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THE LEN LESSER REPORT  

THE LEN LESSER REPORT

 

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SECONDARY SCHOOL SEMESTERING SUCKS

The Fraser Institute has recently ranked Ontario Secondary schools in Math and Literacy I was interested in checking the ranking of the Thames Valley students. Out of 718 high schools in Ontario London Central High School once again ranked in the top ten 8.9/10.

One could argue that social demographics are the raison díetre why the Central students do very well. Letís compare for a moment Lucas with a score of 7.2/10 and Oakridge scoring 7.6/10. Both of these schools draw from a very similar social/economic 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 does not seem to get it. The semester system is not in the best interest of students.

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

Teens do not mature a year in the five months of a semester and the failure and subsequent absentee and drop out rate is much higher in the semestered 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 try and 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/her 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 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. Math every second day for the whole year helps the students to 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 academic excellence where the school timetable is in the best interest of the students?

The semestered high school student is at a great disadvantage when they attends university/college: 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 courses 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 cheaper, bureaucratic, convenience and thus 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 Thames Valley administration to check out my data. If there is validity to my argument please introduce the two day system to Clark Road 3.5/10 and Montcalm 2.2/10, with the lowest test scores in London, and then you can compare the differences that the two day cycle provides.

The Thames Valleyís mission statement: " We build each studentís to-morrow every day" does not apply to the semestered secondary students.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com