Board’s course schedule doesn’t add up

As an educator in the post-secondary system, I am baffled by Algoma District School Board’s latest decision regarding its back-to-school plans for September.

On Aug. 23, I received a communication with ADSB’s plans for high schools and had to read it three times to make sure I had read it properly.

My heart goes out to the students and the teachers. I shake my head at the administrators. This may work for subjects that don’t build, like history, or creative writing, but won’t work for math and sciences, music, and language acquisition, among others.

An email from the board read as follows:

“To support secondary students in the transition from the quadmester model that was used last year back to the semester model that is being planned for this coming February, the ADSB will be implementing a modified secondary schedule in semester one, from September to the end of January for students in Grades 9-12.  Semester 1 will be set-up as a two-week rotation where students work on their first two courses in week one and their other two courses in week two.  On each day, students will work on one class in the morning and one class in the afternoon, with a lunch period in-between.”

Why on earth would they do this? This model makes no sense. One week you’re going to learn a concept in your math class, the next week you don’t take math, and then the week after that you’re back to math and trying to remember material from a week ago? And teachers have been instructed to not give them homework on the off week?

Teaching at the post-secondary level, I’ve seen all kinds of models of teaching, but I have never heard of a week on, week off model and there is a reason for that. It won’t work. Can you imagine trying to learn and retain calculus, or guitar, or a new language on a week on, week off arrangement? This is madness.

Here’s their why for doing this: “In implementing this model, secondary students will have an opportunity to begin the transition back from working on two courses in a quadmester to working on four courses at the same time in a semester.  The two-week rotation will allow students to work on four credits, while also limiting weekly student contacts.  The rotation will continue for both in-person and remote learning until the end of semester one.”

Do they really think that in one year students have forgotten how to deal with four courses in a semester and need to be slowly reintroduced into this system? Seriously? Aren’t these the same students they were just praising their resilience and ability to deal with change during the first year and a bit of the pandemic? I almost thought that “limiting weekly student contacts” made sense, but considering cafeterias are open and sports are resuming is this really the concern?

Either jump back into the semester system with all four courses, or follow the quadmester model with two courses from September to mid-November and then two new courses mid-November through January. These are the only two models that are proven to work for material acquisition and retention.

It is clear to me that they didn’t contact parents nor teachers for feedback on this plan because they worried it would be vehemently opposed. As an educator myself I can’t even figure out how I would modify a quantitative, language, or music class to teach it with a break every second week. As a parent, I’m glad my son is only in Grade 10, when it won’t matter as much. I truly pity the Grade 12 students about to embark in their toughest math and science classes in a system that is setting them up to fail. I thought I had seen it all.

If you’re wondering, from what I have been told, Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board is not doing this. I won’t be surprised if ADSB loses students to the HSCDSB to avoid this mess.

If you’re as concerned or upset about this as I am, call or email your school or the board now to try and get this reversed. Feel free to forward this article. Here are the emails of the ADSB director of education, the ADSB communications officer, and the chair of the ADSB trustees The board telephone number is  705-945-7111.

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