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THE LEN LESSER REPORT

 

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SEMESTERING NOT IN THE BEST INTEREST OF STUDENTS

The Fraser Institute has recently ranked Ontario Secondary schools in Math and Literacy and I was interested in checking the ranking of the Thames Valley students.

Out of 718 high schools London Cental High School ranked fourth in the province.One could argue that social demographics are the raison díetre why the Cental students do very well. Letís compare for a moment Lucas with a score of 194 and Oakridge scoring 97th. Both of these schools draw from a very similar community base.

The Central students are not brighter, harder working then other students in London.So why the difference in scores you may ask? Answer: Central is the only school in the area that has the two day schedule of classes.

I have been arguing the benefits of ten month schooling for many years and the administrations do not seem to get it. The semester system is not in the best interest to students.

I surmise that why some of Canadaís most expensive, prestigious private schools such as Upper Canada College, Appleby, St Clemens and Lakefield are not semestered.

Teens do not mature a year in five months of a semester 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 semester 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 in a semester school 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 decimates any chance of success in the semester system.

Registration is a concern in the semester 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. Sure.

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 students line up outside the Student Services 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 Collegiate learn to handle eight courses. The students have the opportunity to absorb the material from September to June. Student failure subsequently is greatly reduced because the teacherís 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, the only island for excellence, where the timetable is in the best interest of the students?

The semestered high school student is at a great disadvantage when they attends university: they have never had to juggle more than four courses at one time. They find to their horror the university load has 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? In my opinion the two day cycle is the reason that the Central students do very well compared to those who are semestered.

I challenge the the Thames Valley administration to check out my information. If there is validity to my arguments please introduce the two day system to a high school with very low test scores and then you can compare.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com