Legend High School Schedule Petition
A Matter of Time
The debate in Douglas County over whether students should follow a traditional schedule versus a block schedule is highly irrelevant; for, regardless of when the bell rings, the same issues will remain-- unless genuine measures are taken. Although it is true that there are benefits and consequences to both schedules, neither as a sole factor will have a worthy impact on education. The elements that all schools must consider-- if the success of students is to be the ultimate goal-- are efficiency, real world application, and discipline.
Do you remember, or have you at least seen one of the original cell phones? They were a big deal; they gave people mobility and independence in the same way they still do. Of course, the thing was as big as your head, and you couldn’t text or surf the internet. You could forget about flappy bird. It was the same with computers. They used to be twice, if not three times the size of modern computers, but with exponentially less processing power. From the nineties to now, technology has shaped nearly every aspect of American life into something different--even the solar system1 and watching movies2 have altered forever. So then why should something as incredibly important as the American educational system remain relatively stagnant? In short, it shouldn’t.
Now of course, not all of the American educational system has stayed unchanged over the past twenty, twenty-five years. Many schools in multiple districts4 have cast aside5 the age-old misconception7 that lecturing is the most effective teaching method, and instead have learned to encourage individualization as well as multiple modes of learning. These schools have met great success; for they have used modern tools to shape the classroom.
Unfortunately, such is not the case across all of America. Though many schools have rolled with the times, equally many have not. Lots of teachers use technology to do the same thing, only better, rather than try their hands at something new5. They use their SmartBoard only for Powerpoint presentations or the occasional movie. Even with a plethora of new technology, old methods tend to reign in the classroom, holding back students. Many teachers avoid opportunities to be creative and instead resort to lecturing. True, lecturing is an effective means of delivering information, but it is not the most effective method of teaching that information. Yet, in the traditional school day, most teachers find that lecturing is the only method fast enough to communicate the necessary information.
It has been proven time and again that students achieve through individual attention8, and altering teaching styles as well as strategies9. This is possible to bring about on the traditional school schedule, but it is very difficult. The block schedule, on the other hand, fits directly with flexible teaching styles10: the long class period encourages teachers to be creative with their time, rather than stand in front of the class for the period. This combination allows teachers to educate students more effectively, in a more individualized fashion, and in greater depth than can be achieved in just under an hour-- all with greater variety and less fragmentation12 than with the traditional schedule11.
Teachers have infinite possibilities for lesson plans. They can choose to still implement the lecture, but while using more effective strategies; yet, since teachers and students both typically dislike having notes for the whole period, this encourages--even requires--teachers to try something new. They can do games, cooperative activities, study time... the options are endless, and all encourage learning in more interactive ways. The different methods provide different kinds of learners an equal opportunity to take in the information, and give the teacher the opportunity to individualize learning for students8.
For the sake of students, a more efficient approach to education must be taken. The block schedule is not enough. Staying on the schedule or switching away will make no difference if the method is unsound. If students are to benefit, schools must not only keep the block schedule, but encourage teachers as well as students to utilize the time within that schedule. Every minute may have a purpose if it is assigned one. Every task must have reason. Never should a student exit a class and feel as though it were a waste. Never should he miss a day, and look to see the assignment, only to find that nothing of consequence occurred. Always students, teachers, and administrators alike must unite in the effort to value time.
Real World Application
In a matter of six-and-a-half school hours, the average high school student travels to eight locations, to seven classes, seven different subjects, and lunch. Within high school, students are often told that they are being prepared for college and the real world; yet, “this frantic, fragmented schedule is unlike any experienced either before or after high school”8, and as stated by Joseph Carroll, "it produces a hectic, impersonal, inefficient instructional environment"10.
Is this the real world we are to be prepared for?
The block schedule prepares students for college on a greater level than the traditional schedule. Though both educate students on their common core, the block schedule gets students greater accustomed to college study habits and scheduling and the freedom these entail; the block schedule is more like college12.
If students are to succeed in college, let alone the real world, they need a taste of it first. The more practice students can have with being independent and effective workers, with handling their schedule, and with managing their time, the more successful they will be. These are skills every person needs to know--regardless of their destination.
Many people have expressed concerns15 that the block schedule is failing Douglas County schools. Unfortunately, that is not the case. It would be ever so nice if the problem were the block schedule, because that would be an easy fix--or at least easier than the alternative.
You see, the real problem is far more complex, and so far less simple to solve. The real problem is discipline. Hear us out before you turn away. It might be hard to believe that one word can encompass such a massive issue, but it’s true: discipline (or lack of it) is the leash that holds back our schools.
When it comes to off periods, free time during class, lunch, study hall, etc., it’s all a matter of time. All of the nit-picky issues facing the district are simple matters of time when examined closely, and every matter of time is a matter of discipline.
Time management is not easy for most teenagers--or most people for that matter. It’s not often easy to find the motivation, and there’s a reason we have the word procrastination. Each student has the choice of how to spend their time-- whether to make it productive or wasteful. When it comes to off periods, there are all kinds of options: some students may choose to take an extra class; they may shadow a class that they plan to take the following year--in the hopes of being better prepared; students might choose to do peer tutoring or peer counseling; they might study in the library, make up a test, or ask questions of a teacher; other students might go home early to start on homework or catch up on sleep. Always there will be the students who choose to waste their time and even the time of others, but that too is their choice. Every time we need to make that choice, it comes down to discipline. Are we willing to sacrifice the moment for the long run?
Sadly, the answer is often no. Our minds would take instant-gratification over some mind-numbing task any day, and for that reason there is concern. Parents worry that their kids aren’t getting enough use out of off periods. Discipline. Teachers feel concerned for students who don’t make use of class time. Discipline. Administrators fear that students are skipping class. Well, that one was obvious--but you see the point.
Students, parents, teachers, and administrators alike have to make a concerted effort to keep discipline in schools. Not to the edge of turning schools into prison, but just to the point of keeping everyone accountable. Actually use off periods to study, or at least for something productive. If a student is off task during class, say something. Encourage others to take more classes instead of off periods, and help everyone know that learning is an amazing thing. If people are still deeply concerned about off periods, so deeply worried that the student cannot handle life… remind those people that these students will be going to college soon, and that this experience is only a glimpse of the freedom they will soon hold. Tell those people that this will help their student learn to fly, and if they fall… well, at least it was before the big league.
Sometimes we have to fail, and sometimes we have to fall. We have to do this on our own, and take responsibility for our futures. Let go of our wings, and we just might fly.
After All in All
For the sake of students, we propose that several measures must be taken to improve education.
I. Maintain the Block Schedule
II. Encourage effective and purposeful lessons
III. Promote the use of technology for creative purposes
IV. Place a sincere value on time
V. Make every effort to prepare students for college
VI. Keep ourselves and others accountable
In signing this petition, we promise to make every effort to uphold these measures, but the only way to create true change is with your help. Please join our effort and promise to improve Douglas County Schools.
1. Inman, Mason. "Pluto Not a Planet, Astronomers Rule." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 24 Aug. 2006. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.
2. Allen, C. Richard. "How Has New Technology Changed the Way We View Film?" Curiosity. Discovery Communications, 2011. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
3. Woods, Judith. "Revealed: New Teaching Methods That Are Producing Dramatic Results." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 17 Apr. 2009. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
4. Shaw, Linda. "Education." The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times Company, 1 Mar. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
5. Reese, Hope. "Lectures Didn't Work in 1350-and They Still Don't Work Today." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
6. Anderson, Marie. "Advantages and Disadvantages of the Lectures in Middle School & High School." Everyday Life. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
7. Bligh, Donald A. What's the Use of Lectures? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1971. PDF.
8. Carroll, Joseph M. "The Copernican Plan: Restructuring the American High School." The Phi Delta Kappan 71.5 (1990): 358-65. JSTOR. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/20404155?ref=search-gateway:2b5f20154579e9b2a8630e150ac05bb7>.
9. Preparing All Teachers to Use Proven, Effective Instructional Methods Across the Curriculum. Nashville: Southern Regional Education Board, 2011. PDF.
10. The United States of America. Department of Education. Educational Management. Block Scheduling. ERIC Digest, Number 104. By Karen Irmsher. ERIC Digests, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
11. Kelly, Melissa. "Block Scheduling." About.com Secondary Education. About.com, 2014. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
12. Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory. Block Scheduling: Innovations with Time. Providence: The Education Alliance at Brown University, 1998. PDF.
13. Walden, Jacob. "In Douglas County, This Is Not What a World-class Education Looks like." The Idea Log Web. The Denver Post, 21 Jan. 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
14. McGraw, Karen. "Voices: Reflections from a Dougco Parent." Chalkbeat Colorado. Chalkbeat, 4 June 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
15. Reuter, Jane. "Block Schedule Impact Stirs Continuing Debate." Parker Chronicle 18 Oct. 2013: 12. Issuu. Issuu Inc., Oct. 2013. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
16. The United States of America. Department of Education. Education Commission of the States. Prisoners of Time. Report of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning. The Education Commission of the States Education Reform Reprint Series. Reprint of the 1994 Report of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning. Denver: Education Commission of the States, 2005. Prisoners of Time. Education Commission of the States. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
17. The United States of America. Department of Education. National Education Commission on Time and Learning. Prisoners of Time. By John Hodge Jones, Carol Schwartz, Michael J. Barrett, B. Marie Byers, Christopher T. Cross, Denis P. Doyle, Norman E. Higgins, William E. Shelton, and Glenn R. Walker. Washington: Department of Education, 1994. Archived Information. Department of Education. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.