When four is greater than seven North Carroll's successful "four mod" schedule may be model for others.

November 22, 1995

WHEN NORTH CARROLL High School decided to change to a "four mod" schedule that roughly halved the number of classes its students took each semester but doubled the length of each class period, the expectation in some quarters outside the school was that the experiment would fail.

After two years, however, North Carroll's climate for learning has improved substantially. Student performance is up. Students are taking more challenging courses. And, the dropout rate has declined.

The impetus for the change was the simple notion that by trading seven 45-minute periods for four 90-minute periods or "modules," students would get more attention and have more time to absorb the course work. Under this arrangement, teachers also have half the number of students they normally do and, as a result, get to know their pupils better.

The classes are more rigorous because there is more time for discussion and in-depth study. Science teachers, for example, are able to complete lab work in one day and still have time to discuss the results.

There have been additional benefits, too. With students taking four courses each semester, students can take more courses in a year than under the former arrangement. Half as much time is wasted in changing classes, including a significant reduction in hallway commotion with kids rushing from class to class.

On the basis of this success, two, possibly three, other Carroll high schools will be adopting this schedule. Westminster and South Carroll plan to do so next year. Meanwhile, the faculty at Francis Scott Key is now deciding on whether to accept it.

Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick County was the first Maryland school system to try this approach, but about a dozen others have followed throughout the state. This innovation is yet one more example of the wisdom of school-based management; that is, giving teachers and administrators real power to make changes at their schools. Not all education changes have to flow from the top down. Some of the best ideas flow up from the bottom -- in deviance of gravity and conventional wisdom.

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