Saturday, January 30, 2010
Back to the topic of the block
Changing from the block to a 7-period day is one of the current ideas batted about as a cost-saver. Personally, I think it is probably a great idea, and actually would save money, however, there are some details in the current proposal that need to be addressed - details that would effect teacher morale and student outcomes.
Currently, at the block schools, teachers teach three long classes and have one long planning period. At the current 7-period day schools, teachers teach 5 short classes and have 2 short planning periods. Block teachers have a maximum of 102 students (34 per class) and 7-period teachers have a maximum of 170 students.
Apparently, Crawford Lewis was unaware until recently that at most of the high schools on the 7-period day, teachers "only" teach 5 out of 7 periods. His recommendation to the board is that all teachers at 7-period day schools will now teach 6 periods a day next year. This will allow them to cut staff by about 10 teachers per school at the schools currently on the 7PD.
I don't even know where to start to explain how damaging this move would be. This means that 7-period-per-day teachers would then have a maximum of 204 students every day and they will have only 50 minutes per day to plan for and grade work from all of those children. Currently teachers do their best to give the 140 students they see every day the best education that they possibly can within the already tight constraints of the school day. Crawford Lewis apparently thinks that "teaching" for 71% of the day is not enough -- but it's not about the amount of time teachers spend at the front of the classroom, it's about sheer number of students for whom they have to prepare and grade.
Unfortunately, I am very worried that these teachers will not be able to maintain the same level of quality that they do now if they lose 50 minutes per day of planning and gain 34 more students next year. For example, for an English teacher, the sheer volume makes the prospect of grading that many essays simply impossible. With 204 students, if a teacher spends five minutes grading each student's essay, it will take 17 hours to grade each set of essays assigned.
Further, if teachers on the 7PD answer the call and work themselves into the ground next year (for 5% less pay!), and students continue to do well on standardized tests, the BOE will have absolutely no incentive to put schedules back to the way they were, even after our budget crisis passes. I am extremely apprehensive about the possibility of maintaining test scores though -- morale is beyond low, and if an entire faculty is put on what used to be considered an "extended day" schedule and are paid less for doing it, I can't imagine that many teachers will continue to bring the same level of commitment to all of their classes.
I think this is a crisis, not only for the faculty members but also for the children enrolled in all of our 7-period day high schools. Believe me when I tell you that the feeling among these is that of despair. The board needs to step in and create a policy regarding the 7-period day. They need to add the wording that teachers on this schedule will teach 5 periods and use the remaining 2 periods for planning and conferences. Wording is everything.