Editor's Note: The following personal commentaries were solicited after reviewing the "Profiles" of local school district programs for professional development time. The teacher's experiences with his school program highlight his visions of what may be possible in the future with such initiatives and describe the benefits of partnerships. The student's personal experiences demonstrate the benefits to students as well as teachers when both groups are involved in positive innovation in their school.
By John Robert Kasting, Science Department Chairman, Columbus, Indiana
"We're all in our places with bright, shiny faces." The traditional song with its implications for the function of school time is being called into question - and for good reason. High-tech equipment and emerging visions of the use of school time are initiating a shift in the way that school time is allocated between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Students, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and support personnel are using time in different ways.
Team planning time is not a luxury - it is integral and essential to our program, because teachers make team presentations to large groups and coteach classes in which special education students are included with the general education classes.
East High School in Columbus, Indiana, is continuing its 20-year history of carving up school time in creative ways to educate children more effectively. Students at East High School spend their time in a variety of ways in a number of different settings. They use their minutes in small group discussion rooms designed for 20 people; in large group discussion rooms designed for 50 to 250 people; in open labs studying science, art, or physical education; and in the library. On the resource floor (which is 550 feet long) teachers in science, mathematics, English, foreign languages, business, and social studies are available every minute of the day for one-on-one conferences with students. Students move from one area to another without restriction.
East High School's schedule follows a two-day cycle. Students meet on Day 1 for large group instruction and on Day 2 for small group instruction. The Day 1/Day 2 cycle ignores weekends and vacation days. This system buys time for teacher planning, lab supervision, and use of the resource center. Without the large groups, teachers always would be in a setting in which the teacher-to-student ratio was 1-to-25.
Team planning time is not a luxury - it is integral and essential to our program, because teachers make team presentations to large groups and coteach classes in which special education students are included with the general education classes. The special expertise of each teacher is used in planning and presenting each lesson. The coteachers work with the class as a team. They actively work with the class at all times, giving lectures, conducting a laboratory, leading class discussion, and so forth.
The science lab is one large room where physics, chemistry, and biology students all work at the same time doing experiments. This lab is open all day, so that students can return to finish a lab or do an extension activity when they choose.
When the East Modular Program was initiated in 1972, staff development time gave each teacher the opportunity to gain knowledge and a close working relationship with all of the other teachers, administrators, and special service professionals in the building. The teachers gained common experience and knowledge of current research and best practice, which helped produce a common, collegial vision of East High School. However, staff development did not continue at this level, resulting in a reduction in the common vision and collegial interaction.
Today, this intensity and team spirit is rebuilding with the Modern Red School House project (a New American Schools Development Corporation [NASDC] school) directed by the Hudson Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana. Funds to build-in staff development, team development of curriculum, and presentation/learning styles will be available this year. Team planning time is embedded into the teachers' day, which comprises nine, 42-minute periods. This time is used to plan and create new curriculum, presentations, labs, and assessment techniques. The team spirit and creativity that comes from these team meetings is most significant in maintaining a vibrant, appropriate learning program for our students.
Many of East's teachers participated in a nine-day summer workshop in July 1994. They spent the first four days under the direction of expert subject area consultants, who updated teachers on recent education research and best practice. During the remaining five days, teachers worked in their departments with the consultants writing Hudson Units to be piloted during the 1994-95 school year. A Hudson Unit is a complete teaching/learning plan for 10 to 15 school days, with an expectation of some interdisciplinary work. More Hudson Units will be written during the next three years, and the project will provide time to the teachers for team planning, creating, and writing. East High School has hired a full-time Modern Red School House coordinator who will do mentoring, modeling, coaching, and consulting with teachers one-on-one and in teams to infuse education research, best practice, and specific Modern Red School House initiatives into team planning sessions and into the classroom. The East Science Department also completed a 30-hour inservice curriculum-writing session in August 1994 to polish the Hudson Units and begin to set up specific materials for labs, lectures, and small-group activities.
My vision for school time and East High School includes the following:
Posted on March 6, 1995