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District Lauds Expanded Class Offerings

First published in the June 25 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

School district officials this week hailed the seven-period school day as a success for, in particular, high school students exploring their academic interests, after reviewing some data on the school year.
The Glendale Unified School District transitioned to a seven-period schedule for all of its middle and high schools this year, after previously running them as pilots at Roosevelt Middle School and Clark Magnet High School. The adoption came after GUSD had utilized a seven-period block schedule for the 2020-21 year, which began in an all-remote setting and had transitioned to a hybrid program by the spring.
The move was touted as allowing students additional opportunities to enroll in elective courses during the weeks, as well as being a more effective method of providing instruction. Superintendent Vivian Ekchian, in her year-end review at Tuesday’s meeting, also described the switch as contributing to the district’s equity efforts to its students, alongside improving technological access for students and bolstering the curriculum.
“In our focus on equity, resource redirection is something that is front and center on everyone’s mind,” she said. “Obviously, we’re not receiving funds over time specifically saying focus on equity, but the decisions that are made here, guided by the board, have allowed us to do so.”
The district this year noted enrollment increases in a variety of electives. Overall, world languages saw an increase of around 300 students, while career and technical education enrollment rose by more than 1,700 students, and visual and performing arts, or VAPA, increased by around 1,300 students.
Broken down, elective enrollments have largely skyrocketed among English-language learners. World language enrollment more than doubled, from 119 to 259, as did VAPA, from 306 to 645. CTE enrollment nearly doubled, from 305 to 586.
Students with special needs also saw increased enrollment in electives, albeit at a significantly lower pace. CTE enrollment went from 73 to 99, while VAPA increased from 136 to 173.
“Excited to see the data on the seven-period day, with the particular focus on English learners and special-needs students, and the next phase, which is ‘Now we have this opportunity to give a lot of choices to our students and how do we continue to add to it?’” school board member Shant Sahakian said. “We recently added the financial literacy course, and women’s studies, so this definitely creates an exciting opportunity for our students to have more opportunities.”
Christopher Coulter, the district’s director of teaching and learning, clarified one data point that, at a glance, suggested science enrollment had plummeted. The reason for this is because state standards had also added required science courses, rather than allowing them to mostly be elective. In other words, it was expected.
“It looks like there’s a drop there,” Coulter said, “but we still have quite a few students who are taking elective science beyond the three-year graduation requirement of science classes.”
Less expected, on the other hand, was the substantial drop in students opting to leave open their first or seventh periods, on account of having passed their required classes and taken their minimum number of electives. Coulter called this “fascinating,” because he had initially expected that more students would take the opportunity for free time, given how the new schedule more cleanly filled their requirements.
“In fact, it decreased significantly,” he said. “I have no explanation for that other than our amazing counselors and administrators at our high schools are doing a great job getting kids onto CTE pathways and interesting electives that the kids are passionate about.”
Added Ekchian: “If interesting courses exist, students will take them.”
Board President Nayiri Nahabedian joined her peers in praising the switch, which had been a discussion districtwide since it was pioneered at Roosevelt and Clark.
“It does open up a lot of doors for [students] that otherwise would not be,” she said. “It’s a wonderful example to highlight. The seven-day period and the opportunities it provides students is great. It’s something that we’ve talked about quite a bit.”

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