Chesapeake High likes 4-period day

December 03, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

The four-period day is a hit at Chesapeake High School -- at least in popularity.

Nine weeks into the experiment, principal Harry Calendar proudly gave an update to about 60 parents last night, reporting that 86 percent of teachers and about 76 percent of students prefer the new schedule, which has four 85-minute classes each day instead of six 55-minute classes.

But it's harder to tell how students are faring academically in the new system, which compresses a one-year course into one semester in most subjects.

For example, at this point in the school year, 13.6 percent of students in the English courses are earning A's, 37.6 percent B's, 26.9 percent C's, 12.7 percent D's and 11.5 percent E's.

The problem is that the only other statistics available for comparison are last year's fall semester grades and the nine-week assessment at mid-term. It's not fair to use them because students this year are getting more information in nine weeks than they ever have before.

"It's apples and oranges," said Mr. Calendar. "And in English, the statistics are skewed because we have all the ninth-graders taking it at once in preparation for the functional reading test given in January."

So how does he know it's going so well?

The nine-week survey, and comments and questions from parents and a few students last night, have been helping point out the benefits as well as glitches that need to be fixed.

For example, about 48 percent of the teachers say that at the mid-point in this semester, they have covered the amount of material they should be teaching; 14.4 percent say they're ahead of schedule; 15.5 percent say they're a little behind; and 21 percent say they're behind about a week.

That's good news, Mr. Calendar said.

"I was just told though, that in Algebra I, they'll be about a week behind in the material when the course is finished," said Mr. Calendar. "But we're not sure yet if it will always be that way, or whether it's just because this is the first time through in the new format."

At the meeting, parents universally complained about homework -- too much in some cases for students taking four tough academic courses instead of mixing two academic classes and two electives, and too little in others.

"I have two students at this high school who don't have as much homework as they did last year because they're being given so much class time to do homework," said one mother. "That's just not the purpose of having a four-period day. It's a waste of class time."

And while many parents have expressed concern that a student who is sick one day would miss twice as much schoolwork, one mother asked about teacher absenteeism.

"My concern is what happens if a teacher misses class time," said the woman. "I know there are lots of good reasons for being absent, but are we making sure we have substitutes who can teach academic subjects so the kids don't fall behind?"

The answer, Mr. Calendar said, is that the school tries to get someone who is qualified to teach the subject, and if no one is available, the best general substitute teacher is found.

Parents came up with questions for about 1 1/2 hours last night, but that didn't quite leave time for 17-year-old Joe Crespo, a senior, to air his concern.

"Overall, we want to keep the four-period day," he said before moving off to talk to his principal. "But we're concerned about class size. We want it down. We have about 34 kids in my Spanish 2 class, and it's full of freshmen and sophomores. We spend far too much time rounding everyone up to get started.

"Class sizes are up all over the school, and in some classes, like photography, they just don't have enough equipment for all the students," he said. "But we don't know anyone who wants to go back to the six-period day."

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