Nicole Wilkinson isn't sure it was longer, intensive class periods that bolstered her grades as a junior.
It may be a coincidence, but after Brighton High School changed its class format, Wilkinson's grades soared - this during a year in which many high-schoolers say they face their toughest academic challenges. "All I know is I got two 4.0s," she said.Three years into its status as a Centennial School, Brighton officials are fine-tuning a calendar with five periods per day instead of seven and honing an at-risk program responsible for cutting in half the school's dropout rate.
In 1993, the school kick-started a three-part Centennial project: a trimester-based calendar, differentiated diplomas and an in-school, at-risk program. In a presentation to Jordan Board of Education this month, principal George Welch showed a student-produced videotape that showcased the project.
"It's something that's working very well for us," Welch said before the presentation.
Through its Centennial Schools program, the state gives individual schools money for specific proj- ects. At the end of its third year, Brighton will have received $100,000.
An evaluation of the project's three areas shows about a quarter of the school's graduating seniors receive enhanced degrees; an at-risk program that keeps kids in school and graduating on time; and overwhelming student and faculty support for a calendar not aligned with other area schools.
Wilkinson, Brighton's student body president, said the new schedule wasn't popular when first introduced. "I really didn't like it. The classes were so long, and it seemed like your day was forever."
Now she is one of 84 percent of students who say they prefer five periods of 67 minutes instead of seven periods at 47 minutes each day. This allows them to learn more and get more done. Plus, homework for five classes is easier to manage than for seven, she said.
An informal study conducted recently by school officials showed the majority of students feel they undergo less stress and learn more under the new system. Forty percent of students said their grades were about the same as when the old schedule was in place, but 38 percent reported higher grades.
Students also can accumulate an additional 1.5 credits if they want to graduate early. While 55 percent said the extra credits had not been a factor toward early graduation, 37 percent said they did consider checking out before the spring quarter.
Wilkinson said she didn't want to cut short a much-anticipated senior year but could have. She's convinced the intensive schedule has better prepared her to study exercise physiology at either the University of North Carolina or Louisiana State next year.
For other Brighton students, like the 70 to 75 identified to have some contact with the at-risk program each trimester, the project means a greater chance for staying in school and continuing to learn. Last year, 78 students dropped out, compared with 149 in 1993, said Peter Ingle, the school's at-risk teacher.
Ingle supervises teacher training, a committee that identifies at-risk kids and PAWS (Positive Alternatives Within Schools), a peer-tutoring program. Eligible students spend one period per day with PAWS tutors.
He doesn't believe there's a negative stigma attached to students in the program because it may include anyone, he said. Students might have learning problems, low motivation, low attendance or emotional problems or be drug and alcohol abusers.
"These are students with average to above-average IQs that have low motivation or low self-esteem," Ingle said, adding that PAWS tries to match students with the appropriate tools and programs to keep them attending.
The approach seems to be working, Ingle said. Last year, twice as many at-risk kids as the year before graduated on schedule in June.
Brighton High survey
Stress under the five-period schedule as compared with the seven-period schedule:
LESS STRESS 65%
MORE STRESS 15%
ABOUT THE SAME 20%
LESS STRESS 53%
MORE STRESS 15%
ABOUT THE SAME 33%
Are grades imporving under five-period system?
ABOUT THE SAME 68%
ABOUT THE SAME 40%
Being able to gain an additional 1 1/2 credits during high school has made early graduation for students:
SERIOUS OPTION 61%
LESS SERIOUS OPTION 8%
NOT A FACTOR 32%
SERIOUS OPTION 37%
LESS SERIOUS OPTION 8%
NOT A FACTOR 55%
Continue with the five-period trimester system:
Return to the seven-period quarter:
Try something else: