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Cascade community expresses concerns about 4x4 schedule

By DAWN HANKINS - dhankins@t-g.com
Posted 7/2/22

School is currently on summer break but concerned students and parents from Cascade High School continue to make their disagreements known to the school board over the new 4x4 block learning …

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Cascade community expresses concerns about 4x4 schedule

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School is currently on summer break but concerned students and parents from Cascade High School continue to make their disagreements known to the school board over the new 4x4 block learning schedule.  

Within a typical 4x4 block, the school day is divided into four instructional blocks—each of which is approximately 90 minutes.  

The new schedule was approved in May by the school board. Still, during last week’s board meeting, three individuals requested to speak before the board on 4x4. Those speaking were allowed 5 minutes of time.  

Margaret Bennett of Shelbyville, first up, to the stage podium at Community High. Bennett described herself to board members as the mother of four Cascade students. Bennett explained her children are in band.  

She stated, “I’m here tonight to express my serious concerns, about Bedford County High Schools and in particular Cascade High School going to the block system.”  

She listed concerns, which came from a meeting at Cascade High band the previous night—one which superintendent Tammy Garrett attended.  

Bennett divided her concerns into four parts. Bennett said other area schools have gone to the 4x4 block and it has damaged band numbers. She listed McGavock High as one example.  

She said the block schedule will also affect students wanting to take AP honor classes.  

“One of the ideas that was suggested to us, last night, was that they could take them at night, online.” She said she wasn’t interested in evening online classes.  

“Our students have been successfully taking AP classes for a number of years in the traditional program, during school hours, and passing their AP tests and getting their credits.”  

She said the block system will be difficult for students with ADHD or other learning disabilities. She noted how much faster the pace will be within this learning schedule.  

She talked about how ACT and other test scores are going to be affected. Bennett pointed to required subjects like English, biology and sciences which will be affected by 4x4.  

The students will suffer, she advised. “They have to have 7 months in between each one of those, unless they’re doubling up, taking them back to back. If they take Algebra I and Algebra II, back to back, so they don’t have 7 months in between, then they’re going to be even a year further out when they take their ACT.” 

 She said the 4x4 block schedule is going to be more expensive. She said more school staff will be needed from tech aids to SROs.  

Bennett said she believes truancy issues and poor study habits will be more prevalent with the 4x4 learning schedule.  

While offering more electives, she said students will have less time to even take more offerings, like math.  

“Frankly, it boggles the mind that none of these things are being taken into consideration,” said Bennett. 

Local student speaks out Emma Collard of Beech Grove was next up to speak to the board. A Cascade High senior, she said she considers herself a well-rounded student—one who can offer a “unique perspective” on the topic of 4x4 block learning.  

“The first problem this schedule poses is in regard to the attention span of students. Even from my perspective, as an honor student, I know very few of my peers who would be able to focus on a lesson for nearly 2 hours.”  

She referred to a study published by the Brain Balance Center-one which states that the average attention span of a 16-year-old is 48 minutes.  

She said the strongest case against a 4x4 block is its effect on standardized test scores. She named off an ACT report study within her 5 minutes and provided its results to the board.  

“A student’s ACT score is one of the most critical aspects of their college applications and scholarships,” said Collard. “Quite simply, I do not understand why we would jeopardize standardized test scores for students for the sake of implementing a block schedule.”  

She said she’s signed up to take 4 AP courses next year. “It appears that the incentive behind implementing a block schedule is so that the required credits can be raised and that more CTE classes can be offered.”  

The Cascade senior said she agrees how important it is to implement Career and Technical Education classes (CTE.) But, she explained to the board and the auditorium full of parents, educators and students that how the AP program should also be taken into consideration. 

 She advised that students overall will be limited by the 4x4 schedule. “I’m also a band member, which means that I must take a band class. Where would that fit in with the block schedule? Would you tell me to choose between another AP class and band?”  

Collard said she loves band and is involved because she “loves it.” Though, it is not going to be a part of her future career. She said she just enjoys band and advised how it helps her “contribute to something bigger than herself.”  

It’s a shame, she said, that she can’t do both. But, she will likely have to make the choice of taking AP classes. This wouldn’t happen under a “traditional schedule,” she told the board.  

Honor students will have to choose between an AP class, which could benefit a future career, or by participating in an extra curricular activity they’re passionate about like band.  

“The result would be either a lower enrollment in AP and CTE courses, or lower enrollment in marching band or other sports. Both of these outcomes can be avoided by staying with the traditional schedule that is currently used.”  

The senior told the superintendent and the board that there is no statistical evidence that a block schedule is more academically effective than a traditional schedule.  

The required credits to graduate can still be raised, she said, without switching to a 4x4block schedule. “Because this schedule brings so many negative consequences with it, I strongly urge the board to delay the implementation of this schedule and any staff training that comes with it, until more research can be done and the vote can be revisited.”  

She thanked the board for its time. A county official sitting in the audience said after the student’s speech, “We need to send her to Washington.”  

Deflating supervisor stats Dawn Kilpatrick of Shelbyville said her position was to deflate a lot of the statistics or comparison data presented by assistant superintendent Tim Harwell during the previous schoolboard meeting.  

“Being a numbers person, I took a look at the data (all available on TN.gov website.) The numbers were interesting, but I also compared apples to apples.”  

She compared districts and she said the data all shows a very interesting story. She said she could go on and on about where the focus of learning should be in this county.  

Kilpatrick said she’s been working the last 4 weeks with a concerned group of Cascade band parents. She said they’re all trying to understand the board’s decision to approve the 4x4schedule.  

She advised the board on ways to help students stay at school more hours. She advised that instructing more life skills classes would be good.  

She’s still a parent. “And I don’t care if they’re 18. Don’t let them check themselves out of school, without their parent permission. They are still kids.”  

She talked about CTE offerings within the county—a big push from the state. “I appreciate the thought of bringing more options, even if it is going to take 10 or more years to get them out at Cascade.”  

She discussed how parents want to be included in this process and that means, she said, being “heard” and “considered.”  

She said a short presentation on 4x4 block is not enough. She doesn’t believe enough information was available to the public, regarding this new learning schedule.  

“The school board should be checking with their constituents, not just their buddies. They should be open . . .willingness to hear and work these things out. But there is not. And the one meeting the board had regarding it was the retreat. 

“Something this important should not be a 9-persondecision with no input or discussion with the community,” the concerned parent advised.  

Kilpatrick said parents see good programs being hurt—FFA and band. AP class options will be limited, she advised.  

“The Cascade Band parents were able to have a meeting last night with Dr. Garrett and a few others. We had our list of concerns and questions that the group had put together. We had data . . . asked for clarification on it. But we were notable to present any of it. We did have parents, alumni and even current students present concerns. But most felt they were not being heard at all. Instead, we got more and more talk about how CTE is only possible with the 4x4 block.”  

When she began her list of suggestions to the board, board chair Michael Cook called Kilpatrick for being over her 5 minutes of time. She was dismissed. 

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