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Guest Post: Student-Driven Scheduling in Kansas

Lisa Terrell

Counselor at Bonner Springs High School


Guest Post: Student-Driven Scheduling in Kansas


As the Skyward community continues to look for more ways to build a student-driven learning environment, we feel a responsibility to trumpet the success of those who are doing it right. In 2013, Lisa Terrell, a counselor at Bonner Springs High School (Unified School District 204, KS), was on the front lines of a major change – the move to arena scheduling. This is her story.



Three years ago, we decided to switch to arena scheduling.

We had been using the auto-scheduler prior to that and it didn’t feel like the right fit due to some of the unique programs we offered at BSHS. For instance, we have team scheduling for our freshman and sophomores. Those teams also share common plans. When we added in departmental plans for curriculum alignment and planning, it made for a number of scheduling constraints that were hurting our students. We would end up putting most of the schedules together by hand, and it just wasn’t working for us. That’s when we started looking long and hard at arena scheduling.

To prepare for arena scheduling, there is quite a bit of work that needs to happen behind the scenes. We have to clean up our course master each year, checking to make sure we have indicated active and inactive classes. We also make sure our prerequisites and co-requisites are correct. It is also important to verify that grade levels are correct for all courses offered. Thankfully, Skyward gives us detailed instructions for all of the steps involved in setup.

We have teachers in core areas such as math, English, and science make placements through Skyward. We then mass-request all core classes per grade level. We have students make requests several months prior to arena enrollment and then use those to build our master schedule. Once we have a master in place, we make it available to students, along with a copy of their requests, including core placements, so we end up with a mock schedule before arena scheduling takes place.

 

We have put together a detailed timeline of our initial setup in Skyward. We’ve found that the key to a smooth process is making sure the details are correct ahead of time.

Once we have everything ready, we designate a day for each grade level from 10th – 12th, starting with the seniors. We randomly sort the alphabet and then call students into our Media Center. We hand them a copy of their class requests and the mock schedules, then have them log in to Skyward to complete the process. We make sure we have enough staff available to help as needed. If [a class section] closes, students either look for another class that hour or rework their schedule. By the time they leave the room, they have a completed schedule for the next school year.

The biggest benefit of arena scheduling is that it is student-driven. Students problem-solve on the spot and pick the best classes to suit their needs. They also have the option to pick the hours of classes that work best for their learning style. The other reason we like arena scheduling is that it prepares students for the college enrollment process. It is a great way to get them acclimated and more prepared before they even set foot on a college campus. 

The students enjoy the opportunity to have more control over their education – picking the classes they want and when they want to take them. Classes close when full, so we know they will be balanced and it takes one more worry off our plates. This year, for example, we completed our arena enrollment on April 14, leaving us ample time to plan for the next school year and focus on working with kids. 
 
We've been very pleased with the outcome and actually have very few schedule changes at all since implementing arena scheduling. I think the kids are happier, which makes the classroom teachers happier, so it has an impact on our entire culture. I would definitely recommend this approach to anyone who is considering alternatives to the traditional scheduling model. 
  


To learn more about some of Skyward's popular scheduling options, check out this post from product owner Jacob Baumann or contact us for more information today. 

 

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