Students at Clovis East High School will devote more time to core classes next school year if a new six-period scheduling plan being floated by the school's administration is adopted.
But the plan has come under fire from some parents and students who say the current eight-period schedule gives students opportunities for more elective classes that keep them inspired -- and in school.
Of Clovis Unified School District's five high schools, Clovis East is the only one using an eight-period schedule. The same schedule extends to Reyburn Intermediate School, which shares a campus with Clovis East.
Clovis East's test scores have risen in recent years, but not at the same rate as those at other district schools or as schools of similar demographics elsewhere in California. Three schools compared to Clovis East -- Clovis High and two in Southern California, Gabrielino High in San Gabriel and La Quinta in Westminster -- all use six-period schedules.
"In 90% of quality indicators they outperformed us," said Darin Tockey, Clovis East's principal. "We want to do better."
Test scores can improve, school officials say, as students gain exposure to core subjects -- English, math, science and social science.
Students scheduled to six periods instead of eight will receive one additional year of instruction in core classes over their four-year high school career.
A 2000 study supports the high school's contention that more core class time is needed, said Nick Brake, who prepared the study as research director for Daviess County Schools System in Owensboro, Ky.
"There was a very strong correlation with the amount of time a student spent studying core subjects and their subsequent performance on college placement tests," he said.
In a study made public last week, Iowa-based American College Testing researchers said schools should focus on providing in-depth instruction of fundamental knowledge and essential skills, rather than covering a larger number of skills, to better prepare students for college and careers.
But other studies, including research by James Catterall of UCLA, show that students in theater arts and instrumental music have greater academic gains with more time spent in those electives. The study also found similar results for students of lower-income backgrounds.
Tockey said no electives are being eliminated, but they will have to be scheduled differently, either earlier in the day, in summer school, online or through independent study.
Teachers and school officials say the new schedule will give struggling students more time in core classes and boost performances of advanced students at Clovis East.
On an eight-period schedule, teachers can't always cover all the material students need to learn in core classes that will be covered in standardized tests, said Randy Ray, a Clovis East biology teacher who once taught at Clovis West.
Clovis East algebra teacher Shelly Lynn said she has removed content from final exams when she didn't have time to teach it. As a result, she said, her students start the next school year already behind their peers at other Clovis Unified schools.
Tiara Lanz, a Clovis East junior, said she sees other students focusing too much attention on electives instead of their core classes.
She said she has grown to like the eight-period schedule, but added: "If kids are more worried about their electives than their core classes then there is really something wrong."
Tiara said some of her friends are worried about losing time in electives, but she's thinks fewer classes are better.
"The six-period schedule is better because you get more time with your teachers," she said.
Rosalie Baker, Clovis East area superintendent, said connections with teachers grow as students spend more time in a class. School administrators will meet with families that remain worried about the plan to talk about scheduling, she said.
Some parents say they haven't been convinced that the plan, which could be approved by Clovis East officials next month, is best for Clovis East.
They say they don't think the district considered all possible scheduling options or the fact that some students can't get transportation to attend classes early in the morning.
Limiting electives may drive some kids to drop out, said parent Annette Simmons.
"I think that their eight-period day was one of their strongest arguments" for Clovis East being a great school, she said.
Simmons said her children, who attended other Clovis Unified high schools, could only take performing arts classes in summer school, but that option isn't available to all students.
Simmons also said revising the school day schedule creates an equity issue because some students can be driven to school for classes that begin at 6:45 a.m., but others lack transportation.
But school administrators view equity in a different light. They say Clovis East students need as much time in core classes as other high schoolers in the district.
Randy Stump, who teaches drama electives at Clovis East, said the schedule is not tailor-made for performing arts and electives, but that the district remains committed to keeping them.
"We will have to work smarter and better," said Stump, whose son attends Clovis East. "To achieve this, you will have to go beyond the normal school day, maybe go online or to summer school."
Change "can be scary, but we are going to make this work," he said.