Drafting a Master Schedule: Equity, Connection & Growth

Building a master schedule means centering many competing priorities – from supporting students’ academic goals and elective explorations, to facilitating strong teacher-student connections and beyond. Below, your fellow leaders share their insights on fitting all the puzzle pieces together – and keeping equity front of mind:

“The master schedule is one of our greatest tools for educational equity. From seat counts, to which kids are taking advanced classes, to intentional scheduling of students who need more support, either it is maintaining inequitable outcomes or it is a tool for equity on your campus. 

It’s so important to begin by setting your guiding principles, because some conflict will arise and you will be forced to make a decision. By having a list of the most important things you value and want to protect, you’ll make the best decision. 

One tip on hand-scheduling for equity: Don’t just focus on the students whose schedules have too many conflicts. Identify 10 students who need relational support and make sure their first-period teacher can start the day off for them in a positive way.”

Monica Collins, Middle School Assistant Principal

“Four ways we build equity into our master scheduling: 

  1. We’ve made every ELA class an advanced course, and we use that to differentiate instruction for all levels. 
  2. We’ve gotten rid of resource courses and embedded them in our general instruction courses. 
  3. We’ve supported our special education and gen ed teachers in co-teaching classes. 
  4. And this year, we’re moving toward basing math acceleration on student choice.”

Alison Pennington, Middle School Assistant Principal

“Three ways I bring staff and student perspectives into my planning:

  1. I always ask teams what classes they are willing to teach that they are also certified in. Teacher input is essential to your success!
  2. The more eyes on the schedule, the better. I pick colleagues who have NO invested interest for themselves – counselors, other APs and principals and instructional coaches – and get their insights.
  3. After I have a schedule, I pick a student who has a specialized placement and follow their schedule throughout the day. You will find the holes in your schedule when you do that!”

Victoria Tong, Junior High School Assistant Principal

“It’s really important to me to schedule students based on their needs – not always just their course progression. This means that if a student has shown potential in an honors class, I will place them in that class. Student grades and test results should not be the only determinants, especially after everything they have had to endure in the past year. I also want to ensure that students are always scheduled with the electives and career academies that they choose: Often, those classes are why students come to school in the first place. I also hand-schedule my ESE and ELL students so that they can be paired with teachers who work best with them, which allows for the best learning opportunities for those students.”

Summer Fisher, High School Assistant Principal

“A few steps we have taken to create our master schedule:

  1. Determine staffing based upon the needs of your scholars – and be sure to consider when and how you’ll support your scholars who receive special education services. 
  2. Do your best not to break up instructional blocks too many times. If this is occurring, go back and review the times you’ve established for lunch, recess, planning, etc.
  3. Have a committee working on it so you have as many eyes as possible to check the schedule. Offer your teachers time to process and ask questions. Make tweaks as needed!”

Terese C. Pollard, Elementary School Principal