College timetable is incorrect for Stamford schools

As an educator for over half a century, I look at Stamford Public Schools and wonder how we got it so wrong. The latest error is the proposed 4×4 schedule. Apparently, the administration thinks this will solve the problems for students in high school. I do not. I believe things will only get worse.

This new plan – four long courses per semester – sees students taking four consecutive 90-minute classes. The administration claims that this type of schedule reflects a college schedule. The problem with this logic is that many high school freshmen are 13 years old; they are not students. These are still children with very short attention spans. Why would they be expected to successfully follow the demands of a college schedule? The administration thinks this is an advantage. As an educator, I don’t.

A change in the high school schedule is not the “solution” for education. In all the discussions about how to “fix” education, no one once mentions school culture or making sure we prepare students for leaving high school. Instead, standards are lowered; the pass marks are lower and lower and the cumulative assessment is abandoned. Teachers are being asked to entertain students more and worry less about developing their mental habits. Yes, developing mental habits sometimes involves memorization. Sometimes it involves writing and taking notes – without the notes being given to them. Some aspects of learning don’t change over time: The brain is still a muscle that needs to be exercised

So where are we in all of this at Stamford Public Schools? We graduate our English language learners often unable to express themselves in English, and so they are unprepared to live in an English-speaking society. We care more about our statistics than making sure our degree informs potential employers about our graduates. We are desperately trying at the last hour to find a way to get students through when they are obviously unprepared. Let’s shift the focus to actual accountability and performance and ensure students are ready for whatever they choose to do next rather than just pushing them forward.

All is not dark. Many of our students are successful and take advantage of all academic and extracurricular offerings. They come to school prepared to learn and they do. However, too many of our students do not. We need to get to the root of the problem, look carefully at what we are doing or not doing to meet both their academic and socio-emotional needs; and more importantly, we need to look at what students do and don’t do, and change the culture to one that promotes and recognizes academic excellence that is celebrated and expected of every student. We need to ensure that students arrive in high school with at least the basic skills they need to succeed. We educators will find a way to make it happen. The administration just needs to include us and respect our knowledge of our students and our teaching expertise. The road to improvement will certainly not be a 4×4 schedule that requires longer lesson periods.

Ann Herz is a Stamford resident and Head of World Languages ​​at Westhill High School.

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