Get rid of block schedules, find an inspiring principal
I was pleased to read that at the retreat at Keystone the school board focused on necessary reforms in the high school (SDN, Nov. 19).Summit County needs to bring its high school up to the excellent quality found in its elementary schools and to some extent in the middle school. Based on my many years as an educator, I think the major high school reform needed is the eradication of block scheduling that wastes so much time, especially for the average and below average student.I think it can be demonstrated that less is taught and less is learned in most subject areas such as English, foreign language, social studies and mathematics.The sciences require longer periods of time for laboratory work as does music (orchestra), maybe art, and all vocational studies which could have even a three hour block of study. (The present class length is one hour and a half.) Anyone who has worked with shorter periods of study (45 minutes to an hour) will testify that more is taught – and more is learned. Serious and gifted students will learn “in depth” on their own.In fact, they will learn under almost any circumstances if they are not turned off by boredom and lack of meaningful assignments. Under block scheduling, I think we are teaching students that high school education is a form of “adolescent day care.”It’s what you do until you can find a decent paying job. If you observe most private and preparatory schools, you will see that they do not have block scheduling. I have worked for many different principals, so I have some thoughts about what makes a good principal.Long, long ago when I was a student in the public high schools of New York City, I thought I had a wonderful principal. He was highly educated.He knew all of his students and made an appearance at all awards assemblies and choral presentations as well as some athletic events. Only a few of the principals that I worked for measured up to the man we called Dr. McNeill. I have had principals who chastised me for my politics, calling me a traitor, and principals who wanted me to pass all of my students whether they had achieved my standards or not.In fact, one even accused me of racism when I failed a student. I have seen principals change grades in order for students to graduate. Such actions contribute to the diminution of standards which I have witnessed throughout my teaching career. Thus, I think we need a principal at Summit High School who inspires respect because of his or her education, and his or her adherence to educational standards.This principal should do his or her best to praise the teachers and most of all to affirm student academic achievement – more that student athletic achievement. The principal should always back the teacher in cases of discipline and never, never give the message that students can goof off so long as they don’t make trouble.He or she should try to ascertain that learning is taking place in every classroom. A principal can also be a “principal” teacher and should teach in his or her own area of expertise. Such an activity gains more respect from both students and teachers.I don’t know if we can find such a person, but it is good to have high ideals. I hope the superintendent shares my ideals and that we can find a truly exemplary principal for Summit High School.
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