Press "Enter" to skip to content

AJA By the Numbers

Reconciling Missed Class Time with Experiential Programming

The numbers in the following article come from the “Week Ahead” email series, sent by Mr. Joel Rojek to inform the High School student body of upcoming programming, and the AJA High School’s 2023/5783 master schedule and Google Calendar. A class was considered missed if one or more grade levels did not attend it due to varied school programming. However, the following calculations exclude missed class time for Shabbat dancing, community time, and sport tournaments. Additionally, any missed class time after April 28, the last day of school before AP exams, was omitted.

This year, AJA students spent approximately 4,645 total minutes of otherwise scheduled class time attending varied school programming, the equivalent of over 100 class periods. This undoubtedly significant amount of missed instructional time prompted students and teachers alike to evaluate the worth of programming and the proper balance between it and class. For some, it constitutes precious class time lost, but for others, it represents an opportunity to partake in programs with great potential benefits. 

Students participated in a variety of programming including holiday events, guest speakers, service learning opportunities, outings in advance of Shabbatons, minimester, and color war. As a whole, Dr. Pearl views these various programs as opportunities to extend beyond core curriculums, reasoning that “all the applicability and really a lot of the effect of… learning is going to come outside of the formal classroom.” Sophomore Yaakov Wasserman agreed, noting that programs not only give students “a chance to connect with other ideas that… can’t necessarily be presented to you in the classroom,” but also break up the “monotonous” nature of a traditional school schedule. 

Some programming at AJA takes entire days of classes. For example, science teacher Mrs. Catherine Brand organizes minimester, a three-day period where students partake in a variety of elective courses in place of standard class. She views minimester as a valuable break from classes; it allows students to engage with material and activities that “they wouldn’t normally have the chance to learn or do.” Noa Geller noted similarly long service learning days as time for “hands on” experience by “going out into the community” and “helping others,” a form of experiential learning that cannot be gleaned within the walls of the school building. 

4,645: Minutes of class time spent attending programming
11: Difference in the number of periods missed by the most missed class and the least missed class
12: Average number of class periods missed

The advantages of guest speakers, known at AJA as encounters, are less distinctive. In their ideal form, Hebrew Chair Morah Livnat views programs, specifically encounters, as “tremendously important.” She feels that the message of an encounter can stick with students in the long run. In actuality, Dr. Pearl attests that guest speakers can be “a bit of a hit or miss,” as some speakers generate more student engagement than others. Though Yaakov found that some encounters failed to “impact” him, he recounted several programs with which he did “connect,” specifically the panel during the High School’s Yom Hashoah program. Considering this potential, Dr. Pearl stated, “It’s certainly worth at the very least ‘encountering’ people from outside of our school walls” with the hopes that students will learn from their experiences.

In addition to educational content, certain programs provide social opportunities. For instance, students such as Sophomore Eliana Flusberg shared that holiday programming “strengthens friendships” between students in a more informal setting. Freshman Gila Sadinoff agreed, adding that other programs such as Color War also foster “bonding” by allowing “for all the students to get together… and get to know other people.”

Although some students and teachers find value in programming, they also worry about missing class time. This reality gives Mrs. Brand mixed emotions regarding programming. She elaborated that while “the programs are very valuable, and I see that,” the quantity of this year’s programs at times felt “frustrating.”

For Freshman Ari Monheit, the frequency of programming “disrupts the flow of the class.” Similarly, Morah Livnat explained that her classes “lose a lot of… momentum many times” as students forget material after a few missed periods and need to review. This is especially significant for Morah Livnat as a Hebrew teacher, since she believes that language skills require frequent in-class practice.

Teachers made an effort to maximize class time in light of more frequent programs. For instance, Mrs. Brand gave less class time to work on projects and cut occasional assignments to optimize instructional minutes. Similarly, math teacher Ms. Patsy Cain limited “laid back time” and did not “spend as long on certain topics.” Nonetheless, Ms. Cain feels that she has made the best of the situation, assuring that “I will have covered everything I need to cover by the end of the school year.”

Students and teachers alike not only took note of the frequency of programming, but also its distribution across periods, as a cause of concern. Mrs. Brand observed that “some classes were definitely impacted more than others.” In fact, courses missed anywhere from eight to 19 classes, a range of 11 periods.

Hearing such concerns, the high school administration made an effort, in Dr. Pearl’s words, to “spread the wealth during the year.” He elaborated, “We’re very conscientious [and] try not [to] take too much time of any one particular period or subject.” However, this intent is at times difficult to execute. Morah Livnat described this situation as one where “there’s what we want and [what] the reality is.” In actuality, guest speakers, for example, can only present at certain times, causing some classes to miss more periods than others in part due to speakers’ schedules.

The administration directed further attention towards missed AP class periods to address the concerns of students like Junior Zellik Silverberg, who, although not against making “time for special programming,” firmly believes that “the burden shouldn’t fall on AP teachers to try and make up for that time when they’re on a strict schedule” outlined by the College Board. Dr. Pearl worked to avoid taking from AP course time. This year, blocks with an AP class period missed two less class periods than the average block.

Because of the effort made to prevent AP courses from missing excessive amounts of class, Dr. Pearl stated, “It’s the Judaic courses that have had to take the brunt of that.” Accordingly, Judaic studies classes missed an average of 16 classes this year while general studies classes missed an average of 11 classes. 

However, the trend for Judaic studies to miss more class time is not solely the result of accommodating rigid AP curriculums. For instance, both lower and upperclassmen missed Judaic periods for Chanukah programming. This was not only in an effort to prevent missing general studies class time, but also because “celebrating the holidays together is very much part of the Judaic experience,” according to Dr. Pearl. 

Additionally, the higher frequency of Judaic studies make them more vulnerable to missing class time. Most High School Judaic courses meet every day, as opposed to general studies courses that meet four times a week. Thus, the imbalance between Judaic and general studies courses is smaller when looking at the percentage of overall class time missed. Specifically, Judaic studies missed 11.99% of their scheduled classes due to programming and general studies missed 9.61% on average. Judaic courses may miss more class time, yet these figures suggest that it is in part proportional to their more frequent meetings.

Taken as a whole, students and teachers see the value of programming yet express hesitancy about missing large amounts of class time. Ari, for instance, feels that programs hold communal value that can’t be gleaned from the classes. Nonetheless, he clarified that they are most optimal “in moderation.” Likewise, Mrs. Brand understands the virtue of programming, yet reasoned that “there has to be an upper limit.” 

Dr. Pearl explained that the High School admin team works to strike this balance between programming and class time, both of which offer value. Ultimately, he believes that reconciling the two will require “a cost benefit analysis,” and the administration will continue to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of running various programs.

Comments are closed.