The new Flex Mod programs is putting more decision making skills in the students hands.
It might be organized chaos at Skyline but it's a plan that will help make students better prepared to live in the world.
Morgan Ballard, Skyline High School English teacher, brought the USD 438 Board of Education up to date on Flex Mod, a redesign of school learning that makes students better at making decisions and helps them achieve better academic success.
With the old seven period day, students were not completely involved in their education. Using his own high school education as an example, there were classes like English, where he excelled and didn't need to spend the full class time there but he said he could have used more time in courses like math and science where he struggled, Ballard said.
Flex Mod focuses on better time management for the students. Working with the teachers, students now have "flex time" built into their schedule so they can spend more time in the classes where they need help.
"Students can go do what they need to do in other classes," Ballard said.
The result of this structure is that there are lots of schedules. There are so many that Skyline Superintendent Becca Flowers said they thought they broke the school information program, Power School. It's designed to handle change and Elementary Principal Diane House said she believed it can handle the changes needed for Flex Mod.
A goal of Flex Mod is to discover where a student might fail a class and provide the extra time needed in those classes to be successful.
House said some students can't get everything done in during the regular class time then have to take off and head to another class so Flex Mod gives them the extra time they need.
"You have to personalize the program for every student," Flowers said.
A big benefit to Flex Mod is that each student has an individualized schedule that fits their particular needs. That same flexibility is one also of the hardest parts of the program. There are scheduling conflicts in every schedule and that can be frustrating for teachers. Putting all this together is a big challenge especially in this first year, Ballard said.
But the flex time in each class is the key to success for each student. Once teachers and students have learned how to manage the fact that students may leave a class early and go to another class where they need some extra help, it creates an atmosphere for better student success for each student even though classes overlap. Students learn they can get the help they need and get their work done at school.
An important part of this program is getting the students to make their own decisions on what subject they need to spend more time on and how use the flex time wisely. This will help them become better at time management and that is crucial when they go out into the job market.
Ballard said time management is the number one reason people are let go at work. With the skills they learn in Flex Mod, it will make them better time managers.
Learning this new method was not easy. The system of going to every class every day for the same amount of time every day has been around for a long time. Changing the organization is like trying to fix something that is not broken. It takes some courage to decide its OK to make a change.
Making that change has not been easy. A lot of trial and error is needed. And its an ongoing process because students needs change. Because it changes, its never perfect. If it were perfect, it would be set but it has to be flexible to meet the needs of each student, Ballard said. But teachers are coming together to find solutions and its working. "We have a staff with a lot of good ideas," Ballard said. "This vision hits everything we do."
The best thing about this program is that it is working. Already, an increase in student success is noticeable in the first six weeks of school. Teachers have discovered some students that need help reaching that success, Ballard said.
Because Flex Mod is such a change from the former method, work is already under way on the schedule for next semester to make it more efficient. Teachers are looking at what they can create and working from there.
A theme has developed from the program, "Every T-Bird, Every Day." This has helped build a powerful identity for the students.
This year's students are the first to get Flex Mod. While it will have some benefit for the seniors, the grades coming after will gain even more from the program.
One former graduate from Skyline has seen whats happening and said they needed this type of program when they were in school, House said.
McPherson said he hasn't heard a single student wanting to go back to the old method. With this reaction, the future looks bright for Flex Mod.
"We're just going to get better," McPherson said.