Middle school days become standard
Adjustments are made to comply with the required 300-hours-per-day instruction.
By ELISABETH DYER
Published August 3, 2007
Middle school students will get more face time with teachers starting this year, after a districtwide change forced uniformity for the first time in recent years.
For most middle school students and teachers, it will mean a school day that lasts 15 to 30 minutes longer.
Educators appear to be pleased with the change.
At Coleman Middle in South Tampa, for instance, principal Mike Hoskinson welcomed the extra time.
"Anytime you have more instructional time in front of the kids you're going to see academic gains from it."
Each middle school will start at 9 a.m. and end at 4:15 p.m. Middle magnets will start at 7:35 a.m. and end at 2:50 p.m.
Last year, middle school start times varied from 8:45 to 9:15 a.m. and release times from 3:45 and 4:15 p.m. Magnets were from 7:40 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., so their days will be extended by 25 minutes this year.
Bus schedules caused the disparity, said Yvonne Lyons, executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. The district needed middle schools to start at different times in accordance with the availability of buses.
The bus system also caused other problems, Lyons said. Some teachers complained that bus riders were constantly late. Often buses had to make several rounds to get kids to school.
Officials hope that a pilot program to streamline busing will make the system more efficient and work in concert with new, standard middle school hours.
The new middle school schedules bring uniformity to a system where start and end times varied significantly between middle schools. For instance, students at Marshall Middle in Plant City attended 7 hours and 15 minutes a day, while students at Coleman attended 6 hours and 45 minutes.
Previously, principals had leeway to structure their school day, which varied from five, six or seven periods, based on community needs. Starting this year, all middle school teachers will instruct six 60-minute classes a day. Another hour and 15 minutes covers homeroom, lunch and class changes. Marshall was the district's only middle school where teachers taught 300 minutes a day, the maximum allowed by the teachers union contract.
Superintendent MaryEllen Elia decided this year to require all middle and high school teachers to instruct for 300 minutes.
The change meant high school teachers would teach an extra class each day, requiring the district to hire fewer new teachers to meet class size limits. Some high school teachers protested the change earlier this year in front of School Board members.
But the goal for middle schools was to "all get on the same page," said Josie Sanders, the district's general director of middle schools.
And reaction from middle school teachers to conforming schedules, and longer teaching days, has been positive, Lyons said. "Uniformity makes all the sense in the world," she said. "I haven't heard a peep that was not positive, not one complaint from middle school teachers."
Parents don't seem to be making a big fuss either.
"From what I could tell, most parents groaned when they saw the change, but other than that, they were okay with it," Sue Vidmar, president of the Parent Teacher Student Association for Davidsen Middle in North Tampa, responded in an e-mail.
"People are always hesitant about change, but it becomes the norm quickly," Vidmar said. "The kids are groaning because it's a longer time in each class. I think overall it will be taken in stride."
Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 226-3321.
Middle school changes
For the 2007-08 school year, middle schools will start classes at 9 a.m. and end at 4:15 p.m. Middle magnets will start at 7:35 a.m. and end at 2:50 p.m. Last year, middle school start times varied from 8:45 to 9:15 a.m. and release times from 3:45 and 4:15 p.m.; magnets were from 7:40 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Middle schools and the minutes added to their school day
Turkey Creek 20
Van Buren 15
Source: Hillsborough County Schools
[Last modified August 2, 2007, 07:12:25]
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