North Carroll High parents say they favor switch to fewer, longer class periods

February 12, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

An informal survey of North Carroll High School parents indicates that most of them support a pilot program of fewer but longer class periods next year.

The "four-mod day" is close to official approval. The School Improvement Team at North Carroll is to vote on it Feb. 18.

"I expect the decision will be to go with it, because we have a very positive response," Principal Gregory Eckles said yesterday.

Wednesday night was the third in a series of parent forums that the school sponsored. Over the three nights, 418 people attended and 325 of them filled out surveys, Dr. Eckles said.

The surveys showed that 69 percent of the parents favored the change, less than 5 percent were opposed and a bit more than 26 percent were undecided.

At the first meeting, parents expressed concerns mostly about details such as scheduling and whether teachers would be trained and prepared to use more innovative strategies to keep students from getting bored in a 90-minute class period.

Some school board members said at their meeting Wednesday that they shared the parents' concern about potential student boredom.

Dr. Eckles said teacher training is planned.

In general, the board members lauded North Carroll High administrators and teachers for leading the way in Carroll for the change.

"I'm pleased to see site-based management is alive and well," said board member C. Scott Stone. But he asked about proof of success for the new system and how that success could be measured.

Dr. Eckles said the few schools that have made such a change have measured such things as attendance and discipline problems -- which improved -- but not student achievement.

He said he hoped to develop a way to measure whether students are learning more in the longer periods.

The North Carroll plan would provide four 90-minute classes instead of seven 47-minute classes. With increased time in classes, students will be able to earn eight more credits over four years. Classes would last one semester or, in some cases, nine weeks.

Westminster and South Carroll High Schools plan to make the same change in 1994-1995.

Local teachers have visited schools in Frederick, Colorado and Virginia that have similar models for longer periods.

Mr. Stone said he was concerned that one change North Carroll has proposed to make over the model at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick is keeping teacher planning periods at 45 minutes, rather than 90 minutes.

Peter Litchka, social studies chairman at North Carroll and an advocate of the longer periods, said teacher planning can be flexible by having teachers spend half of their daily nonclass period in a "learning center" where they could give students help in a particular area of study.

Board member Ann M. Ballard asked whether chronically ill students would be at a disadvantage when they miss a day.

Dr. Eckles said the staff would address special needs for students, such as home instruction for long illnesses.

Mr. Litchka said students who miss a day could take a few minutes out of a regular class when they returned and go to a learning center to catch up on whatever work they missed.

"It might actually be easier if they only have four classes instead of seven," Mrs. Ballard said.

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