If pros come to fruition and cons don't, change might have staying power.
Perusing the pros and cons that Crookston High School Principal Lon Jorgenson has assembled in relation to his proposal to add an eighth period to the CHS academic schedule next fall – the former list outnumbers the latter by quite a bit – an underrated song by guitar god Eric Clapton, “It’s in the way that you use it” comes to mind.
If the eighth period is predominantly utilized as a study hall, which Jorgenson is envisioning, but also leaves plenty of wiggle room for daily PrimeTime homeroom activities, even if they last longer than the current 10 or 15 minutes, then it seems like a good way to “use it.” If students are once in a while given an opportunity to partake in an enrichment/educational activity of some type during the eighth period – maybe a professional representing a particular career comes into speak to students about his or her job – then it’s a good way to “use it.” If students, apparently swamped with homework, take advantage of the additional study/work time within the confines of their academic day and, as a result, they learn more, get better grades and score better on high-stakes state standardized tests, then it’s a good way to “use it.”
But if most of the eighth period, minus a few minutes dedicated to PrimeTime, ends up amounting to little more than a slough-off time for students to text their buddies and post comments and photos to Facebook, then it’s definitely not a good way to “use it.” If a student isn’t necessarily swamped with homework but is stumped by, say, her geometry lesson and all the study hall time in the world isn’t going to help because she can’t get access to her geometry teacher, then it isn’t really a good way to “use it.”
Not every kid is facing mountains of homework every day. What will those students do during study hall? How will they “use it”?
This proposal appears to have legs, and a decent amount of momentum behind it. That could be mostly due to a survey that Jorgenson conducted that he said showed a significant majority of CHS teachers as well as students are in favor of adding the eighth period. It’s certainly not shocking that students would prefer a study hall added to their schedule, but it’s the teachers’ views that should carry more clout. If they think students need more time to study and work on assignments, their opinion should carry a lot of weight, because who would know better than them? If teachers are in favor because they wouldn’t mind an opportunity to catch their breath and do some prep work each day, that’s understandable as well.
But, all of that said, there sure seems to be a deafening silence from teachers about having their class periods reduced by a few minutes. You’d think instruction time would be more precious than ever in the classroom these days, but maybe a few minutes doesn’t make much of a difference. Or maybe it does, especially if students are staring down assignments that they don’t understand and need further instruction.
Time will tell. If this proposal is approved and eventually it’s shown to not be working as intended, Jorgenson said the eighth period can be ditched later on. What’s important is that the impact of the new schedule is monitored closely to make sure the many “pros” that Jorgenson has listed are being maximized, while the few “cons” are basically a non-factor.
Follow Mike Christopherson on Twitter @mjceditor and @crookstontimes