Mastering the art of the master schedule
August 29, 2018
During the time of registration, it’s not uncommon for students in all grade levels to find differences in their schedule that clash with their original requests. However, the scheduling process is not as simple as it seems.
Former Vice Principal Bryan Martin organizes each individual schedule with counselors and department chairs to aid in the process.
“There’s a lot of individual conflicts that come up, but I’m trying to do what’s best for the majority of the school,” Martin said.
Students begin the process by logging into Naviance and filling out their desired courses. This initiates a complex process to make sure every student arrives near their ideal schedule.
“Once the course requests are done, they are exported out of Naviance and into Q by the administration. Once the requests are put into Q, they begin working on the master schedule,” school counselor Randall McLelland said.
The school counselors main job is to make sure students are filling their prerequisites to take the higher level classes and fulfill the grade requirements. Once all of this is solidified, the making of the master schedule begins.
“Based on the numbers I get, usually by mid-April I have a good set of numbers that I can work with. It’s a formula based on our enrollment for how many students we will have. Within that parameter, I try to make all of the classes I possibly can,” Martin said.
The formula for putting together schedules is based on taking the number of students the school expects to have enrolled in a course along with the number of teachers and classes offered. These factors are what determine classes for the school year. While making the classes, the department chairs become involved with the process.
“The department chair uses the number of students who requested each class, and then we propose a schedule showing the amount of sections needs to fulfill student requests,” English Department Chair Kathy Bowman said.
Along with fulfilling the student requests, there needs to be teachers willing to teach certain classes such as the senior English electives and the Advanced Placement classes. In the last year, department meetings determine where teachers are assigned, teacher requests are considered and department chair proposals reviewed.
All of this is still based on the number of students who have requested to take each class. Class sizes are kept to the minimum, but the budget is the main resource in order to create the master schedule. A recent conflict occurred when the 2017 “Measure A” parcel tax failed to pass — a parcel tax is a form of property tax assessed at a rate based on the unit of property. Because the measure didn’t pass, the money available to the high school has decreased the budget for class sections.
“If you look at similar schools that have their test scores as high as us, not only do they have high parcel taxes, bonds and measures, they also have their educational foundations raised ten times as much money as us,” Martin said.
Based on these caps on the budget, the high school has to work within the constraints of available resources.
Once the class sizes are determined based on the budget, the schedule finalization process begins. For the first go around, Martin said 55 percent of students get their first choice or rather their ideal schedule. The rest of the schedule appear to have conflicts such as two desired classes that are taught at the same time.
“In Q, if classes clash, it builds what is called a ‘conflict matrix.’ They move around classes on the master schedule to make it so the maximum amount of kids get their first choices,” McLelland said.
Martin then starts the process of making sure the majority of the students get their ideal schedule. He starts with the 30-40 ‘singletons.’ Singletons are that are only offered during one period of the day, sometimes within one semester.
Most of the electives taken by students are singletons, and this is where many problems arise. These are usually Advanced Placement or honors classes. For example, the majority of sophomores who take AP Biology also take honors English. Therefore, those two classes need to be arranged to ensure the common singleton classes are not a conflict.
“Juniors, sophomores and freshmen get around 82-83 percent of the classes they want on their schedule. Due to individualistic requirements, seniors have a larger variety of class options to choose from,” Martin said.
Seniors have larger class options to ensure their graduation requirements are met. Elective options are kept open for necessary credits, like Visual and Performing Arts or the technology class requirement.
“If there are errors in their schedule and they don’t have classes that they need for graduation, we will do everything we can to help them with a change that will meet their needs,” McLelland said.
Martin plans accordingly for the benefit of the majority, instead of students’ individualized issues. Because of this, most schedule changes occur during the time of registration.
“That’s why sometimes when students come in August to get their schedules, they are saying ‘where did you come up with this course?’ The reality is we tried really hard to get them into their first choice classes, but they were conflicting so they would be given something else to meet that requirement,” McLelland said.
Changes in a student’s original class choices occur when there is a genuine conflict in the schedule that can’t be fixed without dropping a course like a singleton. The other problem arrives after summer school when the student is pulled out of a class and their first choice of electives are already filled up.
“I look at your transcripts and requirements to make sure you aren’t repeating a class, and to mainly make sure you are getting the closest class that you wanted,” Martin said.
Students sometimes change their minds about classes during summer and bring that issue to registration, or students will recognize teachers they don’t particularly want. But, the school restricts these types of change requests. In these cases, students are often stuck with what they have.
Because it is more difficult to change a student’s schedule at the start of a school year, students should consider all of their options and plan ahead.
“[Ms.Charrett] denied my request. She was able to fit me in another class, but it seemed more difficult that it should’ve been,” senior Sophie Projansky wrote.
Most students are not aware of the complex process that goes into making sure all students get the classes they need to graduate while honoring student requests for an ideal schedule.
“I’ve never really thought about the side of the administration’s duties,” Projansky wrote.
The assistant principal in charge of scheduling starts the process in the beginning of April and works throughout the summer and into the first few weeks of school.
“It’s impossible to make everyone have their ideal schedule. I just try to make sure that everyone is getting what they want or at least close to what they want,” Martin said.