School’s out for summer…

Ask any student how much more his or her brain can digest. Look in the faces of faculty members. All are tired, burned out and done. After 16 weeks of the semester, students and faculty alike are ready for summer. Unfortunately there are still two weeks until summer.

Santa Rosa Junior College is considering changing to a “compressed calendar,” shorten each semester by one or two weeks. To do this, each class depending on its length would be five to 15 minutes longer.

SRJC is one of the last California Community Colleges on an 18-week semester. Most community colleges have converted to a compressed calendar, with semesters that are 16 or 17 weeks long, including finals. Advocates say the compressed calendar helps students succeed, especially at the community college level.

According to the compressed calendar information section on SRJC’s website, community colleges that adopted the compressed calendar have reported a 1 to 2 percent increase in student retention and success. The 16-week semester more closely mirrors CSU and UC formats, making the transition of transfer students smoother. For students who want to fast track their studies, compressed calendar colleges often offer winter intersession programs. Some students who transfer to quarter system schools have trouble adjusting to the fast pace. It can take some time to get used to.

In a survey of 500 SRJC faculty, administrators and classified staff, 67 percent preferred some sort of compressed calendar, 19 percent prefer no changes to the calendar and 15 percent were unsure or had no opinion.

Many faculty respondents have worked at other institutions and community colleges with compressed calendars. The 16-week calendar was more effective than problematic according to 65 percent of those faculty.

In the spring 2010, a student survey distributed to 19 random classes by the Office of Institutional Research found that 65 percent of SRJC students surveyed were in favor of a compressed calendar, 16 percent preferred our current 18-week semester, and 15 percent had no opinion.

Math, science and theater arts department officials want to keep the calendar the same because they don’t believe they can cover all the necessary material in fewer weeks. They don’t want students to miss out on valuable information and lessons. They say they cannot cut their curriculum to fit into 16 weeks. Classes such as physics might have one lecture planned per chapter to be covered, and an extra fifteen minutes on each chapter won’t help for the two chapters that would be covered in the extra two weeks.

But other colleges have done just that. And while their intentions are noble, the rest of the college shouldn’t be held hostage to a longer semester.

Adopting a mixed schedule is the answer. Those departments in favor can try the condensed calendar. Math, science and any other departments who need more class time can stay at 18 weeks, either by starting or ending later. But most importantly, the school needs to make a decision.

We’ve been hearing about the compressed calendar for a while now and it’s time for the school to either make the changes or let go. Stop jerking us around. Strangely, it may effect some of our plans for the semester or summer if we have 16 weeks or 18 weeks. Students actually care how long we’re going to have in the classroom. Please, just get to the point. Make a decision.