powerful master scheduling can be, take a look at Quick Master Schedules: Elementary Schools, Summer Schools, and Small Secondary Schools.