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Late Start: More than just Sleeping In?

Photo by Sirene Blair

Photo by Sirene Blair

Jacie Wach, Staff Writer

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Bingham has always been known for its traditions. This may explain why it was the last school in Jordan School District to implement a late start Friday policy. In fact, Bingham didn’t necessarily choose to begin late start, rather we were required to due to a new policy in our district. Although many students see late start merely as a day to catch up on sleep or eat a nice breakfast, most don’t know about the behind the scenes work going on during late start Fridays. While students are enjoying their extra time, teachers and administrators are enjoying—or in some cases, suffering through— what some have dubbed glorified faculty meetings.

These meetings involve not only Bingham, but the entire district.  The district is working towards creating a Professional Learning Community.  There is a set schedule for what each Friday morning meeting is to contain. Some meetings involve teachers meeting with all other teachers in the district who are in the same department (so all of the district’s English teachers would meet together, all the Science teachers, etc). Advocates of the Professional Learning Communities meetings believe that this collaboration will improve test scores and competency.    According to Dr. Rich Price, “The focus here is to make dialogue better between teachers in order to help better serve the students.”

In these PLC meetings, teachers discuss how to raise test scores and improve learning and competency in core classes.

While all of these ideas sound great on paper, some teachers and students are wondering whether the pros will outweigh the cons. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage to late start is the time cut out of classes. How are teachers expected to increase competency and test scores when they are forced to shorten lessons to fit into shorter class periods? This is just one bit of the flawed logic behind late start Fridays.

For instance, eighth period classes are fifteen minutes shorter on Fridays. If a student was to attend a math class eighth period on a Friday, their teacher would still have a full math lesson planned, but less time to teach it. This means more homework for students, because they will have less time in class to complete assignments. Less class time causes more homework, and less time students have to get help from their teachers. This is especially troublesome for concurrent and AP classes, which follow schedules religiously.

Mr. Crump, who teaches AP Political Science has noticed a difference since late start has been implemented. He noted, “It has hurt my classes. I am behind schedule, and so are my students. With this added onto assembly schedules, I’m spending much less time with them, which is very important in some classes.”

Furthermore, teachers are also unavailable to help students before school on Fridays as well.  Students have realized that PLC meetings mean that the library is closed to any students who need to use computers or any other media center resources during PLC periods.

Several students could only name one benefit of late start—an extra hour of sleep. But does one hour of sleep really benefit that much? “Not really, because I’m going to bed an hour later anyways” said senior, Dallin Peterson. This was the case for many students.

Over the span of just one school year with late start, students will miss about 38 hours of total class time. That adds up to about 9 and a half full days of school. Almost 10 hours per class period are being missed. This is about six class periods per period that are being slept away.

Most teachers can’t find many benefits either. Some are stating that these meetings are showing no progress. Others say that the only way to better improve test scores and competency is to actually teach the students—something they can’t do while stuck in “purposeless meetings” as one teacher called them. Some are saying, that they “think the meetings are a good idea in theory, but the way that they are formatted and executed is an utter waste of time. Teachers are spending more time with teachers, hoping to better serve the students. Where’s the sense in that?  This time can’t really be benefiting the students when the time isn’t spent with them, but with teachers, especially some of them don’t even teach the same subjects.”

One major complaint from teachers is that non-core teachers are forced to sit through meetings where the whole entire focus is how to better teach core classes. Where’s the point in that?  One teacher said “it would work much better if the teachers were working with teachers from their departments, and from their school, which is not what is currently happening.”

Bingham has only had a handful of late start Fridays so far this school year, so it may be too early to see any benefit or hindrance from the policy. “We’re hoping that the benefits are more than anything else.” said Dr. Price.  This may be a great new tradition at Bingham. But as for now, the PLC meetings are proving to be quite ineffective, at least from most teachers’ point of view.

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Late Start: More than just Sleeping In?