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Start school an hour earlier for those who need it the most

Some younger children, as well as some teen-agers, need more schooling help than others. That's not opinion; that's fact. Yet, most schools treat students all alike, providing them with the same amount of time for in-school instruction.

Another fact: Time on task has a positive relationship. That is, the more time spent studying a subject, the greater likelihood that success will follow.

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Schools should put these two facts together; they should give more time in school (and hence more time on task) to those pupils who particularly need it.

And they should provide this extra attention and instruction the first hour of the day. If, for example, the school day for those elementary pupils having trouble learning to read starts at 7:40 a.m., then school should start for all other students at 8:40 a.m..

From 7:40 a.m. until 8:40 a.m., every teacher in the building should be working with a handful of students who need reading help. To be specific: Should a school have 600 pupils and 25 teachers, and 200 of those pupils are having trouble learning how to read, then these are the ones who would come at 7 :40 a.m. And all 25 teachers should be assigned the task of teaching a few.

As the school year progresses, the number of children needing to come at 7:40 will diminish, providing more and more individual attention for the very students who need (and can benefit) from it the most.

The same type of time differential should be used to accommodate all secondary school pupils who are weak in basic skills. Again, since the teaching which is necessary is not in a subject area, but in basic lerning, every member of the school staff can be employed in this type of remediation.

As in the case of the younger pupils, undoubtedly as the school year progresses, so will some of the teen-agers, and as the number of students who need this special help diminishes, the ones who require one-on-one instruction will get it.

And because this early-morning work is remedial in nature, the remainder of the school day should progress as usual. With one difference: As the special instruction given in the first hour takes hold, youngsters who were previously reluctant to participate in class and hence withdrawn or disruptive, will become more normal in their behavior.

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Also, since every teacher on the staff will be providing remedial instruction to a small group of students, there will be a much greater awareness on the part of the entire staff about the needs (and struggles) of those with learning problems.

Just an hour a day, yet really more than just one hour. A whole school staff , each one committed to teaching basic skills to the most needy learners, this will make a special school, indeed.

Next week: Dancing, sin ging, and ping-pong.

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