Children Without Instruction

children without instruction

Last week was a discussion about opportunity gaps and came across this article about children in a couple of Portland High School who are getting less instructional hours than what are required. The parents believe their children are being shortchanged. The reason the children are being short changed is because there is under staffing. This just shows how the opportunity gap is affecting Portland students just for a a small amount of savings.
I believe that the schools should go back to 8 class period daily schedule because it seem like they need it rather then the block schedule that reduces their time of actually learning. no more free periods! what do you think?

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16 thoughts on “Children Without Instruction

  1. I found the article you are posting about. http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/11/portland_public_schools_parent_3.html
    There are always two sides of every view. A law is a law, and this one states, “State law requires high schools to offer 990 hours of instruction to students. The law states that individual classes must include 130 hours of class time to count for high school credits.” So yes, it should be met or there is a serious problem. Not meeting that standard is sending out the wrong message to our high schoolers. Is says that their school is not as important as others. It puts those students at a disadvantage.
    The other side to it, I look as a student might. People may not like this view. A study hall is so needed in high school. Some students do not get that extra time at home for schoolwork. Maybe there are domestic issues at home, a parent who doesn’t speak english at home, maybe the student is involved with too many other extra circular actives (cheerleading, music, dance), or maybe they have a learning disability. It is always nice to have help on schoolwork when needed. As in the photo on the article. Is that girl doing her homework? Is there someone in that class period to help her with a tough Calculus problem right then? I would sure need it.
    Anyways, a law is a law. It should be met. In every city and every state. Since China is the world’s #1 country in education. Does anyone think this problem would exist there? I don’t think so.

    • Thanks for linking the article! You brought up so many good points such as the student possibly having other issues at home and how study hall can be useful. I agree that there are many factors that can influence the way a student learns and having a specific time in school where they can solely work on their assignments is a good idea. I found it interesting how in the article it stated that the district isn’t breaking any laws because the hours are being met. Does this mean that there just isn’t sufficient hours and more should be added? Also I think its interesting that you brought up the school system in China. I know that the work ethic is highly difficult and that high achieving and low achieving students are not segregated in public schools in the Chinese school system. Another important aspect to look at is that when American public schools are compared to other school systems (ex. China), the students spend less time in school. What do you think should be done, should we extend the amount of time spent in each classroom? Or should we lessen the time and focus on having more teachers/aids at the ready to help students?

      • Sorry I should have let you all know that if you clicked the picture it would take you to the article. You are all bringing up valid points.
        I totally get that home sometimes is not a viable place for studying for whatever reasons (I personally know this) but I don’t think 3 or more free periods are productive because the law still isnt being met. I think two would be great for students to get the additional help they need. I believe 7-8 periods of instruction are pertinent for students success. This would then mean longer days of instruction, which is a good thing.
        I also like that you bring up other school models like china because they are succeeding with their children. I believe we should look at models that are working and try to implement them for our students here. it just seems like common sense. It may be risky for some people to want to go a whole new route but for an education system that isnt working anymore I say why not?

    • I completely agree that a law is a law and if it is not followed there needs to be consequences. However, neither of these laws are being obeyed.
      “It doesn’t require that every single student in the school attend for 990 hours,” he [District spokesman Robb Cowie] said. It seems like the school district is finding ways to not be held accountable for upholding the law by saying they offered the hours and the students chose not to attend classes. It is very disappointing to hear that these types of things are happening within our districts.

    • I think you raise a good point about the validity of free periods. When I was in my senior year, I had 2 or 3 free periods as well as a TA period. These were really helpful to me because I was taking 2 AP classes, had after school activities almost every day, and I had to work on the Capstone that was required for graduation. I think free periods are really valuable, but I also think they need to be regulated. Obviously a student who uses a free period to just go home or to hang out with friends is abusing it, but there are many students who would use the time really well. I don’t think these students who want to use the time to work should be prevented from doing so and forced into classes which maybe aren’t valuable to them, or which would just add busywork into their schedule and overwhelm them.

      • Yes, free periods can be very valuable but have to be regulated. Kids with IEPs, like my son, have a class in the day where the student goes into a study hall and has help with homework by a SPED teacher, part of the plan. He doesn’t need to be in there sometimes but it is nice to have that support from a teacher who needed that as well when he was younger and didn’t get it. It makes the student feel better, that a teacher at the school is there to help out.

      • I had block Periods. I found it to be pretty easy. I went to a public school here in Portland. I felt it was an easy way to control how to move around with a busy schedule. the only difficulty that came is remembering which day was which and going to the right class.

  2. I remember freshman year in high school I had 8 classes a day. Then my sophmore year until senior we had block periods. I never understood why they changed the school system to block periods. I thought it was fine having 8 classes everyday considering that during the block periods some students didn’t even have class and they would sit in the hall ways doing nothing for over an hour until the next class. I also never understood why the people who didn’t have class during block periods were never put into a study hall class, some of the students would just go home.
    I don’t think there should be block periods but instead go back to the 8 classes a day. Students should be in a class room through out the 7 or 8 hours they are there.

    • The block periods were instituted as a way of saving money but at the same time it cut back on youth learning. When i was in high school I actually had the 8 periods myself but when my brothers went to school it was block scheduling and I did not understand it. They said they were not learning anything in some periods, because they were free and they weren’t being challenged, so that is when I actually made my mom put my brothers in classes that would not allow them to be in so many free periods for 2-3 hours throughout the day. If they (my brothers) said themselves they weren’t doing anything or learning anything then there is a definite problem.

  3. I think teaching aides would really help. The teachers we have right now are already working long hours. Having teaching aides or Student Coordinators (like the ones offered at some charter schools) who work with the students on any homework issues they have, would make life much easier for both the students and the teachers. This teaching aide/mentor type job would be a great opportunity for future teachers who are need experience and extra money as they finish their undergraduate and graduate degrees.

    I wish I had taken Enhancing Youth Literacy years ago. I wish more hands-on, volunteer hour classes were offered throughout my entire college career. I’ve learned more in the thick of it than any class could have taught me.

  4. It seems like it all comes down to the funding that the district has. If schools cant afford to pay the teachers then who will teach the students in the added classes? They can create all the classes they want but without teachers it will eventually be free classes. There is a serious problem with the kids not getting the same amount of class time as kids in more privileged neighborhoods. This system only makes the opportunity gap wider.

    • Dang,
      You make a good point about funding. The gap is very clear when some schools are taking block classes and have multiple free periods a day, while other schools have more classes meaning more subjects to learn. We know that in schools with less funding, extra activities and electives like art and music are first to be cut. It’s unfortunate because these subjects reinforce a learning environment by allowing the kids to have fun. I agree with Angela that schools should go back to 7 or 8 classes. It’s kind of nonsense to me that kids have half days now. It would be awesome if funds could be distributed in some way to allow something as simple as an art class for the kids.

  5. I’m really glad you posted this article and that the discussion of block schedules has come up. I remember them switching to a block type of schedule in my sophomore or junior year of high school. It was a very big change and took a lot of getting used to. The issue of block scheduling reminds me of a discussion we had a few weeks ago about quality versus quantity in education. Does it benefit students more to briefly touch on a variety of subject matters or is it better to receive a more comprehensive, deeper educational experience? I don’t know much about the Chinese school system but I wonder if it tends to value the ladder. With an eight block class schedule, the Portland Public School system obviously puts an emphasis on less inclusive kinds of learning. Does this hinder our students? I think so. In addition, with the inclusion of mandatory study halls and free periods, the value of our students education is continuing to decrease. How might schools put more value on giving students a more comprehensive education and less emphasis on just running them through as quickly as possible?

  6. I myself never had block periods (I went to a private school for highhschool), however, many of my friends in the public school system did, and it seemed to be a mixed bag. The few that were in after school activities and/or AP classes seemed to use their time wisely in their free periods. However, the majority seemed to either take the opportunity to sit and gossip, or simply leave and go get slurpees, or head home. I was jealous at the time, because I had to go to all eight of my classes!
    It would seem that the consensus is that if these periods are to be kept around, they need more structure, which includes better one on one times with students with well-equipped aides. While this requires funding, perhaps their can be better volunteer training programs to cut down on the costs?

  7. I’ve only experienced a block schedule at my charter middle school. As you all know from this past week’s discussion facilitation presentation, charter schools are funded differently from public schools. With that being said, my block schedules were always filled with an even balance between the essential and elective classes. The only “free time” given was during a 30 minute lunch break. I found the longer times in classes to be more effective because it allowed students to have plenty of time to truly learn the topics. The block classes allowed better enriched lesson plans and they were equipped with teacher aids. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but in 8 classes per day schedules I think students aren’t allotted enough time to thoroughly comprehend the lectures. Students receive a brief introduction to the topics and are given extensive homework to practice and prove they’ve understood. Then they’re rushed on to the next class. What happens to the students that aren’t able to complete the homework at home? Sounds like a probable cause to the achievement gap. A structured block schedule that is fulfilled with practical classes can be beneficial. I also agree that teaching aids/mentors are necessary in providing the “justice” students need (discussed in week 4, Alisha’s facilitation).

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