Ocean City Intermediate School teachers and students benefit from nine-period day, principal says

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Ocean City Intermediate School

OCEAN CITY – Charged with closing the achievement gap at the Ocean City Intermediate School and to create “better time on task” for the core subjects, Principal Geoff Haines instituted a schedule change last year, designed to best meet the needs of the entire student population and staff.

The resulting “schedule within a schedule” was successful, closing the gap in 16 categories, Haines said. It reduced 27, 15-minute periods down to nine, 45-minute periods, with a common enrichment period scheduled for all students, providing either assistance or rigor for those in need, Haines told members of the Ocean City Board of Education at a Wednesday, Aug. 28 meeting.

Spanish is taught every other day rather than every day, lunch periods now offer a transitional break.

The schedule, Haines said, allows for more student-teacher time and better collaboration with students, parents, staff members and administrators.

The new schedule, he said was accepted as much easier to follow. It was more functional and easier to modify for a half-day of school, he added.
“The staff was happy because there were fewer students in the hallway at one time,” Haines said.

There was a better flow, less noise, fewer interruptions and more flexibility.

Social studies and science were “blocked,” providing a 90-minute double period every other day for each.

“It allows for longer labs for science and more time for projects in the library for social studies,” he said. “The science and social studies teachers are very excited. They have more time for experiments and more time to expand on things in class.”

The school day, which begins at 7:45 a.m. and ends at 2:20 p.m. functions better under the new program, Haines said. Teachers have more time to collaborate with colleagues; parents have additional opportunities to meet with teachers to address educational concerns and students benefit from teachers’ targeted instruction.

“There were also more co-teaching opportunities,” he said.

Staff was able to meet as a grade level, which provided more time to address any behaviors or concerns before they became a classroom disruption, Haines said. He said the enrichment period brought guest speakers to the school and allowed for advanced work and projects.

“This provided time for the staff to address differentiation of instruction for all types of learners, especially for our special education and targeted students. It allowed for targeted, data-driven instruction within the school day, more intervention, more student-teacher interaction and this provided a better way to make a personal connection with the students,” Haines said.

Enrichment also provided time for the school district’s Bullying Prevention Program called Olweus.

“The program has been a great platform for team building and discussion that did not previously exist,” he said. “Building time into the enrichment schedule for Olweus has had a tremendous positive impact.”

Haines said teachers have shared with him that if there are issues, the issues are quickly addressed before they became a larger problem.

Student achievement went up, he said.

“We closed the gap in 16 out of 20 categories, which I think is phenomenal,” he said.

On the NJASK state standardized test, language arts scores increased 65 percent.

“That was more than half,” he said.

In the mathematics portion, the score increased 55 percent.

Haines said that teachers in the building scored a 3.47 on the 4-point rubric for student growth percentile from the previous year.

“The (New Jersey) Department of Education noted that our teachers did very well with regard to SGP,” Superintendent Kathleen Taylor told board members.

“The schedule achieved what I hoped it would, but like all things there is always room for improvement,” he said. “”We will continue to look to improve and thus achieve.”

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