Education Week, February 25, 2020, by Matt Lieberman
A growing body of research provides evidence that schools can benefit from rethinking their schedules, whether by pushing the start time to later in the day, eliminating one day a week, or otherwise reshuffling how students and teachers spend their time together.
Before districts and schools can pull the trigger on a massive change, though, they’re likely to face a wide variety of obstacles and barriers. Some of them are merely a byproduct of well-established norms and traditions around schooling, including an outdated agrarian calendar. Others reflect deeper insecurities among groups of people with a stake in the success of a school’s approach.
Education Week talked to school leaders who have attempted with varying degrees of success to rethink schedules, and to advocates and organizations that work with schools on facilitating significant change. Barriers to those changes tend to fall in the following six categories:
Staff and support staff
Teachers approach planning their lessons by filling the available time they have. If that amount of time changes, teachers might balk at having to come up with a new approach to covering the material. A schedule change can be even stickier if it substantially changes teachers’ hours or responsibilities, which could mean a lengthy renegotiation of a teachers’ union contract and a testy battle over a wide range of specifics.
Meanwhile, support staff, from sanitation and culinary workers to bus drivers and crossing guards, can feel the effects of a schedule change—and if those workers aren’t full-time employees, a small shift in their hours and duties can make a major difference in their well-being.
Though teacher objections are an obstacle, the conditions in which most teachers work are inherently hostile to innovation, argues Bryan Hassel, the co-president of Public Impact, a nonprofit working with school districts to help them make better use of time. He advocates more collaboration to cut down on waste d time and redundancy during the school day.
“If the teachers on the team see themselves as a team working together with these 100 kids, … there’s much more of a chance to say, ‘I can specialize in what I do best; together we’ll do better than we would at each time by ourselves,’ ” Hassel said.