Warrior Wednesdays

News from the Andover Public School District

Wednesday, January 9, 2019- vol. 17

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What Do You Know About H-Block?


How much do you know about 7+H? You might be an expert, especially if you are an AHS student or parent. Maybe your family is new to the district, or your children aren’t at AHS yet. For those that need an introduction or a refresher, let’s look at some of the basics.

In 2016, the School Committee voted to approve a change in the Andover High School schedule from a 4x4 semester schedule to a 7+H block schedule. 7+H was implemented in 2017-18 school year.

  • Students take seven courses, with five classes per day- over an 8-day period.

  • H block is broken into H1 and H2-H5.

  • H1 is an advisory period; students meet with the same teacher for all four years at AHS.

  • H2-H5 gives students the opportunity to work with their teachers on course content, areas of concern, and new ideas or interests.

  • Core classes are now taught all school year, with instruction exposing students to more in-depth lesson plans. Year-long courses minimize potential gaps in learning that occurred in the previous schedule, particularly in areas such as world languages and math. The new schedule also gives students more time to connect with teachers, which helps build critical advisory relationships.

Students' Spotlight

The class of 2019 could be considered the pioneers of the 7+H schedule; it was implemented as they entered their junior year. As with most types of change, this wasn’t fully embraced by all. Some students were vocal in their concerns with the new schedule, and they were worried about their college transcripts. Ryan McBride, Shardul Joshi, Abhi Agarwal, Matthew Allen and Anhay Sharma, all currently seniors, were skeptical of the new plan.

They were concerned about extra work by taking seven classes at the same time and the possible loss of electives and flexibility in their schedule. While the impression of 7+H might be that students have the chance to walk the halls, all these seniors take numerous AP classes.

Almost two years later, they see extoll the benefits of 7+H. They love the experience of a yearlong curriculum, the ability to establish a relationship with teachers, and the opportunity to participate in activities designed to improve social-emotional learning and wellbeing. Many note that H-block allows them the chance to attend forums, see guest speakers and join in events they wouldn’t be able to participate in under the old schedule. What they didn’t necessarily anticipate were newfound abilities of organization and time management, critical skills as they move into their college years.

While they will tell you they were “the hardest hit” with the change, their younger siblings have adjusted seamlessly to 7+H. And this year students have been able to take a more proactive role in their schedules, as AHS enabled students to use the scheduling software to schedule their own H-block activities.

Principal's Perspective

Andover High School Principal Philip Conrad knows that all schedules have benefits and challenges, and believes 7+H is being used well by teachers and students. In his 30 years as an educator, Mr. Conrad has seen changes in what colleges look for in successful applicants. The 7+H schedule at AHS provides the opportunity for students to participate in a variety of courses and individualized programs that include original research, teamwork and effective communication.

Similar to his students, Mr. Conrad is a big fan of the year-long instruction 7+H provides. He has seen students and teachers develop more connections as the schedule allows them to build a stronger academic relationship. The move to a new year-long schedule and H block contributed to a 15% gain in students’ scoring advanced on the high school Introduction to Physics MCAS last year.

The benefits of 7+H extend to teachers as well. All teachers at AHS are H1 teachers, providing developmental guidance to their students. H1 is the advisory period where teachers invest time with the students for four years on topics such as goal setting, career and college planning, course selection, executive functioning skills, self-management, self-awareness, decision-making, and problem solving skills.

Teachers now have the time to collaborate with each other within the school day, something the 4 x 4 semester schedule didn’t accommodate. This collaboration time fosters teamwork among teachers, and offers common planning within a department or content strand to explore curriculum, instruction and assessment. The schedule also provides teachers the opportunity to host activities that connect students with events and topics outside of the high school, connecting them to a larger community.

With the 7+H schedule approaching the two-year mark and the second class ready to graduate, Mr. Conrad plans to take time and assess what’s working, and what might be improved. Look for a 7+H survey in your in-box in the coming months. We hope parents and students take the opportunity to provide thoughtful and constructive ideas. Our goal is to improve the quality of education for all AHS students.

Superintendent's Message

The implementation of 7+H schedule at AHS offers an important opportunity for all Andover High students by personalizing instruction and academic support. Its goals are well aligned with the district’s Theory of Action, enabling the district to enhance student learning. Many Massachusetts schools have adopted an approach to personalized learning similar to our efforts in Andover, including schools that share comparable demographics to Andover.

The flexibility of 7+H allows for a student to receive a deeper level of support, advice and enrichment from teachers and administrators, as students are able to meet with their teachers about their coursework during the H block. The year-long course structure strengthens the relationship between students, their teachers and peers in ways they might not have established in the traditional schedule of half-year courses. Students also have advisory time with the same teacher and group of students that furthers the personalized attention they receive and the sense of connection to the school they experience.

What is particularly special about the schedule is that students are now provided the opportunity to delve into subjects or programs that are of special interest to them, such as AVID, Senior Capstone and the Innovation Lab, without having to rearrange a schedule, miss a class or stay after school. Creating choice for our students allows them to develop their individual interests, confidence and autonomy and be well prepared for moving into their post-graduation years of college and careers.

I look forward to seeing the survey results on 7+H and hosting discussions with faculty, administrators and the community.

Shelley Berman


APS Community News

Andover Hosts Korean Students

Andover Public Schools is currently hosting 30 Korean middle and high school students for the next few weeks. The students are paired up with APS students, share cultures and become an important part our community. The experience of hosting these students is transformational for all.

This host program is a collaboration between APS, EDR (Educational Divide Reform) and the Academy at Harvard Square. The program culminates in an event on Thursday, January 17th, entitled Bridging Generations, which both celebrates traditional Korean New Year's Festival as well as honors our U.S. Korean War Veterans.

The event takes place from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the North Boston Korean United Methodist Church, 244 Lowell St, Andover and is free and open to all- please RSVP: g.cho@edrworld.org

Substitute Teaching at APS

APS’ Human Resources Department held an informational meeting on Tuesday for those interested in becoming a substitute teacher. Many thanks to those who were able to attend. We hope you are inspired to join us in the classroom! If you weren’t able to make that meeting, please visit our website.

Substitute teaching is a great way for those interested in a career in education to have a chance to get classroom experience or it can simply be a way of sharing in our educational community by supporting teachers and schools. Applying for a substitute teaching position is an easy process, and previous teaching experience isn’t required. The position requires a minimum of two years of college, as well as experience working with or supervising children.

Andover Robotics Club (ARC) will host FIRST/FTC Qualifier

The Andover Robotics Club will host students from around Massachusetts on January 20th and January 21st. This is a competition between 24 schools of robots within the FIRST/FTC (First Technical Challenge) Massachusetts Program. Top scorers at these competitions advance to the state finals, held in Natick in March. While Andover’s teams will not be competing (as hosts, we cannot compete), ARC robots will be there and our students will be actively involved.

Opening ceremonies start at 10 a.m., and awards are announced at 5 p.m.

It's a great opportunity for the community to see robotics in action at Andover High School, and how actively engaged our students are. Plus, there are some really cool robots!

Trustees of the Punchard Free School Offer $17,000 in Scholarships

The Trustees of the Punchard Free School will provide $17,000 in scholarships to Andover High School graduating seniors this year.

In addition to the scholarships the Trustees will provide almost $15,000 for various programs at the high school. The programs range from student support, speaker series funding, robotics and electronics engineering, music, science and the AVID program. Each year, in collaboration with the high school principal, the Trustees review competitive requests from teachers.

Andover seniors can apply for one of the scholarships through Andover Dollars for Scholars at their web site www.andover.dollarsforscholars.org and selecting the link to Chapter Net. The deadline to apply for student scholarships is April 1, 2019, and students can begin the process immediately.

Andover High School teachers can obtain the guidelines for program funding through the Principal’s office. Applications for programs in the 2019-2020 school year will be available in April.

The Punchard Free School was established in 1851 and initially founded by Benjamin Punchard’s will. These funds are used to build a free high school open to all residents of Andover and provide for the school’s operation. Generous Andover citizens have provided additional funding over the years. This has allowed the Punchard Free School to provide a valuable resource to high school students and faculty for 167 years.

AHS to Host Gap Year Fair

This year’s USA Gap Year fair will be held at Andover High School on Sunday, January 13, 2019. The presentation will begin at 10 a.m. and the fair runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The presentations will feature gap year counselors and local gap year alumni who will share their expertise with fair attendees. These gap year experts provide attendees with an overview of the gap year options, share relevant data, highlight authentic student experiences, and provide tips and resources to help guide families through gap year research.

To register for the FREE USA Gap Year Fair at Andover High School: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/usa-gap-year-fair-2019-andover-ma-tickets-51151615860