On an almost daily basis, I receive information or research from universities, organizations or institutions advocating that our students need to spend more time on reading or math or science or social studies. I also get articles promoting the benefits of more physical activity or art or music education. Currently, there is an ongoing debate over how much time students need to eat lunch and whether recess should be before or after lunch.
I believe it’s critical that our students are exposed to as many educational experiences as possible, and we certainly wouldn’t deny that a student’s physical and nutritional well-being is a huge priority. However, knowing the limitations of a 180-day school year and a six-and-a-half-hour student day creates some difficulty in deciding how to best design a daily schedule. Here’s what we recommend to our primary (grades K-4) building principals as to what we expect students should be getting during a typical 390-minute school day:
Forty minutes of either art, music or health and fitness. Depending on the school, these subjects rotate on a weekly or daily basis.
Sixty minutes of reading instruction and 30 more minutes of reading intervention for students to get either extra help or enrichment.
Forty-five minutes of writing. This could be in the form of informative writing or research for social studies and science topics.
Sixty minutes of math instruction and another 20 minutes focusing on the new math curriculum “number core” in addition to another 30 minutes for math intervention. (This 30 minutes of time may also be used to supplement science and social studies or reading).
Fifty minutes that rotates between science, social studies, library time and teaching our positive behavior curriculum.
Lastly, every K-4 student gets a 15-minute morning recess and a 20-minute lunch time with a 20-minute recess either before or after lunch depending on the school. At all of our schools, students are allowed to stay in the cafeteria, or in Pleasant Valley’s case in the classroom, and finish their lunch even if it goes beyond the 20 minutes allocated.
Each one of our schools has the ability to structure their schedule, but our expectation is that all students should be getting approximately the same number of minutes in specific subjects as every K-4 student in the district is getting.
We realize that there are strong opinions supporting different balances of minutes in different subject areas, but we believe an emphasis on a strong foundation of core classes in reading, writing and math will better prepare our students to be successful as they move through our educational system.
Of course, the ultimate success of our students begins and ends with a strong commitment of parental support for student learning and an open line of communication between our families and our schools.
Our hope is that together we can help all of our students reach their highest potential.
Mark Ross is superintendent of Battle Ground Public Schools.