Sibley Ponders the Six-Period DaySibley is considering changing from a seven-period day to a six-period day. We look at other districts who have done that and the effects it can have on programs, classes, and budgets.
By: Amos Gewirtz, Sibley Scribe
As part of an effort to reduce expenditures within ISD 197, changing from the seven-period day to a six-period day at Henry Sibley High School has been proposed. It is generally agreed that a six period day is not ideal, however, the wider ramifications, whether those are benefits or hindrances to ISD 197’s only high school are still unclear. To gauge the scope of such ramifications it is useful to examine schools in similar situations, that is, schools that have either moved from a six period day to a seven period day or visa versa. Many districts across the metro area have had a six-period day for a long time, including Edina, Minnetonka, Fridley, Mounds View and White Bear Lake. Some high schools, though, have just made the transition from a seven-period day to a six-period day. These include the Bloomington high schools and Prior Lake - Savage ISD. So, what are the advantages to each schedule? What are the drawbacks? Does one work better than the other? These are all questions that are being debated as the move toward the six-period day is considered.
The primary reason districts go to a six-period day from a seven-period day is financial. There is no evidence that this is a better model necessarily. The Prior Lake – Savage Area School District is transitioning to a six-period day. The schedule includes a zero-hour before school, and otherwise has six classes of approximately 59 minutes each. In their original proposal, it was projected that this move, in the middle schools and the high school, would save the district nearly $1.5 million. At the high school alone, only 76 teachers would be needed as opposed to the 88 required in the seven-period day, thus saving $800,000.
However, there are serious drawbacks. One serious drawback is that there are fewer electives available to students seeking to take additional courses of interest, on top of those that are required. Most acknowledge that changing from a seven-period day to a six-period day has a disproportionate effect on elective courses ; students have far fewer options and fewer time periods to fit them in. However, the zero hour – starting at 7:00 – allows a little flexibility. In Prior Lake - Savage, the graduation requirements have been reduced too, from four Social Studies credits to 3.5, and to one year of combined Health and Physical Education.
So what about districts moving in the other direction? From a six-period day to a seven-period day? There aren’t many in Minnesota for which we could find data, but in Washington State, the Shoreline Public Schools recently made that change at the middle and high school levels. In a presentation, developed as a team effort by Dr. Linda Gohlke, Dr. Nina Potter, and Anzara Miller in order to assist the District Advisory Committee on Programs and Operations for the district, there is evidence that the seven-period day has positive academic results.
The presentation highlighted several characteristics, improving marked improvements in both student learning and behavior since the move. Regarding advanced and/or gifted, the move had a positive impact on the number of courses offered to students that sought to excel in their subjects of interest. The presentation stated that: “There has been an increase in the number of students enrolled in honors courses over the past six years. “ It also claimed that, “The seven periods allow for an increase in the number of honors sections offered.” It did, however, stipulate “In addition to the change to a seven-period day there have been changes in the enrollment requirements that make it difficult to determine whether the increase is due solely to the seven period day.”
Of course, a primary concern for many remains that, as in similar educational austerity measures, valuable teachers will inevitably lose their jobs or have their working hours shortened. Right now, the extent of these ramifications at Henry Sibley is speculative. No matter one’s opinion, most agree that this decision should not be taken lightly—it should be the subject of intense debate and research.