I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Solving the 6 period vs. 7 Period High School Day Issue

In the wake of the publication of "A Nation At Risk" in 1983, Florida began to aggressively reform its public education system (as did many other states in the country at that time) to address some of the shortfalls outlined in that publication.

One of the things that was accomplished in the mid-1980s was the addition of a funded 7th period in the High School Day. The funding did not last long. Fast forward to the mid-1990s, and the Florida legislature pulled the funding for the seventh period in the High School day.

Many districts immediately reverted to the 6 period day right then-- the reasoning being that 6 periods was all that they would be funded for. Escambia County, though, continued to provide the 7 period H.S. day--even though it was no longer funded by the state.

Fast forward to the beginning of the Florida economic crisis and school year 2008-2009--and The 7th period is officially off-limits for discussion (sacred cow). There are many reasons why even the mere mention of reverting to 6 periods brings immediate resistance. The chief argument for not abandoning the 7th period is because of numerous state mandated required courses added for graduation. Additionally, fine arts proponents lament and fight the potential loss of the Seventh period, intimating that it would decimate the arts and other elective classes.

I'm not sure how I feel about that argument. When I went to High School in the early eighties, H.S. Students in Escambia County had six period days---and we still somehow managed to produce excellent band programs (Like the Tate H.S. Showband of the South) as well as excellent sports/athletic teams. I played Bass guitar in the PHS Jazz ensemble in High School. I had time in my school schedule for band, drama, art, PE as well as all of my other courses. I know today's students have more requirements for graduation, but today's Florida High School students have the option of earning additional credits via the Florida Virtual School-- students of the past did not have this excellent resource.

I'm not outright advocating for the reversion to a six period H.S. day, but if the economy continues to tank, can we really afford to not look at that as an additional savings opportunity as we are being put into a corner financially?
Something to think about.

The good news today, however, is that our district --under the leadership of Superintendent Malcolm Thomas and Carolyn Spooner, Director of H.S. Education --has come up with a proposal that will help to alleviate the scheduling issues for High Schools next school year. This plan will do the following:

1. alleviate the H.S. teachers' current heavy workload (providing 2 planning periods and a duty-free lunch daily for H.S. teachers)

2. provide the opportunity for students to have seven period schedules per semester

3. allow the district to maintain the savings achieved ($3.2 Million yearly) that we are currently garnering by having teachers teach 6 of 7 H.S. periods.

It sounds almost too good to be true. This plan, if implemented, could be great for the teachers and the district---a genuine win-win scenario.

The only hurdle now is the teacher's union. This below linked document is the proposal that was given to the Teacher's Union yesterday. I hope they appreciate that this is an opportunity for everyone to have a victory---Students, Taxpayers, and Teachers.

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