Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 24, 2005

90-minute periods may not be best idea

I am writing as another concerned parent regarding the Comprehensive Secondary School Reform (CSSR), specifically the block-schedule proposal.

But let me first say that as a parent who has had three children in the Harford County public schools that I feel fortunate to live here in Harford County. My oldest will graduate this year from Bel Air High School, and my youngest will enter Bel Air High School next fall. My middle child attends a private high school outside of Harford County.

I have always felt that the educators and administrators are focused on the success of our children. Part of any successful organization is continual improvement; therefore I appreciate the huge undertaking involved with preparing this proposal. Be that as it may, I also think the key to success is recognizing that not all new ideas are the answer; and that it is OK to realize this during the process.

To start with, I can't understand the rationale of implementing an entirely new schedule countywide. I understand the need to systemize the schedule countywide, but why not use a schedule already in place? My understanding is the block schedule has not proved effective and that most of the research is conflicting.

Four 90-minute periods every day are just too long to keep our children's attention. I am sure most educators would agree it is hard to keep the students on track now with 45-55 minute classes. I have been told the teachers will need to be "intensively retrained" on how to teach in 90 minutes. How logical does this sound?

I understand that in one 90-minute class two or three lesson plans may be covered. What does this mean for homework? For years when discussing the efficacy of homework, educators have told us, it is to reinforce the lesson before moving on to the next lesson - specifically for math. What happens to the reinforcement now, or is class time going to be allocated for homework on a regular basis? If that is the case, I have to conclude that there will actually be less instruction time.

Additionally I know the block schedule may or may not allow for a rotation that helps the students who leave early for sports. Teachers agree that by having a rotation this helps all - the student who isn't his best in the morning as well as the ones who are not their best after lunch or late in the day.

I understand part of the justification for the reform is to build in more time for intervention to assist the students who need additional help. I agree that we need all students to be successful, but why can't this be done with one of current seven-period schedules? I also like the idea of the 4-math credit requirement - again why do we need an 8 period block schedule to enforce this?

I would be interested in the data that shows the percent of successful students who currently do not take a 4th math credit. I suspect the students who don't may be the very ones who need some of this intervention.

I am concerned that the CSSR may be "pushed" through for some very right reasons, but some very wrong ones as well. I know "overcrowding" is one reason to support this, but we are being told that enrollment peaks next school year. Once the new Patterson Mill Middle-High School is completed, this should resolve our overcrowding problem, as the "dreaded" redistricting will have to take place.

This is not an easy endeavor, nor do I think there is an easy answer. All I ask is that the Harford County Board of Education give this its utmost consideration and continue to ask questions. The students we teach today will be our leaders of tomorrow - let us as today's leaders do the best we can do to assure success.

Lynne Parry

Bel Air

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