Good days in school February 8, 2012 5:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm pretty sure I Saw this on MeFi. Help me out! It was a story about the number of "good" days in public school. First you take off the first three weeks, then every holiday and every day before the holiday, then 15 "special" days, then most fridays, then the two months you need to cram for the standardized tests, and you end up with about two months of actual useful teaching time - the two months after halloween
posted by rebent to MetaFilter-Related at 5:01 AM (15 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

But the two months after Halloween includes Christmas and the various winter holidays. I ain't doin' no schoolin' over X-mas!
posted by item at 5:08 AM on February 8, 2012


First you take off the first three weeks...

This does not jibe with my experience as a student. This is a college story, not "public school" but matches my experience a little more closely: On the very first day and in the first class of the day at 8 am I had Calculus. My very first introduction to college. The professor said "I'm going to assume you already all know everything in chapter one from learning it in high school, so let's jump right to chapter two."
posted by DU at 5:18 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


For some reason I think something like this gets talked about in Season 4 of The Wire - any chance it's that?
posted by backwards guitar at 5:48 AM on February 8, 2012


The Wire mention was more about just one week's worth of student moods, with Wednesday being the best, IIRC.
posted by sperose at 6:13 AM on February 8, 2012


My one good day in high school was the day I left. YMMV.
posted by arcticseal at 6:24 AM on February 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Were there standardized tests, or if there were did anyone care, in the "good old days?"

Anyway, this seems just stupid to me.
posted by caddis at 6:36 AM on February 8, 2012


"My one good day in high school was the day I left. YMMV."

That was a good day. But I had a few others, such as the day my freshman year I got falling down drunk and tried to go to sleep on my drama teacher's desk. And then hid the empty bottle of booze in the vice-principal's office when he stepped out. That was fun.

I'm trying to think of some other good ones, but I'm drawing a blank.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:44 AM on February 8, 2012


Were there standardized tests, or if there were did anyone care, in the "good old days?"

In the 70s/80s, I took the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (which were not confined to Iowa, btw). Wikipedia says these tests started in 1935. The SATs started in the 20s and the ACT in the 50s. Since these tests were used to measure educational effectiveness and college admissions, yes, I assume people cared.
posted by DU at 7:01 AM on February 8, 2012


My senior year in HS was pretty much a vacation. I was the photography editor for my yearbook. The teacher overseeing the yearbook loved me for some strange reason, so I got a blanket pass to essentially skip any class I wanted to on "yearbook business". Since I was a rather smart slacker my grades didn't drop too much.

I'd do that year again in a heartbeat.
posted by Splunge at 8:03 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have been working with my teachers to develop really strong online content that equates to a state-mandated 54 hours' worth of instruction. My biggest problem is that teachers overshoot this mark. Once freed of the constraint of time (be it class periods or semesters), teachers tend to throw everything and the kitchen sink into their curricula. I am constantly having conversations like: "I see you have 12 units in your online curriculum. Before we switched to online learning, how many of these units did you get through in a semester?" "Three." "Okay, then I think you're asking a little too much here."

Anyway, my point is, I have this little mathematical exercise I've shown my staff. It starts with our curricula, which is all theoretically about 54 hours' worth of work. Now here is a typical (non-computer-based-learning) public high school class for a given student:

(90 days/semester, minus 5 days for random stuff) * (95% attendance) * (15 minutes/class of actual on-task student work) = about 20 hours

That calculation is an upper bound of the amount of work a student could be expected to do in class in a semester. When you consider that a given student might be on task only, say, 80% of the time, you're looking at 16 hours' worth of work per semester per class. And remember, once that work is submitted, he or she only needs an average grade of 65% to pass a class, which (admittedly oversimplified) is like doing 2/3 of the work, or less than 11 hours' worth of work. And let's not forget, not all student work is collected by the teacher, and not all the work collected by the teacher is necessarily a graded activity.

Without exaggeration, in much of our public school system, a semester of high school credit equates to roughly one diligent 9:00-5:00 work day.

And this calculation is based on the fact that there are 85 "good" days per semester, which, as is under discussion here, there are not.
posted by etc. at 8:47 AM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just read someone doing this calculation, arguing that the first few weeks of the school year are lost to delayed supplies, schedule adjustments, staffing adjustments and so on. Then Halloween comes along, and there's a pretty good stretch until Thanksgiving, but things are chaotic again until after the holidays. A big chunk of a couple of months is given over to test prep, and then apparently many schools don't really try to do much instruction between the standardized tests and the end of the school year. It wasn't here at MetaFilter that I saw it, but in a book called So Much Reform, So Little Change, that looks at factors that undermine efforts for improvement in urban and bottom-tier schools.
posted by not that girl at 8:54 AM on February 8, 2012


ok, I found the article I was thinking of. Sorry, it wasn't on Mefi - but I really did think I had read it here. It would make a good post, hint hint ;) It's Quantity Matters: Annual Instructional Time in an Urban School System by BetsAnn Smith.
posted by rebent at 11:28 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a bit of a myth that learning takes place in school. Most educational outcomes are determined by home life, such as income, presence of parents, parental education and engagement in education, parental attitudes towards education (are there books in the house?), and parental understanding of the learning process.

Elementary school, at least, is all about teaching kids to sit still.

And I say this as a former teacher with a child in the school system.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:20 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a teacher. That's why, in my classroom, we're trying to move to a Flipped Classroom model. It's where, instead of doing homework like worksheets/skills practice, students watch the instruction at home on the internet (or on a smartphone). Then during class, they do the practice and application.

So students watch a video that has a lecture on calculating molar weight at home, then they come to class, check for understanding and do the lab where they calculate molar weight. Compare that to getting a lecture on molar weight with a few examples and checking for understanding in class, then being given a worksheet with examples as homework, then skipping the lab because there's no time to do it.

Maybe I'll put together a post about it.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:14 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why kids have to do so much homework. I really don't. After school is for playing outside, then there is dinner and cleaning up, and then an hour between 7 and 8 for family interaction. Typically, we try to spend a maximum of 30 minutes on homework at this time, but it's not possible because there are so many projects, and instructions to look stuff up on YouTube and find photos and download them and print them out and create "rap songs" and book covers and all sorts of other stuff that should be done during class time.

Homework is intended to reinforce what is taught during the day, not to engage in and learn new concepts.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:38 PM on February 8, 2012


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