Group asks BoE to loosen school day, ditch 6-period standard
One of life’s little certainties for students and teachers is the six-period school day. That may change.
Several staff and students from Fayette County high schools presented to the Fayette County Board of Education last week a proposal they hope could lead to altering the county’s 26-year history of having six class periods each day.
While no specifics in the opening discussion were suggested, the title of the presentation, “Limitations of the Current 6-Period High School Schedule,” said it all. Any changes to the schedule would likely take significant time to research. Presenters added that, if acceptable, those changes could be implemented in the 2012-2013 school year.
Though McIntosh High School Assistant Principal Dan Lane and the other presenters suggested no specific number of classes, they did asked that board members consider a new class schedule that would accomplish several needed objectives.
Those included allowing Fayette students to remain competitive for college admission and scholarship money and allowing students to meet Board of Regents requirements while providing the opportunity to take more diversified electives.
Other objectives noted that a change of schedule would allow schools to offer in-house credit recovery opportunities, allow schools to offer enhanced instructional focus for students needing assistance and would allow students needing math support and study skills the opportunity to take at least one class of their choosing.
Essentially, the state Department of Education — in charge of high schools — says one thing and the Board of Regents — in charge of colleges — says another, Lane said. Students in some school systems, through increases in the number of classes, complete their high school years with 28-32 units, making them more competitive in a post-secondary academic environment, Lane said.
Among the others presenting Limitations to the Current 6-Period High School Schedule were Whitewater High School sophomore Madison Akins, Whitewater guidance counselor Sandy Glore, Whitewater marketing education teacher Krystin Glover and Starr’s Mill High School choral director Dr. John Odom.
Lane noted that Fayette County high schools have maintained a six-period school day for the past 26 years, but during that time the academic requirements have altered significantly.
“And the students are feeling the squeeze,” Lane said, noting the 23-unit state requirement that must mesh with the current 24 units that can be earned in a six-class school day over the four years of high school in Fayette County.
Graduation in 1984 required 21 units and beginning in 2008 graduation required 23 units. While a seemingly a minor addition, those requirements do not tell the whole story, presenters said.
The four-year high school period in 1984 required 13 academic units and eight optional local units required. But beginning in 2008, there are 23 required units and no local requirements, said Lane.
Lane said that a move to transition to a different high school schedule would require an in-depth study and, if approved, could come with a likely implementation in the 2012-2013 school year.
Exacerbating the situation for many students, and aside from the English, math, science, social studies and personal fitness, is the need for math support classes and study skills classes that take up class space where electives were once taken. Beyond that, the years of foreign language requirements by the Board of Regents further eat into class space that was once the domain of electives.
Adding to the dilemma are further requirements involving a dozen Advanced Placement electives that must be sacrificed at the expense of Fine Arts and other elective studies.
All this translates into Fayette County students competing with students earning 28-32 credits during their four years in high school, presenters emphasized.
Like the other presenters who noted the consequences of the increasing course requirements to the exclusion of electives, Krystin Glover said what is at stake is the risk of having graduates who are less adequately prepared to face the challenges of the “real world.”
“We tell our students that in order to compete with others they will have to be well-rounded. But we are essentially telling them that a weakness in math will be at the expense of their love of music, marketing, physical education and foreign language,” Glover said. “Research shows a direct correlation between these elective areas and academic success. As educators, we are doing a disservice by not providing an opportunity for them to engage in coursework that will enable the development of the whole student.”
Chairman Bob Todd at the conclusion of the presentations said it would be appropriate at this point for the board to direct their initial questions to Superintendent Jeff Bearden. Bearden in response asked the board to consider the issues involving the limitations of the current high school day, adding that he believed staff should move forward with researching the topic.