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It’s About Time

A few posts back I was ranting about time and how more of it was not necessarily a good thing for school reform. An outstanding essay in this month’s Edutopia Magazine picks up on that same theme, looking at how our inefficient allegiance to traditional educational time has stagnated any hope of school reform.

This snippet from the article is an excellent summary of the problems.

Unyielding and relentless, the time available in a uniform 6-hour day and 180-day year is the unacknowledged design flaw in American education. By relying on time as the metric for school organization and curriculum, we have built a learning enterprise on a foundation of sand, on five premises educators know to be false.

These include

* the assumption that students arrive at school ready to learn in the same way, on the same schedule, all in rhythm with each other.
* the notion that academic time can be used for nonacademic purposes with no effect on learning.
* the pretense that because yesterday’s calendar was good enough for us, it should be good enough for our children — despite major changes in the larger society.
* the myth that schools can be transformed without giving teachers the time they need to retool themselves and reorganize their work.
* the new fiction that it is reasonable to expect world-class academic performance from our students within the time-bound system that is already failing them.

These five assumptions are a recipe for a kind of slow-motion social suicide.

No Child Left Behind – and most other reform efforts – are built around the assumption that our educational system can be improved by rearranging things within the current time structure. That’s crap!

It’s time to throw out the old agrarian calendar. Drop the idea that every child learns at the same pace. And certainly trash the concept that teacher planning and training should be done on their own time.

Without major changes to the way we manage time in education, no amount of testing and penalties will improve teaching and learning. It just won’t happen.

Side note: If you aren’t already reading Edutopia, you should be. And it’s free! Go to the web site and subscribe.

1 Comment

  1. Bob Heiny

    Thanks for the quotes and your comments. I think instructional efficiency can increase greatly within existing schooling parameters, as demonstrated repeatedly by direct instruction programs. Also, learning efficiencies can increase through use of advanced electronic tools, such as direct learning software with Tablet PCs, etc. I’m not as sure how likely it is for school people to increase use of Tablet PC related direct learning programs, but these are available.

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