Rockford Makes the Right Call

There has been a long and contentious debate in our community about the high school schedule. Eight years ago the switch was made from semesters to trimesters, which has enabled more individualization of schedules and elective options. (Most classes meet for only two trimesters, except AP Classes and music classes).

With financial challenges and the ever-increasing demands of testing from the state, many have recommended we return to semesters, to allow more focus on “core” classes. The switch back would also save the district money by having each teacher spend 5/6 class periods in front of students instead of 4/5.

Earlier this week we received word that our visionary superintendent had opposed the committee recommendation and has opted to remain with trimesters.

It’s a bold move. It might appear ignorant of the issues facing the schools.

It’s the right call.

First. The pendulum of “accountability” based schools is reaching an edge and is going to swing back the other way. Making major change to your school on account of testing is poor reasoning. I am certain that our lawmakers are slowly beginning to understand that the tests are not good for any aspect of education. As they begin to respond, and with encouragement from all of us parents, teachers and administrators, the most onerous testing will go away.

Second. The future of high school education will see an expansion in “elective” classes, not a contraction. Switching to semesters would see a student’s elective options drop by three semesters per year.

As we begin to leave the factory model of education, enabling high school students to learn life skills through their passions will be central. I believe that by the time I retire, the face of education will have thoroughly changed, with technical, vocational, and arts classes having true parity with the so-called “core” classes.

It’s not easy to ignore the pressing financial worries of today or the call for better test preparation or more “core” classes – it’s far easier to ignore the future than to ignore today.

I applaud our local educational leadership, and especially our Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler, for making a decision that demonstrates an understanding of the future of education. We are on the right course.