Students at West Catholic Prep coping with longer classes

What does it take to keep a captive audience?

Whether its a movie, a concert, a sermon at church, or algebra at school, keeping an audience’s attention is important in delivering a message or being entertained.

According to a study conducted by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average 16-year-old can concentrate approximately 48-60 consecutive minutes.

The attention span of students at West Catholic Prep will soon be put to the test with the implementation of a new policy

At the beginning of the school year, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia extended several classes from 45 minutes to 90 minutes.

And, as expected, some students are not thrilled with the new policy.

“Ninety minute periods are horrible, and my grades are not better than last year,” said Issac Ortiz, a senior.

Marcel Jackson, a freshman at West, echoes Issac’s sentiments on longer classes. “I get tired and bored, but they seem to make the days go by faster, so I’m on the fence about whether I like them or not”.

The brain can process only so much data before a case of information over load sets in. Concentration wanes, and the mind wanders. That’s why many at West Catholic are having a problem wrapping their brains (no pun intended) around the merit in longer classes.

Courtney Lemon-Tate, vice principal at West Catholic, weighed in on the issue from an administration point of view during an interview in February.

“The students are doing exceptionally better this year than last year, and I think this is because we are spending more time focused on one subject,” said Lemon-Tate.

“You can get so much more done in 90 minutes than you can in 45 minutes, and because the students don’t have the same classes everyday, everything is fresh.”

Four students at West Catholic Prep engage in an activity during a theology class. Students and teachers alike are coping with a new school policy that extends many classes from 45 to 90 minutes. SEMAJ COWAN / First Take Staff

In previous years, the school had only 45-minute classes, so this year’s schedule is fairly new to students and teachers alike. Because of the 90-minute classes, students have up to five classes a day instead of the standard eight. A student’s schedule is also susceptible to change throughout the school year.

According to Lemon-Tate, 15 new electives have been put into place, which is a good way to keep students engaged even after the school day is over.

But is this new schedule actually a good way to educate students?

“I think 90-minute classes are good because they help you understand certain [subjects] because you spend more time on them,” said Akayla Mitchell, 15.

If these classes can have such an impact on students, couldn’t it be hard on teachers as well?

“Initially, I thought the students and myself wouldn’t be able to pay attention for that long, but now I see the great value in it,” said English teacher Sister Ave. ” I can focus on more concepts with the students in class.”

Sister Ave, who has been teaching for over 35 years, says she see’s great potential in her students because she has them for 90 minutes, three times a week.

It is clear that a student’s attention span will ebb depending on other factors such as determination, mood, or simply whether they feel the subject is relevant or not.

Because there are so many different views on the topic, it’s hard to predict the future of the 90-minute class at West Catholic.

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