Middle School: Is Core Getting Enough Time?

 

The middle school schedule has changed many times over the years, most recently in how core classes are defined and organized.  Middle School science teacher Bodo Carey said, “(t)he main change in the schedule is that all of the seventh and eighth grade middle school students have their core subjects at the same time, the first two classes of the day….  The older schedule had all seventh graders in one block of time, either in the morning or the afternoon, and all the eighth graders were together during the opposite block, either the morning or the afternoon.”

Middle schoschedol social studies teacher JB Hilferty said, “(n)ow the way they have core is that seventh and eighth grade is taught simultaneously so that divides the core teachers…. You can team as far as being a group of adults with students that you can look at but there’s no involvement in each other’s classes”. In the old schedule there was always one teacher that did not have their own class, they would be able to help more in the other classes and teachers were able to give more support to the students.

Another major change is that math is a part of core, and students are no longer tracked in their math class. JB said this change has been challenging. “I know that best practices say that it’s better that way than it is to be tracked, but it’s more challenging for students and the math teachers to have multiple ability levels. We love having math on core because they feel a part of core but I also think it brings a whole lot of struggles”.

Two major complaints of the middle school schedule has been that there is not a as much time, and the core teachers can not work together in one class. JB said, “I feel like the amount of time that we have for core has been slowly eroded, and I believe the administration recognizes it and they are trying to find a solution to the problem but over the past two or three years we’ve lost time for core academic time”.

There used to be three core subjects, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies, but now Math is also a part of core. The core teachers now have to divide their 158 minutes between four subjects instead of three. Bodo agreed, and also said, “it’s harder to schedule integration this way because everybody has a full class of students at the same time and you’re either teaching your eighth graders or your seventh graders at the same time”.

Lisa LaPlante said the amount of time core has now is one of the complaints she has heard. “In this schedule math was put on core so there are four subjects happening in core instead of three, so the core teachers would say that they lost teaching, or instructional time”.

Lisa explained that there were two reasons for changing the schedule. “The purpose of the change was to align the classes and we made it so that core happened during band’s one and two, so the core teachers can structure that time anyway they want , so one reason we picked this schedule is so that they could have more flexibility.” Even though there has been complaints about the new schedule, it fixes the problems that we had with the old schedule.

Bodo said he believed there was only one major benefit of the new schedule, which is the time of day the core classes are held. “I think one of the main benefits of the new schedule is that I get to teach my classes the first two classes of the morning which I think is better for learning the core subjects than in the late afternoon time”.

Lisa LaPlante said there are other advantages when she is creating schedules for both the middle school and highschool students. The old middle school schedule was not the same as the high school schedule, so classes would happen at different times. “I’d say that the advantages is that it aligns with the high school. In the old schedule the periods did not happen at the same time.  We have teachers, that are crossovers, or shared staff, such as the world languages teachers and the elective teachers who teach in both the middle school and the high school, and it was hard to schedule their classes….  The crossover teachers could only teach bands one and two and seven and eight in the high school in the old schedule. The alignment is the biggest advantage”.

Middle School students have not noticed a change in the amount of time in core. The students believe they still get a lot of work done. Seventh grader Gabe Van Hoy said, “(o)ur class usually feels like it goes by really quickly, but we do get a lot of stuff done in our time”. Eighth grader Emma Merrill said, “(i)n our core classes I think we get a lot of work done in the amount of time that we have”.  

This is the second year that this schedule has been in place, although some people have had issues with the schedule it will most likely not change in the near future. According to Lisa LaPlante, “most schedules live at least five or six years because you can’t really tell whether or not they are working in the first couple years.”