A New Model for Schooling
Updated: Mar 16, 2020
As a teacher and educator, I hear a lot of complaints from parents about our school system. The class sizes are big, kids are getting left behind and yet kids are still not being well prepared for the rigors of higher education and the workforce. There is high teacher turn over in many school districts and many dedicated and passionate people are looking for better solutions. Many parents leave public schools only to find that private and charter schools suffer from the same problems. I am going to make a suggestion that is unlike any school I've seen, but that I think could yield many positive results if implemented.
Half Days-Half the Class Size
We cut the school day in half. Kids go to school for a four-hour block in the morning or a four-hour block in the afternoon. Those four hours would be spent doing only the core subjects (math, reading, science, and social studies). There would be a recess for 20 minutes in the middle (and more frequent breaks could be implemented for the younger grades).
Teachers would meet with students for half the day but would have half as many students in a class. Students would be sent home with an hour or maybe two of practice to solidify understanding of topics discussed in class. If students were on grade level in those core subjects and parents wanted to take their kids out of school, do the homework with them, and have more freedom for the way they scheduled the day with their children.
District Recreation Center
There would be a district recreation center where kids could spend the other half of their day. Kids who were behind in the core subjects could receive leveled tutoring help, but kids who are ahead wouldn't have to be stuck doing an hour doing independent work during interventions, they would have more time for elective type classes.
Students could sign up for art, music, P.E classes and more. Because the classes would be for the whole district instead of just one school they could offer a wider variety of classes for the students (music classes for specific instruments, athletic classes for specific sports, or art classes working with specific mediums, ext.).
Benefits for parents
This structure would give parents so much more flexibility in scheduling. Working parents could send their kids to school and pick them up from the rec center at a time that works best for them. But instead of having to pick their child up from a long day at work and still have to help them with homework and drive them to soccer practice, they can enjoy a few evening hours with them because their child finished their homework with tutors and had soccer practice at the center too.
It also means lower-income families have an opportunity to participate in more specialized activities than they may have been able to before. Parents can also choose to have their kids come home early every day (or some days) and work with them on their school work, without their child being burnt out from a long school day. They can have extra time with their children to participate in extracurricular activities without having to give up their evenings.
Benefits for Teachers
Teachers have so much more freedom to just teach! Ask any teacher, if they had half as many kids in their class, they could save so much time in transitions and management issues that eat up their day. You could teach the individuals in your class much more effectively. It also would be less work for elementary school teachers because they would teach the same thing twice in the day.
There would likely be less teacher turnover because there would be more part-time opportunities for teachers with families or circumstances that make full-time work very draining or unrealistic. Teachers who teach specialties would be able to work on a team with others who are teaching the same content as them because they would all be in the
same recreation building. They also would have opportunities to teach more specialized content.
Benefits for Kids
Of course, this is the most important part of all! Kids who understand concepts quickly aren't stuck spending hours of the day doing unnecessary practice work, independent work, while they're peers, are in interventions, or teaching the ideas to their partner. Kids who are struggling aren't getting left behind because if they need, they can have half the day working individually with tutors at their level. Students wouldn't have to miss core learning time to meet with volunteers or work in special education groups or speech services, they would have plenty of time in the other half the school day to meet with their groups and still easily have an hour of specials time.
Students would have more opportunities to learn at their level and enhance a variety of skills. If kids' families had more opportunities to meet their needs, fewer families would take their kids out of public schools and bring them to charter schools or private schools. This would mean less segregation between economic levels in public schools and would allow more mixing for students of different backgrounds.
Benefits for Administration
Principals...wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to hire 7 new teachers each school year? Wouldn't it be helpful for chronic attendance issues family if you could say, "if they can't make it to reading and math, then they can't make it to Karate and programming at the rec center"?
How about the huge improvement in behavior that we would see if teachers had between 11 and 17 kids instead of 22 to 34? How much would teacher morale go up? Now I will answer the question that I'm sure you are asking at the administrative level...what about cost?
Many of the costs would be equal. Instead of paying IA's you would pay tutors. It would cost a lot more to bus kids in the middle of the day to a district building and to build the district building, but you would also save money in several areas. You would have fewer kids eating school lunch and it could be done at the district office so you would save cost by having it in one location. You would need half as many class sets of things. Half as many desks, supplies, books, technology and more. School buildings could be much smaller.
There would be less traffic if you had a pick-up and drop off area. There would also be a lot more part-time workers, which means you could save a lot of money in paying for employee benefits. There would also be many students who would be in school for several fewer hours each day, which would cut costs in some ways too. This is a very different way to run schools. I know that a change this big would be difficult to enact and would have consequences that would be hard to foresee, but I think it is time for a big change in the way we do education!