It’s a new school year, and the national teacher shortage is once again distracting attention from the issue causing it. Common sense modifications to the traditional high school schedule could halve the amount of teachers currently needed, significantly reduce school budgets, and better prepare our children for successful futures.
Step 1: Divide each high school’s student body in half. Half the students would now attend classes from 8 a.m. to noon. The other half would attend from 1 to 5 p.m.
Step 2: Students on both morning and afternoon shifts would take the same four, strictly academic, 50-minute classes: Math, English, Science, Social Science.
200 minutes is the amount of academic instruction currently received by high school students in a typical 8 hour day. It equals the time spent on academic learning by the average homeschooled student, who outperforms their traditional school counterpart by 15-30 percentile points on standardized tests.
Step 3: Half the normal amount of teaching staff would teach half the total student body during the morning shift. The same teachers would present the same classes to the other half of the student body in the afternoon. Immediately, each school would need only half the number of teachers they normally employ.
Teachers would be on-campus from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Minus a one-hour lunch and 80 minutes of between-class breaks, teachers would only be instructing for 6.5 hours each day. And that’s with no homework to correct, because countless studies prove it’s a waste of time.
Step 4: What would students do for four hours each day with no classes?
Their time would be split three ways.
• Part-time paid employment of any kind, where they’d learn a work ethic, professional behavior, and how to manage their money
• Career-quality internships, where they would get a hands-on,head start with professions of interest to them
• Community service projects for two hours each week, would teach students that regularly helping others is an integral part of a worthwhile life
Schools that implemented this schedule could minimally reduce annual expenditures by 25-30%. This would be realized through eliminating 50% of a school’s teaching and support staff, including:
All elective teachers: there are more cost effective ways to learn those skills;
Physical education teachers: P.E. classes have played no real role in student fitness for years;
Food service departments: all students would eat off-campus before or after their a.m. or p.m. classes).
Teacher quality would improve under this modified schedule because schools would need 50% fewer instructors and could be more selective. In exchange for the 9-hour day, teacher pay could be increased a minimum of 10% – 15%, which is more of a raise than most teachers have seen in the past 10 years.
This schedule change would further save school districts money by eliminating all athletic teams. With the exception of football, private club teams long ago replaced high school leagues as the top competition level. Putting the responsibility for building and maintaining exorbitantly-priced athletic facilities on private users rather than public school districts, would make new schools affordable for all communities. The money districts saved could make these schools look like laboratories of tomorrow, rather than museums of yesteryear.
Everyone would benefit by replacing our current system of 8-hours/day of essential teenage daycare, with a shorter, academically-focused school day. Aimlessly hanging around high school for four years – under-achieving and socially imploding, would no longer be the norm. Students would be motivated by a new emphasis: moving on to college or tech programs as soon as – but not until they had achieved a mastery level of essential career skills for the 21st century.
A more businesslike, results-oriented approach to secondary school would mature the current generation – who graduate increasingly unprepared and irresponsible – into self-sufficient young men and women. Teachers could be paid comparable with other professionals. The public could demand that school leaders enforce strong moral values, and stop allowing student behavior that would not be tolerated in an employment situation.
These actions would return teaching to the incredible joy it’s capable of being. Schools would then attract top quality and adequate quantity of instructors; and our education level and national work force would stop being ranked far below much of the developed world.