Changing Conference Times means Trouble for Some Students

Sofia Gerhart, Editorial Reporter

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I think it’s logical, [but] I don’t think it’s best for students.”

— Cheryl Cotanche

After the sixth period bell rang on Monday, Aug. 29, a frantic energy along with calls of “I have to go to conference,” burst from the east gym.

Tucson High’s student council had collectively missed their Monday classes in order to host a statewide spirit conference at the school, and the sense of near panic could be heard in the tones of members rushing out to collect missed work.

For students this year, missing a class on a Monday means something quite different than to those of previous years: The 2016-2017 school year will mark the first change to the conference schedule, condensing the time provided to students to meet with teachers from two days a week, to just one.

“Last year we had a class schedule committee made up of teachers… Every year we take a look, [see]  how can we tweak some things, how can we make some things better,” said Carolyn  Jones, assistant principal. “The feedback that came from teachers and the committee was… the 30 minutes they had for [professional development] on Mondays, where they met with their department… didn’t feel effective.”

The main issue for teachers, according to Jones, was that the 58-minute Monday conference formerly available to students, “wasn’t long enough,” for teachers to significantly help students coming in with questions, and more importantly, was causing teachers to be late or miss the PD meetings TUSD mandates be held once weekly for an hour.

In previous years at Tucson High, there had been two opportunities for students to conference with teachers; one on Monday’s for 58 minutes, and the second on Wednesday’s for 23 minutes.

With the new conference schedule, students now have 83 minutes to conference with teachers on Monday’s after sixth period, 25 minutes more than was allotted last year on Monday’s.

The grand total of conference time however, is only a two minute difference.

It’s not the extra two minutes that is perplexing, however. It’s the single day conference period that causes an issue.

“I think it’s logical, [but] I don’t think it’s best for students,” Cheryl Cotanche, an Algebra 2 teacher said.  

“It allows me to focus on PD one day, and focus on getting students in on the other day, but it put(s) a lot of pressure on students to remember to come in on Monday, and if you have students that are absent, that are aware, it now gives them only one day to get into every teacher, to make up work or tests.”

“I have had a couple kids who are affected by that,” Cotanche said.

Cotanche also feels the mandated PD sessions are less than necessity, saying she makes sure she uses part of her mutual planning period to meet with other Algebra 2 teachers. For Contanch, however, this is an example of, “self-motivation,” that, “overwhelms,” some teachers.

“It’s the administration, not the teachers [making these changes],” explained Cotanche, who believes that changes are made only when, “the district, the bus [schedule], or the admin,” are concerned.

“I am for students,” she insists.

“The teachers have told me that they really like it this way,” Jones said. “But unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the students are taking advantage of it. So [from the administrator standpoint], we have room for improvement.”

In this case, THMS administration does have room for improvement, but not in the sense they are thinking.

It is the administration’s failure to put the success of students before TUSD policy which clearly needs to be improved.

When students miss class on a Monday, they have no other option than to wait for the next Monday to be caught up, putting the student a whole week behind their classmates.

Making conference period only once a week has posed a major setback to students and has greatly diminished our opportunity to succeed—all to satisfy an arbitrary district requirement that many teachers are meeting on their own time.

Our administrators need to start putting students before district policy.

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Changing Conference Times means Trouble for Some Students