The elementary principals here are collectively rearranging their schools' schedules to create a unified literacy block every morning and greater opportunity for teachers to have common planning time. In order to do this, Art and Physical Education time will take a hit, as will some elementary teachers' ability to focus on one particular subject area (i.e., just math) rather than having to teach all of the subjects. I think that the new schedules also will allow for a greater possibility of doing flexibile ability grouping within subject areas.
Many parents and teachers are unhappy about the changes. I've heard from several of them and this was under my windshield wiper last night when I left our school's Science Night:
There are both pros and cons to the changes. My kids' elementary school has a phenomenal art teacher and we're not too keen on our kids seeing her less often. And, of course, regular physical activity is important too, particularly given the growing problem of childhood obesity. On the other hand, I've seen firsthand in many schools the benefits of having common planning periods, a greater emphasis on unified literacy instruction, flexible ability grouping, and so on. In a community like ours, where the family demographics are such that most districts would die to have the standardized test results and college attendance rates that we do, there also is a strong element of 'the current system is working fine so why change it?'
The interesting issue for me is the communication problem that's highlighted here. The plan was presented a week or two ago and the uproar is now starting to reach critical levels. If the principals had done a better job of communicating their intentions and involving teachers and parents in the planning, could this emotional upheaval have been avoided? Without admittedly knowing any of the particulars, I'm guessing that there probably was a way to avoid some of this.
On another note, paper flyers on windshields? Um, the Internet, anyone? Maybe even e-mail? Another tree gives its life to the cause...
[FYI, the title quote is from Cool Hand Luke.]