Sunday, May 17, 2009

Four days anyone?

Next year our school district will be jumping into an experiment that only a handful of districts in the state of Minnesota have ventured into--the four-day school week. That ought to be interesting!

Our small district has to cut around $900,000, and we hope to save around $140,000 by doing this. Obviously, this has created a tremendous amount of controversy in our community. Some people think the teachers are getting a heckuva deal out of that, but they are a little confused. Our class periods will go from 49 to 62 minutes, so we'll actually have a couple more minutes of student contact time over the week than we do now.

I have mixed feelings about it. When I look at other cuts we might have to make if we don't go to the four-day week, I'm willing to give it a shot. The junior member of our social studies department is an outstanding teacher and person. If he got cut, especially when I am eligible for retirement, it would make me sick.

It's going to cause a tremendous amount of work for me, however, because I'm an organization freak, and I'm going to have to restructure just about everything I do. I wrote my own textbook, and everything is set up for those 49 minute class periods. I'll have to re-do that, along with all the quizzes that go with it, and all of my PowerPoints for the year. And that's just for one of my four class preparations.

Most of our high school teachers have feelings similar to mine. If it means not having to make more cuts, we're for it. Our elementary teachers, however, are almost unanimously against it. They are not enthusiastic about the longer days for their little ones. Right now, our classes start at 8:19 AM, and we go until 3 PM. Next year, we'll be starting at 8 AM and going until 4 PM.

I must admit that having three-day weekends sounds pretty good, especially in the spring and fall when I'm not coaching. The other benefit I see is that by getting rid of Fridays, we will be getting rid of the day when kids most frequently miss classes for sports. Our spring sports kids miss a ridiculous amount of school, so right now, anything that will cut back on "make-up" correcting sounds pretty good.

On the other hand, when we get into our seventeen week hockey season, heading off for practices after that longer day is going to be a little harder.

17 Comments:

Blogger Mrs. C said...

I'm not sure how I would feel about this as a parent. Though as I read, I had to admire that you have lessons set up for a 49-minute period, and are so exact that a 62-minute period is going to mess you up.

I buy curriculum, but just plow through until toddlers start acting up. Some days we get several of the scheduled "days" finished and other days... not so much. :]

5/17/2009 5:50 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Hi Mrs. C.!

It's actually better not to be quite so scheduled, but I have to be for my American History classes. We go from Christopher Columbus up to about the year 2000, and that is a huge amount of material to teach. If I didn't schedule it like I do, we'd probably never get passed World War I, and that's when it gets the most interesting for today's teenagers.

5/17/2009 8:02 AM  
Blogger Jude said...

Our current assistant superintendent came from a district that had a four-day week. She loved it, especially for the sports reason but also because you did actually get one day a week where you weren't either recovering from school or preparing for school. In our districts in Colorado, recess has almost gone by the wayside at elementary schools; this could bring it back, therefore, making those parents happier. So many schools in Colorado have considered it or implemented it that our education department created an implementation manual. I'm at total burn-out at the moment, with one week to go, so I feel positive that the extra time off each week would help more than the budget.

5/17/2009 8:23 AM  
Blogger mazenko said...

Currently, more than a third of Colorado's districts are on a four-day week. They are mainly small districts in the mountains, though several suburban schools are considering it for the cost-cutting benefit. While some parents there complain, the district responds that they voters should have approved referenda on funding.

I'm not opposed to the idea, and I have proposed it - only half-joking - for years, as I believed schools should use a four-day week with a Friday schedule devoted to clubs, sports, inservice, teacher office hours, internships, etc. My primary reason wasn't to cut funding, but to be more efficient in opportunity.

No one ever really consider the idea, but it has merit. I would argue to elementary schools, that younger students around the world go that long, or even longer with longer weeks and years, with no complaints and better results. Of course, they manage the students more effectively - it's not about more seat time - that would be crazy. But we could use the extra time to return recess to its rightful place, and expand into the experiential education that has been crowded out by test prep.

5/17/2009 8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Right now, our classes start at 8:19 AM, and we go until 3 PM. Next year, we'll be starting at 8 AM and going until 4 PM."

Please put me down in the "This is Madness" camp. Eight hours a day (with, say 30-45 minutes for lunch break and maybe two other 10-15 minute breaks) which works out to 6½ hours of thinking hard? Not going to happen. As an adult, I can't think in an involved manner for 6½ hours per day (and I get paid to think ... my typing on the keyboard is the least of my job).

I've got an 8 year old and I can see him starting to fade after about 1½ hours. Two of these sessions a day (for a total of 3 hours) is pretty close to the max.

Now ... by replacing a lot of the thinking with something else, we can go for more than 3 hours a day of school-like activity. But the level of engagement isn't the same.

-Mark Roulo

5/17/2009 12:41 PM  
Blogger Dragon Lady said...

Your expanded hours are what we teach everyday for 5 days a week in my district. Our day starts a few minutes after 8 and the last class is not dismissed until 4:05. Teachers are required to remain on campus until 4:45.

5/17/2009 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Clare said...

Reading your post mentioning how organized you are (to the minute! I am so impressed) makes me want to hear your advice on how to become organized. I'm a first-year high school English teacher (135 kids) who's frequently overwhelmed with organization/paper/lesson planning/grading.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to become better organized, have working systems, create some assignments that don't involve hours of grading.

5/20/2009 5:15 PM  
Blogger mazenko said...

I'll take a shot, Clare.

As an AP English teacher whose students write roughly thirty in-class essays during the year, I would argue you're in the wrong field if you want assignments that don't take hours of grading. However, AP's rubric and the concept of holistic grading is integral to handling the load. Keep in mind the research that shows the ineffectiveness of teacher comments on papers. Additionally, graded discussions are a great way to evaluate without hours outside of class.

Since this is your first year, you suffer from the poorly organized system that sends you into a classroom for 170 days with few resources or guidance. However, if your schedule stays the same, then you will want to make ample use of summer vacation while still allowing yourself time to de-tox.

Organizing a class around various activities, and smooth transition between them, is important. Aspects of English like grammar and vocab can be administered in regular 10-15 minutes segments with regular testing/evaluation. Nothing wrong with standardized format (scan trons) in this regard.

5/20/2009 8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Keep in mind the research that shows the ineffectiveness of teacher comments on papers."

I'll bite :-)

I spent 15 months editing a column for an on-line trade magazine. Because I also write (well, wrote ...), and *hated* it when the editors messed with my prose, I tended to mark up the articles and send them back to the authors rather than re-write them myself.

The 2nd version was always substantially better than the first.

How can teacher comments have no effect (unless the comments themselves are worthless ... which speaks more to the teacher than the concept of feedback)?

-Mark Roulo

5/21/2009 7:23 AM  
Blogger mazenko said...

"How can teacher comments have no effect?"

They have no effect because students do not read them, internalize them, conference about them, seek to grow from them, edit them, re-write in response to them, etc. In many cases this because the essay is a summative assessment rather than a formative assessment. Essays/paragraphs/responses are written for two purposes.

Thus, the comments are valued on formative assessments, but few essays are used this way. Secondly, too few students/teachers use conferencing to edit and improve pieces. There are many reasons for this.

Of course your edited responses as an adult writer composing for a professional purpose are going to improve, or at least should. You have a different purpose and motivation for writing than the average student. My writing always improves through editing - but that's because I am committed to the task, as you were.

Thus, the issue of writing instruction is far more complex. The comments are only valid in terms of conferencing, and its the conferencing that is the true benefit. However, this certainly doesn't lend itself to Clare's original concern about time.

5/21/2009 10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"They have no effect because students do not read them, internalize them, conference about them, seek to grow from them, edit them, re-write in response to them, etc. In many cases this because the essay is a summative assessment rather than a formative assessment."

and

"You have a different purpose and motivation for writing than the average student. My writing always improves through editing - but that's because I am committed to the task, as you were."


Oh.

I have never hunted a 'summative assessment' :-), so I'm not sure I understand your comment.

Does this mean the same thing as 'They have no effect because students do not care,' plus 'often the comments aren't specific enough (e.g. this sentence is ambiguous)'?

-Mark Roulo

5/22/2009 8:59 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Dragon Lady, call me a wimp if you want to, but that's a long day for a five-day week. How long are your lunch hours and your passing times? Ours are 29 minutes and 5 minutes (I think we might be shortening the passing times next year.)

Clare, I want you to know that I think the first year of teaching is by far the hardest. I look back at my first year, and I think I was just horrible. I look back at my first year teaching at Warroad, which was my sixteenth year overall, and it was without question the most miserable of my career. In other words, I think it gets easier and it gets better as you go along, especially if you work at it. I am well organized out of self-defense. My days go a lot better when I am than when I'm not. I really don't have any secrets, though. I spend a lot of time at it, and more important--I've been at it for 35 years. I hope your first year has gone well, and hang in there. It really does get better as you go along.

5/25/2009 2:57 AM  
Blogger lisa said...

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9/02/2009 1:38 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Thank you, Lisa! Better late than never.

9/03/2009 2:43 PM  
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12/28/2010 4:11 AM  
Anonymous Cheap essays said...

Currently, more than a third of Colorado's districts are on a four-day week. They are mainly small districts in the mountains, though several suburban schools are considering it for the cost-cutting benefit. While some parents there complain, the district responds that they voters should have approved referenda on funding.

3/31/2011 1:21 PM  
Blogger eddbound said...

I think this is a great idea. I would rather has students in class for longer periods than try to cram in my instruction in a shorter period. The savings to the district is an added bonus. I do see the down side for parents of young children as it would create a need for more daycare. However, teacher burnout could possibly be relieved. This could also open up the possibility of having additional Professional Development with an extra day in the week. This system could work, but the only way to know for sure is to try it. As it stands now, students are not in school enough. Why not lengthen the days and shorten the weeks?

6/11/2014 10:45 PM  

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