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LEE DURY

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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 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

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