Lee County School District changes block schedule to periodic 7-day
Dear Board Members,
“Our MISSION is to ensure that each student achieves their highest personal potential.”
I understand the financial and circumstantial factors that led to this decision. As a high school student, I’m a little relieved that I only have one year left. However, changing a 4×4 block schedule— which is an incorrect title, A/B is widely known as the name of the system— at a traditional 7-period day attempts to heal a gunshot wound with a bandage.
Instead of this posting, I did some of my own research. According to February 26, 2022 edition of Career Opportunities in Lee County, there are only 117 vacancies in public elementary, middle, and high schools in Lee County. The highest number being 49 job offers at the elementary level; the second highest, 40 at the secondary level; third highest, 27 at college level; and only one in a K-8 school. At my own school, North Fort Myers High, we have four vacancies, only one of which is a teaching position (JROTC instructor). All this to say that North Fort Myers High does not benefit from any aspect and is not the problem.
Past discussions on this issue have seen teachers and school administrators express contempt for such a change. They were ignored. How can we hope to hire more teachers if they don’t listen to the ones they have?
The benefits of a regular 7 period day are almost negligible; they should be if students are claimed to be the priority. When you do the math, students and teachers save an extra 3.5 minutes per class per day. However, if we take into account regular attendance and the start of lessons (a reasonable 5 minutes), the gain is only 1 minute per lesson and per day. (46-5)-(85-5)/2=41-40=1)
The School Superintendents Association states, “In nearly all of the more than 100 case studies, briefs, and reports completed on block planning, the number of disciplinary referrals to the office is reduced, typically between 25 and 50 percent. There is also evidence that school suspensions are decreasing, teacher and student attendance is improving slightly and, for obvious reasons, the number of class lateness is reduced. Behaviourally, block planning has proven to be beneficial for students.
In my personal experience, I am AICE Math, AP Calculus AB, AICE US History A-Level, AP Art History, AICE English Language, AICE Global Perspectives and AICE Physics. My unweighted GPA is 4.0 and my weighted GPA is 5.12. I attribute my GPA, in the context of my course load, to my hard work and study time in the classroom. With the timetable in 7 periods, I should have given up either the AP History of Art, a course that only fueled my interest and my passion for history; AICE Math, a class that expanded my critical thinking; or study hall, leaving me impractical to tackle my classes.
In addition to my heavy class load, I teach for my dance studio, choreograph and lead a neighborhood hip hop dance team, perform and serve with my studio’s dance company, take 7 classes for my own enrichment in dancing, volunteering at the Cape Coral Animal Shelter, and trying to start an AAPI Heritage Club. While I don’t think my chances of success would have completely disappeared, it would have been much more difficult, when it couldn’t and shouldn’t have been.
In fact, I don’t think I need to tell you that block planning is better. I believe you know that.
Why am I writing to you then? Am I an unreasonable, rebellious teenager unable to submit to authority, unable to empathize and see reason? No. I know it wasn’t an easy decision for you. I am writing to you because I do not like fallacious arguments. I don’t like it when the cold hard truth is sugar coated. If this decision is purely about money, it is about money. If student interest is a priority until it is not, be upfront.
I am making a plea on behalf of the students. On behalf of the people you serve. On behalf of the next generation of leaders, engineers, doctors, geneticists, educators. If and/or when you implement it, know the magnitude of this change. Know our lack of preparation as we step into an essay exam that we haven’t had enough time in class to practice for. Knowing our stress as upper-level science students, tested with a lab we never had time to fully run. Know our struggle as AICE and children of the arts forced to decide which art class to drop. Knowing our fatigue as committed students, working students— students who participate in extracurricular activities we love—as we sacrifice our sleep schedules for our GPA. Know our curiosity as well-rounded students, intrigued students, we who thirst for knowledge, we who wish we could take all the electives. Meet us. Understand us.
Show that you recognize our future. Show that you recognize us.
Jilan McQuilkin is a Cape Coral resident and Lee County public high school student.