Change meets demand for increased academic rigor, saves $750,000
The Mason City School District is moving to semesters in 2014-2015. A return to dividing the academic year into two 18-week semesters instead of three 12-week trimesters will have academic, social and financial benefits for Mason’s students and community.
Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, the Ohio Graduation Test will be replaced by a series of end-of-course exams in core high school subjects, including English I, II and III; Algebra I and II; Geometry; Biology; Physical Science; American History; and American Government. Semesters will ensure that students are currently enrolled in the course when the exam is administered. All Ohio public universities have agreed that any student who passes all end-of-course exams will not be required to take college remedial courses, which can be costly and impact a student’s ability to graduate in four years.
In 2012, 17 percent of MHS students enrolled in an Ohio public university took a remedial course in English or Math, according to the Ohio Board of Regents. “These new end-of-course exams are very different from the OGT which was a pretty low-level test. We need to give our students every advantage to make sure that they are starting their college careers on the right track,” said Mindy McCarty-Stewart, MHS Principal.
Semesters are a more efficient schedule, and would save about $750,000 each year. Every school district in Ohio’s Academic Top 10 (besides Mason) and national high schools that the district benchmarks with like Adlai Stevenson (Lincolnshire, IL), New Trier (Winnetka, IL) and Carmel (Carmel, IN) operate on semesters. All Ohio public universities made the switch to semesters this year.
“The trimester system has served us well for many years, but with budget constraints and pending mandates from the state with Common Core and end-of-course exams we want to be proactive in developing a system to maximize our resources for the future. Moving to semesters will continue to provide opportunities to challenge students who are ready to embrace that, as well as additional time for students who need more support. We will work hard to make this a smooth transition for all,” said McCarty-Stewart.
Moving to semesters eliminates the “gap” that occurs currently for many students.
“Many families and students have shared that they are excited about the opportunity to be immersed in a course for a full year – rather than, for example, taking Spanish 2A third trimester and not having Spanish 2B until second trimester the following year,” said McCarty-Stewart.
Since about 50 percent of MHS students earn 7.5 credits under the trimester schedule, about half of MHS students would see a .5 reduction in earned credits each year. Today, however, there are new options available for students like online learning, credit flex opportunities and the opportunity to earn high school credit at Mason Middle School.
“With trimesters, students who take a 3 trimester offering in music or AP end up dedicating 20 percent of their schedule to one course. Moving to another configuration may actually give some students an opportunity to take additional courses,” said McCarty-Stewart.
The Mason High School administration is continuing to work with parents, teachers and students to develop a semester schedule that meets students’ needs. During parent teacher conferences in January, MHS Principal Mindy McCarty-Stewart met with families and answered questions about the move to semesters. “The feedback continues to be helpful as we develop the type of bell schedule that supports innovation and success of our students,” said McCarty-Stewart.
Upcoming meetings to share information about proposed changes and how they will impact your child’s schedule will be on March 13 at the 8th grade transition meeting and on March 19 at the 9th-11th grade transition meeting. If you have specific concerns about your child’s schedule, please contact his or her counselor and make sure to check out www.masoncomets.org for more information about this year’s scheduling process which includes grade-specific You-Tube videos to walk you through the entire registration process.