Slow learners bloom in 90-minute classes

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

Take a group of slow-learning ninth-graders and make them stay twice as long in science class.

The idea has worked beautifully, said science teacher Judy Plaskowitz at Westminster High School.

Although a majority of Westminster faculty members voted to make all class periods 90 minutes next year, the majority wasn't big enough.

While Principal Sherri-Le Bream and some teachers are disappointed, they had decided before the vote last month that at least 75 percent of the faculty would have to be in favor of the change for it to be made. Only 61 percent was.

The science teachers are among the most disappointed. Westminster tried a pilot version by letting teachers in science, English, foreign language and math schedule a few classes for 90 minutes each.

Science chairman Larry Ferguson was among the biggest proponents of the concept, and he was disappointed that it won't fly next year.

Ms. Bream said she hopes that some departments will continue to pursue some 90-minute periods.

"We couldn't do it partly," Mr. Ferguson said of the science department. Especially if that 90-minute period is at the end of the day, it seems to throw students off their stride to have only one of their classes be that long, Mr. Ferguson said.

Ms. Plaskowitz said that her morning 90-minute class has no trouble concentrating. But Alan De Gennaro teaches the same class at the end of the day, and students are much more restless. End-of-the-day classes are more unruly no matter how long the class, but the 90 minutes may exacerbate students' restless behavior when all their other classes have been half that length, he said.

"They work for 45 minutes, then they feel like they should be done," he said.

While North Carroll High School plunged into the "four-mod day" this school year, other high schools chose to study it for at least another year before exchanging a schedule of seven 45-minute periods for four 90-minute ones.

By now, Westminster, Liberty and Francis Scott Key do not plan to make the change by next year. South Carroll High School Principal David Booz is expected to announce a decision tomorrow. Friday, staff members were still deciding the issue, he said.

South Carroll and Westminster were studying the concept the most closely. Since September 1992, staff members from those schools and North Carroll have visited schools in Frederick as well as in Virginia and Colorado.

Liberty High School is considering some 90-minute periods next year, while Francis Scott Key High School is not actively studying the concept.

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