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July 13. 2014 8:19PM

New schedule feature will provide Nashua students with opportunities

When Nashua high school students return to school, they will have a newly designed daily schedule with built-in time for academic help, makeup work, enrichment classes and guidance counseling.

Teachers and administrators have been fine-tuning E-Block, a new daily period of 35 minutes that will give students who need additional help part of the school day to work with teachers on different skills and subjects. Students who are on track with all of their courses will be able to pursue enrichment classes and activities.

School staff will present an update on E-Block at the Board of Education meeting tonight at 7 p.m., at Nashua High School North. The board is expected to approve E-Block as part of a slate of changes and reforms geared toward better preparing students for college and careers.

Last month, Susan Rourke, head teacher for the English Department at Nashua High School South, and other teachers met with the Board of Education’s Curriculum and Evaluation Committee to review plans to launch E-Block.

“We’ve adopted a plan to phase in E-Block, slowly, cautiously and intelligently,” Rourke told board members.

Every day, from 10:09 to 10:44 a.m. students will have 35 minutes to devote to their individual needs and goals. During September, students will use that time to meet with their E-Block teachers who Rourke described as “academic advisors.”

Students will have the same E-Block teachers from freshman through senior year, and Rourke said developing relationships between students and their E-Block teachers is a key part of the new system.

Teachers are expected to spend the first couple weeks of the E-Block launch going over the district’s new competency-based grading system which uses a student’s ability to demonstrate specific types of knowledge and skills as the basis for their grades.

By the middle of September, teachers will be able to start scheduling remedial and makeup work during the 35-minute E-Block for students who need additional academic support. By the end of the month, teachers plan to have a list of enrichment activities such as lectures, special workshops and meetings for groups such as an astronomy club or an environmental project team for students who do not need academic help.

Students will spend each Monday’s E-Block period working with their E-Block teacher to schedule the rest of the week’s E-Block time.

Board of Education members have asked questions about the logistics of the new program, wondering how the schools will track so many students doing so many different things. However, Rourke and other teachers who have been designing the E-Block system, feel the scheduling process is in place.

Board of Education member Sandra Ziehm asked if the district had the staff and resources to provide help to students through E-Block.

“Should the board assume that the 43 percent of our students who graduate not reading on grade level will be required to attend reading classes?” she asked.

Rourke said they would, but not immediately, or all at once.

“We envision our reading specialists to be busier than ever,” said Rourke, who added that the district may also need to find other ways to provide students with academic support services.

Teachers will be using E-Block time to help individual students scheduled for makeup or remedial work, and to man resource centers for students seeking additional help. They will also be offering enrichment activities and workshops throughout the year.

Like competency-based grading, E-Block will create a new layer of work and responsibility for each teacher, and Board of Education member Robert Haas asked if the Nashua Teachers Union was on board with E-Block.

“We have their full support,” said Rourke.

btaormina@newstote.com


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