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Follow-Up: Ending One-Size-Fits-All in School Scheduling


Paul Barnwell

Kids should be treated differently if we're serious about reforming the traditional school schedule.

One-size-fits-all initiatives relating to standardized testing, teaching strategies, or, in this case, time, rarely achieve stated goals. Equity, or true fairness, relating to educational opportunity will never be achieved unless there is greater emphasis on the reality that different demographic groups, schools, and communities have different needs. So what does this mean in the context of time and schooling?

Brooke Peters's young, high-poverty students should go to school year-round. It is clear that kids without much guidance, structure, or resources at home could benefit from this arrangement. This might mean that students in nearby suburban areas don't go to school year-round, and that's fine by me.

Shannon C'de Baca's students in rural Iowa should have the option of blended online learning, especially if they are needed to help at home on the family farm or with child care. This might mean that students in Sioux City will have a different schedule, and that's fine by me.

As I've argued, some students should perhaps have a hybrid model of time, continuing a similar daily structure for 160 days, then allowing for dynamic summer-enrichment opportunities with businesses, teachers, and community partners. If another local school system doesn't think this model will work or wants to test it out, that's fine by me.

Let's see more models in action.

It's clear that the traditional school day has not worked for millions of students because we've treated them all the same. Therefore, all of our proposals are right, in a sense, because we've worked to recognize individual needs and possibilities.

It's hard work taking risks, creating new systems to help more students, and acknowledging that the way we use time shouldn't be so uniform. I also worry that more federal government involvement in education will create a push for a NCLB-like, uniform plan in the context of school time. This would be a mistake.

Acknowledging that students should be treated differently implies that teachers might have different time needs depending on grade level, locale, and school type. You guessed it—that's also fine by me.

Paul Barnwell teaches English and digital media at Fern Creek Traditional High School in Louisville, Ky.

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