By Madelynn Coldiron
The first 25 minutes of the typical day at Breckinridge County High do not look like a normal high school routine.
You might find a group of students in one classroom getting some intensive help from a teacher in a subject that’s giving them trouble, while in another classroom, a student is asking a teacher questions about a lesson or project. A club might be meeting in yet another room and students in a scattering of other classrooms could be catching up on the homework they didn’t do the night before, or simply reading.
PHOTO: English teacher Jennifer Payne reviews on-demand writing with a group of English students during Tiger Time.
This is Tiger Time, a guided study period that starts most days at Breckinridge High. The block, which precedes first period, was built into the schedule to provide school-day time for interventions, extra academic help, enrichment, extracurricular activities and for routine exercises like fire drills. The overall aim is to graduate college- and career-ready students by maximizing instructional time.
It’s a complicated and multifaceted system that has gone through some tweaking since it was implemented nearly two years ago after administrators looked at a similar model at Meade County High School.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s the right work,” Breckinridge Principal Nick Carter frequently says.
Tiger Time was carved out of the schedule with some juggling, including starting school a few minutes earlier and cutting out an afternoon break. Students report to their home room for attendance taking, and then segue into their Tiger Time activity until first period.
One of the strengths of the program is its adaptability. Intervention during Tiger Time is focused on a single content area per week – one subject is more manageable, Carter said. Some weeks are set aside to use Tiger Time to prepare students for upcoming end-of-course exams.
Even within those weeks, there is further flexibility. For example, English teacher Jami Anthony recently got the OK to use her review week time to help prepare a group of seniors for the upcoming AP English exam.
Tiger Time also is used for at-risk seniors to work on credit recovery through an online program and for freshmen and sophomores in a program called Operation Zero that keeps them from falling behind in their classes.
“You might have 10 different kids in here working on 10 different things but they’re things they can use to try to either work on something they didn’t get the first time or if they’ve missed work,” English teacher Erin DeHaven said about her Tiger Time period.
Gifted and talented students also have enrichment during Tiger Time, and there are club gatherings, pep rallies and routine meetings – all of which would have eaten into instructional time before.
“There’s no more meetings during class time,” said Assistant Principal Mike Harned. “Any kind of meeting that needs to be held can be done during Tiger Time.”
“Organizationally, it’s much better for us as teachers, this setup, in addition to being better for the students,” English teacher Lindsey Corley said.
Because students can use the time to seek out the help they need, she added, “I think it’s made them more responsible for the content.”
Keeping tabs on which students are where during Tiger Time isn’t easy, but in its second year, the school seems to have it down to a science. Rosters of students targeted for intervention or other activities are posted in the commons area the Friday before each week, by teacher and room they are assigned to. Copies also go up outside the appropriate room. That schedule that takes Carter and instructional curriculum specialist Amy Flood, working with teacher input, several hours to put together.
“It’s a beast,” Carter said.
The school also has a system for checking on students who are using the time to talk with teachers individually or go to the library. Teachers notify administrative staff immediately when a student isn’t where he is supposed to be according to the roster.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time they just forgot or had a good reason,” Carter said, though he acknowledges the problem of MIA students “was a big bear when we started this.”
Now, “most of the time it runs smooth as silk,” Harned said. It not only benefits the at-risk seniors he works with, he said, but also those students who need assistance but “who can’t stay after school for whatever reason.”
While teachers and administrators have contributed ideas to work out the logistical kinks, students are learning to take advantage of the 25-minute block.
“Students know how to use Tiger Time more efficiently,” said Assistant Principal Adam Cox.
“At first a lot of people didn’t like it,” said senior Maggie White. “They thought it would be a waste but now a lot of them really appreciate having that extra time to sit down and talk to teachers if they need to or just catch up on work.”
For students with after-school activities and part-time jobs, Tiger Time provides some much-needed time to do homework and study, added senior Katelynn Jarboe.
Carter said Tiger Time has helped get more students to proficiency and college- and career-ready status, and raised the school’s graduation rate from 87.9 to 91.9 percent. Future plans include using Tiger Time to work on Individual Learning Plans and career exploration, and for interventions for seniors who aren’t reaching college and career readiness benchmarks.