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How to Build a Successful Master Schedule

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October 26th, 2017

The master schedule is one of an instructional leader’s most important tools. It’s a function of the school’s philosophy, a reflection of its vision, and a blueprint for its resource allocation. The vast majority of a school’s resources may be spent on teachers, but ensuring a viable curriculum that helps that school achieve its academic goals is largely impossible without an effective master schedule.

In today’s personalized classroom environment, constructing an effective master schedule requires decisions to be driven by student need. The practice of placing students in courses based on performance data is a straightforward, low-cost strategy for building a master schedule that allows more students to gain student mastery of content and skills, as defined by state standards.

A successful master schedule should mirror the instructional focus of a school as outlined by a group of key stakeholders, including administrators, district leaders, counselors and members of the Board of Education. Those decisions should be based on answers to the following three questions:

  1. Are students placed in courses that appropriately address their individual needs (based on data)?
  2. Are teachers using data to teach courses that increase the level of learning for students?
  3. What structures are in place to ensure total commitment to the teaching and learning process during the instructional day?

Answering these questions connects to larger conversations about the quality and responsiveness of the school’s educational program. An exploration of scheduling practices inevitably encompasses conversations about teacher quality, collaboration, assessment strategies and MTSS. As important, it requires embracing the core belief that all students can learn, some educational initiatives are more important than others, and traditional schedules too often don’t allow schools to address student needs.

At the same time, school leaders must be cognizant of their institutions’ unique strengths and weaknesses. As principals and school leaders collect data on student achievement, they need to be objective about deciding which teachers will teach which courses.

They must ask themselves:

  1. Which teachers have content expertise as evidenced through data?
  2. Which instructional strategies are best employed by highly successful teachers as evidenced through data?
  3. Which classroom behavioral management approaches are most successfully deployed in different types of courses as evidenced through data?

Answering these questions will play a pivotal role in helping school leaders design their master schedules and assigning classroom space in the most effective way.

This article was co-authored with Dr. Abram Jimenez. If you would you like to learn more about building an effective master schedule, please download our latest eBook:


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1 Comment

  1. Daniel Tillman on May 20, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    Can you recommend a workshop on the mechanics of building a master schedule for a high school?


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