There is an article in the Seattle Times today about the number of hours of instruction a student receives in the 10 comprehensive high schools. Only 2 of the schools meet the criteria of 150 hours of instruction per class per school year.
I have to say that this is one of my biggest gripes. At Rainier Beach, we have twenty 2-hour late arrival and early dismissal days during the year. On those days, each of the 6 periods only meets for 35 minutes. I don't feel that is enough time for any sort of new instruction, so I have these days be "work and review" days. I hate this for a couple of reasons. The students get cheated out of instruction and the time the teachers spend in the morning or afternoon is usually very unproductive. Last year, for example, most of the twenty days was spent on district-mandated training for a Language Arts program called Reading Apprenticeship. Now I'm sure this is a fine program, but when I talked to our LA teachers about it, they kind of rolled their eyes and told me they were already doing all of these techniques. Of course, as math teacher, I found those days to be a total waste of my time. Is reading important? Absoulutely, it is. I have a sign in my room that says: "Reading is Freedom." I believe that totally and completely. However, I strongly believe that all that time could of been more effectively used, if the math teachers were meeting, working on how to be more effective teachers of math, not more effective teachers of reading.
In the article, there were many comments about how the methodology used to calculate time spent in the classroom was incorrect. Well, that may or may not be true, but the big picture question about instruction time is very clear. Students don't spend nearly enough time in class. At Rainier Beach, we have a 15 minute break in between 2nd and 3rd period and then we spend 20 minutes at the end of 4th period doing Student Silent Reading. All we need to do to have a 7 period day is do away with those two things and add 15 minutes to the end of the day. Now the students would get significantly more instruction and the students who are struggling in reading or writing or math could take a support class to help bring them up to grade level. That would be a much better way to increase student learning.