If It Ain’t Broke

The current buzz among teachers at my middle school is the loss of our rotating schedule. An example of a rotating schedule would be as follows: Monday’s first period class is Tuesday’s second period, Wednesday’s third, Thursday’s fourth, and so on. At fewer than 25 days into the 2014-2015 school year, there are murmurings about “that last block” of students. They’re “chatty”, “inattentive”, “antsy”, “parading to the bathroom”, and “watching the clock”.

Should we expect anything different? Most of these young adolescents left their homes in the dark pre-dawn hour, struggled through first period to stay awake, made it through lunch, and are nearing the finish line. Many can hear the arrival of the afternoon busses, and their minds are on the race to “their” seat, seeing their friends, and freedom.

Several years ago when I began using data from state tests to assess the growth of my math students, a pattern emerged. Each year, my last class of the day had the lowest measure of growth. Some years the gap was smaller than others, but the gap was always there. I brought this to the attention of my principal, who responded with a condescending “that’s interesting”, and passed on the opportunity to examine, or even glance, at the data I had gathered and organized into a small binder.

Eventually, though, a rotating schedule was introduced at our middle school. Some wondered if the students could figure it out, but the reality was that they caught on more quickly than a lot of the teachers. Early on, I remember thinking between classes, “What’s next? Sixth grade? Eighth grade? Intervention? Silent reading?”

Gradually, we all settled into the routine and were glad we didn’t have that tough class first period all year, or last period all year, and that chronically late students weren’t always missing the first fifteen minutes or so of the same class.

Late arrivals are more than a disruption and inconvenience, and they are costing so much more than 15 minutes of lost instructional time. They are usually playing catch up for the rest of the class, a distraction to their peers, and often distracted (and distressed) themselves by their last interactions with a frantic parent.

Students with early dismissals for any variety of reason were now not consistently missing the same class or portion of the same class. The rotating schedule seemed to create a balance that minimized the affects of several intrusive and negative factors.

But the biggest impact seemed to be on student achievement. Sure, I still had one class that achieved the most growth, and another that lagged in comparison, but this was not destined to be determined by the time of the day I had those students in class. This seemed to confirm the validity of the data I had collected.

It was a beautiful thing, really. Running smoothly for several years. Not a point of contention among staff – and there were plenty that could have been addressed. But a rotating schedule is now a thing of the past in our district. Decreed by some unnamed administrator in the castle, with no teacher input. One person. And if my suspicion is correct, I have never seen that person in our school, nor heard of a visit to any of our schools.

“If it ain’t broke……..”

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