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In a Canada-wide math test of 13-16 year old students it was shown that those in full year courses did better than those in semester schools. The testing was part of the national testing project known as the School Achievement Indicators Program.

I have been arguing the benefits of full year schooling for 20 years and the Catholic/Public school administrations does not seem to get it. The semester system is not beneficial to students.

Teens do not mature a year in five months and the failure and subsequent absentee and drop out rate is much higher in the semester schools.

Sure, there are advantages to the semester system, the schools in theory need only half the number of text books, The teachers have 90 vs 180 students to deal with and staffing is more flexible.

What is in it for the students for whom the schools are mandated to bring forth the best learning atmosphere? In my experience of 30 plus years, very little. If you are in a hurry you can fast track and finish a semester early. If you fail a course you can try and take it over in the second semester if you can fit it into your schedule.

A youngster who is having difficulty with a math course finds to his dismay that mid terms take place two months into the course and finals quickly follow. Illness, or family concerns can decimate any chance of success in the semester system.

Registration is a concern in the semestered schools. You register in early February for next years courses; not having completed your semester two program. If you take grade 11 Math in semester one it may be 12 months before you can schedule your grade 12 math. The administration will tell you that it does not matter.

The computer does not recognize hard from easy courses and yes it is very possible to have all your difficult courses in semester one. That is why hundreds of students line up outside the Guidance Office at the start of each semester to change their timetables. The harried counsellors do their best but often the courses are full or your failed course is not offered in semester two.

The Thames Valley students in the two day cycle programs at Central and Medway Collegiate learn to handle eight courses. There are two sets of exams and the students have the opportunity to absorb the material from September to June. Student failure is greatly reduced because the teacher’s have the time for personal involvement and nurturing. Repetition and structure is needed and provided. I guess that is why the parents and students fought so hard to keep Central a two day school, an island of sanity where the kids come first.

Excellence in education and mastery pays off ; in a recent study the University of Western Ontario evaluated 368 secondary schools comparing first year university results and final marks in high school. The grade point differential from grade 12 to first year university results was less than 10% for the Central students.

The semestered high school student is at a great disadvantage when he/she attends university: they have never had to juggle more than four courses at one time and find to their horror the university load is a minimum of five with up to seven courses in Engineering.

The question has to be asked, “Is the semester system in the best interest of our students or is it a bureaucratic convenience and pedagogically unsound? The “A” word comes to mind “ACCOUNTABILITY”.

Medway students this year have been twined with Montcalm’s semestered program. The Medway parents should fight to keep their two day education schedule alive and well next year when they return to their renovated school.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com