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Letter in Opposition to the Proposed Dublin High School Schedule Change

The following letter to the editor in opposition to the proposed schedule change was sent to and the Dublin Unified School District by a parent of children currently attending Dublin High School and Fallon Middle School:

I’m writing to express my concern over the proposal to alter the schedule at DHS next year. I believe that while many of the goals of the program are worthy, the mechanism proposed to meet those goals is disruptive and counterproductive.

  1. Imagine the headline: “Dublin School Board cuts 3 weeks from DHS classes.” The proposed schedule shortens instructional class time from 56 minutes to either 53 or 51 minutes. That is 5 or 9% of the total class time (2 or 3 weeks over the course of the year), depending on which schedule is adopted. This is not a recipe for improving student learning: less time for lecture, less time for labs, less time for tests, less time for discussion, less time for Q&A, less time for in-class help, and so on. I have heard that many DHS teachers when surveyed raised this as their primary concern about the proposal.The change has been framed as a longer school day, but the primary reason that our students are at school is to attend class and interact with credentialed instructors, and that time is being taken away, not expanded (save for the 9th graders who will at least have the opportunity to complete their Health requirement).
  2. The proposed schedule reduces the amount of time that DHS students have outside of school for homework, extracurriculars, community, family, personal time, and sleep. So not only will our students have less time in class, they’ll have less time out of school. A two-fer!The longer day will be stealing time from the things that occupy their lives away from school. It seems arrogant to decide that all students need to spend more time at school when less class instruction is being provided and not more. Many of our students already struggle to meet all the demands on their time, and a longer school day will only heighten that challenge.It is wishful thinking that students can simply do their homework during that time and therefore lose nothing. For the students that have their free period during the early part of the day, they may not know what their homework will be. If a student has a light homework load on certain days, that time cannot be shifted to non-school activities. Students that already have good home study habits will now have to adapt to studying with additional distractions and without access to all their own resources (laptop, texts, etc.). Surely they will be less efficient than they are now, and to reinforce this point you only need to have a frank discussion with current students about what most are actually doing in The Hub during lunch versus what we wish they were doing.
  3. The Gael Period is just wasted time. Giving it a nice name does not change that fact that for most students this is just idle time that they will have to figure out how to fill. The justifications here feel quite Orwellian.“Teaches time management.” Imagine if we wanted all DHS graduates to be able to swim. To do that, we would teach “buoyancy management” by throwing each student into the pool each day by themselves. The ones that know how to swim would get nothing out of it. The ones that don’t would either drown or perhaps figure out how to dog paddle to survive, but it’s hardly an effective model for learning to swim well, it’s a rationalization.“Gives the kids a breather.” Of course in order to give this breather, we’re going to make classes shorter and more rushed, we’re going to make passing periods shorter and more rushed, and we’re going to make their lives out of school shorter and more rushed. The schedule change adds stress to relieve stress. With all due respect, this is nonsense.“Get a head start on homework.” Covered above.“Collaborate on group projects.” Sure, as long as the other members of the group have the same Gael Period. In a group of 2, the random probability is 14% of that happening. In a group of 3, around 2%. In a group of 4, about 0.3%. Ignoring that inconvenient fact, how many days out of the school year would that really occupy? A handful?
  4. While some general learning goals have been presented, it is unclear to me what problem we are actually attempting to solve other than the library is too small to accommodate all the students that wish to take advantage of The Hub at lunch. Is there data that says we have a significant problem across the whole student body that this addresses? There seems a rush “do something” simply because of all the great educational opportunities we aspire as educators and parents to give our kids, but that comes at a cost.
  5. This is not the least disruptive way to address the goals that have been laid out. The 12th graders get a shorter day but also less class time (maybe a bit more sleep in the morning for some). The 10th and 11th graders get less class time and an idle period carved out of the middle of their day. Only the 9th graders have a defined program backing up the schedule change, but even there, many of the Freshman goals seem to be things that could be addressed with much less time than is occupied in the schedule by FMP and the Gael Period, both of which affect every student across every grade every day for the entire school year.I believe there are probably many more creative ways to provide these opportunities to the incoming students in a more concentrated, efficient, effective manner. The proposed schedule change is a big hammer to wield.Example: Take a few minutes out of lunch and make passing periods slightly longer, giving students a chance to mentally switch gears between classes, ease the pace of the day, and perhaps give them a chance to socialize a bit between academics.Example: Schedule specific seminar days to address Freshman goals in a concentrated and possibly more engaging way.
  6. FMP needs to be reevaluated and either modified or eliminated, not expanded into another entire period. I’ve heard two arguments supporting the effectiveness of FMP:“D’s and F’s are lower”. However, since there’s no control group this could mean anything including performance might have improved more without FMP, but where are the benefits for the students that aren’t struggling that justify the tradeoffs that apply to all students, including the 10th through 12th graders?“The survey results are positive.” I have heard ample anecdotal evidence that the surveys have not been completed in a truthful way and that the general view of FMP is “complete waste of time.”Orthogonal to this decision but relevant, the Academic Prep period at the middle school level should be reexamined as well because students should not be made to feel their time is being wasted at school, and many believe that that is the case.
  7. In the event the proposed schedule changes are adopted, there should be a concrete plan for measuring the quantitative and qualitative effects of the program and a requirement that it actually be meeting its promise in order for it to renew in future years rather than being ingrained in the school structure (as Academic Prep has).

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