Academy Mulls New Schedule

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Teachers May Get More Time With Students

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, May 22, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- A preliminary student schedule for the 2009-10 year at Hampton Academy gives teachers more time with students, but not much more, said SAU 21 Assistant Superintendent Maureen Ward.

School officials are currently working on a new schedule for Hampton Academy that includes the five teaching positions that were previously eliminated.

Ward told the Hampton School Board last week the schedule should be complete and ready for review at the board's June meeting. Ward said a committee, which includes several teachers at the Academy, is currently working on it.

"Their charge is to do what is best for kids and not what has always been done," Ward said.

Ward said she developed a preliminary schedule as a starting point that shows the average class sizes for language arts and social studies at 14 students, and 18 for math and science.

The potential schedule restores consumer science and technology education and gives teachers at the Academy two planning periods; one personal and one common.

"This will give teachers a total of 10 planning blocks a week," Ward said. "There is six hours and 20 minutes in the school day. Teachers will have four hours and 20 minutes of direct contact with the students. That is a little more than we have this year, but it's only a slight increase."

However, Ward stressed that her schedule is only one possibility and she wants the committee look at everything, including recommendations made in the New England League of Middle Schools report on the Academy. Some of those recommendations include better communication between staff members and curriculum be standardized both within grades and between grades.

Also she wants the committee to look at the research that shows 75 percent of sixth-grade students in the U.S. have dropped in their competency scores because of the middle school model.

"Those are things that need to be researched and looked at when a schedule is done for the 2010-11 school year," Ward said.

The need to make a new schedule is direct result of the board's reversal of its decision to eliminate five teaching positions.

At the time those positions were eliminated, school officials explained the reductions were a direct result of the need to get rid of excessive planning periods for teachers outside of the classroom during the school day.

During the 2008-09 school year there were teachers with 13, 14 and 15 planning periods per week when, according to their contract, they are only entitled to one planning period a day and one 20 minute lunch break.

As part of the reduction of staff, the board adopted a schedule that focused on improving academic skills. The board made reading a core subject in Grade 6, and made library and computer literacy unified arts programs better prepare students for high school.

Parents, however, decried the decision to eliminate members of the staff, including Teacher of the Year nominee Christina Hamilton, and the board ended up reversing its decision.

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