This is one of those “in my day” rants.
Sometime about 30 – 35 years ago, Ontario secondary schools adopted the semester system where subjects were taught in 4 ½ month semesters. The class length was increased from 40 minutes to an hour and a half. There were 4 classes per day and there was one day scheduled. This day was then shuffled a bit to make a 4-day cycle.
Some of the advantages were:
• everyone knew what would be taught each day (although not the exact time/period)
• and there was no loss of certain subjects because of statutory holidays, snow days or professional development days
• There was more time for in class assistance at the end of instruction time, and
• (This may be the key.) The schedule was easy enough for a two-bit computer to create.
There were also some disadvantages;
• If you managed to be unlucky enough to get two spares in a semester, you only received instruction and assistance for half a day. Semi-motivated students could get lazy
• Some subjects where a half school year gap in instruction caused problems (such as math) suffered
• Many otherwise decent students had trouble focussing for an hour and a half. At that time, University courses were only one hour long.
• I also believe that when the change from short to long classes was made some of the less motivated teachers just spent less time instructing and gave more time for what used to be homework.
When I was in secondary school, we had an amazing VP who created our schedule by hand.
• Classes that needed to be longer were double classes.
• Laboratory-based sciences were double – instruction then lab. The total class time was 7 per week, 3 singles and two doubles
• Home Economics/Shop classes were double – theory/drafting then making and twice a week
• Physical Education classes were double to allow for a decent workout and twice a week.
• Language classes were 7 a week so that literature and composition could be covered.
• Math classes were once a day. In my final year of secondary school I had 3 maths.
What kind of school did I attend? It was the only secondary school in an industrial town with a nearby military base. There were just under a thousand students in a mixed arts/sci. technical school.
Recent studies have shown that it isn’t just time in class that determines measurable success. Sometimes continuity of instruction over the year is required and yes, sometimes it is time in class.
If a human could schedule a variety of class lengths over a year surely, it is possible to program today’s computers to develop a hybrid schedule with some classes in shorter time slots carried over a full year; some classes longer and semestered in half years; year round phys. ed no requirement for each subject to be taught each day.
There is no need to have day one be Monday etc. Develop a schedule where the subjects are covered in a reasonable cycle and number the days as with today’s agenda. Today’s students operate on a Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 1 basis. That could be Day 1 …. Day “n” and restart so no particular subject is shorted because of cancelled days.
Surely School Boards, teachers and administration could get together and develop such a system for the benefit of our students. We have the technology.