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The Future of School Schedules

I visit a lot of schools. Generally, no matter what the official topic is for our discussion, we inevitable discuss time. Teachers don't have enough time. Administrators don't have enough time, and students don't have enough time. And yet, we have all these new technology tools and resources - so why are busier than ever?

Are we at a cross-roads? Will the new technologies dissolve our current "8:30-3:30" school day of 50-minute classes? I realize there are many variations of the school schedule (class periods, days, week, semesters, grading periods, etc), but I would like to hear thoughts from the community -

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    Feb 14 2013: I think much of what we do in education is because of expediency and NCLB. As Fritzie pointed out, it's much easier to manage a couple thousand students if you strictly control their movements. Class schedules often are merely by-products of such expediencies and have nothing to do with technology or teaching or learning.

    Often, technology is, as Robert says, simply a way to stuff more information into the students faster, an effort driven by unrealistic goals set by NCLB. Some teachers use their computers and Promethean Boards only for lectures rather than enrichment or as tools for greater student engagement and involvement.

    I would like to see more flexibility in all aspects of education, not just scheduling. Two hours a day for chemistry and one hour for my English class seems about right. Unfortunately, the only changes I see coming are a longer day and a longer year as we scramble to meet federal targets.
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    Feb 11 2013: Lee, I applaude Fritzie's replies. However, I cannot address schedules and ignore what the driving factors are in education. 1) The people who drive education and essentially set the schedules are the textbookl publishers and the test developers 2) Federal and state intervention have caused teachers to stuff twenty pounds of instruction into a five pound bag.

    These and other factors have determined a very tight and time managed situation for instructors. The accompaning teachers guide dictates the syllabus the teacher develops .... in essence teaching the test.

    The make up is now conducted in Saturday detention for those who are failing because the teacher must "slug through" the material in class to prepare you for the "high stakes testing" that will follow.

    What I see as the future of the "school schedule" is that the electives we enjoy are and will continue to fade away. The federal focus on "core curriculum" or lose federal funds will make art, band, woodshop, etc ... go away. I also see the college type lectures becoming the norm in public k - 12. After a 30 minute lecture there will be a 10 minute Q & A and another 10 minutes of note reviews.

    The most effective use of technology under the current constraints would be in methods of presentation. Even that would be hindered by the mandates of the textbook publishers and the testing strategies.

    The hoops the teachers must jump through have become higher and smaller than ever before. The only thing consistant is that next year will be worse than this year with less money, less time, and more demands.

    There are alternatives .... but that is another conversation.

    I wish you well. Bob.
  • Feb 9 2013: This may involve a lack of concern in the public schools by the students.
    • Feb 9 2013: So, George, would you say that the comments about not having time are excuses for lack of interest, lack of motivation, etc?
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    Feb 9 2013: One big difference I have noticed in observing public schools and private schools where I live is that schedules are much more firm in public schools. In public schools, halls are supposed to be empty except during passing periods, and kids are expected to pass at specific times. If a child needs extra help or to meet longer than course periods allow about a project with peers, it must happen during lunchtime or after school.

    In the only private secondary school with which I am familiar, despite a higher level of rigor and much more total work in the private school, kids look more relaxed. The schedule is much more relaxed, with students having different schedules different days, free periods for study or getting help or club meetings, and teacher discretion over whether to let kids out early because the lesson is done.

    I think some of the difference is explained by the much larger school population at the public schools. Also the private school teachers teach many fewer students and many fewer hours. The lower stress level among teachers sets a more relaxed atmosphere for kids.

    A separate issue than the one I see you raise and one that tends to be discussed a lot is whether kids are overscheduled outside of school. The overscheduling comes in part because parents often believe that kids cannot have too much organized enrichment.
    • Feb 9 2013: Interesting view, Fritz. I would agree that there is a rather strict adherence to bell schedules at the vast majority of traditional public schools. And that's one reason for my post, new technologies should really support altered schedules, flexible grouping, etc. But I don't see that happening - the new instructional tools & administrative tools are just shoehorned into the current framework.

      Being over scheduled outside of school is certainly another symptom (characteristic?) of life that many kids and families deal with. I suggest that if we can make the learning time more fluid and flexible than the other activities and events can adapt also
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        Feb 9 2013: Hi, Lee. I don't think the firmness of bell schedules is related to what technology can accomodate. Schedules can be flexible without technology. If you consider grade school classrooms without the matter of passing from class to class, I am guessing most classrooms and schools in the one-main-teacher for the whole day model are pretty fluid about when things happen, when they start, when they end... to adjust to how kids seem to be doing and to give time for self paced work.

        In my observation, the rigidity of schedule is connected in part to concern about discipline and supervision. Let's say a high school includes members of several gangs. Administrators don't then prefer to see kids moving about freely on the campus for safety reasons.

        Another matter, which is not a trend as perhaps cyclical, is that schools or districts may swing from embracing differentiated instruction to more of a lock-step strategy. For example, one issue that is a great concern in some locations is the issue that kids will, if permitted to move at the pace of learning natural for them, perform at quite different levels.

        One way schools used to accomodate this, and sometimes still do, is by tracking kids so that kids who learn at different paces are grouped with students who move through material more or less as they do. But this tends to retain a performance gap in terms of level attained, which many find an undesirable result.

        So one often sees forms of classroom organization that require kids to work in groups including slow and fast learners and not to allow the faster learners to move ahead any faster than the slowest learner in the group, including catching people up who are often absent.

        This strategy has nothing to do with technology but rather is driven by a philosophy of prioritizing homogeneous outcomes.

        I doubt this will become a trend. Stifling faster learners will ultimately not be at all to the benefit of any city, state, or country. I expect return to differentiation