Exploring Different Class Schedules

JT Miller ’14 - So today marks the halfway point of our experience in downtown Chicago.  We have spent three days in our classrooms, and have been exposed to a number of new things, not only during the school day.  Today was a half day at Benito Juarez Community Academy.  Each class period was 23 minutes long, and they skipped home room.  The overall theme of the today was that it was a “Benchmark Recovery” day.  Now let me explain what that means.
Juarez utilizes a unique system that they call the Benchmark System.  In the math department they are supposed to cover a total of 40 benchmarks split up among the 4 quarters.   A benchmark is an academic skill that the students need to learn by the end of the year.  A few examples from geometry include being able to calculate area and perimeter, and being able to identify angles, circles, and lines. These are all basic standards that you would expect to find in every high school geometry class. 
This is where the system becomes unique.  Each student is assessed in every benchmark. These assessments are short, one page test containing 3-6 problems.  However, the students must show proficiency in each benchmark twice.  If they fail the assessment, then they have the ability to retake a different version of it at some point later in the year.  They have until the end of the year to show proficiency in each benchmark. 
The school used the shortened class periods today to provide students with the chance to make up the benchmarks that they had failed.  However, I don’t feel like all of the students took advantage of this opportunity.  In each of the 4 classes I was in, at most 5 of the 25 students made an attempt to improve a previous benchmark. 
This is a much different system than I have ever experienced in a high school, and I am looking forward to seeing it in action more later this week.

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