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June 26, 2014

District sets nine-week schedule

RUSK — In a move to ensure faculty have a more efficient way to educate their charges, Rusk ISD has adopted a nine-week grading period that activates when school starts in late August.

“What we're trying to do is to reinforce (the idea of) 'teach deeply and purposely' during grading periods, so by making these longer, we're taking away some of the slow-down and ramp-up times teachers typically face,” said Superintendent Scott Davis. “There's no impact on U.I.L. eligibility, it just simply means that our teachers have a longer (and more consistent) period between grading cycles (than before).”

With the old system, during the fall semester, grading periods were about eight weeks long, while the spring semester saw long periods of “about 10 weeks apiece,” he explained.

“Because so many of our courses are linked to outside entities like junior colleges, which work on a semester system, it just makes sense to end the semester before the Christmas break, especially for those kids taking dual-credit classes,” he said.

Not only do students benefit from this practical approach, so do teachers, whom he said are helped by a consistent grading period.

“The larger purpose of this change is to give teachers a calendar that supports more thorough teaching – I'm asking our teachers to not feel frantically paced to get through everything in one school year, because that's what they're feeling, they're feeling rushed,” Davis said. “It's a common sense approach to giving teachers time and permission to slow down and teach deeply the standards.”

The new system is not modeled after any particular school district, but inspired by the superintendent's own experience as an educator.

“I went back to some of my own experiences as a teacher, when I taught on a block schedule that had a grading period every nine weeks,” he said, recalling how smoothly it fell into place then.

The proposal was discussed about six weeks with both faculty and members of the District Education Improvement Council – comprised of faculty, parents and school administrators – before being put into place.

“We really did not have anybody that had massive objections to the idea,” Davis said. “And the faculty's comments and facial expressions are ones of appreciation. I can't wait to see this be put into place.”

This change will not impact a 2014-2015 school calendar adopted by the local school board, nor will it interfere with the delivery of progress reports that made every three weeks, he said.

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