Does a shorter school week seem like the opposite of what school boards should be doing to improve on the quality of education?
A few school districts in the US have passed legislation to allow a four-day school week.
The main goal is cost-cutting, but there have been some surprising academic results.
By eliminating the Friday school day, and by extending the Monday-Thursday school hours to maintain the same number of total teaching hours, educators have noticed:
- reduced absenteeism
- reduced drop out rates
- extracurricular participation increased
- increased feelings of student positivity
- better test scores
A report examining the four-day school week indicates that the shortened week might be more beneficial to high school students to lower drop out rates.
Read more: Los Angeles Times: Shorter Week, More Learning
Interested in alternative school schedules or better test scores? Contact your local centre today!
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That’s the question that we always ask, right? So much of the “stuff” that I learn in school makes no sense to me, and nobody seems to be able to answer my question about why its important, and when I will need this information. So, what’s the point of learning it if I don’t need it later? I mean, we have the ability to find pretty much any answer that we need in a couple of seconds courtesy of Google, a fact that seems to make the stuff we are learning silly. BUT, my real question is, why can’t anyone answer the question properly? Or, does what we are being taught need to change so we have an answer to the question? What are we learning in school, really? Is it important “stuff,” or is it simply how to follow instructions?
I think it might be more about the instruction than the stuff.
About me: I go to South Secondary School in London, ON and I have two younger siblings. I have always been a movie guy. But movies aren’t the only thing I enjoy. In the summer I love to bike with my friends down to the Thames River and ride along the trails. The sights and the entire ride are always beautiful. Anyway, hopefully you’ll enjoy my posts! Remember to leave feedback and comments at the bottom! – Dylan.
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Take 10 minutes to watch this great video that looks at how our current education model is outdated, and how it’s failing to teach today’s children.
“Today’s kids live in the most intensely stimulating period of the history of the earth. They’re besieged with information…and we’re punishing them for getting distracted.”–Sir Ken Robinson.
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“Math is stupid. I hate it. I’m never going to need this stuff.”
I’m guilty of having uttered each of these sentences in my life. Math was always a struggle for me, much to the dismay of my father. He was a virtual human calculator who dealt with complicated math equations in his daily life as a banker/financial advisor. Like most fathers, he looked forward to his children following in his mathematical footsteps. It wasn’t to be.
Now, in my day-to-day life words are of my most-used tools. Regardless of the profession that I chose, I still come upon math every day.
- In cooking: ¼ cup is smaller than 1/3 of a cup
- In Shopping: How much is 35% off of $29.99?
- In baking: Cook a 10 lb turkey at 45 minutes per pound…
- In Decorating: How much carpet do I need to cover the floor of my living room?
As it turns out, I did need this stuff. The teachers were right.
I wish that I had paid better attention in math class. Despite being a relatively good student, the further that I got in school, the less that math made sense to me.
Thankfully, my proficiency in other subjects was apparent (hello, writer’s craft), so I could get by without having top marks in math.
But that doesn’t mean that I ever gave up trying to get better math marks. I knew my multiplication tables inside and out, thanks to flash cards and a variety of unique learning techniques I may have been able to recite my times tables, but I never really understood them.
It’s been years since my father and I butted heads about math homework but unfortunately, not much has changed. Math is still a struggle for parents and kids because many kids still don’t get math.
It’s not because the curriculum is too hard, or the teachers are ineffective. Some kids struggle with math simply because the basic concepts of math are not relevant or meaningful to the student.
And when students don’t have a fundamental understanding of the concepts, they rely on memorization to get by.
Some kids get math naturally, and others don’t. Those that don’t have to work harder to develop a better understanding of math basics. If your child is not a natural math learner, then the struggle is trying to help your child find the link to the real world that will make math meaningful and relevant. It’s a process that can take years, but its one that is well worth it, because math doesn’t end when school does. Math has practical applications in everyday life. When the light bulb finally goes on for your child and math begins to makes sense, the struggles begin to slip away…
What do you do to make math meaningful for your child? We’d love to hear from you.
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Webster defines ’curriculum’ as ’a regular course of study; an accepted schedule; a routine.’ This definition implies that schools must teach their students according to these principles. If we apply this definition to the teaching practices of the average elementary school, we would find that every class indeed has a ’course of study, an accepted schedule and a routine.’
But this is not enough! For a school to properly educate children, a number of other standards must apply. Decisions must be taken as to what is to be taught; why is it to be taught; and how it is to be taught.
In addition, the skills learned in one grade should build into the next grade. Teachers must use materials that develop concepts in a manner that allows the student to build a conceptual base (understanding of concepts) while he or she develops new academic skills. Grade 2 teachers should teach concepts and skills from which Grade 3 teachers can build new knowledge and skills. There must be a sequence of the content of each grade’s teachings.
But this is impossible without decisions being made above the classroom level. Publishers commonly print excellent texts having completely different sequences of skills. If there is no general decision as to the direction, outlook and content, then individual teachers will be free to choose their own texts, whether or not they integrate from one grade to the next! In this way it may be possible for students to be exposed to multiplication before they even know how to carry or regroup in addition.
Students in such programs find it impossible to understand what they are learning. and either tune out or memorize their way to success. But this is not success! Recent research in Japan has shown that students who merely memorize skills do not develop the ability to think creatively or to problem-solve.
The job of imparting knowledge actually belongs to the teacher, but the decision as to how it should be imparted belongs at the policy level.
For example, before a school board could order textbooks or consider the scope or sequence of a reading curriculum in the primary level (grades 1, 2 and 3), they would have to make an initial policy decision as to whether their reading program would be based on a phonetical decoding method (phonics) or a holistic sight (whole language) method.
This decision must be based on an outlook, belief or philosophy and it must be specific. It would not be sufficient to say that the curriculum must teach to the ’whole child’ or that a ’quality education’ is the objective of the reading program, or even that ’the social, emotional and intellectual development of a child depends upon teaching to the actual child’s needs not just to the outline found in a textbook.’
While these statements all sound or feel good, they do not form an actual philosophy from which to develop policy about textbooks and teaching methods. In fact, history has shown us that often the very worst educational programs are preceded by these lofty, flowery and emotional statements.
The ’whole word’ reading program, known more commonly as Whole Language, was preceded by these grand claims and what did it bring? It brought new programs that allowed children to pass without understanding; programs that substituted fakery for achievement under the false claim that children must never be exposed to difficulty or failure or their self-esteem will suffer.
It substituted a reading program that now allows children to stumble into grades 3, 4 or even 5 without knowing how to read well, for one that had consistently taught children to read in Grade 1. And it continues to claim that it can provide the best education for the whole child and that today’s children have higher self-esteem as a result of these programs!
If one looks at the carnage of the public education system of today, it is hard to accept these claims.
After a philosophical decision has been taken by the board of education as to the outlook their program is to express, a joint effort involving the board, the school administration and the teaching staff must then be made to develop new programs by creating documents that explain what learning objectives are to be met; what learning skills must be mastered in order to meet the objectives; what teaching materials are to be used to teach these skills; and in what order (sequence) the skills are to be taught.
An example of this process follows:
Learning Skills: (a) students must be able to recognize and call by sound all initial, final and medial consonants; and (b) students must be able to recognize vowel sounds, and understand the ’Magic E’ and ’Two Vowels Walking’ rules.
Teaching Materials: (a) Explode the Code Phonics Workbooks; (b) sandpaper letters; (c) vowel stick men; and (d) glass analysis or blending exercises.
Sequence: (a) initial consonants; (b) final consonants; (c) short vowels in this order: a – e – o – u – i; (d) middle consonants; and (e) blending exercises.
Finally, teachers must then prepare to teach by studying the curriculum documents; creating daily lesson planners that follow the scope and sequence of the curriculum.
This work is done by professional teachers well in advance of their actual classes. The hallmark of a professional teacher is a well prepared daily lesson planner covering an entire term, if not a full school year, and both short- and long-term goals and objectives.
Teachers lacking in professional ethics will often develop their daily planner early in their career and use the same one year after year. However, true professionals use their experiences from each term to adjust, change and make their teaching methods and plans better. As teachers learn more about their own strengths and weaknesses as communicators, they understand the need to develop new skills. Experience in the classroom helps teachers to understand better the dynamics of self-esteem and classroom management.
No amount of textbook learning can compensate for the experiences of a dedicated professional. But dedication is not enough. If the curriculum has not been properly prepared to reflect the needs and standards of the community and if the objectives and skills taught in individual grades have not been co-ordinated, then the school program will fail. Even the most well meaning educators will not succeed with an inappropriate philosophy of education.
(Excerpt from Passive Minds! The Dangers of Education!! by Dr. R. N. Whitehead, Director, Oxford Learning Centres).
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