Reduced Grade 6-12 Class Time in the Madison School District?

Susan Troller:

What’s one sure-fire way to stress out parents? Shorten the school day.
And that’s exactly what the Madison school district is proposing, starting next year, for grades six to 12. According to a letter recently sent to middle school staff by Pam Nash, the district’s assistant superintendent of secondary schools, ending school early on Wednesdays would allow time for teachers to meet to discuss professional practices and share ideas for helping students succeed in school.
“I am pleased to announce that as a result of your hard work, investment and commitment, as well as the support of central administration and Metro busing, together we will implement Professional Collaboration Time for the 10-11 school year!” Nash wrote enthusiastically.
Despite Nash’s letter, district administrators appeared to backpedal on Monday on whether the plan is actually a done deal. Thus far there has not been public discussion of the proposal, and some teachers are expressing reservations.
Some middle school teachers, however, who also happen to be parents in the district, say they have some serious concerns about shortening the day for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Not only will there be less time spent on academics each week, they say, but the additional unsupervised hours will pose a problem for parents already struggling to keep tabs on their adolescent kids.

This expenditure appears to continue the trend of increased adult to adult expenditures, which, in this case, is at the expense of classroom (adult to student) time.
Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

  • Millie

    I wish I could say I am surprised. But I am not. I even wish – as a licensed teacher, but not currently teaching in MMSD – that I agree with this logic. But I don’t. Sending kids out early for more unsupervised time each day (even if they go home and are spending it wasting away on the computer, it is still unsupervised in most cases) is a bad idea. yes, teachers need more time to talk together, but don’t they have team times to do that? If not, they should, because that is how the smaller “schools within a school” are supposed to be organized. There has got to be a better way than sending kids home early and less contact/learning time.

  • Edward Murray

    I think her idea of teachers colaberating on best practices is a good idea. How ever shot cangeing our kids time in the class room is not the way to do it.