A Gate City High School history teacher asked members of the school board to reconsider a return to its former seven-period day.
At the July 2 meeting of the Scott County School Board held at the Scott County Career and Technical Center, Pat Davis suggested that the quality of learning and teaching would be enhanced if the school day for high school students changed from its current four-subject day.
“I put forth the suggestion to you that we go back to a seven-period day and I believe that it will be a much greater quality of teaching for the students,” Davis said during the public expression portion of the meeting. “A lot of the district schools around us have already got away from the block schedule. In fact, I think that the most interesting one is Smyth County. They were the first to go with the block schedule years ago and they have gone away from it.”
He explained that it was difficult to keep the attention of students focused on the subject during a 90-minute class period and that many subjects didn’t really fit well in the breakdown of a block schedule.
In a traditional block schedule, a student attends the same four classes every day for 90 days. During the second semester, the student takes four new classes. Over the course of the year, the student takes eight different classes.
“I have felt this ever since I began teaching, that a 90-minute class period is just too long,” Davis remarked. “It is hard to keep an adult’s attention for 90 minutes…and you can imagine how much that is multiplied with a teenager.
“When you have a 90-minute day you are not getting the quality. What tends to happen is you lose their attention and you also to try to squeeze in a lot of these subjects in a semester which really isn’t enough time, particularly in courses like math. Math is one of those subjects that there is only so much you are going to absorb in one sitting. I don’t care if you are there for five minutes, an hour and a half or three hours. There is only so much you will get in a day and from that point on the law of diminishing returns sets in.”
School districts have been championing the change to block scheduling for the past couple of decades. According to a Brown University study, “Block Scheduling: Innovations with Time” produced in 1998, “the expressed goal of block scheduling programs is improved student academic performance.”
Davis stressed that Scott County’s block schedule may have had an adverse effect on students’ educational levels since its implementation. He explained that subjects such as English and math require a series of classes that build upon the previous ones to attain knowledge.
Davis noted that in some cases under the block schedule, a sophomore student could take English in the fall semester of their sophomore year and not take another English class until the spring semester of their junior year.
“Then basically they have gone an entire calendar year without taking any English,” he commented. “And I believe that is the reason we are seeing more and more of our students when they graduate we say they can read but they are becoming ‘practical illiterates.’ The reading comprehensive is not there and the spelling is atrocious. I believe part of the problem is that we are doing these classes as starting and stopping rather than as consistent.”
He stated that with a semester class most of the teaching was confined to only three months. Even though the class is supposed to be taught for 90 days, the last couple of weeks are spent taking the Standards of Learning tests. Teachers also set aside two to two and a half weeks before the testing window to review for SOL tests.
All of this, Davis said, was leading to “some weakening” in the educational levels of Scott County students.
He asked the board to consider the request, which was presented by Davis on behalf of himself and other concerned teachers.
“Anything we can do to assist educating our young people is important,” he concluded. “I really appreciate that you all will consider that. There’s no way you could implement for this school year but maybe by next school year.”
Davis handed out a proposal to each board member, which outlined advantages to the seven-day period system as compared to the current block schedule.
Earlier in the meeting, school board members recognized and presented framed resolutions to spring sports individuals and teams that participated in state tournaments. Teams recognized included Gate City baseball, Gate City softball, Gate City boys and girls soccer, Gate City boys and girls tennis.
Individuals honored were: track – Daniel Devine of Twin Springs; Uriah Addison, Caitlin Emond, Lucindy Lawson and Ida Nielsen of Rye Cove; and Jordan Houseright, Ashley Carter, Bailie Light, Hannah Kilgore, Haley Wolfe, Sarah Kilgore, Rachael Kilgore, Robbie Hicks, Hunter Davis, Chris Sapp, Casey Bowman, Evan Baker and Nathan Nash, all of Gate City;
Tennis – John Dalton Ferguson, Luke Funkhouser, Rosa Smith and Emily Smith.
Lisa Taylor, the mother of a special education student, again suggested that all teachers should be randomly tested for drug use. She also noted that cameras should be installed in all classrooms, especially in rooms where students are unable to speak for themselves.
“If there were cameras in the classroom, you would know what was going on,” Taylor said. “If y’all had to walk in my shoes, you would understand. As far as my daughter goes, I will fight tooth and nail for her. I will be back every month until something is done.”
School bus driver Lee Smith noted he had asked for health insurance for all school bus drivers for the past 18 years and would appreciate any assistance the board could offer.
The board also approved a request from Duffield Fire & Rescue to allow the non-profit group to add an expansion on their building, which is located at Rye Cove High School. Board chairman James Kay Jessee abstained from the vote because he serves on the fire & rescue squad’s board of directors.