Originally created 11/04/99

A welcomed delay!



Columbia County School Superintendent Tommy Price made the right decision in calling a halt to the push toward block scheduling for its four high schools until Gov. Roy Barnes' education reform commission makes its recommendations next month.

In fact, all Georgia school systems need a clearer idea of where Barnes, State Superintendent Linda Schrenko and the General Assembly are headed with reform before moving ahead on radical schedule changes.

Price might also have heard Barnes' remarks in Augusta Monday. The governor was emphatic that he would oppose any alternative that reduces total classtime.

Despite studying scheduling for nearly two years by teacher, parent and student committees from Columbia County's four high schools, no serious consensus for change has developed.

The purpose of any revamp is to better prepare students for college, yet committee members at a meeting with Price this week expressed several concerns, including whether they've learned enough about alternative scheduling to understand how it would impact students.

The most talked about change replaces the current six-period school day of 55-minute classes with a four-by-four block schedule that supposedly allows students to earn more credits in 90-minute classes. Yet over the course of the school year, students in the 90-minute classes would spend less total time in school than they do now. This is what the governor opposes. How can students learn more by being in school fewer hours?

In fact, many systems -- such as South Carolina's Lexington County, tried the four-by-four block scheduling and then abandoned it in 1997 when student test scores dropped.

Some in Columbia County are looking for a happy medium, including a mix of block and traditional schedules. However, adding an optional seventh period for electives might be the best way to go.

While Price waits, his committees will be polling students on what scheduling changes they think would be best to prepare them for college.

More research and study is the right way to go for now. It is foolhardy to make any changes without a reasonable expectation of what the consequences will be.