SIS to readopt 7-period-day schedule

For the upcoming year, Shorewood Intermediate School will be returning to a 7-period-day schedule for the first time since 2017. The schedule change will result in an almost 20% increase in instructional time in core content areas, which includes math, language arts, science, and social studies.

“We are going to move from having a semester of art, a semester of PLTW, and a year-long P.E class to a “wheel” with those three classes. P.E will meet every other day for the entire year, while PLTW and Art will run on non-P.E days for a semester each.” said Mike Joynt, Director of Teaching and Learning.

This shift comes in the wake of disappointing standardized testing results in the most recent state report card. According to the Wisconsin DPI School Report Card for the 21-22 school year, only 33.1% of eighth grade students tested “Proficient” or above for math, while 38% tested “Proficient” or above for ELA. In the 2017-2018 academic year, these figures were 54.1% and 52.2%, respectively. In addition, the number of students testing in the “below basic” category in Math, which is currently 29.5%, has been expanding over the past three years.

Joynt recognizes this as an area of concern for parents.

“We’re not going to pretend this isn’t an area for improvement. Overall as a district we’re in the top 10% of schools across the state…[the Intermediate school] is in the top 20%,” Joynt said. “Being in the top 20% is good, but it’s not at the same level as where our elementary and high school are on standardized tests.”

According to Joynt, the dropoff in standardized testing performance between the elementary and intermediate school stems from the increased opportunity for electives. This means that less instructional time was devoted to Math and Language Arts, which are the areas measured on the state report card. 

“The challenge has been, how do we fit our four exploratory classes [like music, language, PLTW, art] in the schedule along with the four core academic areas?” Joynt said. 

The continual shifting of the SIS schedule began with the introduction of Project Lead the Way, which prompted SIS to transition away from a 7-period-day in order to fit another class into the schedule. Since then, the Intermediate School has cycled through block scheduling, hybrid scheduling, and most recently, “color rotation” scheduling. For the past year, the schedule has run off of a color wheel, where students attend 6 of their 8 classes every day on a 4 day rotation. On red days, all classes but hours four and eight meet; orange days, all but three and seven; yellow, all but six; blue all but hours one and five.

The schedule provides a lot more opportunity for student choice around electives…

— Sam Nadolsky, interim principal of SIS

Social studies teacher Sarah Kopplin believes that the color rotation schedule has contributed to the noticeable decrease in completed assignments.

“It can be very confusing. Students at this age are developing a lot of meta cognitive skills and executive functioning skills, and [the schedule] has proven to be extremely difficult for students,” Kopplin said. “You still have students in the last month of school not knowing where they’re going from day to day, and we want them to be able to really process and plan ahead … and develop independent academic skills.”

Joynt also understands the downsides of the school’s previous schedules. 

“The problem with all those schedules is that you don’t have everyday contact with your teachers,” Joynt said. “And when you’re going to different classes every day, it gets really confusing and difficult for the kids just to keep up with their course work.”

Recent data has shown that SIS’s growth in math and reading have flattened, and the new schedule aims to provide students with everyday exposure to the four core subject areas. 

Test scores tend to fluctuate at Shorewood’s middle school level, but Joynt notes that it is important to consider context when evaluating.

“We don’t know exactly why it is, but there could be different factors. Remember that at SIS, you lose half the student population from one year to the next, so you’re going to see fluctuations in data because half of your students are a new population,” Joynt said.

Kopplin emphasizes that although standardized testing as it is measured by the Wisconsin DPI places more weight on math and ELA, a robust social studies and sciences curriculum are essential to the student’s literacy progress. She believes that continuing to focus on all four core subjects will strengthen each student’s performance and interest, and aid them in leveraging interdisciplinary knowledge.

“I believe that I am a teacher of literacy [as well]. There are state standards that the board has adopted [regarding] literacy for other subject areas and you have to be accountable to those [as a teacher] because that helps contribute to students’ ability to read, write, think and speak,” Kopplin said. “Not only can learning just make more sense, [but when] cross-curricular things are connecting for you, it’s more enjoyable, and you don’t feel like each class is so different.”

Sam Nadolsky, interim principal of SIS, is excited for the new schedule.

“It creates a lot more consistency for students. Instead of having a rotating order of classes that meet three out of every four days, students see each of their classes everyday,” Nadolsky said. “The schedule provides a lot more opportunity for student choice around electives for 8th graders in a structure that closely parallels the schedule selection process for 9th graders at SHS. All of these changes should provide students with a more coherent and impactful instructional day.”