The math adds up

but does everything else?

For many secondary school students throughout the province, Quadmester 2 begins in earnest today.

That means that some courses have been completed and credits either given or denied. That means that final summative evaluations for Quadmester 1 have been completed.

When I went to high school and for the first years of my teaching career, a course took an entire year to complete the learning and the teaching. The odd shortened day or cancelled classes weren’t that big a deal; there was time to get caught up. There was plenty time to incorporate learning activities into everything. In the computer science classroom, topics were nicely consolidated.

Then, along came the move to semesters. The driving rationale was that it was the only timetabling schema that allowed for an easy adoption of cooperative education so that students had significant time to be at their placement in the community. Grudgingly, our staff agreed to move to this type of format. I can still recall a presentation in favour of the move by showing that the actual number of minutes per subject would be roughly the same. Then, the pedagogues talked about more time in the class to do activities and that you could just take the time and teach two lessons per class instead of one. The math worked.

For many, things really changed this fall.

With COVID’s effect and the mandate to return to face to face teaching, the concept of a Quadmester was touted as the solution. You could run that face to face class from 9:05 to 12:50 and the math works. You’d get the minutes in. You don’t get very far into a conversation with a secondary school teacher before you talk about the exhaustion that such teaching creates, both physically and pedagogically. At least, there wasn’t a need for accommodations to take in a football game or field trip robbing students from your classroom.

It’s difficult to believe that such a scheme would be selected by a staff as the best way to handle the impact of COVID. In fact, the people I’ve talked to point out that the decision was made completely by people that aren’t presently in classrooms. It’s few and far between to find anyone who thinks that they’re effective and that it was an easy move from the traditional semester. While they watch their elementary school colleagues struggle with progress reports, they’re making the shift to teach a new subject with possibily a new cohort of students. You have to wonder (but it won’t happen) if any credit earned should be called a COVID credit and appear with an asterisk on a transcript.

The closest thing to this, for most teachers, would be to compare the learning from a full year at a Faculty of Education to a compressed Additional Qualification course offered in a month in the summer.

But, the math works so it’s all good.

5 thoughts on “The math adds up

  1. Good morning Doug!

    Have you run into any school boards down in your part of the province who are operating with Octomesters? As I understand it, with an octomaster, students take one subject for 1/8 of the school year, and then move onto the next. Apparently once you subtract the time needed for PD days and exam days, the math works out to about 21 days per course. From what I’ve heard, it’s a pretty rough go for teachers and students. I honestly can’t understand why the district would go to such extremes, but some have.

    Here’s a recent article:’s a recent article:

    Apparently the eight blocks correspond directly to eight periods In a non-semester setting. So if you have your prep period during period two, then you get to do all of your prep and marking for the year during the second block of 21 days. Like that makes any kind of sense at all.



  2. Doug, I’m drawn back to Timothy King’s post from a few weeks ago. I realize how little I know about high school teaching. Our Board is not doing a quadmester model. I’m curious if the feelings are the same, even across different approaches.



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