Skip to content

You May Be Missing Steps in Master Scheduling

Written by
February 28th, 2018

Presented by James Fleming – Transcription Below


Hey, thanks for joining us for the Illuminate Whiteboard Series. My name is James Fleming. I’m a subject matter expert in secondary leadership, and we’re gonna talk about that one missing step in your master scheduling cycle.

The Basics of Master Scheduling

So, I think everybody’s pretty familiar with the basics of master scheduling. You collect some course requests and, from those course requests, you build a master schedule board. You load students into the schedule, and hopefully they all load in pretty clean. You kind of use your summer to refine and publish your schedule. And then, in the fall, the students’ schedule goes live, the students start living in those classes, and you’re able to put away master scheduling for at least six months, until you have to start the cycle again. Well, there’s a missing step in that cycle, and that step is the “reflect and study” period that happens usually in the fall after you’ve published a schedule. By adding in a period of reflection and study about how the master schedule worked, you’re gonna be able to improve student outcomes, and really make sure your master schedule is not a task that you complete every year but is really your leadership document.

Examples to Reflect and Study

Let me give you some examples of some of the things that you’re gonna reflect and study on when you’re really using the master schedule to its fullest effect. After the fall has started, kids are all in classes, you can start going through and thinking about what schedule changes did we have to do on the fly in the first couple of weeks of school, maybe the week before school started, in order to get students into the right place. If you can systematically start thinking about how those schedule changes needed to be made at the last second, we can start to put things into place earlier in the scheduling cycle, so you’re not doing all of that work right as school is starting. So, thinking about what schedule changes did you make, are students trying to get out of a certain elective, are they misplaced in their history courses, are we rapidly changing schedules because they’re joining new instructional programs. Think about what took your time at the beginning of the year, and how we can systematically prevent that from happening at the beginning of next year.

Where Are Students Not Successful?

So, as you’re doing your reflect and study and the school year is starting, start watching for where students are not being successful. Are 15% of your kids failing math in the first quarter? If you have a big chunk of students who are failing math right out of the offset, they might not be placed in the right math class. So, start thinking about which students are failing, which students aren’t showing success in the beginning of their courses, because they may be misplaced. Once you have that data and you know which students have been possibly misplaced, we can start to think about what we’re gonna do different in the next scheduling cycle to better place students from the onset, so we don’t have immediate failure and possible needs for remediation right within our school year.

Instructional Goals

Additionally, you have to start thinking about your instructional goals, right here in the beginning of the scheduling cycle, and I know that you’re going to be doing something to make things better for students next year. When you start thinking about your instructional goals, whether it is the curriculum you’re gonna use, or you’re going to start providing additional supports for students, or targeting dropouts, whatever your instructional needs are, you’re probably gonna see it manifest itself in the “building the board” process. Start your study early. Don’t try to put together common planning periods, or houses, or put together a new sequence of math courses after you’ve built the board, after you have already collected course requests. All those decisions need to be made early, and this is what you’re supposed to be doing in the reflect and study period of your master scheduling.

Possible Scenarios

Let’s kind of play through some of those scenarios. If you know that you are doing a lot of schedule changes in the first two weeks of school because students were switching electives, we need to go back to when you were collecting course requests to see what we can do better. Are students picking the wrong electives? Are they picking electives that don’t match with their instructional program? Start thinking about what do we need to do to collect smarter course requests in order to drive us through the scheduling experience. Start thinking about your goals, thinking about where students are showing success and where students aren’t showing success, as we build the board. What can we do to ensure that every classroom setting is as supportive as possible for each student?

Master Scheduling is Year-Round

Now, as we’re thinking about these things that are data-driven from our reflect and study period, it’s gonna make our process of scheduling students, and it’s gonna make our refine and publish system go a little bit cleaner, because you’ve taken the time to look at your scheduling process, look at your scheduling practice. Your master schedule is not a document that you work on six months out of the year. A master schedule is a 12-month-a-year, full-time job, and when you’re doing it right, this is the leadership document, this is the guiding document for your site.


So think about that missing step in your master scheduling process. Think about where you need to start studying your own practice and making refinements, and hopefully you will close the gap on your master scheduling. Thanks for joining us in the Whiteboard Series. Go out and be awesome.


Whiteboard Image – 

Audio Only – 


Illuminate Education is a provider of educational technology and services offering innovative data, assessment and student information solutions. Serving K-12 schools, our cloud-based software and services currently assist more than 1,600 school districts in promoting student achievement and success.

Ready to discover your one-stop shop for your district’s educational needs? Let’s talk.

Share This Story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *