GHHS plans change to semesters

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:58 PM

For the past six years, classes ran on a 12-week trimester schedule. In the fall, staff and students will transition into two 18-week semesters.

The change comes after two years of researching and discussing how to better meet academic requirements.

In addition to comparing semester and trimester grades, final exam grades, attendance, discipline, graduation rates and more, Grand Haven High School Principal Tracy Wilson said administrators also looked at the reasons why they switched to a trimester schedule, and how required state mandates have impacted their ability to stay with a trimester schedule.

When Grand Haven switched to the trimester schedule for the 2008-09 school year, some state requirements — such as Common Core State Standards, Smarter Balanced Assessment, required student growth measurements and a new state accountability system — were not yet in place.

Wilson said the school initially switched to trimesters to meet the demands of the Michigan Merit Curriculum, which required high school graduates to take algebra II, chemistry, physics and world languages. Since then, the district offers opportunities for seventh- and eighth-graders to earn high school credit for algebra I, geometry and world languages.

“We have just found that 24 weeks in a school year is not enough time to take care of these mandates for our core required classes,” Wilson explained. “The 36-week option is much needed.”

In the fall, a committee of 23 high school staff members was formed to look at the school’s future and ways to enhance learning. For five weeks, the committee broke into three subcommittees to look at seminar-style learning, blended and online learning, and building schedules.

Wilson said semesters allow for about 40 hours of instruction (or about six weeks) in year-long courses, and they believe a semester model can better meet the full-time equivalent levels for staff and students.

The change also allows creating programs for face-to-face and online learning. The courses will be open to juniors and seniors.

Wilson said many schools have returned to semester schedules.

“This certainly is a change, but not something we are unfamiliar with, and we are confident that this will be a smooth transition for our students,” she said.

Some Grand Haven High School students oppose the switch.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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