- A school’s master schedule is a vital, but often overlooked, system that affects what students learn, who teaches them, who learns with them, if they are likely to graduate and their preparation for college-level work, District Administration reports.
- Those who believe in the power of the master schedule say it is a way to improve outcomes for students and to promote equity because it determines what classes are available for students and the prerequisites for entering those classes.
- With the help of software options, administrators can develop schedules that are in the best interest of students, rather than the convenience of teachers, and take into account which students learn best together, which teachers collaborate the best and the level of rigor students will face.
Creating master schedules is an important task, but one that is often not recognized as part of school improvement efforts. While most scheduling is now computerized, some scheduling software is better than others at providing student-centered scheduling.
Even with the aid of computers, proper scheduling takes times as administrators determine how many seats are available in each class, the level of rigor of available classes, and if rigorous classes are open to students in equitable fashion. Personal attention to the scheduling of students also takes time but can make a tremendous difference in whether schools are setting up students to fail by combining too many difficult courses, placing students in classes that are too difficult for their abilities, or limiting their ability to take the more rigorous courses needed for college entrance or future success in their chosen field. Personalized learning and calls for more flexibility in the schedule, especially at the middle and high school level, creates further scheduling challenges.
Setting up school calendars is also difficult as school leaders try to navigate state laws, accommodate a wide variety of federal, state and religious holidays, and provide enough time for required testing, professional development, teacher collaboration, and potential weather impacts. Decisions about the length of days and the length of classes can also have academic impacts. Though most of these decisions must be made by informed — and sometimes frustrated — humans, software options can help administrators keep track of all the variables, make the process easier, and maximize the use of available learning time.