Prairie View

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Parent-Teacher Fellowship 2008

Last night we had our annual meeting for school staff and parents of students. It was a good evening--not only, but partly, because of the wonderful array of snacks the parents provided afterward.

During my "teacher's report," after the usual references to classes I'm teaching, etc. I summarized some information from research I had done in preparation for the evening. I had compiled the data in response to the spoken and unspoken questions parents, teachers, and students all deal with, in a rising tide of uncertainty, it seems to me: "Why are the students so chronically overwhelmed with school work?" We're not all sure anymore that the adults are leading out in providing well-balanced expectations for high-school-aged students.

I compared four different school situations, focusing on the graduation requirements for each, and the hours spent in school at each location. Two were local public high schools, one in 1969 and one in 2008. The other two situations involved our school, both in 1975, when it started, and in 2008. Here's the breakdown:

School Hours Allowed per Required Credit Hour (General Prep):

Partridge High School (1969, when I graduated): 82.9
Pilgrim Christian High School (1975): 61.2
Haven High School (2008): 57.9
Pilgrim Christian High School (2008): 51.4

In 2008 our school day is the same length as it is for the public high school in our district. However, they have 20 more school days each year than we do. In 1969, at Partridge, our school day was an hour longer each day than our day now at Pilgrim. In addition, the school year was 20 days longer. And we thought we were busy with earning 17 credits instead of the 21 our students at Pilgrim do now.

Here's another telling comparison: To stay on track for graduating in four years with 21 credits, our students must complete 5.25 credits per year. The increase in required credits since 1975 is four--that nearly a full year's worth of work. (Our requirements have increased to keep pace with the state standards for public schools.)

It seems to me that we have the following options:

1. Continue as we are, and assume that students will continue to spend a great deal of time on schoolwork at home.

2. Alleviate the outside-of-school workload for students in one of two ways:

a. Adjust our school requirements downward.

b. Increase the time students spend in school.

In a related quest before the meeting, Mr. Schrock and I formed the opinion that we are not granting enough credit for our monthly all-school literature activity. Mr. S and I had talked about this last year when he brought it up. We decided that reading 16 books and doing 16 written projects and 16 oral reports deserves at least one credit instead of the half credit we have been giving it. We are also looking at our current events requirement, but are thinking the current amount of assigned credit for this may be close to right. This revelation obviously has not yet translated into a policy change, but I believe we will pursue that course of action. When we started the literature program we thought we were being generous by granting credit for something that had previously been required without credit (written and oral reports), although in a considerably minimized form.

Being responsible people in a changing environment requires more than research and considerations of fairness. It requires continual refocusing on goals and evaluation of progress toward those goals. To do it well requires Godly wisdom. For that we need the prayers of all who care about these things.

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