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We’ve come out with our statement, calling on the US Public Education system to take the hint that our current structure is not all that it could be, but what are our suggestions, exactly? We’re not just shouting into the void baselessly, here. We’ve actually got some notes we’ve been meaning to share.
How can Gen/Pub Ed change and evolve to meet the needs of its students in the post-pandemic world?
Well, we can start by abolishing the summer-centric calendar.
Some schools have already made this change, moving to YRE-style calendars that never take prolonged breaks, theoretically reducing the “brain drain” loss of retention that occurs with the standard model. Four weeks on, three weeks off, all year round. Students receive the same amount of instructional time without burnout or going too long without seeing a teacher.
This would be easy to implement as an optional schedule for families choosing public school as the means of education for their child or children.
But, wait, what are optional schedules?
We could then proceed to offer families the secondary choice (after enrolling their student in Public School) of selecting the type of calendar they want for their student.
Some examples of calendar options we may want to offer:
- X weeks on, X weeks off (where X≤4) — like the current YRE model.
- Four day weeks, three day weekends — like Germany, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands have transitioned to, and which Finland seeks to transition to.
- 180 days, used at any time, without a formal on/off schedule — this meets the old Texas requirements for instructional days provided by schools, without creating a penalty for missing the occasional day here or there. With schools open continually, aside from specific holidays/staff-only days, this would provide much needed flexibility that accommodates more religions than are respected by the current model.
- 75,600 minutes, used at any time, without a formal on/off schedule — this could easily be tracked by online time logs, and meets the new Texas requirements for instructional time provided by schools, without creating a penalty for missing hours or minutes here of there. With schools open continually, aside from specific holidays/staff-only days, this would provide much needed flexibility that accommodates more diverse families and home situations than are respected by the current model.
- Non-Time Based — with tools already in existence, such as Edgenuity, or Canvas/Blackboard-type resources, students should be offered the option of completely self-pacing their courses, completing them at their own rate, not having to meet the arbitrary guidelines of minutes and hours “it should take” to learn material. Surprise! Not everyone learns at the same speed, and shouldn’t need to conform to the sound of a bell for their credits.
- Merit-Based — much like the NTB option, CollegeBoard’s CLEP or AP and the STAAR (though this one is less popular) could be used to judge acceleration through material. Read a book, do a project, study in your own way, then take a credit exam and move on. Many universities have already embraced this practice, granting credit to long time professionals who never earned their degree, and know their trade without having spent time in the classroom or in an online course.
So what exactly are we proposing?
Districts are already paying their teachers their annual salary out evenly over the months of the year, despite schools being closed during the summer. With the number of people on campuses every day lessened and spread out, we can afford to keep campuses open all year, other than certain pre-determined closed days (national observances, for example, or RBG’s birthday). The pressure on teachers to support high volumes of students would be lightened, because a portion of students would have moved to independent study, online, or exam-based ‘credit courses.’ Libraries would have higher rates of use, emissions caused by daily school-bound traffic would reduce, and that whole dystopian nightmare of “How will the homeless or poor kids eat when the school closes?” wouldn’t bear so much weight. Funding could be moved from paper products and power use to curriculum development, and maybe appreciating our educators a little more.
Imagine the impact this would have on families with employed older siblings, and siblings responsible for the youngers’ transportation. Single-income households, emancipated students, homeless and foster kids who may move around frequently and have a harder time being on-pace with more stationary classmates, homebound or temporarily disabled kids, kids with long-term disabilities, weekly therapy, or are undergoing treatments that may mean traveling often for medical attention. Imagine the military kids, base-hopping and not being sure just where they’ll land next. We have not done our due diligence up to this point. And, damn, we really could be, so easily.
Think on it, would you?