Late changes to finals schedule result from instructional minutes concerns

December 9, 2019 — by Alekhya Vadlakonda and Michael Wong

Students will be spending more time on campus next week during finals as well as during spring semester finals because of the district’s concerns over Saratoga High and Los Gatos High not meeting the state-mandated number of instructional minutes for the year.

For Monday’s schedule, classes that were originally 25 minutes have been extended to 33 minutes. In addition, there is now a 40-minute tutorial between morning finals Tuesday through Thursday. 

The revised finals week schedule slots the period six final on Monday from 1:25-3:25 p.m. For Tuesday to Thursday, the first final of the day will be from 8:15-10:15 a.m., tutorial from 10:15-10:55 a.m. and the second final from 11-1 p.m. — 25 minutes later than the original schedule called for.

Though students have already adjusted to new tutorial policies introduced at the beginning of the year to ensure more instructional minutes, district and school staff recently uncovered that the school might still not be meeting the required instructional minutes minimums in spite of the tutorial change.

“The first part of the rule from the California Department of Education (CDE) said that we could have passing periods up to 10 minutes long. But the second part of the rule says that the passing periods are supposed to be equal,” said principal Greg Louie, who consulted on a decision made at the district level. “For whatever reason, this was overlooked, so we had a semester where tutorials had 10 minutes passing, but five of them would not have counted.”

Over the past summer, the school realized that its counting of instructional minutes could potentially be seen as fewer than the 64,800 minutes mandated by the CDC because of the freeform nature of tutorials. Although this had been going on for the last three years, superintendent Michael Grove decided to make the schedule changes to avoid potential consequences; the CDE stipulates that school funding will be removed proportionally to the number of grade levels with insufficient learning time multiplied by the percentage of missing instructional minutes.

On Dec. 5, Grove finalized the decision with a district-wide notification that contained the updated finals schedule, explaining the reason behind the change.

“In the new finals schedule, we accumulate enough instructional minutes to meet our annual minimum by adding 50 instructional minutes to the Monday schedule and 25 instructional minutes to the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday schedules,” Grove said in his email to faculty and staff.

Louie promises that the administration will work with students and provide leniency to ensure students are not adversely affected by the second finals sessions crossing through lunchtime. The long-held tradition of PTSO hosting Food for Finals during the tutorial will likely be continued, allowing students to both study and refuel during the 45-minute intermission.

“Those who still want to study before a test will have an opportunity to do so, and those who want to get something to eat can do that too,” Louie said. “We are not going to be super strict about the policy in general and I really hope that PTSO is able to make Food for Finals still happen.”

In addition, while the finals schedule will apply for both first and second semesters, Louie noted that a new schedule, which is currently being discussed by a smaller committee, will likely be finalized next semester to go into effect the following school year. Among other goals, it intends to solve the instructional minutes’ issue that has caused the problems this year.

 

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