Is the Traditional School Schedule Outmoded?

Is the Traditional School Schedule Outmoded?

Over the last several years, a variety of factor--including budget cuts, advances in technology, and efforts to boost graduation rate--have forced school systems to reconsider the amount of time students spend in school. Some states have begun awarding credits based on mastery rather than "seat time." Other states have given districts leeway to shorten the school week to four days. And in some cases, federal and local officials have offered incentives for low-performing schools to extend learning time.

How do you think schools can maximize what time they do have with students? How might teachers' time be structured differently to achieve better results for students? Is the traditional six-hour day/180-day year still the most viable--or productive--student schedule? There are also countless options for restructuring "school time" that have yet to be explored. What do you imagine the school "day" or "year" could look like in the future?

Roundup Post: Teachers Rethinking Time

By guest blogger Leanne Link, communications assistant at the Center for Teaching Quality We already knew that teachers need more time, but this month's Roundtable participants explained exactly why they want that time—and how they'd spend it. Here are some highlights from their conversation: Summer Enrichment: Paul Barnwell suggests slightly extending the summer to offer authentic, project-based learning classes. Fewer Tests: If only a representative sample of students took standardized tests—as is the case in Finland—we'd save time and money, writes Dedy Fauntleroy. Longer School Year: Brooke Peters supports lengthening the school year so that students...


Follow-Up: Two Hour Labs in 50 Minutes

Shannon C'de Baca One of the messy details about science is that you learn best by doing. You cannot learn how to do surgery by watching others do it. At some point, you have to get hands-on. Doing a lab well and using it to elicit deep thinking in students takes time. Online instruction makes this so much easier. My students can do an online or kitchen chemistry lab and discuss it for days online. If they need two hours to do the lab and get clean data, they can do that. But such an activity couldn't fit into a ...


Follow-Up: Finland's Time-Saving Solution

Dedy Fauntleroy Last time I shared my dream for 2020. This time, I'd like you to close your eyes (metaphorically, of course) and imagine with me what we can do today to get a little closer to that dream. The quintessential challenge with time is that it is finite. So, in order to "create" more time in schools, we have to give something up or pay for resources that can free up time. We could do both by changing how we handle standardized testing. What if the United States adopted a testing structure similar to Finland, a country with one ...


Follow-Up: The Hybrid Life of a Teacherpreneur

Jessica Keigan Within this discussion, we have had ideas shared about how to use summer vacation more effectively, how to harness the power of virtual learning, and how to value student mastery rather than seat time. These teachers and educational coaches have strong ideas about what schedule reforms could make a real difference in student learning. Imagine what they could do with more time. In my last post, I talked about the value of five extra minutes in a teacher's day. One commenter pointed out to me that five minutes isn't much extra time. She's right. While five extra minutes ...


Follow-Up: "Podium" Time

Mark Sass My fellow bloggers have been tossing around some ideas about how education views and uses time. Much of the writing has focused on the role of time as it impacts student learning and how it impacts the day-in and day-out lives of teachers. I think we need to expand our domain in which we have been applying the notion of time. If we are to look at time in education in a different manner, for a different purpose, we also need to look at time as it relates to how we compensate teachers. For example, take a look ...


Follow-Up: Valuing Teachers' Time

Brooke Peters I completely agree with Jessica Keigan that the conversation around extended school day and year rarely considers the way time is currently spent in schools, especially by teachers. It is commonplace in American schools for teachers to spend time doing things such as booking field trips and busing, troubleshooting technology, buying their own supplies, and filling in in a wide variety of capacities outside the classroom. Having teachers spend a portion of their valuable time away from planning and instruction ultimately does a disservice to students. Just like doctors are not expected to book appointments and file records, ...


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 ...


A Vision of School Time for 2020

Dedy Fauntleroy The alarm clock rings. Is it 2020 already? I look in the mirror—I've aged well! I put in my "flex hour" of planning time before school. Some split the hour, some plan after school, and others meet collaboratively. No more clock watching—teachers are trusted to organize their schedules to suit their professional roles. My 5th graders and I begin the day with our language arts block. Afterwards, they have mandatory recess. This is based on the premise that children learn best in chunks of time, interspersed with opportunities to exercise and socialize. (On the way back...


The Value of Five Minutes for a Teacher

Jessica Keigan I recently had the extreme privilege of hearing Michelle Shearer, the 2011 National Teacher of the Year. Of the many great ideas she shared, one of her classroom strategies particularly stood out. At the start of her school year, she asks students to describe the value of five minutes. Her intention is to help high school students see the value in every minute of their education, which led me to wonder how this activity might benefit other stakeholders in the system. What would be the value of five extra minutes in an educator's schedule? If any of you ...


Increase Student Achievement With a Longer School Year

Brooke Peters I once worked at a school in Los Angeles that was 99 percent low-income and ELL. Due to overcrowding in the district, the school developed a system with two eight-week breaks instead of a typical schedule. I witnessed first hand the amount of academic progress that is lost when students spend time out of school. My students, like many low-income children, did not have access to meaningful academic and enrichment experiences during break, which drastically affected their academic progress. Moreover, I believe in extending the school year and limiting the time students spend out of school. Education reformers ...


Time Should Be On Our Side

Mark Sass In 1906, the Carnegie Foundation coerced college professors into using the Carnegie Unit to measure educational attainment. How did the Foundation do this? They promised the professors that if their universities used the unit they would receive pensions, now known as TIA-CREF. Today the Carnegie Unit is still used as the unit of exchange between schools, as well as between high schools and colleges. The Carnegie Unit, or "seat time," as it is better known, is based on three hours of class time for 16 weeks. Schools establish yearly calendars and daily bell schedules based on the Carnegie ...


Extend Summer and Real-World Enrichment

Paul Barnwell May 30th was the last day for students at Fern Creek Traditional High School. For most of our students, work, play, and sedentary screen time will fill the gap until we resume classes on August 21st. Few will read, and even fewer will have the opportunities to participate in summer enrichment activities such as visiting museums or attending camps. Since summer has begun, it's time to address what is a major issue with our current schooling model: Many kids regress academically during the coming months. According to the National Summer Learning Association, the summer months are related to ...


Teaching 24/7

Shannon C'de Baca I walked into the high school I attended in the mid-1960's and was comforted by some of the changes I saw in terms of flexible room arrangements and technology. Then a bell rang and I was back in the 1960's. The students still move from teacher to teacher six to seven times each day. We have made many changes, but we have not altered the most powerful variable in the equation: time. I teach online—and have seen how time can be used differently. Can ... and must. I have nine students who work more than 40 hours...


The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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