Monday, July 6, 2009

Fun with the Daily Schedule

The school wants to make a change. They had a set schedule years ago. They tried a rotating schedule and now want to change back. The students disagree and sign petitions and write eloquent letters. So far, so good.

Then you read some of the reasons the students put forth and you wonder which world the kids are really inhabiting. Scratch that. They're still in "It's not my fault"-ville with a few residing in Dillusiontown. Much of the argument boils down to "Humor me. I can't get out of bed so you need to change."

The whole purpose of a public high school is to provide an education to as many students as it can, in as efficient a way as it can. The students actually have to be on time in order for this to work - we need a schedule so everyone is coordinated.

Here are some of their complaints:

(1) Students can't be on time for first period. Whose fault is that? "A lot more will bunk class if they're late." So? If you want to be an idiot, get lost.
"Pity the teenager who routinely arrives at school 10 minutes late. With a rotating schedule, which is what Classical has now, that student doesn’t have to worry about being late for the same subject day after day." So you screw with every class instead? I'd rather such students arranged for a study hall first period and showed up 40 minutes late than to have them miss 25% of every first period, which would actually be more like missing the whole thing. Why? Any kid who is consistently late will also not be likely to be prepared for class and will destroy much of the class's attention, not to mention the teacher's. Look at Willingham's distraction test - a distraction negatively affects the class's memory of events and ideas FROM BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER the distraction. Really, the kids who can't get to school on time are simply making excuses. If they can be consistently 10-15 minutes late, change their clocks and they'll be consistently on-time.

(2) Students will fall asleep in first period - again, whose fault is that? What do these matriculating seniors say about college where freshmen are always assigned to the 8am classes? What about the other end of the day? If you start late, you'll have to end late. No one wants to have classes go until 4pm.
"What about a teenager’s circadian rhythm? The new schedule, Siegmund says, ignores research that shows that teenagers are not fully awake until an hour after they wake up." SO wake them up earlier. If we cater to their every whim, we'll be starting school at 1pm and ending it at 1:15pm, and holding it only on Tuesday and Wednesday.

(3) Students want to talk with their friends during lunch, but they can't because of the schedule. Why is this so important? Frankly, the students should be split from their friends - school is the place to make new friends and try new things - as soon as school's out, they can compare notes and tell stories with their "boys." School is NOT a place where student "learn social skills" by only talking to the same five people all day.

(4) "Nobody wants leftovers in C lunch every day." You got me there. The lunch program always deteriorates as the day progresses. So fix the lunch program. This is a problem in every school who has hired out to Aramark or some other service. The food is definitely worse in the last lunch.

(5) Students don't want every day to be the same. Other than spoiling them, why does this matter? They've had a set schedule for the first eight years of their educational career, and they'll have a set schedule for the next four years, and they'll have a set schedule for their work life. Even if they work from home, their employer won't tolerate constantly changing times. Why should this era be any different? In what way are students psychologically unable to handle a set schedule? It's my experience that the students crave consistency.


Having said that, I do like rotation. It's not necessary, but I like it. I don't get the same class last period. There is a different group for the post-lunch doldrums. I understand that the rotating schedule interferes with too much other stuff and I'm not surprised that a public school wants to change back to a set schedule.

Some of the very real problems that must be overcome:

(1) Out of school schedules
- Seniors can't take college classes because they can't align their free time with the college.
- Eighth graders can't come up to the high school for geometry because the schedules don't match.
- Interns and work-study students can't get a set time to leave the building for their jobs.

(2) Part-timers and One-shot Deals
- The school can't bring in part-time teachers (the super-duper calculus teacher from the college can come in first period only and the half-time English teacher can't set her schedule and get a second part-time job.)
- Any online conference or schooling that is at a set time each day, can't be done.
- Speakers and such - getting it right is a miracle. Postponements are especially hard.
- Appointments can't be scheduled easily with free periods. People are forever asking "third period of the day or 3rd period?"

(3) Silly but important
- Seniors don't get the late arrival privilege that comes with a free first period.
- Students forget which day it is. Procrastinators forget they didn't have a free period before math class. Kids are always going to the wrong class.
- Teachers forget which day it is. "Damn, I need to make copies during the free period I don't have in time."
- Anything that requires more than one day is done at different times.
- Sports: The classes missed are always different. This messes with the students in all of their classes instead of just one. The coaches are usually helpful but ...
- Field Trip excused absences are a real PITA. "Please excuse Johnny, Sue and Billy from last period on Thursday." Which class is that? Are they in that class? What will they miss?
- What day is today?

It's a terrific pain if the students are doing anything outside of the building while in a completely contained environment, it's great. It boils down to the reason that the schedule is made in the first place - to get students and teachers together in an efficient way.

One possible solution is to have the two parts of the day treated separately, which I have seen done. The afternoon three classes rotate. If anyone had outside commitments, they invariably had the three afternoon periods free and could leave regardless of the rotation.

Here's the original article:

Classical students petition against fixed-schedule plan
By Linda Borg / Providence (RI) Journal Staff Writer
July 5, 2009

PROVIDENCE — Students will snooze through first period. They won’t be able to socialize with different groups of friends during lunch. Grades will surely suffer because students will be so bored.

Classical High School students are in a snit over the School Department’s plan to adopt a fixed class schedule in all its high schools this fall, a plan that students say will lead to academic ruin.

In the waning days of school, Madeleine Siegmund, a junior, gathered 245 signatures on a petition that implores school officials to abandon plans to impose a fixed six-period day. In her eloquent, two-page letter, Siegmund calls her missive “a protest to every single day being on the same time.”

“In the teenage mind,” she writes, “interest leads to motivation. Too much mind-numbing repetition lowers interest and drive. … The great majority of students regard it as near torture to have every class at the same time, every day, every week, every month, all year.”

Madeleine’s mother, Carmel McGill, who is also president of the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization, couldn’t agree more and has appealed to school administrators for relief.

“Having a rotating schedule allows our students to have a breather every day,” said Laura Gallagher, who will be a junior this fall. “It makes every day less boring, monotone and unappealing. From a social perspective, it’s better to have rotation so that lunches will be different. Nobody wants leftovers in C lunch every day.”

But school officials say that in a district with 23,300 students and 13 high schools, consistency is a must, especially since students change schools frequently. A fixed six-period day will allow department heads to have common planning time and make it easier for students to set up internships and enroll in college courses, according to Nkoli Onye, executive director of high schools.

“The class schedule, in and of itself, doesn’t do anything,” Onye said. “It’s about what we do with the schedule.”

But some Classical students worry that a fixed schedule will wreak havoc with their first-period class. Pity the teenager who routinely arrives at school 10 minutes late. With a rotating schedule, which is what Classical has now, that student doesn’t have to worry about being late for the same subject day after day.

“The good thing about this school was the schedule,” says Stephanie Acebebo, a senior. “Every day, it was something different. A lot more kids will bunk class, especially if they come in late.”

Siegmund says that Rhode Island Public Transit Authority buses, which most high school students in Providence rely on for transportation, are not always reliable. Sometimes, she says, they are late; sometimes, they are early and sometimes, the RIPTA bus is full and blasts right past the waiting student.

What about a teenager’s circadian rhythm? The new schedule, Siegmund says, ignores research that shows that teenagers are not fully awake until an hour after they wake up. Again, this means that the first period of the day suffers.

“If there is the same class first period every morning and the student is either exhausted or late,” Siegmund says, “he or she will most likely fail that class because of the limited ability to participate fully. CUTTING CLASSES WILL BECOME AN EPIDEMIC.”

1 comment:

  1. I write a sort of rotated schedule for my school. Morning classes are always morning classes, but at different times each day. Ditto afternoon classes.

    1. I buy the student lateness argument. You are right. They should be on time. But for those who don't, effecting performance a little once or twice a week in 3 classes is better than failing one. Really.

    2. The time of day flops matter at other times as well. I don't like getting kids sugared up, straight back from lunch. That privilege rotates. The clockwatching at the end of the day? Rotates. Fairer to the kids. Why should Johnny suffer because he is in a late class with kids who can no longer sit still? Spreads things out, evens them out.

    3. It's true that teachers lose track. Kids don't, though. They figure out their schedules by the second week.