The time of year has come where funding is debated and several assistant principals in charge of scheduling face the daunting task of planning for another school year with little clue as to what numbers and funding will be available for them. On one end, we must plan as though we will have the similar funds and a similar student body, but on the other end we face the reality that numbers and funding will most likely change. We find ourselves in a perpetual waiting game so to speak.
It is no secret that my district is facing an 80 million dollar short fall this upcoming school year, and this will have far reaching effects for all our schools. This comes into focus locally with my project based learning program. We are looking at the possibility of losing the PBL classes if we cannot justify it by the numbers. It is unfortunate that students must be referred to as numbers, but that is exactly what they become when money is involved. Our ability to recruit and maintain the program is really what will define how it will successfully continue. We are poised to start a third year of the program and have begun the early stages of building an internship program for the fourth year. So here we are planning for the future having no real concept of what obstacles will threaten to derail our best laid plans.
I’m certainly hopeful. The teachers we are involving and our ability to get even more students involved in the program are all important factors to this equation. We have seen great success with our PBL program, but the reality is that our numbers will continue to waffle as students make decisions to enter back into a totally traditional classroom, and others have no choice but to exit due to a scheduling conflict of some kind. Another factor that may lead to attrition is that my colleague and I have taught both current levels of our class and new teachers will be teaching the third year, so there will certainly be those that are unsure of entering another year with different teaching styles and personalities. Personally, I’m grateful that they will have a new group of teachers to work with and that they’ll be stretched out of their comfort zones a little bit, but for a student to have the foresight to see the advantages of having different teachers may be hard to garner for many students. Still, there are many who have not joined us that will most likely come in during the third year, so I’m always hopeful the numbers will help justify continuing to use our space and resources. Our best asset right now is our middle school. They have developed a PBL program of their own that we’ve begun vertically teaming with. They are maintaining interest and numbers and if the 8th grade year is successful next year, we are hopeful that we’ll see the emergence of a feeder population into the high school PBL. So again, I’m hopeful.
No matter what I think and hope, I am still set into a holding pattern until further notice. It’s not the first time I’ve played the waiting game, but it never gets easier for me. It is unfortunate that many times funding and social traditions can get in the way of what most benefits students.
Wish us luck, and for all our sake, I hope the economy makes a comeback.