GREENFIELD — Greenfield Central Junior High students will spend more time next year in math and English, core subjects where school administrators want to help students excel, but it will come at a cost — time spent in elective courses will be trimmed.

In an effort to help students better master subjects included on evaluations and boost test scores, educators are increasing the time seventh- and eighth-graders spend in math and language arts from 50 minutes a day to 75, while shortening the number of classes attended each day from seven to six. That change eliminates one 50-minute period students spend in electives now.

To accommodate for the change, educators are cutting weeks spent in two elective classes — general music and physical education. Going forward, students will still spend 50 minutes in each elective class but will take some of those courses for half a semester instead of a full semester.

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Students already spend only nine weeks in some electives, including art and computers, but most electives currently run 18 weeks.

Physical education time will be trimmed, from four semesters to three for most seventh-grade students. For eighth-graders, it could be cut to one semester instead of two.

General music will be cut from 18 weeks to nine, and students won’t be able to take business until eighth grade. Now, they can take it for a full semester in seventh grade.

The changes exclude classes in world languages, choir, band, violins, technology and family and consumer sciences.

The changes allow educators to add 25 minutes a day to students’ math and language arts classes while still giving students an opportunity to participate in an array of electives, said Principal Dan Jack. Now, four periods of students’ days are spent in their core subjects — math, English, social studies and science. The other three periods are spent in electives. Next year’s extra time studying math and English will take up one period currently reserved for electives.

Jack admits the change isn’t a perfect compromise. Administrators know students enjoy elective courses, and they’re valuable in offering a well-rounded education, he said.

But state standards for math and English are now more rigorous than in years past, and the school wants to ensure students are ready for high school when they leave the halls of the junior high, Jack said.

Fewer than 50 percent of students at Greenfield Central Junior High passed both the math and English portion of the ISTEP in 2015, the first year the state’s new standards were tested.

Those state standards likely aren’t going to change, so schools have to adapt, administrators say. By dedicating more of the school day to teaching math and English, teachers provide students more time to fully understand the lessons they’re being taught, Jack said.

But some parents aren’t thrilled their children will spend less time in electives as a result.

Lisa Mech, whose daughter, Cassity, is a seventh-grader, said she understands why educators are making the change but added she wishes there was another way to allow for more time in math and English that didn’t take time away from the related arts courses who daughter enjoys.

She said she knows math and English are important, and students will use them throughout their lives. But her daughter loved art when she took it last semester, even pondered pursuing it as a career. Now she’s in business — an elective she doesn’t like as much but one her mom thinks is important.

Mech said she doesn’t want to see those experiences fade away because students are spending less time in some of those classes than they have in the past.

“Longer math and English periods may be beneficial to some kids,” she said. “But don’t take away from the extracurricular.”

English and math teachers said they need more time to help students master the subjects; they plan to review test problems and reteach lessons that weren’t well understood, and they want to give students assignments that are interactive and more hands-on, Jack said.

During Ashley Stewart’s seventh-grade math class this week, for example, students participated in a scavenger hunt and games aimed at helping students understand fractions. She’s excited to give students more opportunity next year to have fun while learning math — which she said helps solidify lessons.

Having more time means teachers will feel less rushed to teach a lesson, give a test on it and move on, she said; they can expand activities to help students practice what they’re learning.

“It’s a good opportunity for us as teachers to come up with more interactive activities for students,” Stewart said. “I’m looking forward to it. … The possibilities could be endless.”

Jack said the changes will allow students to still experience all the electives they wish while also giving students more time to hone their math and language arts skills.

“Our end goal is that students are more prepared for high school,” he said. “We want them to master the standards for seventh and eighth grade so they can hit the ground running in ninth.”

Changes ahead

Greenfield Central Junior High students will spend more time next year in math and English classes in an effort to boost test scores, and time from some electives will be trimmed. The changes exclude choir, band, violins, world languages, technology and family and consumer sciences. Students will spend fewer weeks in the following courses:

Cut from four semesters to three:

  • Physical education

Cut from 18 weeks to nine:

  • General music
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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.