Scheduling at Berkeley High

Parent Q&A

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  • Berkeley High 6th period scheduling

    (4 replies)

    I'm looking into what's possible at BHS for my daughter who won't be able to have a 6th period class next semester due to her ballet training at the SF Ballet. We've received some interesting advice ranging from 'just take an F in the 6th period class' to try to approve a cyber high class or get a zero period class. I'm wondering if there are any parents out there who have had kids with an extracurricular passion that has made it necessary for them to leave school early and how you've managed that. I do know about Independent Study but I'm hoping to find a way for her to go to BHS because of the social-emotional learning and academics.  Thank you!

    I think you can do zero period and leave after 5th, but it is brutally early!! The idea to "just take an F" is the worst advice I have ever heard!! I don't have exactly the answer you want but my 10th grader (Independent Study since 6th grade) can take classes at BHS if they aren't offered at BIS, so he takes jazz at BHS and if he wanted, could take several other classes. He takes American Sign Language at Berkeley City College so he only has to go to that 2 times a week. He does Jujitsu 6 nights a week and the nice thing is on several days a week he is able to sleep in, which he needs! He also is very social and can hang at BHS lunch if he wants, and has several friends at Independent study and they often hang out there or walk to downtown. Independent Study is not as isolating as some people think. Especially since your daughter has a long afternoon, commuting to SF and then doing ballet and commuting home, just thought you might want to take another look at BIS. Good luck!

    Although you may already be aware of Independent Study, I'm going to put in a plug for it anyway. Taking an F in 6th period, just to be able to have flexibility sounds like a horrendous idea to me. 

    In IS, your daughter would still be able to take two classes on the main campus, have lunch with her friends, use the school library, and all the best features of the main campus. At IS, she would be free to make it to her ballet class, and also have multiple bonus things: autonomy, a schedule conducive to life, learning, and sleep, and the opportunity to practice what life is like at college. And contrary to popular belief, IS is very good for social-emotional learning. My daughter did her Junior and Senior years at IS; her social life was actually much better at IS, because she wasn't caught up in the nightmare of 4 hours of homework per day (I am not exaggerating), was therefore able to have lunch with friends rather than work through lunch, and was happier, healthier, and finally very secure in who she was, and therefore able to build and experience friendships. She's now a sophomore in college, and we often talk about how going into IS was the best decision she ever made.

    Please give it some consideration!

    My daughter has a passion for soccer, she is a senior in BHS, and her club is in Danville, she took Bart, uber to get there.

    For two years had a lab in the 6th period and she arrived later to her practice, it is more important school for me and I need to make the decision to her. She was upset but now I don't regret. Teachers at BHS don't care about the extracurricular class. 

    Have you or your daughter spoken with her academic advisor? They should be able to let you know what is and isn't possible.

  • Berkeley High School 0 and 7 periods

    (1 reply)

    Is there somewhere I can find a listing of what Berkeley High School classes are offered 0 or 7 period (that is, not using up an elective choice)?  There are so many great classes, and we can't find out which are options for my kid, who likes music, dance, and art, but can't seem to do more than one if she is also going to take a foreign language.  Help?  Either the information about what classes are in these slots or a direction of where to look to find out?

    I'm pretty sure 0 and 7 periods are mainly used for music and science labs. For instance, my son took IB Environmental Science and IB Biology, and both classes had lab days during 0 period a couple days a week. The academic schedule set up at BHS can be challenging to work around. There are 6 academic classes per day, which includes the 4 "core" classes (English, Social Studies, Math, Science) and leaves one "elective" slot for world language and one more slot for... what? PE (4 semesters of which kids have to somehow fit into their schedule), Art, other electives. Sophomore year in BIHS is difficult because the two elective slots are taken up with world language and World Values and Beliefs/Economics. This essentially means that the first two years of BHS can be spent with not a lot of choices for electives, depending on which learning community you're in.

    Since the incoming class are going into Universal 9th Grade, this does give your family time to figure out which learning community suits your student best, and will also give you time to figure out how to set up your student's academic progression plan for BHS. You don't have to decide everything right now. You should all spend some time going over the Choices Catalog and the Course Catalog, and over the course of your student's 9th grade year, discuss options with your student's counselors and teachers. Hope this helps.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Can 11th grader take only 5 classes at BHS?

Aug 2013

What are the options for a BHS 11th grader (AC) taking 5 classes (instead of 6) during the regular school day plus one 7th period class? Our BHS student has decided to not take a third year of a foreign language. Appears that all other requirements for AC/BHS graduation/UC entry (total # units, # years Language Arts, History, Math, Science, PE, Arts, Electives) have been or will be met with the planned 11th and 12th grade schedule in the next two years.

Can a BHS student use one period for self study in the library? Attend school for only 5/6 periods? Would like to have some ideas before approaching the cuonselors to change the schedule during registration week at the end of August.

Thanks in advance. Another BHS parent

Why would an AC junior want to take one less class? There are so many options and it won't look good on a college app. Mine also skipped 3rd year of foreign language (because it was so hard for her - better than failing) and so she managed to take ROP photography, sports medicine, badminton and African American studies as extra electives junior and senior year. They were all enjoyable classes, looked great on the transcript and were not too hard. With a rigorous AC transcript that includes plenty of AP classes, it's great when a kid has the ability to take some fun electives. Take only 5 classes in senior year if at all, not junior. Or consult with a college counselor before making such a choice. Other option is to be a teacher's assistant for one period. Mine did that too. Good luck. former BHS parent

My daughter completed 9th grade at BHS last spring. She is enrolled to take ASL at Berkeley City College this year. One year of college language counts as two years of high school language credit. Six classes in AC plus the double load of language in the evenings twice a week at BCC would be too much. We asked her counselor if she could take one class fewer at BHS and use the period to have a study hall to do homework and study during the day. We were told that she had to continue to take 6 courses at BHS, and that they have no study hall available. There was absolutely no flexibility at all. This was an impossible situation for our daughter. She must take ASL, and BHS does not offer it (WHY?). Since they would not cut her any slack, we have left the school. Your son's situation is different, and I would certainly try to get his preferred schedule, but I wouldn't be optimistic. I think it costs the school money if students don't attend 6 periods. Best of luck to you. ex-BHS parent

My BHS alum & BHS senior both took 5 classes one year, senior & junior respectively. They both proctored in the College & Career Center which was truly beneficial. They definitely helped out with tasks the counselors gave them but they also had time to study, take in the sights & sounds of the college center & get to know the counselors better than most students ever could. There are other proctor opportunities that can be pursued as well. BHS parent

The Scheduling process (August 2000)

August 2000

This is a letter I sent to the Berkeley school board about the scheduling process at BHS. I do not know very much about how it works, but I do know that my son struggled with it for 2 days this week and came home feeling very defeated and frustrated. I believe that this is a big enough problem that it needs to be solved at the district level, and that is why I have written to the school board. But I would appreciate hearing from other parents on the list who have more insight into it than I do. -- Ginger

Dear school board members,

It is time for the district to invest in a scheduling system for Berkeley High that can handle 3300 students.

My son, a BHS senior, waited 3 hours on Monday to see a counselor so he could change his schedule. He'd been incorrectly assigned to an 8th period science class despite turning in his schedule request on time, and noting that his team's practice takes precedence for 8th period. Not only was he given an 8th period year-long class, he was assigned none of the teachers he requested. When he finally got to see his counselor on Monday, he was told that the only alternative was a 5th period science class, which is full. So, the hours he spent waiting were futile. My son came home very frustrated, but the next day worked out a plan to shuffle all his classes around, and he returned yesterday to change his schedule. He waited nearly 5 hours yesterday - from 11am until 4:45, when he was finally able to see, not a counselor, but a teacher who was helping out, who made the changes for him. He told me that 30 or 40 kids he knew had been waiting since 8:30am, and finally gave up in the afternoon and left without making their schedule changes.

I would like to know why we are relying on a patched-together, volunteer-driven system to get our thousands of BHS students scheduled and registered. The registration process has become a nightmare of inefficiency and frustration for all concerned. The volunteers who put it together and who run it are appreciated, but this is not a job that should be assigned to volunteers. The technology exists to make registration simple, fast, and uncomplicated. Instead we are subjecting our students, teachers, and counselors to days of needless and pointless frustration. I would like to see the school board take an active role in getting a reliable and efficient system in place. A good first step would be for the board to visit UC Berkeley's TeleBears website to see an example of online registration and scheduling. Here's the web page for "Introduction to Central Asia" - there are links to a course description, enrollment status (full,waiting list), and actual online registration capability.;_InField2=57406;_InField3=00D2 A similar system could be implemented for BHS, with registation at home or at school on an internet-connected computer. UC Berkeley has many times offered guidance and assistance to the Berkeley public schools. Why not investigate a collaboration with them to create a real, working scheduling system for Berkeley High? This will require that the district devote resources to the project, and take a leadership position in getting it implemented, but it will go a long way toward making the students and staff at BHS feel that the high school really does work.

My daughter graduated 2 years ago from BHigh and I still have nightmares remembering how terrible the scheduling system was rather the complete lack of a coherent workable system. I have a son starting next year, and I could not agree with your comments more - this is certainly not a job for volunteers, and it is just inexusable that after all these years, the administration has not figured out how to do this. As you point out, there are many models, it is not reinventing the wheel. So what is the matter here???

I don't feel that the School Board responds well to issues unless there is potential of media exposure!! It certainly is the worst way to begin a new year, a clear indication that things do not work at the school, perpetuating the sense of frustration that already exists!! I appreciate your positive suggestions, and hope something can be done!!! Keep us posted, Lynn

It's an actual experience - what more do they need? I believe it's an excellent letter, and your suggested solution also excellent. Thanks for taking the time.

Ginger-- Thank you, thank you, thank you. You hit all the right notes. There must be hundreds if not thousands of other parents and students whose similar experiences (my Junior daughter also did about 3 hours Tues and 5 Wed) have given rise to the same thoughts but who can't say them nearly so well, or escape the sad perspective that it's a nightmare because this is BHS and that's the way it is, or both. In its recent report, the BHS Transition Team commented on the lousy look of physical plant as not only effect but also cause : "[T]he BHS campus is not clean and appealing by any commonly accepted standard. If the students return to school in September to find it in the present condition, it will again become a self-fulfilling prophecy and the poor condition of the campus will become even worse." The registration system is our administrative equivalent. Let's hope the Board will appreciate your brightly lit candle and indeed move quickly to better the chicken wire and bubble gum operation that quite clearly tells teachers as well as students and parents that this really isn't a good place for them. --Howard

I agree with everything you said, except I wish you had explicitly mentioned the subject of incorporating teacher choice. While this is a feature of every college system, it is not in high school and I am sure the district would like to see it disposed of. Even if all teachers were wonderful, not every teacher suits every child and having some choice can make such a difference. It is not merely a choice of some getting easy teachers and others difficult ones.

The only concern I have about a UC type system with teacher choice at the high school level is that people at college (at least at UCSD-- I registered for my daughter this spring as she was in Madrid), are assigned a time, anytime after which they can start to register. Many students would not get around to registering just as many today do not turn in or fill out a full schedule. Although my older daughter always did very well at arena scheduling-- either during or after--- many kids did not. Classes weren't balanced. And whether I like balanced classes or not, they seem to be what the school requires.

Where this gets me is that a UC system for courses would work. But we would have to have a way of selecting teachers. At UC, if you don't get a teacher you want, you can choose to take the class with another teacher or another semester. In high school, most of the courses are very closely prescribed by year or semester and you don't have this option. So we would need an enhanced, fair, balanced way to do some selection.

Your son's experience is the usual horror story. I am sorry to hear it is still going on.


Thank you, Ginger, for a well-stated letter to the Board about class scheduling. I will be watching to see if you get a response. Nancy

I would like to agree with Ginger's comments. My daughter spent six hours today trying to get her schedule changed. No one should have to spend six hours waiting in line. When she finally reached a counsellor, he told her to go to the chemistry department and talk to the department head. When she got to the chem. department, some parent volunteers told her that the teachers were busy but that there was room in all the classes, and she should go back to the counsellor. When she reached the counsellor's offices again, somehow, through miscommunication , she was told that she would have to sign the list and start all over again. At this point she left the school in tears.

When my husband and I went to try to straighten things out, we were told by a very nice man that he would never have told her to sign up again, that he would have treated her with respect, etc. I certainly believe him, but my daughter had been waiting since 8:30 a.m. It was at that point 2:15. She hadn't eaten since breakfast. If she was somewhat less than rational, who can blame her?

When we finally got to talk to the counsellor, it turned out that one of the classes she wanted to change to was filled, so she decided to stick with her original schedule. Surely it shouldn't have have taken six hours of waiting to find this out. If any improvements can be made in this wretched system, I am all for them.

Please sign me anonymous, as I have mentioned tears, which I am sure my daughter doesn't want her friends to know about. Thank you.

I liked your letter on several counts, mainly that the more I see of the BHS parents' e-tree, the more I feel as if parents are doing jobs that I thought we paid administrators the big bucks to handle, registration being the most obvious.

I love the idea of UC helping out, but from the few anecdotes I hear from students (and it's certainly not a valid sample), I get the impression that UC's own registration process can be pretty cumbersome. But maybe it's just because classes are so readily oversubscribed.

On the larger issue of the Board devoting energy and money to doing the simple, basic administrative functions of letting children sign up for classes and organize their days, I'm all for it. Let me know what further actions you're taking or how I might support your efforts.


The scheduling for this year has been uniformly awful. I know the volunteers and counselors are doing the best they can to get the students some choice. My son, too, spent hours in line 2 days this week and didn't see a counselor until the 3rd day. His schedule is fairly well worked out now, I think. What about the students who are away or working ? I wonder what went wrong in the spring? Was it the fire that screwed up the computer program? It's never been this bad before. Scheduling is done at most colleges, probably all, by computer. Why can't we have a system like that ? We certainly have enough students to make good use of such a program. Lynanne

Thank you for taking the time to articulate the frustration that so many of our children felt: it's a tough way to begin the school year at BHS. I appreciate your putting your letter to the Board in the newsletter. My daughter waited for six hours, and too, had to insist on the changes that she was told were not possible, but clearly, eventually were. Leah

I second Ginger's comments about the BHS class scheduling problems at BHS--so frustrating for students because it's a process that's not done fairly and consistently over all. There will never be enough support to schedule students because the system is essentially flawed to begin with.

[a copy of a letter to the school board]

Hello everyone,

Thanks for all the hard work we know you and the staff have put in to getting BHS ready for school's opening on the 30th. Based on the level of concern you're showing, we know you will want to address these three pressing concerns:

First, please take the time to visit the BHS class registration/scheduling process in action in Building H today. We suggest signing up to see a counselor, as if you are a student needing a schedule change (most do.) We think it's critical that you understand what parents and students are going through. It's really something- something that should not be tolerated. We are totally flabbergasted- almost beyond words. Clearly, replacing this "system" has to be a top priority for the 2000-2001 school year.

Second, please expedite installation of security cameras at BHS in student and Teacher areas, and on the perimeter of campus. Please! Don't continue to risk our child, 3000 + other student and teacher lives, our current Measure A investments, the potential passage of Measures AA and BB, and the support of the Berkeley community for our schools through inaction on this subject. I'm sure that most parents expected this to be taken care of after the 2 million dollar blaze last year. And just last week, a malicious prank cost us another $26,000. That's $26,000 we won't have for something else.

Third, please give the community an update on the readiness of BHS for the start of school. Anyone driving by the campus can see you've been busy--Is the communication/safety system now working? Are all of the portables in, and teachers and programs up and running and ready? The signs, the food court, the clean up...Let's get the word out on the status of all of the things Jack and Darrell assured us would be done.

Thank you,
Iris and Joan

[a reply from a school board member]

I agree completely with your suggestion that scheduling at BHS be discussed, analyzed and a new, more equitable, swift, efficient method be instituted as soon as possible. You mentioned several alternatives, and I have a few to add. We need to put our heads together, soon, and go forward. Besides efficiency and accuracy in a system we must also take into account the needs of all the students at BHS. We have a diverse student body with a great range of resources available to them to help them schedule. Many, and I mean many students do not have access to computers, helpful adults in their life or the where with all to understand the complexities of BHS and the consequences of the choices they make. We also need a system that serves these students and insures their chances of getting the best offerings and choices at BHS. I really think this is possible, and with the help of concerned people like yourself we can make this happen. I am prepared to start working on this immediately.

Terry Doran, Vice President Berkeley School Board

p.s. I commented on this very issue at the last School Board meeting because of the seriousness of the issue.

Thanks Terry - I really appreciate the reply and your offer to run it in the PoT newsletter.

I was not suggesting an at-home registration - I intentionally mentioned "with registation at home or at school on an internet-connected computer. " because it could easily be done at school. I believe BHS is getting a big technology grant that should boost the number of online computers in the school. Surely there are enough there now to allow students, teachers, counselors access at least on an occasional basis. And of course all our public libraries now offer internet-connected computers and help to novices. Visiting the library to change your schedule would be *much* preferable to the current system. Everyone has access to the library.

By the way Terry, it would be VERY exciting to see the school board spearhead an effort to get email and web access into all our students' homes. It is not necessary to get $2000 computers anymore. There are several companies now that are offering this (email and web only) extremely cheaply, if at any cost all. For example An effort like this would be such an enormous benefit to our students whose families can't afford computers and monthly ISP fees. Not just for scheduling, but for all the other benefits that we enjoy on the internet.


I'd like to comment on the distress around scheduling. I think a good deal of the congestion at the counselor's offices comes from the teacher request option. I've been listening to my son and his friends talking about their schedules. Hardly a one of them hasn't been to the counselor to try to get something switched. None of them have had real errors-- e.g.- Geometry instead of Algebra. They want a different history teacher or even to try to switch one section of their 1st choice with another section, as if they've got a commodity and once they have "one Mr. Teel" they think it should be a piece of cake to switch periods, then opening up a chance at their also 1st choice English teacher, whom they didn't get. A request of this sort, on the part of one girl I know, constituted a 4 hour wait to be told, reasonably so: "sorry- you can't do that". No kidding. This is not a necessary request. This seems to me to be a waste of everyone's time.

Very few high schools have teacher requests. We are a lucky bunch. I think the preservation of teacher choice is a miracle, given the problems it creates. I, for one, believe that teacher request is a non-negotiable point at BHS: it's one of the things that keeps us at BHS. Without it, we'd be somewhere else. There are too many teachers who are what I think of as "retired-on-the-job" or absolutely unprepared and uninspired. Ww try to avoid these teachers, though it's not always possible. Also, some kids like to take the toughest teachers for the challenge while others like to balance heavy work load classes with some fluff. Choice is essential.

From what I understand, the computer scheduling system in place attempts to give everyone a chance at their first choices by running eveyone at once. This seems to me to be an exemplary feature not to be taken lightly. When I was in college people registered in a random order, much like the line-up for the old BHS arena scheduling. THe first called took away the riches and if you were last you couldn't even get a schedule that gave you your necessary classes.

This is the siuation with which we are presented: We have a large student body, we don't have sufficient resources, people and dollars, a short time frame and a population that insists on teacher choice. Given these criteria I see several things we can do: (1) invent as a parent body some creative solutions, including increased targeted donations to generate the dollars available to pay for competent computer technicians and systems, (2) instruct counselors and students (and their parents) to priortize scheduling problems: if the counselors did some triage-- deal with true scheduling errors on the first 3 days, then the optional problems of disappointing teachers, a gap in schedule that requires a proctor, an unwanted 1st period, things might not be so nuts, (3) demand that the school figure out a solution to hire higher quality teachers, which means paying them well.

I think that there are too many of us, myself included at times, who hope our kids can have a royal flush-- 7 star studded periods. This is not reality. No system can guarantee this. Winifred

[a letter to school board member Terry Doran, reprinted with permission]


I was delighted by your response to Ginger's letter to the Board regarding scheduling. I just want to add that, at San Jose State University, we have scheduling by phone as well. This is a very simple system and could easily be incorporated into bhs scheduling so that not all students are required to use a computer. In addition, if students are away, it might be easier to have phone scheduling as well in case no computers are available to them.

Having experienced the nightmares of scheduling problems when my daughter was a freshman and watching the unnecessarily extreme frustrations of both students and parents while volunteering this week, I'd be more than willing to work with you on improving the scheduling system.

I would hope that any group working on changes would be sure to obtain the wise counsel of Terry and Peter Bloomsburgh who were able to make dramatic and significant changes from arena scheduling to computer scheduling and who have been coordinating the entire volunteer process.


I'm the parent of an incoming freshman and would like to add my comment here. We followed instructions by going to pick up my daughter's preliminary schedule on Thursday and were appalled at the state in which we found the campus. I understand this is an urban area, but that in no way excuses the broken concrete, exposed rebar, and general filth and disarray we found everywhere. We were also quite surprised by the classes she'd be given. They had her scheduled to take Spanish AND French, Geometry instead of Algebra, and an "elective" in which she had no interest. It was frightening to imagine what would've transpired had I not accompanied her. We found a room filled with very well-behaved students, sitting and waiting for the opportunity to see a counselor. We were told no more appointments were being accepted. There were two adults present when we arrived. One was a woman who was giving instructions to the group; however, her attitude led me to believe that she held the students responsible for the scheduling debacle. She was threatening, berating and unpleasant. The other "adult" in the room, when I finally managed to get his attention, informed me that he was "a hired gun", had only been there for a year, etc. He seemed to be enjoying the sound of his own voice droning on, telling me about himself (who cared?) while students waited patiently for answers to important questions. I was impressed by how the students appeared to be handling themselves in the face of this joke of a system and the incompetent and disrespecting people who appeared to be in charge of managing the situation. We were given a form to fill out with our requests for changes. However, there was no class description booklet available, nor was there a posted list of scheduled fall offerings for people to utilize for this purpose. We were finally able to track down one of each (why aren't there piles of these readily available since everyone in this room will need to use one in order to make changes to their schedule?) and spent an hour figuring out how to alter my daughter's schedule to fit her needs. I'd also like to add that the list of course offerings was not arranged by course in order to facilitate matters for the student; it was arranged by instructor's last name! This was virtually meaningless for us and forced us to thumb through page after page in order to find what we needed. In short, let me say that I couldn't have constructed a worse physical, emotional and administrative scenario for new and returning students and parents had I really put my mind to it. I am frightened for my child and shocked and disgusted that a city like Berkeley allows this to happen. Lisa

Someone used the phrase, "...not inventing the wheel"; I graduated from Berkeley High in 1970, and I don't remember scheduling being a nightmare. It was fully as large a school then as it is now, with many course offerings. I don't remember now how scheduling was handled, but I sure don't remember any huge hassles and waiting hours and hours to have mistakes fixed. Also, this was before there were computers, so I know complex scheduling can be done efficiently without some huge investment in technology. Maybe the administration needs to do some research.

Also, my daughter (who waited a total of 5 hours over two days to see a counselor for one minute) noticed that kids with parents seemed to get seen a whole lot sooner than kids on their own. She points out that, while parents have jobs and lives to get on with, kids do too. I feel pretty angry about this because I am not able to get away from my job to help her in this way. I also think it should not be necessary. Louise

During the past week, there have been many complaints about scheduling at BHS. My name is Peter Bloomsburgh. As a parent volunteer, I developed the computer software that BHS has used to schedule students since January 1998. Several months ago, I told BHS that this summer would be the last time I would spend hundreds of hours helping with scheduling, since I no longer have a child attending BHS and I need to spend my time in other ways. I am writing to share my thoughts about the history of scheduling at BHS, recent problems, and recommended next steps. I hope this information will encourage the new generation of BHS parents to get involved in deciding how students should be scheduled in the future and, as appropriate, to support BHS in this effort.

HISTORY OF SCHEDULING AT BHS: Prior to spring 1998, students scheduled in an "arena." Specifically, they went into a large room and picked their teachers; counselors and volunteers were available to assist them. This approach was very controversial, with many enthusiastic supporters and others who wanted the arena to be eliminated.

During the fall of 1997, a group of us researched the pros and cons of several scheduling approaches. Three public forums were held to obtain input, each attended by over 100 people. We visited two local high schools which allowed teacher choice: Lowell and Acalanes. We studied UC's TeleBears system, but concluded it would not work because of class imbalances by ethnic group and ability, unfairness for students who schedule last, cost, and technical support (Cherry Creek High School in Colorado uses a system like this).

The outcome of these discussions was that I was asked to develop the computer software currently used at BHS. It was designed to accomplish the following: teacher choice; class size balancing; class balancing by ethnic group, ability, grade and gender; creating 9th grade core groupings; minimization of gaps in student schedules; and assuring students get important electives unless scheduling conflicts make that impossible. The system was not designed to give every student every teacher they requested. Instead, a very high priority was placed on giving students their first choice teacher for the course they said was most important, and the system gives them other requested teachers whenever possible without compromising other objectives. This software was used in scheduling for spring 1998, fall 1998, spring 1999, fall 1999, and fall 2000.

RECENT PROBLEMS: This approach was well received the first three times it was used. However, during the past two years, there have been many complaints. I, too, have been very unhappy with how scheduling has been done during the past two years and hope these problems are resolved before scheduling is done for the fall of 2001. Having said that, I would like to state that many BUSD staff and parent volunteers worked very hard this summer to make things the best they could be, and I hope people will appreciate their efforts.


1. POST MORTEM REGARDING FALL 2000 SCHEDULING PROBLEMS: There are four major steps in the scheduling process: (1) data entry of course requests which reflect what students want and need, (2) deciding who will teach what courses and when (called the "master schedule"), (3) scheduling students into classes, and (4) resolving concerns students have with their schedule. Doing a good job on the first three steps would reduce the number of students who have concerns with their schedule. The problems identified during the fall 2000 scheduling process need to be analyzed to determine which step caused them. I believe that most problems were caused by steps (1) and (4).

2. DECIDE WHETHER STUDENTS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO CHOOSE TEACHERS: Some people strongly believe that students should not be allowed to choose their teachers. I hope that BHS staff, students, and parents will have an open discussion on this issue. Only after answering this question can a decision can be made regarding what scheduling system should be used. I spent thousands of hours as a volunteer over the past three years because I strongly believed that students should have some control over their lives at BHS, including their schedule. I disagree with those who say that teacher choice is an administrative burden on the school, because BHS staff do not spend significant extra effort to allow teacher choice.

For fall 2000, 95% of students received their first choice teacher for the course they said was most important, and students received an average of 87% of the teachers they requested for their three most important courses.

3. DECIDE HOW TO IMPROVE SCHEDULING: Major changes need to be made before scheduling is done for fall 2001. I have several ideas that I hope will be seriously considered. First, I strongly believe that each student should discuss their schedule one-on-one with their counselor; I have talked to a school in Southern California that does this even though they have 1,000 students per counselor. Other ideas include clearer scheduling instructions for students, handling requests for schedule changes without making students wait in lines for hours and hours, and perhaps signing up for courses via the Internet.

In addition, BHS should re-evaluate what software to use to schedule students into classes. Obviously, there are significant disadvantages to using computer software developed and maintained by volunteers. However, I hope that this evaluation carefully considers whether other student scheduling software systems include capabilities important to BHS, such as: balancing by ethnic group, ability, grade and gender; minimization of gaps in student schedules; assuring students get important electives unless scheduling conflicts make that impossible; and teacher choice. The last time I checked, the SASI system currently used at BHS had none of these capabilities.

This email responds to Peter Bloomsburgh's piece on scheduling. Many, thanks for the history lesson and the facts -- I'm very glad he passed this information on before leaving the ranks of BHS volunteers. Also, thanks for mentioning that many volunteers worked hard to make this year better than others. My daughter is a BHS senior, and for the past two years has spent hours trying to fix her schedule. However, things did go more smoothly this year than last, and we appreciate everyone's efforts.

After watching and supporting our daughter for almost four years, we strongly support the opportunity for teacher choice. It has helped make her take responsibility for her education. She's learned to "work" the system -- we've never accompanied her to registration, although we did accompany her to post-schedule meetings last year when she got caught in a battle between Ms. Saunders and one teacher. We, too, wish the system were more sane and more fair, but it has taught her to take initiative, be savvy, fight for what she wants, and evaluate her options. We have no doubt that she'll be better prepared for college than if she had had no teacher choice. We think high school students are mature enough to make choices about teachers and experience the consequences.

Our daughter's problems seem to be associated with (1) the 8th period "hold" for varsity athletes (so they won't miss important classes for away games), and (2) the lack of ranking for corrections and changes -- i.e., the order in which problems are corrected -- using the available slots to solve problems with the highest priority first, next highest priority second, and so on.
Thanks, Debbie

Thank you, Peter, for the work you have done in researching and developing and contributing to the scheduling...and for your clear chronology and suggestions. MaryAnn

I do not understand the reasoning that Berkeley High's scheduling system can't be modernized because "Berkeley High is so diverse". Both Peter Bloomsburgh and school board member Terry Doran mentioned this as a justification for the current system. Most automated scheduling systems have a phone component in addition to an internet component. I think we can expect that most everyone has a phone. In fact, MORE families would have access to scheduling over the phone rather than hours spent on site, especially those families where work prevents parents and teens from taking the day (or days) off.

As to balancing the classes while still accommodating teacher requests, that is the kind of task that computers do very well. Maybe better than humans. In fact, a smart scheduling program is probably going to assign classes a lot more fairly than counselors under pressure from those parents who are able to come in person to advocate for their kids. Anonymous Dad

I know there are many problems with the BHS scheduling process. However, we had a relatively positive one. While we were on vacation, a friend picked up my son's tentative schedule and through email, we learned that he had an open 5th period with classes scheduled first through 8th periods. Since my son intended to take a class that is only offered 8th period in the Spring semester, we knew that we had to close the gap. Upon returning from vacation, we headed for the counseling office on Monday morning, September 28th "greeted" by a person who said the counselors won't be seeing anyone, please fill out a form explaining your problem. Although the tentative program said See counselor, the greeter summarily dismissed us, telling my son and students in a similar situation to report to the Community Theater for open period to be assigned to a study hall or sign up as a proctor. Furthermore, counselors won't be dealing with gaps in program. Well, before leaving the counceling office we filled out written form for counselor that provided a simple solution to gap problem: moving my son from 8th period Spanish class to one scheduled 5th period. Wednesday night we received a phone call from counselor reporting that the request was fulfilled effective Thursday! We were quite impressed with such prompt service. Unfortunately, the 5th period Spanish class is quite full, but my son no longer has a gap in his program and will have 8th period available for next semester. It was a relatively simple problem with an easy solution that was handled promptly. We were thrilled and knew we were quite lucky! Anonymous

The descriptions of the nightmares of scheduling, appalling as they are, don't sound too much different from what my son experienced last year. The frustration, indignity, disorganization and general stress of trying to get the simplest thing done at Berkeley High was one of the many reasons my son resigned from Berkeley High in his junior year. Even as a parent, trying to get anything done is a nightmare and many parents, myself included, dread having to set foot in the place. The "school environment" is horrible.

When my daughter went to Berkeley High, there was still self-scheduling, I guess what is being described as "arena scheduling". As much as it was a bit of a zoo, it worked for her and she was able to get much more of what she wanted with a lot less hassle - imperfect though the system was - than students seem to be with the current system.

Both my kids had the experience of having grades recorded incorrectly and trying for months before it was corrected. I have to say, though, that my daughter had the same experience at UC Davis.

An obvious problem that no one has mentioned is that the school is just TOO BIG to work. I recently visited my midwestern home town. With a population of 70,000, they have two high schools and about six middle schools. They probably have better funding for education also. Is anyone considering the possibility of another high school in Berkeley?

I have spent many years defending the Berkeley public schools to people whose kids go to private schools. I do think there is a lot to be said for the diversity one gets in the public schools, and appreciation of diversity has been an important lesson for my kids. And Berkeley High has some wonderful teachers and programs for those who can handle other aspects of the school environment. But looking back, seeing the problems my son had starting in middle school, I very much regret that I didn't beg, borrow or steal to get him into the appropriate private high school.