This Pandemic Reinforces That We Should Go Back to the 7-Period School Day

Okay. I have said it before – even before this pandemic but…

I want the seven-period school day back.

It’s better for schools.

It’s better for teachers.

But most of all, it is better for students.

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In years past, winter weather and Winter Break obviously dictate a great amount in the time I see students in December and January. But after we come back from Winter Break, we usually go into an exam period that for over a week will decimate the regular schedule. (That brings up the issue of calendar flexibility).

That’s more time away from students. And before someone argues that technology can help span those divides in time and space, I will state that I need that face-to-face time with my students. It’s vital. It’s critical. It’s the basis for the student-teacher relationship in my opinion. AND THIS COVID-19 PANDEMIC IS ONLY SHOWING THAT MORE!

A seven-period school day would also have done our schools better in this period of school closures. My school system shut down its building on March 13th. We are now in our eighth week (Spring Break was still honored) of remote teaching and learning. There’s still a month left of school here in my system. That’s at least four-five more weeks of “classes.” In an eighteen-week semester, well over half of the time students and teachers were in a remote situation not only trying to learn and navigate a whole new system of instruction, but also still trying to keep up with curriculum on a regular pacing schedule.

For block classes, that’s only seven weeks of actual face-to-face time this semester. A seven-period day would have assured more continuity and stronger foundations to help alleviate the struggles of distance learning.

Yes, many school systems have been on a block schedule for many, many years and there are many teachers who probably love the block schedule, but if we as a country are so enamored with test scores without the interruption of pandemics, it does not make sense to have more kids taking more classes and therefore more tests and expect them to score more points on those tests without giving them more time per class to study. Even in a traditional school year without major crises like we are experiencing now:

Block classes force more students to devote less time to each class. With twenty –four hours still the span of a day, keeping up with seven classes per year as opposed to eight classes per year seems logical. That would mean more time per class to study the curriculum and to master the concepts. Furthermore, in the seven-period day, those students would take the class the entire year. That’s more opportunities for tutoring and remediation.

It allows for more continuity of classes. Core classes such as math or science may be predicated on previous material in previous classes. What if a student takes a math class in the fall of one school year, and then takes the next math in the spring of the following year? That’s a very large gap.

It makes scheduling easier. Some may effectively assert the argument that some classes could be on the A/B block which means that they would meet every other day throughout the year for a block of time. That presents more continuity, right? Not always. It is impossible to make all classes do that making scheduling a nightmare even more than it would be for just select classes using the A/B block. If all classes are offered at the same length of time for the entire year, scheduling for large schools becomes more streamlined.

If the block schedule (especially the A/B day block) is to prepare students for college, then it has missed its mark. College students tend to only take a full load of 4 classes per semester. We have students taking eight classes in an A/B block schedule at our schools, many of which are AP classes. Add some extra-curriculars and a job and lack of freedom that college students have and you have a schedule that actually seems harder to manage than a college student has.

It’s hard to keep attention spans for really long periods of time. If this post is too long, then you will not give the whole essay your attention. Sit in a meeting for more than an hour. Sit in church for more than an hour. Sit in traffic for more than an hour.

As a teacher, I want to see my students every day for the entire school year. That’s more face time and personal instruction. Instead of under 90 meetings in a school year, I would have almost 180 meetings. If my classes met every day over a year, my ability to track student progress and student achievement would be much more precise and have more historical data to measure against.

Students would have an easier time coming back from extended absences and breaks. On the A/B block that my school is on for over four weeks of time (winter holidays and exam schedule combined), a teacher may see his or her students for maybe the equivalent of 3 class periods. For true block classes that usually have those state exams used to rate schools, that means teachers see their students for maybe five class periods during that same frame. Not good.

Students would have a better shot at passing their courses the first time around. Students need 22 credits to graduate high school in NC. With the A/B day block or straight block schedule, these students have 32 possible credits they could earn. That’s a lot of wiggle room.

In essence, students in NC could fail 10 classes and still graduate in four years. A seven-period day gives students 28 credit chances, but with more time to devote to each class and more opportunities for face time with teachers and personalized instruction, plus extra calendar days for that class. It seems that it presents a better opportunity to do well in the class their first time.

Plus, students can still fail 6 classes and graduate in four years and that does not even consider credit recovery and summer school opportunities.

Graduation rates probably would not fall. If graduation rates are so key, then going to the 10-point scale took care of that. With a “50” being the lowest grade possible for a student to receive for a quarter score (at least in my school system) and a ten-point scale in place it means that 41 of the possible 51 quarter “averages” one could possibly obtain (60, 61, 62, … to a 100) are passing grades. Only 10 (50, 51 … to 59) are failing.

Those are just benefits for the students.

To talk of the benefits to teachers would take another entire post but it surely would talk about less teacher burnout, more opportunities to show leadership, offer more chances for collaboration, and give teachers more flexibility with duties and paperwork.

Again, that’s just a few. Schedules for next school year are probably in place – at least in theory. To change from block classes to a seven-period day for the 2020-2021 school year might be rather impossible. But it doesn’t mean it should not be discussed for 2021-2022.

One thought on “This Pandemic Reinforces That We Should Go Back to the 7-Period School Day

  1. having taught block and both 7 & 8 pd days – 8 pd days were the best and most flexible to allow for students to do the core classes and to have a choice of several electives, as well as allowing at least one, if not 2 periods for a study hall when they could easily go to the media center or get extra help from other students or what one school called “AIS – academic intervention services” – tutoring that was staffed by subject teachers on their required work period (5 classes, 1 AIS, 2 prep periods). Teachers could assign students to AIS if they were slacking or falling behind with the student being released from AIS obligation only after catching up or demonstrating needed proficiency. Most were there for at least 1 full quarter.

    And double period science labs worked very well with 8 days. Some electives were purposefully designed to work against the science labs’ 2nd period, allowing even more choice for students.

    And, with the 8 pd day, traditional schedule it was possible to offer 9-week intensive mini-courses that focused on just one narrow thing and counted for 1/4 credit. The English department did that for the seniors offering: the college entrance essay (required of all in the first quarter for senior year), creative writing, and various author/genre specific classes (deep-dive “Bill”, modern poetry, sci-fi, etc) with seniors required to take at least one literature-based class in addition to the college entrance essay class. This gave them a hint of what college would be like and provided a lot of variety for both teachers and student.

    It also makes possible 1/2 credit courses to again have more electives such as films, public communication (combines public speaking with corporate communications), desktop publishing, intensive CTE classes on one concept skill – and keyboard is perfect for a 1/2 year).

    The only subjects that really benefit from the full 90 minutes are the arts, but even there, having only 45-50 minutes forces students to concentrate and not waste.

    It would good to bring back the 7 or, better yet, 8 pd. day.

    Like

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